As the academic year draws to a close, I have been reflecting on some of my visits and events this term. Some of those have been wonderful visits to primary schools.
As I enter a school building I always know that somewhere on the wall, in a prominent place, there will be the school values, usually displayed in creative and visually striking ways, and I’ve been impressed by how the children of all ages are able to speak about those values (often rooted in the stories of the Bible) and the importance of them in their life together. Kindness, respect, forgiveness, trust and courage are just some of the values I have heard about this term – and all of them are about relationship.
As we contemplate our country and our world, it is not difficult to see that when those values lose their prominence, not least in the lives of adults, the fractures and brokenness of life grow ever greater and we have a yearning for those values to be discovered or restored. I have been deeply aware of this on three recent visits to prisons, and my interaction with prisoners, staff and chaplains.
Last Tuesday, I had the privilege of participating in several events in Westminster. These ranged from the work of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner through to an event Remembering Srebrenica and the genocide of 1995. Had those values of our primary schools been written on walls, inscribed on hearts and enacted in lives, those events would not have been required.
One of the events was on body image, hosted by Luke Evans MP, with whom I have been in conversation regarding his campaign for legislation which would require advertisers to label images which have been digitally altered. For me, this relates strongly to my liedentity campaign and where young people find their value.
I am delighted that, in this Bulletin, we can share the latest liedentity film which emerged from a day at The Cotswold School. Sadly, so many young people find that the messages of the world around them no longer speak loudly of those values they had on their primary school walls but rather of values around appearance. As I talk about these issues with young people, I often find it moving when I ask them to talk together about what they value in one another. There is always a poignant moment when they hear from their peers, sometimes for the first time, what others value in them – and it has never been about appearance. Their words about the value they place on kindness, respect, forgiveness, trust and courage, and so much more, are rarely messages they glean from each other on social media or in their daily banter.
Today is day four of garden parties at Bishopscourt and the delight of thanking different groups of people. Whilst it is lovely to see the appearance of people in an array of summer outfits and hats, it’s even more pleasing to be in a space in which we celebrate relationship as individuals who belong together as children of God. Those values on the primary school walls are not mere words. They call us back to who we are created to be rooted in the love and relationship of God, revealed in Jesus Christ and at work within us through the power of the Holy Spirt.
With my thanks and prayers as ever,