An Open Letter About Scripture

I wrote a blog post a while ago on why Scripture is valuable. For a few years, the legal right of religious groups to go into schools and spend half an hour or so teaching about their beliefs has been under threat. This is a completely voluntary action made on behalf of the parents of each student, and leaves options such as “ethics” and “non Scripture” if they don’t want their kids to learn anything religious, but has recently come under fire as a waste of time, or forcing kids to learn about religion which is “for the home”. I didn’t see the problem with it then- if a parent doesn’t want their kid to learn anything religious, they don’t have to sign them up for it. And, furthermore, if a child is going to get a truly thorough historical and anthropocentric education, they need to learn about the worldviews that saturate their world. However, recently I started actually teaching Scripture and things have changed a bit.

I can’t just say scripture is good. I have to say Scripture is one of the best things I think could be in our public education system.

Religion is something personal, true. But there’s no evidence to suggest there is an age too young to be exposed to something spiritual. I’ve watched the pastor who teaches not one but two classes come week after week and make relationships with the kids. I have seen the way kids have another adult to not only trust but come to with their questions and problems- scripture teachers have the privilege of not only being there to teach but having a religious background kids want to know about. Kids are curious about, and see the changes because of religion in people’s lives- I know because I was one of those kids for seven years and now I’m watching a new generation of those kids spring up. One kid in particular just blows me away-with no religious background except for that he’s been doing scripture since kindergarten, he’s been eager to learn, is able to recite stories and lessons he learned years ago, and has started to pray about his mum, who is chronically ill. These kids don’t just go because they have to, and their parents don’t just send them because they’re religious. There is something about scripture that means, even when they don’t have to be, kids want to be there. Parents want to send their kids even if they don’t get it because something good is happening. And if we stop scripture in schools, those connections are broken.

If you want to heavily regulate it, so be it- Anglican scripture teachers now have to comply with legal regulations such as providing Working With Children’s Checks, attending annual training seminars which include Safe Ministry Training, and teaching from books that are open to the public, regularly checked, and created by a board of theologically trained men and women. But all of this hasn’t stopped regular people coming forward and giving their time, money and energy into making Scripture happen because they believe in it. My dad has been doing scripture for twelve years, buys the kids Christmas presents out of his own pocket and even makes an effort to be friends with the teacher who is required to sit in on his class. Interestingly, the number of people who teach Ethics classes has begun to decrease since the classes were first introduced. There’s something about religion that changes people and I’d say arguably for the best. Scripture teachers aren’t extremists- sit in on one of their classes and see that for yourself. Ask your kids what they’re learning and I reckon they’ll respond with something along the lines of that they’re loved and made by a God who knows their name. You can check out the syllabuses for yourself, and I watch the pastor who runs scripture at my school make sure he knows the families of the kids too. If it is all out in the open, I once again can’t see the problem but I can see the benefits. I’d happily sit in a stuffy hall full of people learning things they already know once a year just to be able to go back to my scripture classes.

So the kids have some sort of understanding of spirituality and actually seem to be enjoying it. The scripture lessons are open, the teachers are trained and the regulations aren’t a deterrent. In an age where the media is predicting the fall of Scripture, I have joined a group of people who are striving to make every lesson count. I don’t see why someone would stop scripture. I don’t see how religion isn’t as important as any other lesson a kid would learn. If a parent is happy for their kid to be there, and the kid is happy themselves to be there, as someone who did scripture for all of my primary school years I can attest to how beneficial it can be. As an adult who has started teaching scripture, I can attest to how that doesn’t seem to have changed.                I had a friend who did a different scripture every year, just so she could learn more about world religion. I had a minister who came from a non Christian background but ended up in Christian scripture and from there started going to church- he famously got baptised on the spot and had to walk home in his wet clothes. I have a kid in my class who is praying for his sick mother and is finding solace in a tough time when he isn’t quite sure where to turn.

No, I don’t know why you’d stop Scripture but I hope I’ve given you a few reasons not to.

 

Sincerely,

Patty Ayres.

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Final Post of Year 13

13064759_1318630254830459_3103236972018940768_oI’m not super sure what to write here. I just feel like the year needs some sort of closure.

 

The room was packed with people on the last day. It was hot and sticky and we’d all been working hard [or watching Mean Girls] so we didn’t smell the best. But, as the tears started to make streaks in our sunscreen, suddenly everything was forgotten except for the people in the room. As prayers we said and thankyous were made, just continuing until we ran past time, the gravity of the situation fell on every shoulder- this was it. We were done. And we hugged regardless of how hot we were; we cried, spurred on by how tired we were; and we all left a lot later than we thought we would, unwilling to go.

