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Messages from the CEO

20th January 2021

This week's message from Andrew Teale

Amanda Gorman is the USA’s Youth Poet Laureate. She is 22 years old and wrote a poem called, ‘The Hill We Climb’ in response to the chaotic scenes at the US Capitol building a few weeks ago. On Wednesday the whole world got to hear Amanda’s words, as she read them at the inauguration of President Biden.
 
My advice this week, is to take a breath and find a few minutes to watch the reading .
 
Amanda’s words are inspirational on many levels, even for those of us who are not citizens of the United States of America.
 
Here is a taste of her youthful genius, but it is even better when you watch the performance:
 
We are striving to forge our union with purpose. To compose a country committed to all cultures, colours, characters, and conditions of man. And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true. That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped. That even as we tired, we tried that will forever be tied together victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
 
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid. If we’re to live up to her own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
 
So let us leave behind a country better than one we were left with. Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.
 
Amanda was named the nation's First Youth Poet Laureate at the age of 19. At 16, she was Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, where she was raised by Joan, a single mother and an English teacher. She has said that writing became her way to overcome a daunting obstacle.
 
"I had a speech impediment. And so I couldn't use my voice, then I would author my voice on the page. So it's really been a godsend and a lifeline for me,"
 
She battled her speech impediment all the way into college. In 2020, she graduated from Harvard.
 
There is inspiration to be found in Amanda’s words, at so many levels. It isn’t easy for a poet from Los Angeles to get noticed in the Hereford Diocese.  These are profound words, healing words, strong words of unification and togetherness.
Could there be a better example of the power of education? Consider all those who have contributed to Amanda’s learning journey, throughout her formal education. She has learned these skills and become an incredible artist, who is an example to all children as they begin to master reading, words and language.
 
To be a teacher is a sacred vocation. To enable flourishing like Amanda’s, is a worthy way to occupy our days and to serve God. We never know where the next Amanda, will come from and every child in our care has undiscovered potential, which is waiting to be unlocked.
 
Collect
Eternal Lord,
our beginning and our end:
bring us with the whole creation
to your glory, hidden through past ages
and made known
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen
 

Andrew
Canon Andrew Teale

15th January 2021

This week's message from Andrew Teale

I hope this week has been a little more settled than last week for everyone.  Given that last week was one of the most challenging we’ve faced so far, perhaps I’ve set the bar a bit low there.
 
Imagine for a moment, that you are completely underwater.
 
Being underwater is a powerful experience, which many children and adults really love. The weightless freedom of confidently swimming beneath the surface, in full control of movement in every plane, is the closest most of us will get to the feeling of being in space. Of course, we are constrained by our need to return to the surface very regularly, unless we start using some sort of technological support such as scuba gear. These allow even further exploration and experiences at greater depth for longer periods. Nevertheless, there is still a limit to how long we stay beneath the surface before our bodies start to struggle. Sooner or later, we have to come back up for air.

 

 For some, submersion underwater is a terrifying prospect, certainly not something they want to do for recreation. The fear comes from the loss of control, not being able to make it back to the surface when they need to. Not being able to propel their own body in the direction they choose. Not being able to refill lungs with oxygen. The fear of running out of breath and running out of time, is perhaps part of what makes the experience exhilarating to master. When learning water confidence, we learn to lose our fear as we become sure that we can still control our movements in water and swim in any direction we choose, including down below the surface and back up again.
 
Children that learn to swim at a very young age, often have no fear of water at all. In fact, children’s ability to swim to the surface is with them at birth, but quickly lost if they don’t swim early enough. I’m sure many of you have taken very young children to learn to swim and have been amazed at how well they do, even before they can walk. Like so many of our fears, the fear of water is a learned fear. We aren’t born with it. One of the biggest challenges of ‘Aquatots’ (other training programmes are available) is ensuring that the anxieties of parents are not passed on to their infants. Easier said than done, when your 10-week-old child, is dropped into the water, while you wait to gather them up when they resurface. Fear is contagious long before it can be discussed.
 
The pandemic has changed so much of our normal lives both personal and professional. What we can do; where we can go; who we can cuddle. Our Covid-damaged lives seem very much ‘otherworldly’ compared with this time last year. It is almost as different as being underwater. We can hold our breath and stay here for a time, and there are even are some aspects of our new lives that we might love. Children take much of it in their stride and we try to protect them from any fear. The longer we dwell in this space, the more urgent our need to ‘resurface’ becomes.
 
This week’s collect encourages us to reflect on the baptism of Jesus.
 
The Baptism of Jesus – Matthew 3 13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
 
John seems anxious about this task and who can blame him. Jesus offers reassurance and John consents, immersing him in the waters of the River Jordon.
 
Full immersion baptisms are incredible to watch. I saw Bishop Anthony do some in a huge baptismal pool erected within St Paul’s Church, Tupsley about eight years ago. Rev Joh Watson was the parish priest at the time and he was very keen that the children and young people that were being baptised, had the ‘full experience’. Bishop Anthony wore waders for the occasion, I seem to remember.
 
It was wonderful to witness the moment where, for just a second, those being baptised were completely submerged before bursting forth, renewed, refreshed and reborn as Christians, into the world. The water surrounded them completely, over ever part of them, very much as they are surrounded by the unconditional love of God.
 
We might describe the baptism of Jesus’, and the baptism at St Paul’s, as literally a ‘watershed’ moment. In other words…
‘a turning point, the exact moment that changes the direction of an activity or situation. A watershed moment is a dividing point, from which things will never be the same. It is considered momentous, though a watershed moment is often only recognized in hindsight.’
 
As we find ways to journey through the pandemic and become more familiar with the alien environment, that is our work in schools and everyday life. Perhaps, with hindsight, it too will be seen as a watershed moment in the way we live.
 
