The Diocese of Ely Education Directorate

The Bible and a School’s Christian Ethos

The question is often asked how a Church school can be distinctively Christian.  The answer lies in where the school sees itself as rooted – consciously thinking of the school in relation to key Christian teaching at leadership level can help to focus this answer.  In a changing educational climate it is important to be unambiguous and explicit about the key values which unite your school.  Several key Biblical passages are given below as a starting point, however, any Vision Statement needs to be more than a Bible verse – these need to be built on to reflect your own context.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. ……14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body”, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body”, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? ….19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.…..there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.

I Corinthians 12

This passage talks of the church – and of course the school – as one body with many different parts with different functions.  The key message here is that all are of value, all have a part to play, and when one hurts we all hurt.  This is a Church school community at its best, demonstrating the Christian  value of koinonia.  It is about valuing each individual, whatever their age, for their skills and abilities, and nurturing them as individuals.  It is about true inclusion where students learn the importance of relationships and can find forgiveness, hope and stability in times of uncertainty.

 

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
Galatians 5

A deceptively simple verse which sums up the whole of the law and one of the two great commandments. A Church school is built around care – love and care for each individual pupil and wanting the best for them, academically and in personal ways.  Such love (agape) is all encompassing, which means it can also be “tough love” and “tough justice”, if this is what the situation requires.   Education is a “person-making” function;  and leads people to be more “fully human” – yet it is  love  in its most complete sense which is necessary to mature personhood.

To love your neighbour as yourself assumes that you need to love yourself in order to fulfil this commandment, and so in the school context it affirms that the wellbeing of the adults of the community is as important as that of the pupils. 

 

So I exhort the elders among you……..: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;  not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
I Peter 5

The motif of the shepherd is a common one in the Bible for talking of the role of the leaders of a community.  It includes the idea of leading rather than herding people, and a concern for everyone in the shepherd’s care.  no sheep is given up on or lost.  The idea of the shepherd is also strongly linked to the idea of service (service not servitude).  A Church school leader is thus a person of humility and of strong resolve.

 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, …..2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,  and on his law he meditates day and night.   3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1

 The image of a tree drawing constant nourishment from God is one which reminds us of how a Church school can confirm, celebrate and share its identity in the daily act of collective worship and being an open and safe place where matters of faith can be discussed.  Deep roots help one weather change, which makes maintaining a Church school’s identity important for endurance and stability.   It is also a case of “roots down, walls down”.