Accepting Race

If you see a red light on the road, you stop; if you see a green light on the road, you go; if you look at books in my classroom you know that blue or black writing is from pupils class work, green pen is pupils improvement work, and pink is my marking. Colour, in these situations is important, and we know what that colour means because we have been told… it is based on information we have been given.

People have been known to make certain assumptions based on the colour of people’s skin, however, although this may be down to information they have been told, or experiences they may have had, it doesn’t actually tell you anything about the person involved at the time.

In our final week looking at the equality act, we are looking at the characteristic of race. I have mentioned this before but I do tapestry, for the tapestry to work I need to use different colours, different shades. It is only by using different colours and shades that I am able to create a picture. It’s the same in the world, we need people of different races to create the society we are in now, blessed by so many different cultures and backgrounds. Growing up, I loved going to my friends house who lived up the road because she was my friend, I also enjoyed the games console she had, and also her family came from India, and I loved the India snacks that they had!

Many of you will enjoy foods, music, art which have all been influenced by, or come directly from other cultures. And yet… we still hear about racist comments being used in football matches, inequality about employment based on race, as well as general racism in the day to day.

William Faulkner says “To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or colour is like living in Alaska and being against snow”

There are times when colour and origin is important and tell us something about the situation, however with people that is not the case. That isn’t to say that colour and origin are not important for people, and it will have an impact on who they are BUT we should take the time to get to know them as a whole person before assuming that know everything about them by looking at their skin, or based on where they come from.

In the book of acts it says

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. Acts 10:34-35

If God doesn’t show favouritism then we should not know favouritism. We should accept people no matter where they come from, and consider the actions they do rather than something they are not in control of.

Challenge: how can we celebrate the diversity amongst us, rather than criticising it?

Prayer: thank you God that you created us all, that we aren’t all the same. Help to see others through your eyes, rather than the eyes of others. Amen

Accepting religion

Are you religious?

A question which, as a religious studies teacher, I get asked a lot. My answer, is always… No! I am a Christian, and I go to Church, but I am not religious.

Personally, I associate the term religious with following lots of rules. There are a LOT of rules in the Old Testament, but Jesus summarises them by saying Love your God and love your neighbour. At no point does Jesus belittle the rules of the Old Testament, but he recognised that people were getting caught up in the rules, as opposed to why the rules were given in the first place.

After summarising the law, he then tells the story of the Good Samaritan to emphasise that someone who follows the rules doesn’t necessarily do the right thing, and the person was a neighbour, the person whose example Jesus told them to follow was the Samaritan. The Samaritan was considered an enemy to the Jews and the Samaritan would not have been following the Jewish law. However, those who were considered high up in Jewish law did not act like neighbours.

Mahatma Gandhi famously said “God has no religion”

I imagine over time that this has caused a lot of upset, however, a religion is a belief system followed by people. For most religions it is a belief in God that is followed, that manifests itself in different ways but there are also a lot of similarities.

It is easy for people to make assumptions about people based on their religion. It is harder to have a conversation and find out what a persons beliefs are and how that affects their life. But which would bring love in to the world?

Accepting Disability

As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. Galatians 4:13-14

So often we find it easier to focus on the things that we are unable to do, than those things we are able to do. We may often do that with other people as well, focus on what consider to be weaknesses rather than what they do well and what they bring to us.

This week, we are focussing on the equality act’s protected characteristic of disability. There are so many issues surrounding this that it may be difficult to focus – but I shall try. Firstly, I think that there can be automatic assumptions that people make. If they SEE someone with a disability, they may focus on what they assume they can’t do. Unfortunately people can also assume that a disability is something that should be seen, and can make assumptions about people who seemingly don’t have disability but may be using disabled systems.

Martina Navratalova said “disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing we’ll you are needed”

Absolutely everyone has something that they can do that others can’t. Everyone has abilities that are a blessing to other people.

As with all of the protected characteristics, a lot of the time all it would take is a bit of time to get to know other people to see what their situation is, and to know how they can be helped to be able to reach their full potential.

Another issue, that possibly doesn’t help perception, is the word itself – disability. It automatically suggests it’s a bad thing, that that person is at a disadvantage. However, is that always the case? In Galatians Paul writes

As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. Galatians 4:13-14

This shows us two things, good things can come out of what we call a disability, but also we should welcome, embrace, encourage those with disabilities, as if they are Christ.

Prayer: thank you Lord that you made us individually and that you love us. Thank you that we can all bring something to society, and help us to see that everyone has a part to play. Amen

Challenge: encourage those around you by telling them their abilities and what they bring to your life

Accepting Age

When we are young we often want to be older – after all there are so many things that adults can do that children can’t – there’s so much freedom. However when you’re an adult you just want to be a child again, no responsibilities, so much more energy. Is there a perfect age when we’re actually happy with the age we are?

As we continue to look at the equality act, the first characteristic that we’re going to explore is age. It is against the law to discriminate against someone because of their age – whether that is young or old. Our thought for the week comes from Satchel Paige who says ‘Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind it doesn’t matter’. Often age can be an issue for ourselves but what about other people?

