New research programme will study Protestant small primary schools in Republic of Ireland
A new study into small Protestant primary schools in the Republic of Ireland will focus on the nature of their communities, cultures, benefits and challenges.
The Department of Education and Skills categorises a ‘small’ school as one with four or fewer teachers.
In explaining that the research “aims to begin to address the gaps in our understanding of small Irish primary schools”, the study’s background document states that the programme “proposes to engage with small schools in the Protestant sector because they are a relatively small cohort … found in both urban and rural locations right across the State”.
The research – to be based in the Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE) and overseen by the Principal, Dr Anne Lodge – is being funded collaboratively by CICE’s Governors, the Church of Ireland General Synod Board of Education (RoI), the Church of Ireland Primary Schools Management Association and Dublin City University (DCU).
A MORAL ECONOMY
The subject of economics has been to the fore in recent weeks in the Gazette and comments by Archbishop Justin Welby on the subject last week give a real insight into how an economy can function well and be “good” not only in terms of efficiency but also, and in fact principally, in moral terms.
Speaking on the subject of ‘The Good Economy’ in Church House, Westminster, at an event organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Inclusive Growth, Archbishop Welby said: “There is a possibility, a great potential, for wealth to act as life-giving water, spreading through all the channels of our economy, through the benefits of a well functioning market economy, for the benefit of all and the advancement of a truly common good.”
While affirming that the market is “an extraordinarily efficient mechanism of distribution in a complex society and hugely liberating of human creativity”, and that the alternatives had always led to “inhumanity or even tyranny”, he pointed out that the market “cannot create or sustain the shared morality needed to ensure that it works carefully and lovingly at every level”. One might say that the market needs, in tandem with itself, unmistakable moral responsibility; that is, indeed, the ambition of the social market economy with its roots in the post-World War II German Christian conscience.
The moral dimension in the economy cannot be left to the State alone – to act, as it were, on everyone’s behalf – but, rather, requires individuals also to play their part. Archbishop Welby referred to William Beveridge, whose 1942 report led to the establishment of the social security system and the National Health Service but who also authored the report, ‘Voluntary Action’: “He understood that if the State is given too much power to shape our society or economy, it will stifle personal responsibility, and damage the development of strong communities. A Good Economy is built on the belief that we all have a role to play – although one that goes far beyond what our economic output is.”
The current great concern in the Church with economics – as evidenced in last November’s Porvoo Communion consultation on the subject (Gazette report and editorial, 6th February) – goes back to the financial crisis of 2008-9, from which economies across the world are only beginning to recover. The newly published book, edited by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, On Rock or Sand? (SPCK, 2015), is all about building firm foundations specifically for the UK’s future in such a context. One of the contributors to that book, Andrew Sentance, a Professor at Warwick Business School and Senior Economic Adviser to Pricewaterhouse Coopers, points out that, while globalisation has allowed many poorer countries, such as China and India, to access world markets and develop their economies (quoting the World Bank as indicating that extreme poverty in the developing world has fallen from 52% of the population in 1982, to 43% in 1990, to 21% in 2010), there have been downsides to these developments, including rising levels of income inequality and greater job insecurity due to low-cost competition, as well as problems arising from pressure on natural resources and the environment.
Archbishop Welby speaks on matters of business and the economy generally with an authority that stems not only from his own background in industry but also from his unique ability to give depth of moral content to those themes. His campaign against ‘pay-day’ lenders has been so successful because he struck a chord with basic moral instincts. There is a huge debate to be had on the ethics of commerce and it is not only about the internal finances of one country. Rather, the debate is about how we can build an economically better world for every human being.
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Letters to the Editor
The Church, the Constitution and same-sex marriage
I am grateful to Tim Bracken for his letter (Gazette, 30th January) that offers the opportunity to dispel some myths surrounding the upcoming referendum on marriage equality in the Republic of Ireland.
Mr Bracken fears that by extending the right to contract a civil marriage between parties to a same-sex relationship, clergy of the Church of Ireland, as registered solemnisers, might be forced to conduct and solemnise the marriages of same-sex couples against their will. This fear is unfounded.
Clergy are afforded the opportunity to solemnise marriages for members of their religious communities and according to the norms of their religious communities. The law states that a clergyperson cannot solemnise a marriage if the ceremony is not recognised by the Church (Civil Registration Act, 2004, Section 51 ). Should the referendum be passed, it would not be legal for a Church of Ireland clergyperson to solemnise the marriage of a same-sex couple because the Church of Ireland currently has no provision for the ceremony of marriage between same sex couples.
The referendum concerns extending civil marriage to same-sex couples; religious matrimony will continue to be a matter for religious communities alone.
Under Irish law, which will be unchanged by the referendum, civil marriage ceremonies are distinct from religious matrimony and cannot take place in churches, cannot reference God and cannot be solemnised by a clergyperson. Let’s be absolutely clear: a ‘yes’ vote will have no impact upon the Church of Ireland’s understanding and practice of marriage.
Eimhin Walsh Harold’s Cross Dublin 6
Charlie Hebdo murders
The letter from Katherine Dowds (30th January) was a bolt from the blue. What Katherine wrote was full, enlightening and needed to be said. It concurred with my own thoughts and experiences. Like Katherine, I too have studied other faiths and I have lived and worked in Pakistan.
I made many Muslim friends; on long bus journeys, I have discussed our faith with a Muslim. It was done with the greatest respect for his faith and words were carefully chosen so as not to be offensive to either party. On the journey, I was offered a share of his packed meal and we parted friends.
I have visited the ‘Pir’ (the Holy Man in Pakistan) in the hills of Murree and we watched and listened as I felt that we were transported into culture not dissimilar to the time of Samuel. We were invited to share in a community meal by the ‘Pir’. We sat on the ground, crossed legs, with over three hundred. The food was laid out on a cloth on the ground and offered and never taken. We too shared in the offering and receiving of food. I could go on. I am not saying that all my experiences were positive, but I did learn to hold these people of another faith in the greatest of respect.
Many took their faith seriously and prayed on the buses and trains; on weekdays, they left their shops unattended while they went to the mosque to pray. They gained my respect. It is that respect that seems to be lacking by those who draw cartoons of the Prophet. They belittle the faith of Islam and they belittle their own beliefs.
While I condemn the killings in France or elsewhere, I do feel that we, as a society and people, need to realise that when we mock, ridicule and poke fun at the founder of any great faith, we are hitting the people of that faith hard; we try to knock down the pillars of their faith – that which gives meaning to their lives and substance to their being – and we don’t gain their respect.
Sid Mourant (The Revd) 12 Breezemount Hamiltonsbawn Armagh BT61 9SB
Barefoot Prayers – A meditation a day for Lent and Easter Author: Stephen Cherry Publisher: SPCK
The Lent Factor Author: Graham James Publisher: Bloomsbury; pp.295
Meeting God in Mark Author: Rowan Williams Publisher: SPCK; pp.86
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