We are loved by God for who we are. He will never leave us and his love surrounds us, no matter what we need to do, no matter what challenges we face. He is with us on dry land and in the water. He is with us as we brave the supermarket and when we take a Covid test. He is with us now and will be with us when all this comes to an end.
 
Collect
Heavenly Father,
at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son:
may we recognise him as our Lord
and know ourselves to be your beloved children;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Amen
 
Bless you for the wonderful work that you are doing, as the journey continues, and please don’t hesitate to contact us, if any sort of support would be helpful. We are now offering a half hour of prayerful peace and reflection each Thursday at 16:00 on Zoom for any school staff. It is a simple, worshipful moment of calm (cameras can be left off if you prefer) and is a chance to hand your worries over to God. We hope it will give a lungful of oxygen to everyone who is in need of a breath.
 
Andrew
Canon Andrew Teale
 

8th January 2021

This week's message from Andrew Teale

A very ‘Happy New Year’ to all. I do hope you managed a well-earned rest over the Christmas holiday. Not easy to put our minds fully at rest though, when we are surrounded by so much uncertainty.
 
It has not exactly been a peaceful start to term either. Monday was particularly bewildering in its complexity for school leaders. A difficult struggle heading in one direction and then the announcement by the Prime Minister at 20:00, which changed everything. Before he had finished speaking, the minds of school leaders were filled again with thoughts about what exactly needed to be done next with our schools.
 
It is so sad that, once again, many of our children are not going to be with us in school and that the pandemic will continue to dominate our lives in the months ahead.
 
I found an interesting parallel to the present situation when watching the BBC’s ‘Saving Lives at Sea’ (Season 5 Episode 8). At the 27min 15sec mark, we hear from a surfer, called Stuart, who attempted to catch some big waves, just off the Hastings coast during the middle of storm Ciara in February 2020. He got into considerable difficulty when the leash to his surfboard snapped in the face of the crashing waves, which were hitting him from all directions. The film footage is incredible, as Stuart fights his way through the heavy seas. 

Initially, Stuart battles to make it back to the beach through the shore-break, swamped by surface foam and crashing breakers. After attempting to overcome this insurmountable force of nature, he realises the impossibility of finding a direct route through to the safety of the beach. Stuart’s only other option is to head further out to sea, away from the maelstrom of the shore-break but also further away from the shoreline and safety. Stuart recounts the moment where he looks back and realises how far the current has swept him from his starting point and the true enormity of the challenge he has just to survive, really sinks in. 

The state-of-the-art RNLI Hastings lifeboat is dispatched, and the crew very quickly find themselves with huge difficulties of their own. Even they, are no match for the power of the raging sea. They are unable to locate Stuart 20 mins after he was last spotted. Eventually, they are forced to try and return to their Hastings station but are also unable to get through shore-break. During one of their repeated attempts to do so, the lifeboat is flipped over like a bath toy, before thankfully re-righting itself. The crew, like Stuart, also come to the realisation that there is no direct route back to safety and are forced to head further out to sea.
 
As Advent began, we surely thought we were over the worst of the Covid pandemic. The children were back in school and we were all patiently, step by small step, trying to move closer to the Covid-free normality that we took for granted for so long. The resurgence of the virus through December, however, has meant that a further lockdown is now needed. We have had to change our course and head further away from our normal lives once again.
 
School leaders found themselves on Monday afternoon, having to reintroduce the lockdown safety measures again, and so restarted the blended online and onsite approach. Many children are now at home, learning through the window of available technology. The Covid testing kits have arrived in our secondary schools, along with desperately needed laptop computers to give out to children. GSCEs, A levels and SATs have all now been abandoned for a second year. Children in those important exam years, feel the waves of uncertainty resurge about exactly how their grades will eventually be decided. On Wednesday, the Secretary of State offered reassurance that teacher judgment (not algorithms) will underpin the assessment methodology this time around.
 
It feels like such shame to have to take these significant courses of action, which move us further away from our treasured, normal lives and head into a third national lockdown. But then we see the news reports of the battles being faced in hospitals by NHS staff and patients. As the waves of the virus threaten to overwhelm us, there is no choice but to retreat from the shore-break once again.
 
We are now in the season of Epiphany, which I sometime think of as the Christmas season, part 3 (Advent, Christmas 12 days, Epiphany). We reflect upon the journey of the Magi, as they travelled though unfamiliar lands, navigating through the dangers which lay before them.
 
Once they had visited the Christ child in Bethlehem, we know that they had to change their route back their homeland.
 
And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Matthew Cha 2 v 12
 
In reality, it took much more than the visible guiding light of the star to ensure they completed their journey. They surely must have also relied upon their own knowledge, experience and wisdom, to help find the safest possible path through very dangerous waters of their own. That said, the constant security of the light of the star, must have been a great comfort as they travelled along the way towards the stable.
 
There are no easy pathways through this pandemic. That much is clear already, but the faithful, unconditional love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, remain our guiding star, as we search to find a way back to the security of a more normal way of life.
 
The strong storm currents carried Stuart 6 miles further up the coast, where he was eventually able to reach land, cold and exhausted, but glad to be have survived. The lifeboat crew had a two-hour long battle to reach safe harbour, but they too eventually all made it back in one piece.
 
Collect
Creator of the heavens,
Who led the Magi by a star
To worship the Christ-child:
Guide and sustain us,
That we may find our journey’s end
In Jesus Christ our Lord
Amen
 
Please join us in praying for the memory of our friend and Chair of the Board of Education, Stephen Borthwick, who will be laid to rest next week.  Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who knew him, especially his beloved wife Glynis.
  
