Chaplain's Blog

Wings of Love

 

If you visit Wren’s reception area you will see an amazing new piece of student created art. Our copper wings are formed from hundreds of student hand prints.

Wings are used in the Bible as a picture describing God’s love and protection:

Wings IILike a bird protecting its young, God will cover you with His feathers, will protect you under His great wings; His faithfulness will form a shield around you, a rock-solid wall to protect you. (Psalm 91v4)

The Psalm above is a promise that God will not abandon those who trust him, but that they will know his presence through life’s storms. The many hands that together create our wings remind us that each member of our community is precious, loved and has a valuable contribution to make to the whole, that we are a place where every member of our community should feel safe and are a reminder for us to be thankful to God for his care for us.

I firmly believe that our success at Wren is based on more than the hard work of staff, the support of parents and the efforts of students, essential though all this is. When I visit local churches I often meet people who tell me they were praying for Wren before it opened, that their church was one of those who supported the opening of a new Church school on this site and that they continue to pray for us. Before a single member of staff was appointed or a plan was made, people were praying.  

Now we are here and successful it would be easy to forget the faith that led to Wren’s birth and imagine that success is guaranteed. So whether you are returning or new to us, I hope our wings will serve as a reminder that we are God’s and that in his love he has blessed us by bringing together the amazing mix of people who form our community. 


Previous posts

Reverence

Let us be grateful and worship God in a way that will please him, with reverence and awe - Hebrews 13 v28b

In my last post here I explained some of the reflection we have been doing about our ethos as a school and the qualities we want to see our students develop during their time with us. We are calling this approach Wisdom for Life because it reminds us that our purpose is not limited to doing the best we can for students academically while they are here, but helping them to thrive in every area of their lives today and in the future.

One of the six characteristics we want to see our students develop as part of this Wisdom for Life is a sense of reverence. To have reverence is to have deep respect for a person, place or idea. Those who display reverence will be respectful, have a sense of awe and wonder, be growing spiritually and display appropriate humility in their actions and relationships.

A sense of reverence requires us to be honest about ourselves and our shortcomings as we measure ourselves by God’s perfect standards, something we particularly recognise during this season of Lent. Properly understood reverence offers us a sense of value and demands fair treatment for all those made in God’s image.  It certainly includes the ability to wonder at creation and to give praise and worship.   

In the classroom it means being able to recognise the importance of every individual, their feelings, rights and responsibilities. In practice this means including all, turn taking, sharing resources, listening to other opinions.  These all demonstrate the respect we have for others.

Reverence is also shown when we pray at Wren as all bow their heads as a mark of respect whether or not they are choosing to pray themselves.

Our focus on Wisdom for Life is not a radical change of direction, but it does allow us to clarify our vision and communicate it in a clear way. In coming editions I will focus on being resilient, reflective, redemptive, relational and resourceful, the other five characteristics that are at the core our vision for young people here at Wren.


Wisdom for Life

What is Wren Academy for?  What are we trying to achieve for the children and young people who join our community?  How do we know if we are achieving our aims in the lives of those we serve?

At Wren we believe in regularly reflecting on our purpose as a school.  As a Church of England Academy we are convinced that education should be for and of the whole person, intellect, soul, body and heart.  One increasingly popular way of expressing this vision for holistic Christian education is to say that ‘schools exist to develop human flourishing’.  Enabling young people to flourish is a noble aim; it is however rather more difficult to define and demonstrate than to champion.

happy students

Since opening, our vision at Wren has been shaped by our inclusive Christian ethos and our commitment to Building Learning Power.  As we have grown as a community we have continued to reflect on what this means for us as a community.  Our ethos can be summed up in three values that underpin our practices and policies as a school.  We use the words unique, relational and excellent to capture the heart of what it means for us to be a Church school.  Unique because each one of us is made in the image of God and therefore has immeasurable worth and significance.  Relational because through Christ we are brought into a right relationship with God and are called to live in right relationships with others. Excellent because God is worthy of our best in all areas of life and when giving our best our whole lives become acts of worship and service.