I know I learned a lot and changed a lot this year. I got to do things I’ve always wanted to do but never had the chance, such as walking up to people and attempting to start genuine conversations about what they thought of Jesus. Not just soap box shouting, but actually setting aside time to allow people to express their opinions. Or getting involved in ministries I never had time for before, like scripture which has come to mean so much in such a short period of time. I had to do a lot of things I didn’t want to do. I had to learn how to slow down. There were a few times I had to admit I had done too much and pushed too hard. It turns out, mind doesn’t always win over matter especially when you’re particularly stubborn. I had to learn how to say sorry and really mean it, as people began to matter more than they had in a long time. I learned, in many ways, what I meant to people and that wasn’t always fun. I had to try and love people I didn’t like. I had to try and love people well.

And now, at the end of it all everyone is everywhere, in their own homes living their own lives. And, as much as I know people will try and meet up if they really want to, I’m also aware it’s not always easy. Facing the reality that there are some people I have come to love that I’m not going to see for a very long time is hard. Facing the reality that now I have to establish a new routine, and make new friends and fit into a new environment is really scary. But when I look around me I want to recognise that I’ve come out of year 13 different to how I’ve started it. More prepared, with more support. So, I think I’ll be okay.

I don’t know if I beat anxiety. I’ve learned to handle it better, although I still feel it creeping up on me like a black cat, digging its claws in here and there. I figure it’ll still be around to pounce every once in a while. But I also realised I can’t just wait for it- that’s being anxious about the anxiety. I know I’ve gotten better at ignoring it and soldiering on anyway. I dance at parties, I start conversations, I look in the mirror sometimes and like what I see. Other days, it’s harder. But it’s getting easier.

I went in to get friends and get to know God better. I did that.

I mind if I came out with more knowledge or if I found a boyfriend. I did that.

I didn’t go in to come out sad. I did that. But I don’t mind it so much.

 

So thanks, year 13.

 

Joanne

[Lady Gaga]

As a self confessed hipster, I don’t often purposely seek out the albums of pop stars. But when I watched Lady Gaga sing “A Million Reasons” on Youtube with James Cordon, I figured I’d give her a shot, as it was such a beautiful song and seemingly completely different to what I knew her for. 
The title song made me cry. I have no idea if Joanne is a real person or if she ever got to listen to the song, or how it made her feel. But with a similar vibe to “Tears in Heaven”, it just really hit me. 

Then you’ve randomly got insanely good, 80’s/90’s pop sounding hits like “Hey Girl” which has Florence [from that Machine she hangs out with] and “Just Another Day”. I’ve got to say, I didn’t enjoy the whole album- there are some random songs which sound like they were written in the shower and should never have made it out. Then therea re songs I’m still not sure what I think of- dipping a toe into the political arena with “Angel Down”? Something much simpler of, indeed, more complicated than that? ]

But I found my foot tapping and my head nodding to a few beats. The song that was most popular [indeed the only one I’ve actually heard of in the mainstream media] is “Perfect Illusion”, which is pretty standard. The others, though, are a step outside the box. 

I’d say it’s worth a listen.
3/5. 

  

Wrong Crowd

[Tom Odell]

If you ever don’t know which music to listen to, stalk your hipster friends on Facebook. That’s how I found Tom Odell, liked his facebook page, and was ready for this album to drop. Well, about as ready as I could be. 
You may know some of his songs already- soulful love songs, such as “Heal” [which made it into the film “If I Stay”, an equally moving film]. But this album, from beginning to end, completely blew me away. 
A careful mix of his vocals, some epic piano playing and a swell band, the music videos show the story of some of the songs. Then you get to the video for “Concrete”, which just him dancing slightly dad-like. But the soul and stories to his music always create vivid images of memories I’m pretty sure aren’t mine. And that’s a good sign. With beautiful, lullaby love songs like “Constellations” flowing into sad, thoughtful tunes such as “Entertainment” and “Sparrow”, it’s definitely worth a listen to if you want something a bit different. It’s not pop, although it’s got some catchy hooks. It’s not soul, although we’ve got some deep bass, both in guitar and back ground singers. It’s just a little bit of everything good, like your favourite sandwich. 
[Speaking of which, Tom Odell in general is just enjoyable to listen to. Check him out].]
4/5