A recent conversation with a fellow head included the phrase, ‘…this is what we have given our lives to…’ referring to our work in Christian schools. Of everything we talked about, it was this that caused me to pause. What have I given my life to? Has my main thing become the school or is it more that the school has taken my life and become my main thing.
It’s not that I am questioning the blessing that the school is in my life, it’s more another insight into what I last blogged about on the school.
The school I was visiting is the life work of a small group of people. They gathered people around the idea of opening a school and continue to spearhead its development twenty odd years on. Their staff are gathered to the mission and are missionary minded. Their level of sacrifice for the principle of educating children in a Christian School in a northern town in England is inspiring. Their original mission and drive was to reach out to families through education and see salvation; personal in the life of each child and social in the families they reach, transforming the communities the school works in.
The Christian School (Takeley) began as an expression of the life of a church. It was to be a manifestation of the life of a particular community in education. It came about as the result of a group of people who felt God was calling them to be distinct and counter-cultural both in terms of the society around them and in terms of the established churches. Some felt this church to be a cult, which indicates how unconventional and radical we were. And so my main thing was these peculiar people and, in being part of the setting up of the school, I was giving my life work to the life of this community.
Sadly this community no longer functions. The people who were part of it represent the people I know the best and know me most fully, but we are no longer worshipping together. To me they are all family but we have all moved on. However the school remains.
My personal main thing in the school then is not the school but the community it represents. As the school changes what I am looking for is a commitment to community I realise; a shared work that makes the pattern of the school distinct. Leadership in the school at Takeley, I feel, involves forming a community, a community of faith, love and hope. The school is not a church, it never was, but is a work of the church in as much as each person who teaches is involved in the life of their local church.
This is what is distinctive; those who teach are committed to the churches they gather to. Therefore, because the school is a community engaged together in a work, teachers, students and famillies, the school is a Kingdom of God work. Remember the Kingdom of God is more than the church. The school is a community engaging with the Kingdom of God, in the world but lead by the Spirit to live the Peace of Christ in Education. This is what needs to inform our planning. The work of building a community is imperative if the school is to fulfil its mission; it is not an added extra it is what makes the school live and will keeps it alive.
My hope is that this difference in approach from my friend’s school will result in the same transformations, but theirs is not our main thing.