These values provide the soil in which Wren has grown over its first eight years.  More recently we have begun to revisit what we want to see these values produce in our students and how we communicate that with those joining our community.  There is nothing revolutionary about our conclusions, but it is important to regularly assess how we communicate our vision and how effective we are at seeing it established.  The characteristics we want to see Wren students develop are captured in six words

Resilient, Resourceful, Reverent, Relational, Reflective and Redemptive

We believe that developing these characteristics will lead our students not just to being great learners who achieve academically, but also equip them with the wisdom for life they will need to flourish in our changing world.  This wisdom for life has always been at the heart of our vision at Wren because we want to see young people live lives in what Jesus calls, ‘all their fullness’ (John 10v10).  This fullness is not selfishly getting as much as we can of the world’s resources and experiences on our own plate at the expense of others, but living for the common good.  It is an exciting and challenging journey of discovery that lasts a lifetime.

In future posts I will explore in more detail what each of these characteristics means and how we are seeking to establish them in the life of the Academy.

David Booker

Chaplain


Remembrance

Poppies current news

This year as we prepared for Armistice Day we marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme through our assemblies. Students read extracts from those who served on the front lines and from a nurse serving in a hospital a few miles behind the trenches. Many of those who died were close in age to those reading their accounts of the conflict, so there was a real sense of significance to the assemblies. 
Poppies current
 
As ever, the Act of Remembrance on 11 November was treated with great seriousness by students who stopped what they were doing and stood in silence around the Academy.

Poppies home

This year the occasion was enhanced by the handmade poppies that appeared around the Academy. They created a powerful effect and I am very grateful to Ms Snowsill and those who worked with her creating the poppies. 
 
 
 
 

Harvest – Thanksgiving in the face of tragedy?

This week and next both primary and secondary students will be focusing on ‘Harvest’. In rural parishes the annual Harvest Supper and Harvest Festival remain dearly loved institutions marked by churches crammed with produce and smelling wonderful.  In such places the end of summer is marked by activity in the fields and roads of slow moving traffic as combine harvesters and balers move from farm to farm.
 
In our setting in North London, harvest can seem a rather strange affair. Thanking God for what appears in the shops can seem odd because we imagine that the growing of food is now an all but industrial process that has guaranteed results once the seed is planted or the lamb is born. A few minutes speaking to any farmer would swiftly dismiss such misapprehensions but that is not how it feels to us.
 
This year there is another Harvest question that we cannot avoid. What does it mean to give thanks to God for his provision to us while watching pictures of the devastation in Haiti and Aleppo? We surely don’t believe that we are blessed with food because we are better or deserve it more than those we see whose homes have been destroyed and who have no option but to pray, beg and rely on the handouts of charities to survive. For some, these questions lead to a rejection of God altogether. After all they argue, if God loves people how can he simply watch all this pain and do nothing about it? It is a question every thoughtful believer asks themselves as well.
 
At their worst Harvest celebrations can descend into smug self-congratulation with a subtext that celebrates conspicuous consumption as we fill the church with symbols of our plenty. Yet, properly understood, they offer at least a way of answering the question above. In the Old Testament God’s people brought the ‘first fruits’ of the harvest to the Temple to thank God for his faithfulness and provision. First fruits are important because they illustrate trust that more will come. This offering then is one that is given in faith, not because there is enough left over to give but because of the confidence that there will be enough because God’s nature is to give generously.
 
How does this help us with Haiti? It depends where you choose to focus. One option is to see the devastation and say,’ God how could you let this happen?’ A second option is to see the aid workers of World Vision, among many others, who have felt called by God to live and work in these places to love and care for the most vulnerable.  They have been present through the storms (and through the bombings in Aleppo) doing all they can to make a difference. In and through them God is present and working in the teeth of tragedy if we allow ourselves to see the Holy Spirit in action. In almost every place of disaster and poverty in the world you will find people serving those there because of their faith.
 
Harvest reminds us, not of our prosperity but of our dependency. Christians bring their offerings at Harvest as a reminder that all they have comes from God and because he is the source we should share generously just as God is generous to us. A small reflection of that is our Harvest collection of food for local foodbanks, places that give food and hope to those who have often run out of both. 
 
We may not be fixing storm damaged houses but as we respond to God’s goodness with gratitude and generosity, by bringing our gifts of food we open a window through which his love can be seen and experienced by those in need around us.
 

Money, money, money

This week in our tutor resources we have been thinking about money. It is also the week we launch our mini-businesses and the week of our first non-uniform day of the academic year supporting our link with CA Academy in Kenya. 
 
