Comments: collected opinions

In Theo Hobson's answer to the Back to Church question, he has his vicar saying, "But let's be honest: the numbers increased once St Joseph's started getting over-subscribed. Anything that gets people coming to church is a good thing, I told myself. Well I was wrong. I am no longer willing to sign your forms saying you've been attending church."

Would someone in the UK please have the goodness to explain what he's talking about? Parishes get oversubscribed? You need to have clergymen sign forms attesting to your churchgoing habits? What the hell goes on with the CofE, anyway?

Posted by BillyDinPVD at Saturday, 3 October 2009 at 8:38pm BST

He is talking, I would assume, about signing forms for parents who want to get their children into an over-subscribed church school. It is a heinous and ghastly aspect of the admissions policy of some of those schools that church attendance and a certificate proving same will add points to a parent's application for their child. I don't know how widespread it is, but I can think of schools in Harrogate and Bolton where this happens. I am told it happens in London.

It makes for fake attenders, people who are there certainly against their inclination and maybe also their conscience. It is a travesty of anything we stand for in relation to worship evangelisation and education I would have thought. Any church schools I have been involved with were community schools with nothing of that sort.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Sunday, 4 October 2009 at 8:13am BST

The vicar in Hobson's piece means 'St. Joseph's School'. In the UK the State funds CofE (and Catholic and other faith) schools. A good CofE school will become oversubscribed. The supposed religion of the child is a selection criterion to gain a place at the school (a child labelled 'Church of England' will rank ahead of a child whose parents do not have the appropriate religious affiliation), so atheist/otherwise non-church-attending parents wll start to attend the local CofE (or other) church to prove their religious credentials in an attempt to get their child into the school. Evidence of this is required, hence the reference to forms being signed.

Posted by Laurence C at Sunday, 4 October 2009 at 10:51am BST

Church admissions are a convenient stick to break over the back of the established Church and one that Theo Hobson was unlikely to ignore. Possibly because he's been at dinner parties where the smart thing has been to blame the Church for 'requiring' church attendance? Possibly too because it's definitely unsmart to admit that the requirement has stirred up something in the parents - because let's face it Theo Hobson was never going to say orthodox belief in God and canonical worship within the Church is a fundamentally good thing.
CofE Primary schools were built for the local community and are used for the local community (even middle class parents are part of the local community) and if a local church is any good it will be 'using' the school as part of it's mission and growth. The schools may show up how unprofessional and wishy washy the churches are but that doesn't undermine how valuable are the links. Church Schools go with being part of the weft and woof of a local community. It gets messy - it can sometimes be hard to see where the nice clear lines are drawn - but that's the difference between being part of the Church and being a gathered community around a single idea. Why does no one point out that maybe, just maybe, having God around in a school, the the lives and vision of the staff, in the energy of the Governors and parents, is what makes it the 'first choice' school for local parents?

Posted by Mark at Sunday, 4 October 2009 at 7:55pm BST

"Why does no one point out that maybe, just maybe, having God around in a school, the the lives and vision of the staff, in the energy of the Governors and parents, is what makes it the 'first choice' school for local parents?' - Mark on Sunday -

Mark is correct here - to emphasise the importance of Church schools. We, in Christchurch New Zealand, have our own St. Michael's Parish School, with over 300 primary age students, where the curriculum includes religious education, with an Anglican bias. School Masses are definitely an important part of the life of the School, and the deupty Head is an unpaid curate in the Parish. There are scholarships avaible for disadvantaged families in the parish. God is definitely an item on our agenda here. Also, our academic record is as good as, if not better than, that obtaining in the local state school system.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 4 October 2009 at 9:42pm BST

Difficulties arise, Ron, where the local state school is a Church School (as is frequently the case in the UK). 'God' is on the agenda whether or not the parents or the children want it to be.

Posted by Laurence C at Monday, 5 October 2009 at 12:40pm BST

I don't doubt that CofE schools are sought out by non-Christians. What I don't understand is why CofE schools wouldn't be jumping at the opportunity to provide the children of non-Christians with a CofE education.