Bless you for the wonderful work that you are doing, as the storms continue, and please don’t hesitate to contact us, if any sort of support would be helpful.
 
Andrew
Canon Andrew Teale

17th December 2020

This week's message from Andrew Teale

We have rather an eclectic set of Christmas decorations hanging on our tree. There’s the one from South Africa, the one from Washington, the one from Disneyland Paris. Even more special is the Christmas jellyfish, handmade by my daughter and the reindeer one where the antlers are handprints of our youngest daughter, made when she was in nursery. We always look for the one which has teeth marks in it from when our son mistook it for an apple, aged three, and tried to take a bite out of it. Every year we seek out every single one of these celebrity decorations and make sure they are present on the tree. Every year, just like last year. Occasionally we add a new one which has some special significance, but we are anxious never to lose any. They want them all to be in their place before we switch on the lights. 
So much of the comfort of the celebrations of Christmas and found in the repetition of well-loved traditions. Things we do because we’ve always done them that way. I think repeating something we did when we were younger, connects us back to that time. We feel closer to those happy memories and it is the closest we can get to having our own time machine. 
When I walk into Shobdon Church, it looks almost exactly as it did when I was a child. It smells the same. The patterns of light from the stained glass are the same. The noise the weighted door makes as it closes is the same. When I sit there, when I pray there, I am easily transported back many years to some of my earliest memories. But of course, not everything is the same. There are many faces that are no longer there. The various characters from years past who no longer come through that white door to take their seats. Reverend Birchby with his comforting voice. My own kindly grandparents. Mr Andrews, the former architect, who I can still remember telling me that teaching was a worthy profession to choose, particularly for someone who has a Christian faith. Mr Williams, whose birthday was the same day as mine. We would always have a race to see could say ‘happy birthday’. In the busyness of daily life, these are not faces I often think of, but in Shobdon Church on Christmas morning, I will notice that they are not there and will feel the touch of sadness. Sadness, yet also closeness to those friendly ghosts of my Christmas past. A connection with those happy moments that still exist in my own memory. 
Not all of our treasured decorations will be present on our tree this year. For many there will be lots of traditions we cannot follow in 2020. People that we always see at Christmas, that won’t be with us this year and some, whose much-loved faces, have changed from faces of the present and expected-future, to those of the past. Those we will always remember with fondness but see no more. 
This week has been filled with a very sudden sadness, as we learned yesterday of the unexpected passing of our Chair of the Board of Education, Stephen Borthwick. Stephen was a former headteacher who, on retiring to Herefordshire about 8 years ago, became very involved in the life of our diocese, giving countless hours of his time to support the various committees and boards that make a diocese operate. As Chair of the DBE, Stephen has really been like a Chair of Governors for me, since I became Diocesan Director of Education in September 2018. Stephen’s wife Glynis and family are in our thoughts and very much in our prayers. I had a long telephone conversation with Stephen last Friday. His thoughts were, as always, very much with how our schools were managing to cope with pressures of the pandemic. He was a real gentleman, who cared deeply about education, about children and about this diocese. We will miss him. 
I know that Stephen would want me to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has been working so hard in and for our schools this year. You have done amazing things to ensure our children continue to flourish and live school life in all its (socially distanced) fulness. Our schools remain places of love and care, because of so many dedicated people. Thank you.
 
A Prayer for Christmas Eve
Loving Father, help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts. May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake. Amen. 
–Robert Louis Stevenson
  
On behalf of the education team, Sian, Mark, Toni, William, Duncan and I would like to wish you all a comforting Christmas and a joyful new year.
 
Blessings be upon all our bulletin readers and their precious families, this Christmas and always.
 
Andrew
Canon Andrew Teale

 

 

11th December 2020

This week's message from Andrew Teale

In Henri Nouwen’s book entitled ‘You Are The Beloved’, there is a spiritual meditation for each day of the calendar year. The 11th December reflection is called ‘The Christ Child Within’. In it, he asks us to think about where we can find God in our daily lives. 

“God is where we are weak, vulnerable, small and dependent. God is where the poor are, the hungry, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the powerless. How can we come to know God when our focus is elsewhere, on success, influence and power? I increasingly believe that our faithfulness will depend on our willingness to go where there is brokenness and human need.” 

This is why we find God so easily in our work in schools. Schools are places which are filled with human need and it is plainly right in front of us every day. The child who needs a nose wipe, the child who is struggling to learn to read, the child who is struggling with friendships, the child who needs protecting, every child who is growing up. Sometimes it is the whole family that is in need rather than just the child. Sometimes it is a member of staff. Sometimes it is a school leader. The skills which are required from schools to meet this ocean of human need are varied and complex. They require abilities, honed and developed through years of experience. The craft of effectively meeting human need in a school has all the artistry of sculpture or musicianship. 
A lesson observation was reported back to me this week, which told a tale of a reception teacher who had ‘mastered her craft’. I’ve always thought of reception teachers as the special forces of the profession and hearing about one who has that most impressive capabilities of ‘making it look easy’ lead to an awe-inspired intake of breath. I had a brief period of teaching reception in the early part of my career but certainly never reached the point of making it look easy and it certainly didn’t feel easy! 
Most (though not all) people who embark on work in education, stay there for a long time. I met a governor a few weeks ago who had been supporting the small village school since 1983. I know of a headteacher in our diocese, who was in post in 1994 when I visited his school on my final teaching practise. He is still in post, still meeting the limitless human need found in schools every single day.
 
Nowen continues, his reflection for today:
“Each one of us is very seriously searching to live and grow in this belief, and by friendship we can support each other. I realise that the only way for us to stay well in the midst of many ‘worlds’ is to stay close to the small vulnerable child that lives in our hearts and in every other human being. Often we do not know that the Christ child is within us. When we discover him we can truly rejoice.”
 