Jesus had a lot to say about money. He told a parable about a rich farmer building bigger storage barns only to die in the night without enjoying his profits as a warning to those whose confidence was based on their wealth rather than God. He praised the widow who gave the little that she had and told his followers not to be wrapped up in concerns about clothing and wealth.
 
On Wednesdays we use the Lord’s Prayer at the end of our day. It provides us with a clue as it leads us to pray for our daily bread.  Bread was the basic stuff of life. As it is sometimes said, Jesus invites us to pray from bread, not for cake or ice cream! The problem for many of us is that we live in a culture that values us according to our wealth and the status symbols that wealth gives us access to.
 
Whether it is the house we live in (and its postcode), the car we drive or the places we go on holiday, our ‘value’ is often expressed in what we have and what we can experience. For students it might be the type of phone, the designer clothing, and tickets to events or places to eat out. It is hard to resists the pull of our ‘you are what you own’ media.  Yet our desire to have and to feel financially secure can be in stark contrast to the biblical message that requires justice and mercy for the poor together with reliance of God rather than our bank balance and pension pot.
 
Of course money, and making money, is not bad. Business creates jobs and opportunity, work fulfils us and often involves us in meeting the needs of others. Profit at the expense of the environment, the physical and mental health of employees or to exert power over others is something different altogether.  Through the mini-businesses we hope students will discover both team work and entrepreneurial skills that that could take into any area, whether or not it leads to their financial prosperity. 
This money link carries on into our relationship with our link school in Kenya. We would expect to raise around £2,000 on a non-uniform day. The two pounds a student gives on the day, is for most of our community, a small amount. For those who are able to receive an education because of it those two pounds are transformational. The value of money really does depend on who is holding it in their hand.
 
Money matters. Money can create freedom and opportunity, the lack of it creates fear and insecurity, sometimes even hunger and homelessness. Jesus warned that we cannot serve both God and money. We can however use our resources to make a difference in the world around us. Four young people in Kenya are in school because of our support. Our choices and actions do make a massive difference to them. If this week students reflect on the moral complexity of finance and recognise their own ability to make good choices we will have made an important step forward.

Summer

By the time you read this we will have all but finished the academic year. The last couple of weeks have involved our usual round of trips and activities. Usual round? Having been at Wren for three years I’m now at the stage where I’m familiar with the pattern of events and routines. So, for example, we have just taken our Year 7 students on the end of year retreat. We take the students over three days, so this year marked my ninth retreat barbeque, ninth service reflecting on the past year, ninth...the list goes on. I need to remember that what might be the ninth to me is still the first for the students who go. For them it is fresh and hopefully exciting. My familiarity with the events we do must not lead me to become jaded.

I think there is a link here to our Christian ethos. The stories we tell, the pattern of the year, the words we use can all become routine, familiar, comfortable. Ethos can become a comfort blanket. The problem is that when you read the gospels Jesus is anything but comfortable, especially for those closest to him. While he takes people as they are, he refuses to allow them to remain unchanged. At Wren over the last year we have become more and more clear that our Christian ethos means that each one of us is uniquely made in God’s image, is called upon to have right relationships and should be giving excellence back to God and to our neighbour. Unique, relational and excellence are values few would argue with. Our next challenge is to become clearer about what these values look like in practice, to reflect on how we teach them and to make sure they are developing in the lives of our students and staff. Our journey is certainly not finished and I am excited at the plans and developments for next year...for now, please watch this space!

Of course, for some the summer is a time of somewhat nervous anticipation. Results days are not that far away. This year the Booker household will also be awaiting GCSE results, so I am very aware of what many are going through. However much we remind ourselves that students are not their results, that can be how it feels when the envelopes are opened. We must continually remember that none of us are defined by our academic achievement, status, wealth or talents. God instead looks at our hearts. The apostle Paul puts in like this, ‘I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains - but if I have no love, I am nothing’.

Love for young people and for learning is what stops the ‘usual round of events’ from becoming dull and predictable; love is the radical challenge that keeps our ethos demanding rather than self-serving. It is our capacity to love rather than to remember in exams that is the best measure of our humanity. Understanding and experiencing God’s love compels Christians to love both God and their neighbour. Love is the heartbeat of the Christian faith because it is the essential characteristic of God. Without love we can be busy, lauded or rich but we certainly can’t be the people God intended.

Have a great summer.


Jesus the Teacher

‘Teacher’ is one of the regular titles given to Jesus in the Gospels. Those around him saw that he taught with ‘authority’, sensing that what he said was not simply clever or insightful, but that his words came out of who he was.

