to the Anglican Schools Office
The Anglican Schools Office exists to support, resource, provide training opportunities and build fellowship between the Chaplains and Religious Education teachers working in its associated schools in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and encourage interaction between the schools and the church.
A Word from Anne
What is the relationship between religious belief and wellbeing? Is there one? It’s an area that schools are requesting more PD in, and one that continues to fascinate many researchers. The simple answer is yes, there is a relationship, and it is generally positive. That has been acknowledged for decades by researchers, and known instinctively by believers for a great deal longer! However, the details that are coming out as the research is refined are of particular interest to us as schools.
First, it seems that “individual spirituality”, unconnected to a particular belief system and community of faith, may actually increase our vulnerability rather than strengthen our resilience.
Second, it appears that telling ourselves “narratives of love and generosity” as an attitudinal choice, without the belief that this is “ontological” (ie “written into the very fabric of the universe” by some divine being), has much less positive impact on our wellbeing.
Third, if we try to use religion as a means to wellbeing, its positive impact disappears. That makes sense. It’s how most things work. “To join community for the sake of “me” is to kill community. To be generous for the sake of receiving something is to obliterate the meaning of generosity. Prayer that is a shopping list directed at some cosmic cash card soon ceases to be prayer.” Or, as Jesus said, “Strive first for the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be given you as well” (Mt 6:33).
So, we have some guidelines here to keep in mind. If we are going to promote spirituality in our schools, it is best and safest for our students if we do so within the beliefs and community of a religion – in our case, Christianity. If we are going to be Christian and Anglican with integrity, God must be the beginning and ground of the stories of love and generosity we tell. Positive thinking is not enough, and neither is “secular Christianity” (Christian practice with God removed). But, having said all that, faith is not a therapy. We don’t seek God for our own wellbeing, as if God were the latest fitness or diet fad. We seek God because God is, and if God is – really is! – our only response can be worship.
It’s not simple, but it is important.