In our schools, nurseries and colleges, this day and every day, the small (or less small) vulnerable child is right in front of us as well as in our hearts. We can discover the Christ child within through the needs of the child in the classroom and on the playground.
 
Collect
Almighty God,
purify our hearts and minds,
that when your Son Jesus Christ comes again as
judge and saviour
we may be ready to receive him,
who is our Lord and our God.
Amen
 
May the Lord bless your precious work in our schools in the week ahead, whether you are a lunchtime supervisor, a school governor, a teaching assistant, a leader, a teacher or someone providing external support for the education system. For most, it will be the final school week of 2020 (for those who aren’t yet counting the days to the end of term), the year in education we will surely never forget.
 
Every blessing,
Andrew
Canon Andrew 

4th December 2020

This week's message from Andrew Teale

The Christmas lights are now lit across the Hereford Diocese, as we prepare the way for the coming of Jesus. 
As we enter December, our thoughts increasingly turn to the unforgettable year that has been 2020, where normal life was turned upside down. Where unexpected, unimaginable challenges had to be overcome. Where the very foundations of daily life were shaken. Where government proclamations and instructions directed our behaviour and separated us from friends and extended family, and it’s not over yet. Although we are all praying that the arrival of vaccines will mark the beginning of the end of this difficult Covid season, we also know that this world has been irreversibly changed by what’s happened. 
Our autumn term challenges continue, as we approach the final fortnight of term and it has been really good to connect with so many headteachers and LAB members in the last week. Bishop Richard joined our heads and chairs meetings. He prayed a blessing on and thanked all those working in education in this diocese, for their dedication and sacrifice at this difficult time. 
The Diocesan Board of Education have also met twice in the last few weeks. They have appointed and reappointed foundation governors for schools across the diocese. They have approved instruments of government, where changes were needed and they have refocussed and reimagined their strategy for working with Church of England schools in the years ahead. More about that in the new year. 
There must have been parallels to our recent experiences, with those of Mary and Joseph, two-thousand years ago. Life turned upside down. Unimaginable challenges. Disturbance of the very foundations of their settled lives. Government proclamations. Separation from family, just at the time when they needed them the most. Normal homelife, transformed. What a year, it must have been for them too. We now realise, as they must have then, that there would also be no return to ‘normality’, to a time before that precious baby was born in Bethlehem. Their world and our world would be forever changed. 
In a conversation with a headteacher this week, I learned that she is awaiting the arrival of her first grandchild on 22nd December. A Christmas baby, anticipated with great excitement and a family that will be ever changed and greatly blessed. There surely can be no stronger connection to that first Christmas than having such a new and very precious arrival. 
Henri Nouwen speaks to us of actively waiting, when we know that flourishing and growth is underway, out of sight. “A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, believing that this moment is the moment.”
 
An advent prayer by Henri Nouwen:
 
Dear Lord,
Give me eyes to see and ears to hear. I know there is light in the darkness that makes everything new. I know there is new life in suffering that opens a new earth for me. I know there is a joy beyond sorrow that rejuvenates my heart. Yes, Lord, I know that you are, that you act, that you love, that you indeed are Light, Life and Truth. People, work, plans, projects, ideas, meetings, buildings, paintings, music and literature only can give me real joy and peace when I can see and hear them as reflections of your presence, your glory, your kingdom.
Let me then see and hear. Let me be so taken by what you show me and by what you say to me that your vision and hearing become my guide in life and impart meaning to all my concerns.
Let me see and hear what is really real, and let me have the courage to keep unmasking the endless unrealities, which disturb my life every day. Now I see only in a mirror, but one day, O Lord, I hope to see you face to face.
Amen
 
Every blessing,
Andrew
Canon Andrew Teale
 

27th November 2020

This week's message from Andrew Teale

As I looked across my garden first thing this morning, the apple, plum and pear trees were all laced with a frosty veil. Gone are the orange and reds of autumn. Only the wisteria leaves near the house will manage to hang on until December. We still haven’t seen a fierce frost, but you can now see Winter descending on The Shire as November draws to a close and, by the time I write to you next week, we will be in the final month of 2020. 
We did manage to put up the Christmas lights outside last weekend and the ‘big switch on’ is going to be on Sunday, when we can officially say that the season of Advent has arrived.  I had made my views known with the family that, as we haven’t yet reached advent Sunday, we weren’t yet firing the starting pistol on the season of getting ready for Christmas. We were just going to do this one small thing in preparation for next weekend. Nothing else. Obviously, everyone listened to that really carefully because within minutes ‘So here it is, merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun’ was ringing out from the wireless speaker placed in the garden and ‘While You Were Sleeping’, one of our family favourites at Christmas, was the non-negotiable choice of viewing on Saturday evening. In truth, I can’t say I minded all that much. In fact, it was great. 
I have also learned that there are quite a few people out there who have made an early start on decorations and I know of at least one headteacher who already has their tree up at home. Even in a normal year, Christmas always does arrive first in our schools and quite right too. If you can’t see and feel the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of our children, you are going to struggle to find it at all. This year we need the comfort and joy of Christmas more than ever. I can’t help thinking of the line from the theme tune from The Muppet Show.

‘It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights.’
 
We already know that the Christmas of 2020 is going to be like no other and we’re only just beginning to think about and plan with families, around the complex restrictions and permissions that have been announced this week. For most people working through the last three weeks of term, their focus is already on ensuring that the precious children in our care, still feel the specialness of the weeks before Christmas in our schools, in spite of all the barriers. I have absolutely no doubt that they will, thanks to the amazing teams of grown ups that dedicate their lives to working in our wonderful schools. You are a blessing. 
Thank you all for everything you are doing and I look forward to seeing some of you in person at the meeting for Headteachers and Chairs later today (Friday). There should be a good dose of comfort and joy, for those that can manage it.
 
