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Gogglebox vicar, an MP and a Physicist take part in High School Festival of Faith

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Students at Aylsham High School have been exploring the significance of faith in the modern world through assemblies, lunchtime talks and RE lessons as part of the school’s inaugural Festival of the Christian Faith week.

Aylsham Parish Church, in partnership with the school’s Religious Studies Department, put on the Festival as a creative way to help the students to learn about the Christian faith and explore some of life’s biggest questions.

A panel of clergy and youth workers from around Norfolk sat in nearly fifty RE classes to answer questions from the students, and guest lunchtime speakers explored how their faith impacts on their work in subjects as diverse as literature, science, politics, medical research and the media.

The talks were delivered by world class academics and well-known Christian personalities including: the Revd Kate Bottley (BBC Radio 2; Googlebox etc.); Tim Farron MP; Prof. Tom McLeish FRS (Physicist, University of York); Prof. Robin Kirkpatrick (Professor of English and Italian Literature, University of Cambridge) and Prof. Hill Gaston (Medical School, University of Cambridge).

One year 7 student said about his class room experience with the panel: “That was the best RE lesson ever!”

A year 8 boy told us: “The lunchtime talks were fantastic. It was interesting that things you wouldn’t expect to go together – like science and religion – actually go together really well.”

One year 9 student commented: “I couldn’t believe that Tim Farron came straight from talking to Theresa May to speak to us.”

A year 10 student commented: “I’m not very religious but I loved Prof Kirkpatrick’s discussion on faith and poetry. Particularly his image of faith as a diamond which emerges from the blood, sweat and dirt of life.”

A Year 11 student said: “Two things will stick with me from the lunchtime talks: the fact that Kate Bottley first went to church for a snog and Professor McLeish’s idea that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.”

Helen Jacquet, Head of Religious Studies at Aylsham High school said:

“We have had a fantastic week! The panel guests that we have had in every class have been warm, kind and thoughtful in their responses to some quite probing questions from the students and the lunchtime talks were a great insight into the role that faith can play in a person’s life beyond the school gates or a church building. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has contributed to the week, but especially to Aylsham Parish Church for all that they did to organise the week and to make it possible. The provision of doughnuts for those attending the lunchtime sessions was also very well received!”

Ruth Macpherson, Physics Teacher at Aylsham High School said:

I found Prof McLeish very engaging and he made me question the stories about Science and Religion that I have believed since I was told them as a High school student, and have shared since, many times, as a teacher! Yesterday lunchtime will change my practice. I am so glad I made the time to come.”

The Revd Jack Branford, Curate of Aylsham Parish Church said:

“It’s been a brilliant week. We’ve seen hundreds of young people in RE lessons asking deep and thoughtful questions. The lunchtime talks have been packed every day with young people choosing to come along to think, learn and discuss big issues. I think this week has shown that many young people are deeply curious about faith and understand the importance of religious ideas and language when engaging with the wider world.”