18th January 2023

I once had a colleague, a bright and inspirational deputy head, who asked me “why do children come to school?” I started with something like “to prepare them for life in an uncertain future” and was prepared to go on to mention legal requirements, the support of parents leading on to a regular daily habit. It was quickly obvious, though, that he had something else in mind. What he was really asking was “what are the things that make children want to come to school?” I hesitated to mention that a number of them could look forward to truly wonderful science lessons and he filled that hesitation with the idea that they come because they want to meet each other. They want to swap gossip (these were the days when that sort of thing was done in person), to tell each other jokes, to play games, to arrange what they are going to do when they go out together. We teachers would hope that very little of all that goes on in our lessons where learning comes first. But that then implied that we needed to provide safe times and spaces where that sort of thing could go on with fairly light adult supervision. Times and spaces where the main business of the school is not occurring in any obvious way.

So what are the things that make us want to come to church? What makes you look forward to Sunday morning or Wednesday evening? We know the ‘textbook’ answers about worship, listening collectively to God, confessing our sins. But I must confess that I also look forward to seeing friends, to the laughter (and sometimes tears) of talking together, to being able to sing out loud. And if I am not alone then it implies that we should be, rather like a thoughtful school, making sure that we create opportunities for these apparently ‘extra’ things.

Nick Parsons