An advent prayer that might come in handy in the weeks ahead:
 
Blessed are you, Sovereign God of all,
To you be praise and glory for ever.
In your tender compassion
the dawn from on high is breaking upon us
to dispel the lingering shadows of night.
As we look for your coming among us this day,
open our eyes to behold your presence
and strengthen our hands to do your will,
that the world may rejoice and give you praise.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.
 
Amen
 
It’s time to play the music...

Andrew
Canon Andrew Teale
 

 

20th November 2020

This week's message from Andrew Teale

We have seen more positive cases of Covid 19 affecting our schools this week than at any point since the start of the pandemic. I make this statement without a set of public health statistics in front of me. I say it with confidence because of the conversations and e-mail exchanges, we have had with headteachers and chairs of governors since last Friday. Last weekend, I was copied in to e-mails between headteachers and their teams as they adapted to the news of a positive case in a year group. There was no weekend respite for these leaders as they reconfigured the school in response. 
We are hearing of increased numbers of children who have tested positive and more staff who have tested positive. Families of staff who have been suffering with the virus. In one of our smaller schools they have 14 of their staff who are in isolation and have somehow managed to continue to operate. I’ve been in contact with a headteacher this week who has the virus and is ill with it, while still worrying for and trying to protect the smooth running of the school. Tragically, I’ve also heard this week of school staff members who have been bereaved and who are grieving. 
I know too that our part of the country still has much lower rates than in other areas. I met with DDE colleagues yesterday from across England and it is clear that the resilience of our school system is now being tested like never before. 
I’ve been praying hard this week for our school communities and I’ve not been alone. I’ve prayed with colleagues and for colleagues. I know that prayer makes a difference and, I’ve been prayed for by wonderful clergy colleagues (thank you Kelvin). 
As part of this prayer I found myself seeking a fast-forward button to a point closer to the end of the term. Still with a month to go until the scheduled break, the end still feels a long way away. A bit like when your muscles are aching as you swim those final metres of the pool, but you know you are still too far away from the side to stop kicking. 
I can still remember being taught by Mr Crisp at Tenbury pool in the early 1980s. As my strength faded and my technique went to pot, I would hear his crescendo voice loud and clear, as I carved my way through the final metres. 

“Kick, kick, kick”.
 
Once I heard that message, I would make respond and with one last burst of energy and focus on technique, I would be in reach of the poolside, when I could grab hold of the edge and rest. 
Using the usual prayer apps to help me this week (Lectio365 & CofE Reflections & Daily Prayer) I came to the realisation that, in some ways at the least, an ending and new beginning is much less than a month away. This coming Sunday is the festival of Christ the King when we celebrate Christ’s final victory. The sacrificed lamb, seated on the throne of heaven. Humiliated yet all conquering. The servant King. Lord God, Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world. This is the end point of the Christian year. The final page in a story which progresses throughout each season. It is done. 
That of course means that next Sunday, 29th November, is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent restarts the cycle of the church year. It is itself a rebirth. A fresh season of new hope as we know that Christmas is on the way, and begin to get ready. 
This weekend, weather permitting, I will be putting up the outdoor Christmas (or the purest may prefer ‘advent’) lights. I’m tempted to have a few more than usual. We’ll switch them on next Sunday and light the first candle on the advent crown and will surely then feel that Christmas is coming. A little touch of comfort and joy is almost at hand. 
I hope and pray that for everyone working so hard in our schools, nurseries and colleges this term, the realisation that the new advent season is almost upon us will have the ‘kick, kick, kick’ effect.
 
Heavenly Lord,
You long for the world’s salvation:
Stir us from apathy,
Restrain us from excess
And revive us in new hope
That all creation will one day be healed
In Jesus Christ our Lord,
 
Amen
 
Every blessing,
 
Andrew
 
Canon Andrew Teale
Diocesan Director of Education

13th November 2020

This week's message from Andrew Teale

How has the first week of lockdown 2 been for you? For the busy teacher or headteacher, it probably hasn’t felt tremendously different from last week.
 
It was wonderful to read about and, in some cases to see, the beautiful acts of remembrance that schools managed to hold across the diocese, in spite of the incredible restrictions. 10 minutes on Twitter will give you a sense of the great richness that schools were able to bring to this deeply important memorial. We will remember them.
 
I was sent a message from a loving mum in the diocese this week. Conscious that her little girl is still in school and will be working very hard, throughout the national lockdown, she has sent me a prayer for teachers, for which I would like to say thank you and share with you:
 
Schools and colleges, children and young people
We pray for all those involved in the shaping of young lives.
We give God thanks for the sacrifice and commitment of teachers and all those involved in serving children and young people in education.
We pray that all might be
nurtured and cared for and that every needful resource would be made available – that all lives can flourish even in these difficult times and that no-one would be overlooked.
Amen.
 
By the way, the ‘little girl’ is a headteacher. Thankfully, mums never stop being mums.
 
Every blessing,
 
Canon Andrew Teale

 

 

 

6th November 2020

This week's message from Andrew Teale

David Wooding, political editor from The Sun on Sunday, asked his question of the Prime Minister on Saturday 31st October. Millions were watching to hear whether the government was going ahead with a second lockdown. I had ‘tuned in’ (my teenage children enjoy calling me out for using such phrases) just before 16:00 to hear the announcement and had essentially waited fairly impatiently until 18:45, when things actually got underway. In all likelihood the delay had increased the viewing figures, as many were also by then waiting to see Strictly Come Dancing. So by the time he finally opened his mouth to ask his question, near the end of the briefing, David would know that millions would be watching him put his important question to the Prime Minister of Great Britain. After the first seconds of speaking in the spotlight and pressure, the initial response David triggered from the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson was as follows…
 
“David… you need to unmute. You need to unmute”.
 
