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Away with the manger? – Headmaster’s Blog

December 12, 2014

Away with the manger?

I was shocked to read in the Press recently that only one third of UK schools continue to have a Nativity Production – and alastair reid mar 14lowreseven fewer hold Carol Services. Apparently some schools have replaced Nativity Plays with musicals emphasising pop stars past (like Elvis) and present (like Madonna – but then at least her name is faintly appropriate for the time of year!).

Even though Ballard has a Christian foundation and espouses Christian values and would thus be expected to have a Nativity Play, it seems to me that there are other reasons, too, for maintaining the tradition whatever the foundation or emphasis of the school. I was Principal of an international school, albeit also with a Christian foundation, within a country where there was a Hindu majority and a large Muslim minority – as well as a strong Buddhist presence. Our school roll contained pupils from families of all these faith positions, and more besides, as well as those from a more secular background. It was nonetheless felt to be wholly appropriate there to have a Nativity Play (and a Carol Service) not simply as an expression of a faith position but also in order to inform and educate. Non-Christian families actively supported such ‘activities’ within the school.  If this was acceptable in a country where the Christian population is under 10% of the population, then how much more relevant this should be for a country such as ours where at the 2011 census some 59% of the people (England and Wales) described themselves as Christians?

Our UK culture is built on centuries of Christian faith and thought and although not all has been beneficial (as our local MP, Desmond Swayne, recently indicated only to provoke a furious reaction!), it has shaped our heritage immensely. At the very least Nativity Plays and Carol Services tell us something about our history and the forces which have moulded our identity and culture over the years. Many of these ‘forces’ are also about mutual understanding, tolerance and community spirit and so if we decide to ‘do away with the manger’ we also risk further fracturing our already shaky foundations as a civilisation.

Alastair Reid

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