From Friday 19 to Sunday 21 February, Christian Concern worked alongside The Christian Schools’ Trust (CST) to provide hundreds of educators across the UK and abroad with an inspiring weekend.
Over 300 Christian educators signed up for the event, and there were over 40 speakers and contributors. The conference was entitled Further Up, Further In, in reference to C S Lewis’ The Last Battle, where there is a great call in the end times of Narnia to respond to the call of God in pressing forward. So many of us do not recognise the clarity of what the Bible says about the eternal love, eternal joy and eternal hope as the destination of our faith. We learnt as educators how growing in this understanding of the future, can powerfully impact our present attitudes and our school’s atmosphere. There were four main events where the speakers included BBC Radio 2 regular Sheridan Voysey; Bishop of Burnley, Philip North; and co-founder and chief executive of Christian Concern, Andrea Williams.
The 20 seminars included topics such as, ‘Is Secondary Humanities Humanistic?’, ‘Can Nursery Children Worship?’, ‘How to use the Biblical text with Juniors’, ‘Implementing RSE from a Christian Worldview perspective’, and ‘Art and Design as Worship’. The most well-attended seminar was led by the development officer for The Wilberforce Academy, Benjamin John, who unpacked how neo-Marxism and consumerism are affecting children and young people, and what educators can do to counteract these ideological giants in the culture of our day.
Steve Beegoo, Head of Education at Christian Concern and CEO of the Christian Schools’ Trust, explained, “The Christian School’s Trust normally has a residential conference every year, but in September we believed it was right to try something different and ambitious with Christian Concern. We invested in an online platform, which gave delegates the opportunity to network weeks in advance of the conference through designated chat groups of teachers and staff with similar interests or who were working in similar age groups. The platform and resources are also available for 6 months after the conference, so the networking and equipping can continue. The positive feedback has been amazing!”
Teachers joined from both the state and independent sectors, and the sessions were relevant for anyone who was seeking to bring a distinctively Christian vision and practice to their work in education. There was a balance of theology and practice, as delegates explored issues related to their identity in Christ, Christian eternal hope and a culture of joy. There were many revealing and inspirational interviews which pointed delegates further up and further into their relationship with God. The opportunities for Q&A with speakers and the ability to engage in individual messaging meant that there was a lot of interaction. Normally in a residential event, with meals and time in the bar, much valuable networking occurs, and so we needed to substitute with online functionality where possible.
The organisers sought to make the weekend not just another set of online meetings, and so the event was run with a spirit of fun, with games, competitions and ‘comedy’, and also a spirit of vulnerability, where speakers opened up about some of the most challenging of circumstances which educators and Christians can face. This authenticity and humanity stirred the emotions as well as the mind, and grounded the theological and Biblical concepts in the real world. Many delegates commented on how moved they were by the testimonies.
Beyond England, delegates attended from Wales, Scotland, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Nigeria and the island of Mauritius.
Andrea Williams said, “It was a privilege to see a movement of Christians from many nations who deeply understand how important education is for the growth of Christian witness in our nation. So many children are being lost to the secular world, but if the church and those in education can rally together, then a movement of educators, like those I’ve connected with in this conference, can help to change this nation and beyond.”
Christian Concern and The Christian Schools’ Trust regularly run events and networking opportunities which can be found on their websites.
Steve Beegoo, who headed up the conference organisation commented, “We very much hope to use this event as a springboard for ongoing networking between delegates. We are looking at what kind of events we should run in future, to make the most of what we have learned. The Lord clearly loves the children of our nation and wants every one of them to know him. Those working in schools are in a prime position to support the application of The Great Commission to those who are most responsive to the gospel, children and young people. We must continue to connect together as the body of Christ so that we can encourage this important work.”