Christmas, God & Assemblies   -   Chris Snuggs

I posted the above in the Facebook group, and it got a few 'likes' - which is always nice! However, I later got to thinking about this with a certain amount of guilt: WHERE is there any reference to Christ - apart from in "Christmas"? (An image of Jesus would have been nice!) And then I realized (the bleedin' obvious) that much of what goes on at Christmas is done with no reference to Christianity AT ALL - and yet THAT is what it should (in theory) all be about. I am not sure whether this is right or wrong, good or bad - but it is a fact.

And then I started thinking about "God" at school. On the face of it, he (she or it!) was all-important. Our motto after all was "Nisi Dominus Vanum" ("Without the Lord all is in vain.") This was on all our BLAZERS for a start.WHS was in fact "a faith school"; not as overtly and (some might say) oppressively as a Catholic or Muslim one, but one nonetheless - even if many boys I suspect just paid lip-service to it. But it was serious; Jim Hyde once told me he could never apply for the Headship because he was not prepared to officiate at a religious assembly.

Assemblies were for me a very interesting tradition at school. From very young I simply could not believe in God - for no other reason than that if he loved us and was all-powerful (as we were told) then how could he allow the suffering of the innocent? Rationalizations about "original sin" were for me always a joke - after all, where is the "sin" in eating a sodding apple? Which Father gives you hundreds of thousands of years of woe just for one little act of disobedience by someone hungry?!

BUT, this atheism (and a belief in "GOD" would be both reassuring and useful) does not mean I do not love the human who was Christ. If ever a more sublime role-model walked the Earth then I have yet to hear of it. His message and example are beautiful and indeed 'divine' - even if he is almost impossible to emulate (turning the other cheek would have been no use against Hitler). And the assemblies were not Bible-thumping brainwashing: we had nice hymns (both lyrics and music), readings from the Bible which rang honest and true - and of course they were a meeting point for the community where news and messages could be conveyed - AND small boys could see WHO was WHO more clearly.

THAT is something I sorely missed when I taught in a German Gymnasium not long after graduating from UKC. There you just turned up to a class-meeting lasting perhaps 5 minutes before going straight off to your first lesson. I personally quite liked the routine ceremonial start to the day at WHS - AND the message of the hymns and readings was moral and persuasive - even for an atheist. Astonishingly, I rather miss WHS assemblies!