Posted by BillyD at Monday, 5 October 2009 at 1:25pm BST

BillyD said "I don't doubt that CofE schools are sought out by non-Christians. What I don't understand is why CofE schools wouldn't be jumping at the opportunity to provide the children of non-Christians with a CofE education."

Exactly right. If a CofE school is part of church mission, then why are school places allocated to those children who already have the closest links with the church. Surely the prioriity should be given to lost souls who are currently not in contact with Christianity.

Simon

Posted by Simon Robert Dawson at Monday, 5 October 2009 at 8:40pm BST

Very good point BillyD, I suspect there is a tiny minority that is too busy trying to keep the 'out' LGBT's out.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Monday, 5 October 2009 at 9:52pm BST

The purpose of a school is to educate, not to be an underhand means to support church attendance and involvement.

Posted by Pluralist at Tuesday, 6 October 2009 at 2:56pm BST

BillyD and others -- The CofE might well want to give places to just about anyone who wanted to attends...except that there are a finite number of places in each school and two, sometimes three or four applicants for each place. In such a context, why should non-members of the CofE be preferred to those who actually help support and maintain the school?

Posted by John Holding at Tuesday, 6 October 2009 at 7:42pm BST

"If a CofE school is part of church mission,"

Who says it is, or ever was? That's if you define "mission" as evangelising the non-Christian. Time was, Churches ran schools as charities for the poor. These, of course, were local poor, who, up until very recently, would have been "native", so to speak. That's evangelism, true, but not what you're talking about. It went with other forms of charity, and was directed at a population of "us" for want of a better term: good English, or Newfoundland, or Canadian, or American stock. One only evangelized "brown people" (think Kipling's 'We and They' or Stevenson's 'Foreign Children') on their own turf, that's why there was an Empire! It was never about evangelism in the first place in the sense it seems you are using it here.

Besides, can you imagine the didoes that would be kicked up by everyone if the Church of England ran schools geared to spreading the Gospel among the children of non-Christian immigrants to the UK? It'd make for some very entertaining television, but the riots would get a bit intolerable, I'd imagine.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 6 October 2009 at 9:15pm BST

The theme of 'Back to Church' can be celebrated in a new way today, Wednesday 7 October 2009, with the announcement on 'Stand Firm' web-site that Judge James has recognised the Episcopal Church of the USA as the legal owner of the property of the continuing Diocese of Pittsburgh, and that Robbie Duncan cannot lay claim to either title or diocese.

So, BACK TO (THE) CHURCH, goes the property of Calvary Episcopal Church - away from the faux- Church entity of Robert Duncan and ACNA. This ruling will no doubt be challenged by the lunatic fringe, but thanksgiving seems to be in order for the rest of us.

Deo Gratias & Congratulations to the real Diocese of Pittsburgh and The Episcopal Church of the USA.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 7 October 2009 at 2:35am BST

"Besides, can you imagine the didoes that would be kicked up by everyone if the Church of England ran schools geared to spreading the Gospel among the children of non-Christian immigrants to the UK? It'd make for some very entertaining television, but the riots would get a bit intolerable, I'd imagine."

Love it!
But what actually happenes at the moment has a similar effect, because non-Christian parents start going to church and being active members there, for the sake of getting their children into a CoE school. Some may even stay on after the children finished school, if not, well, the church will have had its opportunity and failed, and it can’t entirely blame the parents!

The children then receive a traditional Christian education during their primary school years. The church, on the other hand, calls that hypocrisy, and yet the system plays into its hands better than if it was really only preaching to the converted.

Whatever the church wants to achieve with its entry criteria, it's an appallingly muddled and dishonest system and it only has itself to blame.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 7 October 2009 at 8:46am BST

"In such a context, why should non-members of the CofE be preferred to those who actually help support and maintain the school?"

Isn't the CofE the National Church?

You could try the idea that religion shouldn't determine who gets a quality education.

"Who says it is, or ever was?"

Well, who says it shouldn't be?

Posted by BillyD at Wednesday, 7 October 2009 at 12:05pm BST
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