In Exodus chapter 3 verses 5-6, as Moses approached the presence of God in the burning bush, God said to him: ‘Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ This image captures something of the essence of reverence as deep respect and worship—today in many cultures it is still the custom to take off one’s shoes to enter a place of worship, as a sign of respect and of leaving the mundane behind. Reverence is therefore the response to what is holy and sacred, it is related to awe as well as respect. This profound respect is often expressed in the Bible as ‘the fear of the Lord’. This should not be understood as fear in the sense of terror or abject grovelling, but a reverent acknowledgment of God’s greatness and our complete dependence on Him. This profound respect for God is the spring from which true worship flows (Psalm 111 verse10).
Although only God is truly worthy of reverence and worship in the way just described, the Bible also contains the related concept of ‘honouring’. We are asked to honour one another and one of the ten commandments instructs us to honour our father and mother (Exodus chapter 20 verse 12).
Reverence in the sense of awe and respectfulness is also our response to the great mystery of life and death, or to the created world in which we live—both the gifts of God.
Reverence in School
- Is everyone in school, or who enters the school, treated with respect?
- How are people (pupils and staff) encouraged to listen carefully and considerately to each other?
- How does the school encourage respect for different faith perspectives and world views?
- How are those in authority regarded and spoken of and to?
- Are pupils encouraged to treat each other’s belongings and the property of the school with appropriate care and respect?
- How does the school respond to attitudes, actions or language that show insensitivity, lack of respect or irreverence?
- Do pupils have a concept of “the sanctity of life”?
- What special words, symbolic actions, or religious symbols, are used in worship to help worshippers to understand the nature of God?
- Does worship encourage feelings of awe, wonder and mystery? How can it do that?
- How does the way the hall is prepared for collective worship help set aside the time as “special”?
- How are pupils helped to connect the ideas of reverence for God and respect for each other?
- How are pupils taught to have respect for the earth’s resources?
- Where do pupils learn about different cultures and different faiths, and learn to show respect for their neighbours, whoever they are?
- How does the RE curriculum help pupils understand teaching about the nature of God and not just to look at the externals of a religion?
- How does the RE curriculum help the pupils’ concept of God mature over their school career, so that they do not simply reject Him on the basis of long held childish misunderstandings?
- How are pupils taught to act with respect towards holy places, practices and sacred objects of any faith?
- How do staff achieve a work / life balance which allows time for wonder and reflection? Is there space in the school where they can go for peace and quiet?
- How do school leaders earn the respect of their staff?
- Do all policies and practices in the school engender respect for all members of the school and the community?