It would be easy to over stress the link between Jesus the teacher and teaching today. There are of course very obvious differences. Although children seem to have been present often, Jesus’ teaching ministry appears focused on adults. These adults willingly chose to come and listen, albeit sometimes in order to argue or condemn what they heard. There was also no sense of formal testing or exams in Jesus’ ministry. While he wanted understanding to deepen in his followers, he was clearly at least as interested in the hearts and actions of those who dared to follow him as in their theological understanding.  Another significant difference is that those he spent most time teaching, the disciples, lived and travelled with Jesus for the three years of his public ministry.

For all of those reasons we need to be careful not to make a simplistic link between the way Jesus teaches and how teachers go about their daily work in schools. Having stressed that danger, there are of course also links to be made and lessons to be learned.

At Wren we have been influenced in our approach to teaching and learning by Building Learning Power, developed by Professor Guy Claxton. His work looks at both the learning habits young people need to develop to be become successful learners and the range of skills and approaches teachers can deploy to develop these habits.

Building Learning Power is not about what is being learnt, but who is learning it. It is about developing character so learners can be effective, curious and creative in the face of challenges. This is where BLP really connects to both our work at Wren and the role of Jesus as teacher. We are not simply, or even primarily, in the business of exam passing. As a church school we are called to enable the flourishing of young people. This is of course academic, but also social, psychological and spiritual.

Over my next few blogs I’m going to explore in a little more detail some of the links between the approaches outlined in Building Learning Power and the way Jesus teaches and develops his followers. 


The Queen's 90th Birthday

This week Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her 90th birthday. We will mark the occasion through our use of some of the prayers created for the occasion and in our tutorial resources by looking a little at her reign and the remarkable events that have taken place during it. The pace of change has arguably never been quicker than over the last 90 years. From transport to microchips and from social media to weapons of mass destruction, the world is very different from that into which she was born.

Throughout her life the Queen has been sustained by a living faith in God. In the introduction to a book released to mark the occasion (The Servant Queen and the King She Serves) she writes, ‘I have been – and remain – very grateful to you for your prayers and to God for His steadfast love. I have indeed seen His faithfulness’.

Our students will also live through remarkable change. The world they move into from Wren will be very different from the world in which they retire. Jobs for life are largely a thing of the past so, alongside their results, we work hard to help students become lifelong learners through our commitment to Building Learning Power (about which you can learn more elsewhere on this website). As the Queen knows, change can be exciting, challenging and sometimes very painful. The Queen ends her forward to the book by quoting words read by her Father, King George VI, in 1939.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied:

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

This term is a stressful one for many students and their families as they focus on exams and the future that lies beyond them, but by putting our hands into the Hand of God we know we will be safer even when the way ahead is unknown.

May we, like Her Majesty, come to know the faithfulness of God as we trust him with our futures. 


Parent Prayer

Once a term we invite those parents and careers who can attend to an informal opportunity to pray together for our school community. A small group of us normally gather in Chapel to thank God for all his goodness to us and to pray for the needs of students, teachers and our wider community. Afterwards we share a coffee in the restaurant before finishing by 10.00am. If you are the parent or career of a Wren student and you can join us on Friday 1 April at 9.00am we would love to see you.


Bishop Rob opens Early Years building

Bishop Rob and children

We have a wonderful celebration to mark the official opening of our Early Years building. School governors and guests were joined by Bishop Rob, Bishop of Edmonton, who blessed the building and all those who will learn and work within it. Children from both classes sang beautifully for us.

During the morning Bishop Rob also took time to look around the Secondary site. His presence was a visual reminder that we are connected to and supported by the wider church and I am really grateful for the time he spent here with us.


Lent Reflection

Lent Reflection 3

In our collective worship we deliberately attempt to draw on the variety of traditions found within the Church of England. There are Anglican traditions rich in silence, reflection and beauty, others are loud and more emotionally expressive, some focus on the Bible and having it explained, others seek to draw people into experience before they rationally understand what is taking place. We drew on all aspects of this melting-pot for our Sixth Form Lent Worship this week.

Students journeyed between 12 stations that explored the events of Holy Week. At one they lit candles for those who morn, at another they ate bread and thought about Jesus’ last meal with his friends. They held coins and reflected on betrayal, confessed sin and left them before a cross and finally took a chocolate egg as a sign that the story of rejection, suffering and brokenness was not the end of the Easter journey.

