It is currently the law in the England and Wales that schools must provide a daily act of collective worship and it may surprise you to learn that I don’t agree with this particular law. If you try to make people worship God, you may end up with good singing but not necessarily worship. An offering to God is only worship if it is freely given and the person believes that God is worthy of worship. You cannot worship what you don’t believe in and for this reason I believe it is wrong to expect people who don’t believe in God to worship him.
Jesus called everyone to him, but he didn’t make people follow him or try to set up a system so that everyone would have to follow him. Jesus gave people free choice and he accepted them whether they chose to follow him or not. Worship is literally about worth-ship. I worship Jesus because I believe that he is worth following. I believe that he is the eternal and almighty God who loves us so much that he became human and that he died on the cross and come back to life in order to open the way for us to know God now and forever. I worship Jesus, because believing what I do about him means that worship is the only appropriate response. If we Christians ever feel that we need to force people to worship Jesus then I don’t think we understand who he is.
Jesus said that the worship he wanted involved people worshipping in spirit and in truth. In spirit means to have God’s presence in us as we worship and in truth means that we need to worship genuinely and honestly. The Psalms are a part of the Bible that have examples of worship and it is interesting that they contain phrases such as ‘God why do you sleep?’ and ‘God why have you forsaken me?’ rather than just the God you are awesome kind of comments. The worshipper is allowed to tell God how they feel as they worship. We express our relationship with God as part of our worship and my experience is that as we pour out our frustrations to God that he shows us more clearly who he is and how he is at work. Worshipping in truth is also about understanding who God is as we worship him, that we worship him for who he really is rather than for who we would like him to be.
I can’t stand whingeing Christians who bleat on about how it’s not fair that we aren’t influencing the laws in our country in the way that we used to. Some Christians appear to be more concerned about our status in society that they are about telling people about Jesus. It makes me wonder if the objective of the church to some people is to create a nice middle class country rather than to help people understand who Jesus is so that they can choose to worship and follow him if they want to. I want to introduce people to who Jesus is, not tell them that they ought to follow him or that they ought to worship him.
Although I don’t think that worship should be compulsory in schools, I think that it should be a requirement that pupils have space to reflect on spirituality and values. One of the reasons that I think that our society is in a mess is because many people don’t have clear values. The philosophy of just looking after ourselves will never create a strong or healthy society.
Holistic education must involve the opportunity to learn about spirituality. If I lead an assembly I may pray and I think that’s good for the children to learn why Christians believe that prayer is important and to see how it works.
I think that prayer spaces in schools are also great ways of allowing children to experiment with faith and God. Prayer spaces include a variety of activities with something to do that provokes/inspires prayer and personal reflection. I think this is great because it allows young people to explore what faith is. There is an opportunity to participate and to engage with activities or simply to look and learn what others believe if that is what people attending would prefer.
When I am in school I use phrases like ‘Christians believe that’ rather than ‘it is true that’ and I feel this is very appropriate in our multicultural society. Some Christians get very upset at other religions being promoted equally but this has never bothered me. I believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and if I am right then I should have nothing to worry about from people who believe something else. We should only be afraid or worried if we have no confidence in our God.
Jesus really is worth following.