Anglican Schools Commission
Lent in Schools
It’s Shrove Tuesday, and one of my final tasks before Lent begins is to write this article. It’s late in the day and still no pancakes to be seen in the Anglican Schools Commission office. C’est la vie!
From all reports, cupboards were cleared of those essential pancake ingredients, as there were no shortages of pancakes in our schools. Students and teachers feasted before the fasting began, with Ash Wednesday and the arrival of Lent.
When I (and most of the readers of Anglican Messenger) went to school, this was called Lent Term. Together with Trinity and Michaelmas terms, the school year was divided in three… what seemed to be three very long terms when one was 15 years old.
A progressive move to four terms evenly divided the year into ten-week blocks… nice bite-sized chunks. With it, came the retrogressive step of moving to boring, old numbers for names… Terms One, Two, Three and Four. Bring back the terms Lent, Trinity and Michaelmas, I say!
Words matter… they always do. But more important is the story behind the words. In our modern world, Lent rarely gets a mention outside the Church. While Christmas and Easter are still hot conversational topics, and Advent even gets a look-in with the renewed popularity of the Advent Calendar, Lent isn’t a particularly sellable commodity to the general public.
Forty days leading up to Easter when we Christians observe a time of solemnity and self-reflection, where we confess our failings and resolve to live a more Godly life based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. This may be central to our annual (and indeed daily) lives as Anglicans, but it’s not in the league of Santa, presents, chocolate eggs and fun calendars.
That is the very reason why Anglican schools do and must teach the students in our care the full gamut of the liturgical year. For without it, our young people get a sanitised, incomplete and somewhat insipid version of the Christian story. I say teach because liturgy must be taught as well as caught.
As I write, tomorrow will be Ash Wednesday. For schools as for parishes, it is a time when students and teachers gather in our chapels and halls for a simple, quiet service where the ashes made from the burning of last year’s palm crosses are used to mark the sign of the cross on their foreheads. A time for reflection, repentance and forgiveness.
Lent focuses our minds on what we should do daily and weekly. It reminds us of the significance of liturgy and ceremony in inviting our young people to engage with the Christian story. We learn more from doing than simply hearing and seeing. Pancakes and ashes are great teaching resources!