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What is a Christian school?

ON ONE occasion when John Wesley was feeling particularly exasperated at the way things had developed at Kingswood, the school he founded near Bristol, he exclaimed: “I will have a Christian school or I will have no school at all.”

What is a Christian school? When we describe the ACS schools as Christian schools what do we mean? I cannot presume to answer for others, let alone for the ACS Board of Governors or The Methodist Church in Singapore, but let me explain what I mean and what I aim should be the case at ACS (International).

Let me begin by saying what I do not mean. I do not mean simply a school which has a Christian foundation, i.e. a school set up originally by the Church as part of its mission to educate young people. The Christian nature of the school must be evident in the present and not just in the past.

Nor do I mean a school in which everyone, all students and all teachers and all staff are practising Christians.

One could imagine that such a school would be one in which there was such a common purpose and such love, there would be no disagreements and no difficulties. But even if such a school could be set up, the range and depth of Christian commitment would doubtless vary greatly and differences of personality and experience would mean that there would still be arguments and misunderstandings.

The only way to avoid that would be to ensure that everyone subscribed to a very narrowly defined definition of Christian faith, which would make such an institution rather insular.

Our starting point must be our belief in God, as creator and sustainer of the whole universe, who reveals His love for His creation in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and who continues to reveal Himself through the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth.

A Christian school therefore, I believe, is one which bears the following marks:

• IT WILL be an institution where God is consciously placed at the centre of its life, with prayers at the start of each day and services of dedication at key points in its life.

• IT WILL be a place where all truth is honoured and all investigation into the world in which we live, its history, its geography, its science, its economics, its art, its literature and its religions, will be seen as important since man’s search for truth is in the end a search for God.

• IT WILL be a community where each person is valued as a child of God and given the opportunity to grow and develop his/her abilities and talents, whatever his colour, nationality, religion, wealth or status.

• IT WILL be a place of hope in which everyone is helped to achieve his potential within God’s plan for him and His world.

• IT WILL be a community in which the name of Jesus is honoured, and in which the values evident in His life and teaching are upheld.

• AS A school, it will be formally linked to the Church in some way, e.g. through its chaplains and through its Board of Governors.

• WITHIN the school community there will be a significant number who are committed to following Jesus, who pray regularly for the school and its members and who try to be an example to others of faith, hope and love.

• IT WILL be a place in which individuals are challenged to follow Jesus and commit their lives to Him.
It is to this that we at ACS (International) and the other ACS schools are committed. — ACS ECHO.

The Rev Dr John Barrett is Principal of ACS (International).