A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode

Education Sunday 2012

St Stephen’s Church, Cheltenham, 2012 Education Sunday


Today we are encouraged to focus on the theme of Christian Education and tomorrow to focus on the Accession of Her Majesty 6o years ago. I am not going to preach a separate sermon tomorrow, but rather, today, I am going to let these two  themes merge , for to me personally, they are both events of which I have fond memories.

What were you doing 60 years ago to the day? Can you remember? As many of you will know I received my junior school education in a Roman Catholic school where I was taught by Sisters of the  French Order of Parame. I cannot remember for certain what day of the week it was but it was probably a Thursday (possibly a Monday) but  certainly  6th February 1952. We were a very advanced school for those times, in that each classroom was wired up to radio and on Mondays and Thursdays we had a Music and singing programme at 11.00a.m . The actual programme had just ended and the finale music was suddenly interrupted with a special announcement. Buckingham Palace has just confirmed  the death of His Majesty King George VI. There were further details given as allowed  at the time, and after being called to silence by Sister Cecile my Headmistress, we all stood, faced the crucifix and said the Requiescat in Pace – Eternal rest give unto Him O Lord and let light perpetual shine jupon him. May he rest in peace . Amen.

As I was in my last year at junior school and the class prefect, I was ordered to go and toll the school bell –slowly, with dignity and respect, one toll for each year of his life. I forget how many that amounted to but it was one of the proudest days of my life – and in fact, I believe that our school bell was the first to be rung on the Island in response to the official announcement. As you know the Queen was in Africa at the time and was immediately informed of her father’s death and the fact that she was now Her Majesty the Queen. Two days later she had returned to London and addressed the nation with her Declaration of Sovereignty which included her royal prayer, and these words

‘I shall always work as my father did, to advance the happiness and prosperity of MY peoples . I shall be inspired by the loyalty and affection of those whose Queen I have been called to be. I pray that God will help me discharge this heavy task that has been laid upon me so early in my life.’

Tomorrow will be sixty years ago to the day, and at her great age Elizabeth is still serving our country as its Queen and Supreme Head of the Church of England. Some of the prayers we shall use at the end of this service are taken from the Book of Common Prayer Accession Service included in the 1952 printing of the Prayer Book .

And now Education Sunday- how does that fit in with the theme we have already considered? Since the accession of Her Majesty in 1952, the world of Education has changed beyond the wildest dreams of those who were at school at that time – not always for the better- I admit. However, on the positive side, we all must surely recognise the advances that have been made in opening up the opportunities of a solid, all round education for rich and poor alike even the smallest villages where one can enter the small school and find enthusiastic, hardworking teachers using the most modern technological equipment to inspire and motivate the children committed to their care.

Schools funded by the State in partnership with the Church have been around since about 1878 and in such schools there is supposed to be a strong focus on Christian education – not only ABOUT Christianity, but about HOW Christian values help to identify us as followers of Jesus and disciples in the mission field. Yes, most children in school can discuss Christianity and other faiths to a standard that would have been impossible for me as a  junior school pupil 60 years ago. They may not see the relevance of Religious education or worship at the time, but it is amazing how much they draw on those school faith experiences  when they meet times of crisis in adult life. Schools which fail to comply with the Law on teaching RE are doing a great injustice to their pupils and society as a whole, because Christina values are the values upon which our society is at present founded.

Last week I spent a day with the 6th form at the new All Saints Academy – the joint Roman Catholic and Anglican funded senior school. The day was an RE day where different approaches to faith through Art were being explored. Some of the children, yes, were more enthusiastic than others, but all contributed to   the work they were set, they treated their time in Chapel with respect and in my wanderings around the rooms chatting with individuals or groups, their knowledge and ability to discuss and reason confidently about matters of faith and morals really impressed me. I am not suggesting for one minute that All Saints is out to create a new generation of Christian teenagers – far from it-  but they are out to equip the students with a sound knowledge of Christian values and an awareness and understanding of the beliefs and practices of other faiths with whom they will come into contact in adult life.

Most of us are too old to be actively involved with education of the young, but we can be involved form a distance – we can pray for our schools, the teachers, the students, the parents and beyond the schools, the Youth Workers and Further education Lecturers, – pray that the skills and the ability to learn , which we have all received in abundance, may be fostered in them for their own good and for the good of future generations.


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