Sam Brown – Director Of Christian Ethos
The Carol Services And The Importance Of The Faith Pillars
Warmth & Light
On Thursday 1st December we held our annual carol service, and for the first time ever we held two services as previous years have been so full. For me the carol service is all about warmth and light. Perhaps more than any other event in the school year it is one where the incredible warmth of our school community is seen as boys, parents, governors and staff are all joined together as one. As we sing the carols, listen to the readers, chat afterwards over mince pies and mulled wine (for the adults!) and as we meet in a church decorated with Christmas lights, speaking of the joy and colour of Christmas.
But on a deeper level the whole service points us to the warmth and light of Christmas in the Christian message. The warmth of God’s level shown in the incarnation, as Jesus comes into the world to reveal God and to save us from sin. As the verse that is on the wall above the FBS reception reads, ‘For God so loved the world he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but will have eternal life.’ (John 3:16). Later in John’s Gospel Jesus Christ says that he is the ‘Light of the world’ come into the darkness. (John 8:12). These are truths we will see more of through the readings, carols, performances and message at the services.
The big claims of Christmas
The carol service, indeed, is simply a reflection of our faith pillar. Singing, for example, is a huge part of what we do at the school. In the past two weeks I’ve heard a new staff member comment that assembly singing has been one of their highlights since joining the school, and a visitor to assembly said he had never seen anything quite like our boys singing, in all the schools he has worked at. But as a school built upon the Christian faith we also speak with clarity about Christian beliefs. Christmas, for example, makes some huge claims. It claims that this one baby born 2,000 years ago in an insignificant place was the creator of the world and the king of the world come into the world to be the saviour of the world. It claims that Jesus is the light in the darkness, the way we can know truth and the ultimate expression of love. All that is before we get onto miraculous births, divinely-moved stars and choirs of angels!
At FBS we aim to be clear on the big claims that the Bible and the Christian message makes, including about Christmas. That’s why in chaplaincy assemblies this half-term Mr O’Donnell has been showing us how prophecies in the Old Testament point, with incredible specificity, to the coming of Jesus. But we also remind boys in these assemblies of one of our most common expressions as a school; that they should ‘think, ask questions and disagree kindly’. With claims as big as these there will be lots of different opinions in our school community, and we strongly believe the ability to learn from and debate with other viewpoints but to do it in a kind rather than hateful way will be an essential skill for our boys as they develop into adulthood in contemporary society.
After one assembly last week two boys in the sixth form came up to me with what felt like dozens of questions. They had their views and wanted to ask about some of the things they had heard. Having been at the school for seven years they were model examples of our faith pillar; they had sung loudly, listened well, engaged with what they had heard, felt like they could come with their questions and differing views and were pleased to be given more things to go away and read. I’ve no doubt they will have the same approach at the carol services.
A light in every area
Our faith pillar has an impact on every area of the school. Jesus says he has come as the light of the world. Not just a part of the world but every part of the world. Christian beliefs and Christian values, as taught in the Bible, shown perfectly in Jesus Christ and the character of God, have an influence on how boys treat each other, how we support staff wellbeing, how we lead the school and a whole host of other areas. Being a school built upon the Christian faith is not just for special events; it is for every day of the school year.
But with that being said, the carol services are still a real highlight of our year.