Bishop to Methodist educators: Uphold our ethos and heritage

Methodist Education Seminar

METHODIST EDUCATORS have been reminded that their mission, being an essential part of the church’s mission, is to provide holistic education to the young. And to hold firm to this ethos, they must understand the scriptural and Wesleyan perspectives on the condition, the soul and the role of education.

Emphasising this to some 60 principals, vice-principals, school chaplains-in-charge and members of the Council on Education, Bishop Dr Robert Solomon said to ensure that our schools remain as Methodist institutions, there must be institutional connection and accountability between church and school. But it is also important that the Methodist ethos and heritage of our schools are kept alive through the school boards, school leaders and ministry staff.

Speaking at the Methodist Education Seminar at Methodist Centre on Feb 8, the Bishop said that, in their mission, the educators should bear in mind the ideas, tradition, methods and the future.

He referred to one of John Wesley’s sermons, “On the Education of the Young”, and highlighted teaching as a healing art to rid six diseases of the soul.

He quoted Wesley: “The purpose of education is to strengthen what is right in our nature and remove all diseases,” and asked, “What has teaching got to do with diseases?”

“My theory is that teaching is actually a healing art, that teaching is therapeutic and transformational. at is something that we need to recover because Wesley looked at it from that perspective. It is clear that Wesley thought in terms of diseases of the soul, which required healing through conversion and through education.

“Wesley had a therapeutic perspective on the Christian life, on the human condition. We not only suffer from guilt because we have sinned against God by breaking His laws, but we also suffer from a disease called ‘sin’, which needs to be healed and removed from our lives. And so Wesley said, there is a sickness of the soul that needs to be dealt with.”

Conversion and education are the means through which God takes care of this particular problem, said the Bishop. And Wesley identified six particular diseases of the soul, which needed the healing touch of education:

• First, atheism is a disease of the soul – “You can have someone come to church and still live like a practical atheist.”

• Second, pride is a disease of the soul – “It is so much a part of the human condition. Even when we are having religious experiences, and we are following Christ, pride creeps in.”

• The third disease is the love of the world – “There is an attraction to ungodliness and worldliness.”

• The fourth disease is anger.

• The fifth disease is deviation from the truth.

• The sixth, the last one, is injustice.

The Bishop added that Wesley said that “the grand end of education is to cure them. Not to increase, not to feed any of these diseases, but to heal them”.

“And I think that is an important perspective that perhaps, you can take with you and think about and see that your task and role is to feed and nourish the soul. Teaching is the healing of the soul.”

The Bishop also touched on the importance of having a critical mass of Christian teachers who understand their educational mission.

The church-school relationship has to be strengthened, and the commitment of the school leadership, the quality and dedication of the staff and the faithful ministry of the school chaplains and ministry staff are all necessary ingredients to bond the Methodist schools as one family.

The educators also discussed how chapel sessions could be made more relevant and meaningful, how they could promote the Christian faith without “alienating” the other faiths and how they could attend to the spiritual needs of the schools and at the same time fulfil the expectations of the Education Ministry.

There was a request for an induction session on Methodist ethos for new school leaders and a welcome ceremony for them. Another request was for a mentor who has been in a Methodist school for some time to buddy a newcomer.

The fruitful session ended with everyone affirming that their future depends on God and His continuing guidance and blessings, and their need to depend on Him and seek to glorify and honour Him as all the Methodist schools exist as an expression of the church’s mission to provide holistic education to the young.

Mabel Wee is the Education Secretary of The Methodist Church in Singapore.