After this weeks debate in parliament and the passing of the equal (same-sex) marriage bill I had pondered what it’s effects on churches might be. Many had suggested that perhaps now is the time to disestablish the church, so that the legal bit of a marriage was separate from the religious bit. This would, so the argument goes, allow churches and other faith groups to offer the ceremonies that they want without impinging on the government’s definition of marriage. That way everyone would have to have the legal marriage and they could then go on to have a church ceremony afterwards, with the legalities already confirmed.
I was beginning to sympathise with that view. But the separation of church and state would have many other effects, some of which are not so desirable.
Before Christmas I was asked by the head teacher of the local primary school whether I would lead a service celebrating Candlemas for the six Church of England primary schools in Northampton. After quickly googling Candlemas to remind myself what it was, I accepted. The service was this morning.
One or Two year four classes from six schools, amounting to over 200 pupil gathered together in a local (church founded) Academy school. After I’d led a brief explanation of what Candlemas was and we’d sung a song, each school sang a solo song and read a short verse. All the verses had the theme of light in it – God’s promised light from Isaiah, God’s revealed light in Jesus, his guiding light in the Word, and so on. Scripture proclaimed to 200+ seven and eight year olds.
Also interesting were the songs they sang. Each school got to choose what song to bring. All were explicitly Christian in content, and in a couple, the children were praising God as they sang, and enjoying it.
If the Church of England wasn’t a state church, it wouldn’t be able to be so closely involved in state things, such as schooling. A valuable piece of Christian heritage would be lost to this country, and a Christian education – perhaps the only Christian input that some of these children get – would be gone with it. This is something that would be a shame to lose.