Lent Reflection 1

Each station opened the opportunity to pray and reflect, to wonder and to question. We took the words off the page and struggled to understand what they might mean for us with our trials and temptations today. We did this because the Easter story is not simply something to know about, not simply a historical event, but is the key to understanding the life and purpose of Jesus. We used stations and silence and activity and music because God speaks in all these ways to his children if we will open our ears.

God can even use blogs and websites! So before moving on, maybe you should take a moment to pray and ask what word God has for you today. Are you willing to listen?

Lent Reflection 2

As a community at Wren I think listening to God and each other is something we are getting better at. We are more confident in our use of silence and in our use of spoken prayers. Our Lent reflection took us another step on that journey. 


Holocaust Memorial Day Visit

Over two days 180 Year 9 students have been the guests of our friends at Finchley Reform Synagogue. We learnt about the Holocaust and heard directly from survivors who shared their personal experiences. Below, some students have shared their experiences of the visit:

World Holocaust Day 3 2016

Today I learnt about the how, why and what happened during the Holocaust from a survivor who told us his story and about how the Jews were treated. Personally it was very informative and it reminded me that the world is full of many heroes. - Daniel

His story really touched me and he was a very inspirational man. I hope he continues to share his story with more people so that they can learn and be educated about the Holocaust and so that all the innocent people that sadly didn’t survive can still be remembered.  - Grace

I can’t imagine having to leave my family at the age of eight. - Breno

World Holocaust Day 2 2016

Zigi’s poignant message ended with the advice never to hate. I found this most remarkable as the man that has every reason to hate the world and the Germans now teaches the next generation never to hate. I think it is of the upmost importance that children are educated about the tragedy that occurred because of hate. These incredible men won’t live forever, but it is important that their legacy, story and experience live on to ensure that nothing like this will ever happen again.  - Sylvie

We found out how Zigi escaped and what he went through. I am now more grateful for the simple everyday items such as food and water. I care more for my friends and family and will show increased respect to my parents. From this experience I learnt many new things that I will hold on to forever. Thank you! - Elena

World Holocaust Day 1 2016

Listening to the story of the Kinder Transport from someone whose life was saved through their journey to England was particularly poignant in the shadow of our own current debates about refugees and whether children should again be brought to the UK. The year’s theme for Holocaust Memorial Day was, ‘Don’t stand by’, reminding us that we must not simply remember, but must act to do all we can to prevent such horrors happening again. 


Teaching Wisdom?

Our theme in the Primary School this half term is wisdom, so this week we began by thinking about the Magi, or Wise Men, who came to visit the baby Jesus. Although we know them through the familiar readings, nativity scenes and Christmas cards, I wonder how wise they seemed to those around them when they began their adventure. Imagine the conversation.

“Sorry, where did you say you were going?”
“We don’t really know”

“And how long will you be away for?”
“We don’t know that either”

“Remind me, why are you going?”
“We saw a star”

“A star?”
“It means a new king has arrived so we are going to pay homage to him”

“King of where?”
“We don’t really know”

The Bible is full of characters that, although they were wise enough to be following God’s plans, looked crazy to those around them. Noah building his ark, the boy David going to fight the massive and frightening Goliath and of course at its centre, Jesus, knowing the terrible death that would come to him, resolutely setting out for Jerusalem and the cross. The Magi are in good company.

What does this strange wisdom, shown by the Wise Men, mean for a school like ours, where we want the Christian story to influence and shape the values and experience of the young people we serve? At one level, each of those mentioned above were willing to defy convention and stand up for what they believed, whether or not is was popular or easy. They were certainly not carried away by the crowd. Independence of mind and a willingness to do the right thing regardless of others sound like great qualities, until it is our own values and conventions that are being challenged, then we find it much more uncomfortable. Yet I am convinced that one sign we are doing a good job is that our young people are equipped to question and challenge attitudes and actions they see around them in appropriate ways.

If we picture wisdom as an old person sitting offering sweet thoughts and calming clichés we are in for a shock. Biblical wisdom is also not about getting on in the world or being successful financially. The prophet Isaiah puts it like this:

The Lord says:

“My thoughts and my ways
    are not like yours.
Just as the heavens
    are higher than the earth,
my thoughts and my ways
    are higher than yours.”