When we were looking at equality generally we were considering the tapestry that is humanity – so many different people with so many characteristics and so many strengths. I have often found that I get on with people who are older than me, I’m not sure why but I think it has a lot to do with being able to draw on their wisdom and experience; but I also enjoy spending time with my nieces and nephews and friends children because it gives the excuse to play games, run around, play with lego.

We need to see the strengths of people of different ages, but also see the strengths in ourselves and our age as well – after all we can’t change it so we might as well accept and embrace it.

Challenge: how can you impact those who are older and younger than you?

Prayer: father God thank you for the strength and energy of the young and the wisdom of those who are older. Help us to see the strengths in each other and help where is needed Amen

Accepting Equality

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We have just celebrated Easter Sunday, for many that would have mainly been about lots of chocolate and family gatherings. But for those in the Church it was about celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, and what that means. What does it mean? New Life in Jesus for ALL, not just the chosen people but for ALL.

We live in a society which can feel both completely integrated but also completely separated, there seem to be so many groups of people but we are also one. Over the next term our overriding theme is “Accepting difference; Celebrating diversity”, we are going to be looking at the equality act of 2010 and each week looking in more detail at some of the protected characteristics.

What does it mean to be equal? For so many it means to be treated exactly the same, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Equality is about ensuring that all people have the same opportunity to achieve and participate. A bit of a silly example is that most of our wedding photos are taken sitting down, why is this the case? It is purely because my husband is 6ft7 and I’m only about 5ft2 so by sitting down we are at a similar level. In work places some people need to be given additional support to be able to complete the same job as someone else.

This does not mean that everybody is going to be able to be successful in everything, after all we all have different skills. My husband is very good at reaching top shelves, whereas I find it easier to bend down and reach things on the floor. However everybody should be given opportunities, and should not be treated differently because of a characteristic about them, whether that is race, gender, disability, sexuality, age, religion, or something else.

Our thought for the week comes from Frances Wright who says:

“Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without equality”

For freedom we need equality, because without equality some people will be penalised and held back. At Easter we celebrated Jesus dying and rising so that we ALL can have freedom after all, as it says in Romans 2:11 “For God does not show Favourtism”

 Challenge: Can you think of examples where equality isn’t shown in your every day life? Is there any way that you can challenge that?

Prayer: Father God, we thank you for Jesus dying on the cross and rising to new life, so that we too may have a new life. Thank you that you do not show favouritism and help us to show that in our lives as a reflection of you. Amen

Making a new thing

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I’ve always been someone who has been a bit scared of trying new things, I like a routine and I like to know what I’m doing. It probably surprised a number of people when I chose to come to Canterbury for university as it was so far away from the homeland. I think it is also probably linked to my growing up and the routine that there was in the house – I would know what I was having for dinner dependent on the day of the week! BUT… I have got better as I have got older and have been more willing to try things out – normally only if I knew someone else who was already doing it though!

YET new is what Christianity and Easter is all about. The new life that we have been given through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

As I was searching for Videos for the week I found myself inundated by people saying ‘leave the past behind’ and I was getting VERY confused. Especially as my Sixth form pupils have been looking so much at how our past moulds who we are, so surely it is important, we learn from our past. SO surely we shouldn’t leave it behind but then I looked at the Bible verse for the week which is from Isaiah 43:16-18 and says

“This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”

Isaiah is saying don’t DWELL on the past, and that is a very big difference to leaving the past behind. He talks about Moses leading people out of Egypt, there was no time to plan, but God was there and he provided what was needed. When we remember times like that we can be reminded that God has got our back in the highs and the lows.

Remembering those events will encourage us, but we do not need to dwell on them because if we dwell we will struggle to move forward and to enjoy the new that God has and will continue to provide for us. Trying new things and making new things doesn’t have to be madcap and risky all the time, it just has to be willing to move forward rather than standing still or looking back.

Challenge: Are there things in your past that you dwell on that you need to leave in the past to help you move forward?

Prayer: Thank you father that you have given us new life and make all things new. Help us to embrace that, so that we may move forward in you. Amen

 

Coming Together

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When you go on a journey do you prefer to go on your own or do you prefer to go with others? For me it depends, on my walk to work in the morning I prefer to be on my own with the thoughts of my head, but there are other times when it is much better to be travelling with someone else, or even a group of people.

During this month of Lent we have been considering our journey to get closer to God, so far looking at things we do on our own, and decisions we have to make for our own journeys to get closer to God. However we are reminded today that although we have to make our own decisions for the journey, it is so much easier if we make that journey as part of a collection of people – after all that is what the Church is – a collection of people who are followers of Christ.

During Jesus’ ministry as much as he spent time with disciples, and other larger groups of people, he too, would also go off on his own to spend time with the Father. The majority of his time, though, was spent with groups of people. Our thought for the week comes from Helen Keller this week who says “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” – as a Church we can not only learn from each other as a community, but also make a difference to the world around us by working as the community of Christ.

Groups such as Street Pastors, Food Bank, Christian Aid etc are all Christian and making a huge difference in society. Like Jesus, we will need to spend time on our own, but we can make more of a difference if we work together.

Prayer: Father God thank you for sending your son as an example and providing the Church as a guidance and support for us all. Amen

Challenge: Who can be your support team that can help you to make a difference?