As a professional journalist, my brother interviews famous people fairly regularly including, occasionally, Prime Ministers. He doesn’t always let me know if he’s interviewing a powerful politician, although he did let me know in advance on the occasion that he interviewed the rockstar (more chuckles from the teenagers) Alice Cooper, who was apparently very personable and friendly. If the order of the day happens to be education, and my brother has to conduct a political interview, then he does sometimes run a question or two in advance to help refine the most appropriate of questions. Up to now, this is the closest I’ve ever been, to putting a really important question to a top level policy maker.
 Next week, along with 30 or so other diocesan directors of education from across England, I will be on a Zoom call with the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson. I’m not sure yet whether he will be taking questions and I’m sure time will be very limited. If there is a moment to ask something or to offer a helpful reflection such as the various pros and cons of algorithms, I know I will be anxious to make the most of any chance to speak truth to power and bring a voice from education within the Hereford Diocese. It is quite common to find that the rural challenges and complexities of our region are underrepresented and under-appreciated. I will be paying very particular attention to ensuring that I am not on mute.
 Decisions made by those in power can be frustrating, disagreeable and sometimes difficult to understand. When we don’t feel our voice is being heard, we eventually lose faith in those leaders and resentment grows. The political divisions in the United States are perhaps the consequences of large parts of society feeling like they are ‘on mute’ when they ask their questions and express their views. Bishop Richard’s excellent  weekly video message makes clear that even Bishops can get very frustrated with the decisions taken by political leaders sometimes.
 Thankfully, there is no mute button when we speak to God. When we hand over our worries and anxieties to him and seek guidance, comfort and strength in difficult times, our prayers are always heard. They may or may not be answered in the way we expect or even in a way that we notice, but we are never stuck on mute. Unfortunately, things do not always work the same way in both directions. When God speaks to us, we don’t always hear. It is through the patterns of prayer, worship, stillness and reflection, that we learn to re-centre our scattered senses and ‘tune in’ to the presence of God. In my experience, this makes a real and practical difference to work in schools.
 
Every blessing,
Canon Andrew Teale

 

 

23rd October 2020
This weeks message from Andrew Teale

I wonder what drew you, as a teacher, support assistant or governor, to be one of those who guides, nurtures and protects our children? 
In the 1991 film, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, there is a scene where a battle is raging within Sherwood Forest. Robin’s heroic band are fighting for their homes as well as for their lives. As the arrows fly and the fires burn, Friar Tuck, played by Mike McShane, calls the children to him. In the confusion and the mayhem, he gathers them together, protects them and guides them away from danger. 
When we serve and protect the vulnerable in society, we are also in the service of God and tred a hallowed pathway. The Good Friar’s service of the Lord Jesus Christ was never more vibrant than in the actions taken to save the children. 
In some ways, this half term has felt like a battle. Not one fought with swords and arrows but with anti-bacterial hand wash, disinfectant and risk assessments. Our children returned in September in their thousands. Many had missed months of time in school. Many had left their schools in March without any of the usual fanfare or rites of passage. Worries for mental well-being have become even louder than the worries about the lack of academic progress. In the last eight weeks, the second wave of the pandemic has crashed over us again and the shadow of tightly restricted ways of life and anxiety over security of income, are again being faced by communities across the country. 
Schools are in ‘loco parentis’ which means they are ‘in place of a parent’ and have the responsibility for caring for those children and young people, as a parent would. Think about that for a moment. What wouldn’t you do as a parent for your own child? This reminds us what huge responsibility our education profession carries every day. Although, along with this enormous responsibility, comes an unparalleled source of comfort and joy. 
When staff in schools I’ve worked in over the years, faced tragedy or intense personal challenge, they often found that the best tonic and support was to be back with the children in classrooms. This isn’t just because it is a welcome distraction, it is because being with children and young people, seeing them learn and grow, is a limitless source of pure joy even in the darkest of times. 
Perhaps you remember how you felt when you saw your child (or someone else’s child) take their very first steps. The shortest of journeys, under their own steam for just a moment before returning to the safe harbour of open arms. Those are days we don’t forget.  Similarly, when we work in schools, being witness to thousands of those ‘first step’ moments fuel our motivation to keep going, even when we’re shattered. Even when we’ve already done too much. Every day, we enable children to take those first steps safely and ensure that someone is always there to catch them when things don’t quite go according to plan. Time and time again, we see faces light up at the moment of realisation that they can do it. 
The dedication, drive and self-sacrifice that is needed to be a wonderful teacher or teaching assistant or headteacher, is something I see over and over and over again in our schools. 
Our schools have been moving heaven and earth to preserve and protect the education of our children while the Covid arrows have continued to fly overhead. Thank you all for continuing to do what is necessary to protect our children’s education and well-being. Please use next week to rest, recuperate and hopefully do something to nourish your own well-being.
 
Blessings and best wishes for a peaceful half term break.
 
Canon Andrew Teale
Diocesan Director of Education.
 
O God, forasmuch as without you
we are not able to please you;
mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit
may in all things direct and rule our hearts;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. 
Amen

16th October 2020

This week's message from Andrew Teale

Harvest time in our Diocese is a very real thing. There is nothing abstract or distant or symbolic. It is there in front of us and all around us. This week the tractors have been rumbling around at the back of my house, until long after dark. The roads are covered in mud and great trailer loads of spuds have been finally removed from the sculpted fields in huge numbers.

It is so easy to become frustrated as you are stuck for miles behind a slow-moving tractor and trailer on the A49. Hopefully those frustrations will only last a split second before the remembrance that ours is one of the most rural dioceses in England and agriculture is in our bones.

