This morning, Sycamore class helped to teach us the basics of forgiveness through a wonderful class collective worship that was the first one this year. It was attended by about 20 parents as well as all the children in Y1-5, and they were treated to a lovely dance based around forgiveness, an exposition of the children’s story Bob Robber and Dancing Jane, quotes and prayers about forgiving each other and a sung version of the Lord’s Prayer. In all it was a fine collective worship, setting the standard for presentation and spiritual focus for the rest of the year.
But it was a story I heard afterwards that really got me and the class teacher excited. A parent asked to speak to the teacher: she had to tell her that the message of forgiveness had really got through to her. A friend of the parent had really hurt her and she was carrying unforgiveness in her heart against the friend; now as a result of Sycamore’s class collective worship, she was going to go and find her friend and fix the relationship.
That is why we do collective worship! Children have a year to become “experts” at their value, to learn it, practise it and teach it to others. With forgiveness, it will take them a lifetime, but if their efforts this morning at training parents in the ways of forgiving each other have resulted in one adult relationship being mended, the two weeks of study by Sycamore on this most challenging of values will have been amply rewarded.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world…
Some Christian parents in Oregon will have been devastated yesterday by the stupid actions of one Chris Harper Mercer who has shot dead, deliberately, some Christian students in the small Umpqua Community College near Portland, OR. This is a whole other order of magnitude of pain, and requires another order of magnitude of forgiveness, not one that can be demanded of, or expected by, anyone. For the moment, we just stand in numb failure to understand our overwhelming anger at this. For those affected, many will, in time, demonstrate forgiveness, because that is what, as Christians, we have had done for us by Jesus. But it is a reminder, brutal and cynical, that evil will always rise up to challenge our love and desire for goodness, and that whenever it does, we have eventually to find the will to forgive, no matter how hidden or disguised, if we are to maintain our full humanity as image-bearers of our creator and father.