Thursday, 20 October 2016

Rising to the Challenge

Something actually churchy to vary the current diet.

Hornington Junior School, unlike Swanvale Halt Infants, is not a Church school and so our links with it are much more tenuous. I never assume that I have a right, as such, even to go into the Infants School, and there is always the possibility that the head teacher might eventually decide I am an idiot and not want me around. So my sense of being granted a privilege is even stronger on the rare occasions that I’m invited into Hornington Junior: lots of our Swanvale Halt children progress there when they leave the infants, and it’s good to be able to meet them again.

Year 3 were asking ‘What do Christians think God is like?’ in their RE class, and as their class teacher is an agnostic she decided to ask us whether we might come in and talk to the children. I put together a little presentation about how the ancient peoples knew what their gods looked like because they made statues of them (the children had recently been studying ancient Egypt so they gleefully recognised Anubis and Horus), but the Israelites believed there was only one god and that he didn’t look like anything at all, that he was everywhere all the time. We talked about the difference between answering the question ‘what is X like?’ by referring to appearance or to character (not in such terms, for 7/8-year-olds), Moses and the burning bush, the Psalms, and how meeting Jesus had changed people’s minds about what God was ‘like’. I showed them pictures showing how people had tried to imagine the Holy Trinity and said that if they were a bit confused by that idea they weren’t the only ones.

Finally I tried introducing RS Thomas (having tried Dante for six-year-olds back in Lamford, this seemed no more ambitious). ‘He says “God is the footprints on the shore” … what do you think he might have meant by that?’ I asked. Frankie, whose family are fairly regular congregants at Swanvale Halt, put up his hand. ‘I think he meant’, he said, ‘that God is always there but we can never quite see him.’ It couldn’t get any better than that, could it?

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