A bitter tang of cider apples, golden wheat, chains of aromatic hops or mounds of muddy potatoes, yellow rapeseed and soft fruits. All can be found within our Diocese and all must be safely gathered in. Then there is the year-long harvest from our pastoral agriculture, cattle and sheep farms from Shrewsbury to Ross on Wye, from Presteigne to Tenbury Wells. Agriculture is everywhere and it has a long and muddy history.

I’ve traced my family tree back quite a long way, into the 1700s. They don’t come from far and wide and their occupations were not particularly varied. Almost all of my ancestors for the best part of 300 years seem to have worked fairly locally, on the land. Phrases like cowman, ploughman, farm worker, waggoner are used over and over again along with one blacksmith and a ‘molecatcher’. On the female side ‘domestic servant’ seems to be top of the list, usually in a big farmhouse, somewhere.

My paternal granddad, who I absolutely loved, was essentially sold as a farm worker at market, when he was a young teenage boy in the early 1930s. He was given a pair of work boots, new trousers, food and meagre lodging. He worked on the land for every daylight hour that God sent, in all weathers for many years and had a very tough life indeed. He moved from farm to farm in north Herefordshire. He became a ploughman, skilfully controlling the great shire horses as they worked the orange Herefordshire soil. He would go hedging for days on end, with a bottle of cold tea and his trusty bill hook. His first attempt at driving a tractor did not end well, I understand, and it was also his last. He always wore a trilby hat and, until he gave it up in the 1980s, smoked a sweet-smelling pipe. He had the broadest Herefordshire accent, you are ever likely to hear, rosy cheeks and hands that showed a lifetime of work on the land. He loved his family, especially his grandchildren and he never uttered a single word to me, that wasn’t kind.

One of my most favourite memories of him was standing in a packed Shobdon Church, for the annual Harvest Festival. His favourite hymn was, ‘We Plough the Fields and Scatter’ and he would always sing it strongly and proudly. Every time I hear it, I think of him and I still think it sounds best in a strong Herefordshire accent.

Being thankful is perhaps a little more challenging in a pandemic, but in our Diocese especially, we should be thankful for all those that still spend their days (and sometimes nights) working on the land to ensure that all is safely gathered in. They have also had a very tough time and their hard work is the life blood of our very rural economy.

I’ll be back in Shobdon Church this Sunday for the annual Harvest Festival. I will be giving thanks for our farmers and farm workers, past and present. There will be no singing this year, but in my head I will still hear…

We plough the fields and scatter
the good seed on the land,
but it is fed and watered
by God's almighty hand.
He sends the snow in winter,
the warmth to swell the grain,
the breezes and the sunshine,
and soft refreshing rain.


All good gifts around us
are sent from heav'n above;
then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
for all his love.


Every blessing to you, this Harvest time and always,

Canon Andrew Teale
Diocesan Director of Education

9th October 2020

This week's message from Andrew Teale

Protecting our children from harm is the most important responsibility we have. Failure to do so is surely our greatest fear.
 
When my own daughter was two, she had a febrile convulsion in my arms following a high temperature. I had received first aid training a few months earlier and I was still utterly hopeless. I didn’t even think to put her into the recovery position until my young cousin (who is now a teaching assistant) took control. The paramedics arrived at the house at the same moment as my wife, who then travelled to hospital in the ambulance with our still unconscious, little girl. I followed closely behind in a car, until we reached the Leominster bypass and the blue lights lit up the night sky.  I was left far behind, stuck in traffic. All the way to the hospital, I was haunted by the fact that I hadn’t been able to protect my little girl from this and hadn’t been able to keep her safe. By the time I reached the hospital, there was a team who were working on her and my wife’s face said all I needed to know. I’ve never prayed so hard, while we waited for her to regain consciousness and to discover whether there had been any lasting damage. I awoke in the chair, in the small hours, to see her standing up in the hospital bed trying to work out what the tube was in her arm and how best to remove it.
 
That little girl, turned 16 last weekend. We still feel so grateful to Dr Merrick and the team who treated her in Hereford hospital and gave her the health care that she needed in those dark hours, when our whole family was utterly vulnerable. We must continue to pray for all heath care workers who are there for us, when we really need them.
 
Coincidentally, I met Dr Merrick years later on multi-agency child protection training, an all-too-rare event where education and health professionals were brought together. I remembered exactly who he was and what he had done. Much to his great embarrassment I’m sure, I proceeded to tell everyone what an incredible human being he was and how much we appreciated his utter brilliance.
 
It isn’t just health emergencies of course that threaten our children. There are adults who set out to do them harm deliberately, who show no respect for their innocence and their defencelessness. Sometimes these adults use their positions of power and influence. They have large and powerful voices while victims have no voice at all. They use the cloak of their respectability to hide their abhorrent criminality.
 
The Anglican Church Investigation Report was published by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse was published this week. This valuable work has given a voice to those brave victims who our much-loved institutions failed to protect. It gives recommendations which must and will be followed. Archbishop Justin and Bishop Richard both gave statements following the publication in which they seek a response which will be more than just apology, but will be transformative for our Church structures and protection systems.
 
In our schools and in our Church, we now embrace a culture of safeguarding and child protection, designed to guard the vulnerable and the innocent. We must continue to be relentless about this.
 
Headteachers sometimes need to attend child protection conferences with police professionals, who deal with the most difficult cases of abuse as routine. These are moments that we dread as school leaders, but they do ensure a full and very clear understanding of just how vitally important our child protection systems are. We will keep strengthening them, inspired by the bravery of those we’ve failed, until there are no more victims and every child in our care, is safe from harm.
 
