We share the information on this page at the request of some interested schools and families who have asked about our approach to Collective Worship. Our most recent SIAMS Church School Inspection highlighted our 3-year plan as "cohesive and inspirational...deeply Christian...(it) raises the aspirations of pupils and staff...creating a strong theological knowledge in pupils... This positivity ensures that worship holds a vital position in the life and success of this church school."
The aim and style of the introduction is to try and explain our approach for all interested parties, from a variety of backgrounds and traditions. The attached documents form the core overview of the progamme we have developed but there are also much more detailed notes that lie behind this work. If you are interested in accessing these further detailed notes, please complete the online form at the end of the page.
We hope that you find this useful and, if you do, please let us know. We would appreciate your feedback as well as your acknowledgement when using the ideas.
Worship: An Introduction.
Sing to the Lord, all the world!
Worship the Lord with joy;
come before him with happy songs!
Acknowledge that the Lord is God.
He made us, and we belong to him;
we are his people, we are his flock.
Enter the Temple gates with thanksgiving;
go into its courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise him.
The Lord is good;
his love is eternal
and his faithfulness lasts forever.
Psalm 100 (GNT)
They were all on the edge of their seats. Some began to stand. There was a hush, then a shout, then a roar. The crowd stood as one and the cry began once more, "Shearer! Shearer!"
It was a common scene at one time, at St. James' Park, home to Newcastle United FC. If you're a fan, you may want to include Keegan, Milburn, Moncur, Beardsley or Gascoigne. The choice is yours.
It is a common scene around the country and the globe, at other stadiums with many other sports. But what is it? Adulation. Idolisation. Hero worship. The recognition of a talent that many would want to emulate but many more just appreciate on behalf of their precious club or team.
"Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that." Those were the words of the Scottish footballer and famous Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly. It acknowledges just how important the sport can be in a person's life. It is not uncommon for someone to invest so much time and money into following their favourite team, of whichever sport, that it becomes a significant part of their life. A game can't be missed. An interview can't be ignored. They live for match day and the veneration of their idols. It's worship.
What is worship? It's a word that can often mean different things to different people. Maybe it's not in as much common usage as it used to be and maybe it isn't talked about much. It is a word that is still used but possibly not really, fully understood.
In English schools, there is a legal requirement for a daily act of collective worship. Collective Worship is a phrase that isn't seen elsewhere; it's specific to schools and to schools in England. The content is meant to be broadly Christian in nature and every school will have its own interpretation of how to put this into practice.
Worship: A definition.
Worship is: focusing our attention on God, expressing our affection to God and using our abilities for God. (Based on a definition by Rick Warren, American pastor)
So, all worship has a focus. People tend to worship what they focus on most. To worship God, therefore, we should focus on him by reading the Bible and reflecting on his creation. We then see what he is like and what he has done. When we realise all that he has done, especially in Jesus, we respond in love and gratitude - praising him in words and song - expressing our affection back to him. We will also respond in obedience to his commands and realise that our abilities and talents come, ultimately, from him. We will then want to use what we have been given for his glory and purpose.
Worship: An Opportunity.
Schools should be safe, welcoming, inclusive and tolerant places of opportunity. The opportunities they provide should aim to develop the whole person, "academically, morally and spiritually, within and as part of the wider community." Therefore, setting aside a small part of the school day to pause and reflect on some of the bigger questions of life can be a good thing if done well. Sensitively exploring questions about what it means to flourish as a human being, presenting (not imposing) a Christian worldview, can lead some to desire to worship.
By its very nature, worship cannot be forced or coerced. It should be a willing, loving response. "In the school situation, the most we can do is lead people to the threshold of worship by providing a setting where they may worship God if they so wish... It is the task of collective worship to provide a setting in which the integrity of those present is not compromised but in which everyone finds something positive for themselves." (Newcastle Diocesan Guidelines for Collective Worship, 2013.)
What about those who do not wish to worship? The conclusions that each person reaches when faced with life's big questions need to be respected. Not everyone will agree; true tolerance is about disagreeing well. The collective aspect of school worship leads to a better understanding of being in community. Some within the community will wish to worship whilst others will not. Providing the opportunity for all develops respect for the individual and tolerance of difference within our society. Parents and carers have the legal right to withdraw their children from acts of collective worship on religious grounds.
William Temple (Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942-44) defined worship as, "the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His Beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose - and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin”.
The Collective Worship programme covers a 3-year cycle and aims to cover a significant proportion of the Bible and essential Christian belief through half-termly themes. It is based around a weekly model of:
Meeting together as a whole school, first thing on a Monday, is a great way to begin the week. It sets the tone, reminds us of why we are here and provides an opportunity to introduce the theme that will be developed during the week. Sharing worship across a wide age-range comes with its challenges but it is worth planning carefully to ensure that all grow in their understanding of being in community.
Singing is a fabulous way to praise and worship. It is also a fun thing to do if the songs and hymns are carefully selected. Modern and more traditional choices that link to the half-term's worship theme can enhance times of worship as well as being used as expressions of worship in themselves. Tuesdays were chosen to introduce, learn and practise these these songs and the words are often explained as part of the worship time.
Smaller groupings, meeting later in the week, provide opportunities for different approaches to worship, more interaction and more age-specific, focused content.
Reflecting back, at the end of the week, provides further opportunities for questions and deeper thought as well as personal responses in prayer.
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