The apostle Paul puts it even more starkly

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,

‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’

So as we think about the Wise Men we are challenged to remember this wisdom is very different from the wisdom found in self help guides and business strategy books. It is often about taking risks and giving of ourselves rather than getting more and appearing successful. To those around us God’s wisdom may not look very wise at all, at least at this point in the story.

Next time I’ll be thinking a little about whether wisdom can be taught at all...


Secondary:

Our weekly theme: Remembrance
Focus Bible passage: Romans 8 v31- end
Colour: Green (Ordinary Time) 

This week we are marking remembrance in our collective worship and will be sharing in the national Act of Remembrance on at 11.00 am on Wednesday.

Assemblies Leader: Worship Workshop Students  

Morning Prayer: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday in chapel at 8 am

Weekly Communion: This will take place on Thursday  at 8.00am in chapel and is open to all staff and students of the Academy. Celebrant, Revd Nigel Taylor.

The Monday Thing (Wren’s after school group for growing Christians): Meets Monday from 3.00-4.00pm in chapel.

Sixth Form Prayers: Wednesday morning. 8.35am in chapel

Primary:

This term’s value: Peace
Focus Bible passage:  Psalm 23
Collective Worship: Mr Booker         
 

Secondary:

Our weekly theme: Harvest Festival
Focus Bible passage: Leviticus 23 v22
Colour: Green (Ordinary Time) 

This week we are celebrating our Harvest Festival. The collective worship has been created by members of our Worship Workshop enrichment and they will be presenting most of the assembly. We are collecting tins and dried food for our local food bank. Donations should be left at Reception and will be going on display for the week in the entrance. Please remember not to bring fresh food. Pictures of our growing display will be posted on chapel@wrenacademy on Twitter. 

Assemblies Leader: Worship Workshop / Mr Booker

Morning Prayer: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday in chapel at 8 am

Weekly Communion: This will take place on Thursday  at 8.00am in chapel and is open to all staff and students of the Academy.

The Monday Thing (Wren’s after school group for growing Christians): Meets Monday from 3.00-4.00pm in chapel.

Sixth Form Prayers: Wednesday morning. 8.35am in chapel

Primary:

This term’s value: Peace
Collective Worship: Mr Booker         

What’s the problem with Halloween?

Lots of schools will have spiders’ webs and pumpkins filling displays at this time of year. Book displays will focus on witches, and parties are organised, sometimes raising money for good causes. Elsewhere, shops are teeming with costumes and goodies to give trick or treaters who knock on the door, and macabre pictures fill many of their windows. Alongside the fun, some people are making a lot of money from Halloween.

Halloween is something we choose not to mark or celebrate at Wren. The idea that some people find all this dressing up and enjoyment objectionable can seem very odd. When Christians don’t join in or complain they once again seem to be against fun; kill-joys who are out of touch and take life far too seriously. This blog tries to explain why Halloween is a cause of concern for many Christians. You may not agree, but hopefully you will understand where these objections come from.

The History Bit
In pre-Christian times the festival of Samhain was celebrated by most Celts. It was a time when the separation between the living and the dead was said to be thinnest. The occasion was marked by various traditions and superstitions. The early Christian missionaries oversaw the removal of most places of pagan worship, but many of the traditions lived on. In the 700s AD All Saints’ Day was created to mark those who had died in the faith, and to offer an alternative to the fear and superstitions sounding Samhain. This day, known in earlier times as All Hallows, provided the source of a new name for Samhain, Halloween, the eve of All Hallows. For many Christians the roots of Halloween, bound up as they are with pagan superstitions and practices about the dead and their influence on the living, provide reasons way it is something they don’t want to participate in the festivities surrounding the event.

Halloween Today
For most people today Halloween has little if anything to do with pre-Christian  practices. It is much more an excuse to dress up and have fun as the evenings draw in and autumn begins to turn to winter. So if it is seen as just a party, why do so many Christians still object? Here are a few reasons:

  • Public safety. For many in our society, the evening around Halloween is terrifying. While little ones dressed up, accompanied by a parent, might be sweet,  teenagers in masks, asking for sweets or money and threatening ‘tricks’ if they don’t get them, are something else all together. Plainly put, for some young people Halloween is an excuse to intimidate and cause trouble. Elderly and vulnerable people can feel picked on and are afraid to answer their doors.
  • Christians believe in the reality of the spiritual world and, just like in the natural world, not everything in the spiritual world is good for us. For some people the fun of Halloween does lead to experimenting with games such as Ouija boards and Tarot cards. For Christians these are not simply jokes or light-hearted gimmicks but potential gateways into negative experiences. Anything that makes playing with these dangers more likely is to be avoided because of the spiritual and physiological dangers they present.  
  • Children and young people have never been so exposed to images of death, violence and gore. There is strong evidence that our society is becoming desensitised to gore and violence. Costumes sold today are not simply cute witches, but bloodied zombies, serial killers and beasts covered in blood. We already have 10 and 11 year olds who routinely play 18 rated computer games and who watch television programmes well beyond their levels of maturity. Halloween adds a new level of gore to this. Many Christians find this shift in cultural values shocking and ultimately de-humanising.    
  • In the Bible, Paul’s letter to the Philippians contains this guidance for those who would follow Jesus:  “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4 v8). The bottom line is that the images, practices and superstitions that surround Halloween fail this test. The violent images, the focus on death and the macabre, the potential doorways to spiritual practices prohibited to Christians, all defy the call to think on pure, commendable, just, honourable and true things.

Does all that make Christians closed minded, boring kill-joys? You may think so. For those of us who do not feel able to join your party on  31 October because of our faith in Jesus the sense is different. Why would we want to party about death, pain, suffering and fear when we serve a saviour who destroyed the power of these things? We have seen the worst evil can do on the cross of Christ, but we have also seen the power of resurrection destroy evil, death and fear. We feel like we have much better things than Halloween to party about!  


Primary Harvest Festival

This week marked a new step for our Primary. The Harvest Festival service was the first one at which our Reception children performed songs for an audience they did not know. They were fantastic! The Year 7 students who came to join in the service really enjoyed listening and joining in the worship of the Reception children.

Harvest Festival Oct 2015

Wings IIAs the picture shows, parents were very generous with the food they sent in and we used it during our service to remember that what we eat connects us with farmers in countries all around the world. Meat from Argentina, pasta from Italy, chocolate from Ghana, oats from Scotland. All these gifts remind us of God’s provision and of our interdependence.  Jesus’ parable of the sower formed the basis of our talk. Our songs reminded us of God’s care, and in our prayers 

Primary Harvest Festival singingwe remembered those without food and our link school in Nairobi that educates many children who live with the reality of poverty every day.

The food collected will, together with that brought in by Wren Secondary students after half term, be taken to our local food bank to support their work feeding those in times of crisis.


This week at Wren

Secondary:

Our weekly theme: The Bible
Focus Bible passage: 1 Timothy 3v16
Colour: Green (Ordinary Time)

This week we are thinking about the Bible. Why is it important to Christians? How can it be understood? What kind of writing is it? Which models of reading and understanding the Bible are most useful?

Assemblies Leader: Mrs Ormondroyd

Weekly Communion: Thursday at 8.00am.

The Monday Thing: Monday, 3.00-4.00pm in chapel.

Sixth Form Prayers: Wednesday morning. 8.35am in chapel

Primary:

This term’s value: Friendship
Collective Worship: Mr Booker

This week is our our Primary Harvest Festival! Siblings of children in primary will be attending our special Collective Worship together with other representatives from Wren Secondary.


This week at Wren

Secondary:

Our weekly theme: London (International city of business)
Focus Bible passage: Psalm 127
Colour: Green (Ordinary Time)

Thursday 8 October is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the BT Tower. This is also the week in which we launch our mini business projects, so it is an opportunity to think about the city where we live and work. In tutorials we will explore the difference between personal and corporate values. How might the values of faith affect the worlds of industry and commerce? Questions about the integrity of big business have become a major story in the last few weeks, so our theme has a relevance we could not have imagined at the beginning of the year.

Assemblies Leader: Mr Corby

Weekly Communion: Our Thursday Communion will be led by Revd Colin Brookes from St Barnabas. It takes place at 8.00am in chapel and is open to all staff and students of the Academy.

The Monday Thing (Wren’s after school group for growing Christians): Meets Monday from 3.00-4.00pm in chapel.

Sixth Form Prayers: Wednesday morning. 8.35am in chapel

Primary:

This term’s value: Friendship
Collective Worship: Mr Booker         

 

David Booker, Chaplain

David Booker - Wren Chaplain