Every blessing,
 
Canon Andrew Teale
Diocesan Director of Education.
 
Collect
 
Almighty God
You have made us for yourself,
And our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you:
Pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself,
and so bring us at last to you heavenly city
where we shall see you face to face;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity if the Holy Spirit,
on God, now and forever
Amen

2nd October 2020

This week's message from Andrew Teale

Up until a few weeks ago there was no route to my shed which didn’t require a walk across the grass. As Autumn took hold, I realised that the grass was about to become a lot wetter most of the time, so I thought I would create a path. B&Q supplied 10 square paving stones (it isn’t a very big garden) and some gravel to go underneath each one. I’m not a huge fan of strimming, so I wanted to lay the stones in such a way that I could mow straight over the top. Think of stepping-stones with grass surrounding each one. I carefully set out the slabs and left them lying on top of the grass. I could nudge and adjust easily if they weren’t quite in the right place. I went for an aesthetically pleasing curve that would rotate the traveller 90 degrees en route to my shed.
 
Life has changed so much in the spring and summer of 2020 and we have had to build new routines and patterns in our daily lives. We can’t do the things we did before, when we did them. 8:00am morning worship on a Monday at the Cathedral doesn’t seem to be working for me, as it was before. I now spend a large amount of time looking into my computer screen, albeit to talk to lots of wonderful colleagues from around the diocese. So, the stones need some adjustment. A nudge to the left or right. A different time of day. A different day? I haven’t quite worked it all out yet, but I’ll keep nudging until I find the right place. The pattern that works for me.
 
The pathway that takes us closer to God can be different for different people. We establish rhythms and patterns in our daily lives which help our mental wellbeing and help us to focus on the here and now rather than the ‘what’s next’. We have to adjust and move around these patterns. Sometime walking with the dog, playing the piano, a craft activity, working (or just sitting) in the garden. Morning worship (on whatever day works best). A bible reading app and reflection time. Time to stop. Time to be with God. Time to pray.
 
A week later. I thought it was time to lay the stones properly. As I lifted them up, I saw that the grass has become discoloured beneath. I could see much more clearly, where each one belonged, easily cut the turf and fix them in place, albeit with some help from my eldest daughter.
 
I went to my uncle’s funeral on Wednesday. Of all the patterns I’ve had to adapt, a socially distanced funeral, complete with face masks, is the hardest. No doubt about it. I couldn’t hug my cousins or my auntie or other members of my family. We couldn’t sing. We couldn’t welcome all the people that wanted to be there because of the 30 person limit but somehow, I found the pathway I knew. We prayed together, through the tears. We listened to John’s Gospel Ch 14v 1-6 and a beautiful recording of Abide with Me. We stood and read the 23rd Psalm and a familiar voice of Rev Stephen Hollinghurst, who was my parish rector at Shobdon years ago, was there once again, bringing prayer and comfort and a familiar path upon which to walk. For the large numbers of Motorcross Club members who couldn’t join the service? They turned up in a huge convoy of classic rally cars and waved a chequered flag to signal the end of the race.
  
The longer we practise our life patterns and routines that keep us mentally healthy, the more clearly and easily everything else will fit around them. The pathway we then walk will bring us safely into the presence of God and help us to know that we are loved, just as we are, without conditions. No need for masks. This is a place where we can give our burdens and worries to him. This a place where we can hear his voice and be guided by his Holy Spirit.  This is a pathway worth following and it is one we can find in the darkness.
 
 Collect  1st October
 
Lord of creation,
Whose glory is around and within us:
Open our eyes to you wonders,
That we may serve you with reverence
And know your peace at our lives end,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord

Amen

Andrew

Canon Andrew Teale 

 

 

 

28th September 2020

This week's message from Andrew Teale

It has been another busy week (when is it otherwise). We have seen the first positive Covid cases appearing in our schools and have seen hugely professional responses to manage the situation as safely as possible. That is easier said than done, when the clock is ticking like an episode of Countdown, and so much is at stake. Our school leaders have shone with brilliance, as always. The professional advice for our headteachers from the experts has been essential in making the best decisions possible. I think we should take a moment to pray for colleagues working within the public health teams who advise schools and businesses, when each case arises. They must be rushed off their feet at present and the advice they give, has such serious consequences.
 
I’ve been involved in headteacher appointments this week too. It is one of the most important parts of my role and I know the outcomes will affect the whole school community for years to come. The decision rests with the governing body or academy board, but as a diocese we advise based on our own expertise and judgement, gained through relevant experience and knowledge. It is good to work alongside colleagues from local authorities who come from a slightly different perspective, but still want the best decision possible to be reached and to appoint someone who will flourish with the school in the years to come. We have worked well with all of our local authorities in recent months and I always feel grateful for the work they do too. It certainly isn’t easy and can, I suspect, be quite thankless, at times.
 
Can I give a plea, that when it comes to governance in a Church of England school, you always seek advice from your diocese (us). We always work with the local authorities, who also have valuable expertise. There are complexities around governance (and land and buildings and SIAMS etc., etc.) that only a diocese will have the necessary expertise and experience with. We don’t work by ourselves either. We can access the national Church of England legal support, the Church of England’s Foundation for Educational Leadership and the Church of England’s national education office, if we need help and advice, which of course we sometimes do. We are here to help you in running and governing your Church of England school. Please just get in touch and ask, when you are not sure.

I pray that you will always find us to be steadfast in faith and active in the service of God, of you and of the children of this diocese.
 
Today’s Collect
God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit
upon your Church in the burning fire of your love:
grant that your people may be fervent
in the fellowship of the gospel
that, always abiding in you,
they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. 

Amen


Andrew

Canon Andrew Teale

Diocesan Director of Education


 
 

 


 


 
 

 

 

 

 

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