Churches, schools and outreach too! Andy on the Isle of Jersey

At the invitation of the churches, and a school in St Helier, I went back to the Isle of Jersey for my second visit, I did three days of work in the school there, covering seven or eight different lessons, examining things such as the arguments for the existence of God, the differences between Christianity and Islam, Christianity and human rights – a whole range of topics. These were really enjoyable, and not just because the topics are really lively, but because in the classroom context you teach a bit, them get them discussing, then teach a bit, then do more discussion. It was good to see how engaged the students were with the subject matter, especially those 17-18 year olds doing ‘A’ level who were quite sharp and articulate which made the classes quite fun. It was really good to engage with the Religious Studies (RS) teachers too. One of them was a Christian while the other didn’t state what they believed, so that led to some good conversations there too. The school also has a Christian Union group so it was great to support them a little too.

Schools work is something which we are doing more of at Solas. It usually comes about as the result of an invitation from a Christian teacher. In this case it was a maths teacher called Simon, who also helps the Christian Union in the school, who took the initiative. He’s well-known as a Christian in the school, because he had taken to ending his tutor-group sessions with a short prayer. Students responded really positively to this, and started to bring him prayer requests. The headteacher heard about this, and asked Simon to stand up in the staffroom and explain what he was doing. That led to some really good conversations with other staff members. So, schools work always comes along as the result of a personal contact with a teacher or youthworker or school chaplain. Some churches are being really proactive in reaching out to their local schools and offering to help them, and doors open. Prayer too is really important, in my first ministry job which was as a schools worker, all the opportunities came about because a group of Christian parents started a prayer meeting.

Simon Lewis, the maths teacher at Jersey Girls College commented: “Andy’s lessons were really appreciated by the teachers. Andy joined the school C. U. meeting for lunch and it was a really helpful forum for Year 8 students , in particular, to ask questions about lots of aspects of Christianity –  for example, “Who wrote the Bible?”. I think students really appreciated his answers, and enjoyed his company!

St Helier is Jersey’s capital city and the church organised an outreach event there, which I spoke at one evening. I used the “Why am never satisfied?” title to open up the question of the human quest for hapiness and why we want it, and why it can be elusive! There was a small crowd who came to that, but importantly some non-Christian people came along, which was encouraging.

On Sunday I preached at the Anglican church in St Helier and looked at the vital subject of ‘The Uniqueness of Jesus.’ That’s a sermon which seems to help and encourage Christians to think through what it means when we affirm that Jesus really is “the way, the truth and the life!” It’s also something that brings the claims of Jesus into sharp focus for those who are perhaps associated with the church, but who aren’t really sure what they believe beyond a vague spirituality, a sense of something bigger and beyond themselves and are looking at the options. It helps them to focus on the claims of Christ specifically and to respond to him.

Then we did a Confident Christianity event to help Christians to share their faith more wisely and confidently. It was a follow-up event to one we did a couple of years ago, and it was encouraging that more people came this time, from seven or eight different churches across several denominations. The partnership between them and Solas is developing and we are hoping to go back there again to take things even further. On this occasion I looked at ‘engaging the apathetic’ because lots of Christians in Jersey say that many of their friends are “more disinterested than hostile” to the gospel. The other topic we did was “5 steps to answering any tough question”, because there is a fear of push-back which is stifling Christian witness.

So it was a real joy to work with Simon, the schools, the churches and meet so many interesting people on Jersey. They are talking about another ‘Solas-week’ in two years – and we’ll make that happen if we possible can.