I took this picture in 2007 whilst at MK Summer Camp in St. Ives. As I was wandering around the town during some very rare free time, I spotted this row of cottages and took a photo. I remember thinking at the time how I’d love to return to St. Ives without the responsibilities & constraints of Camp and stay here [stunning location]. Next week, by chance, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing, in this very property. It’s been booked for a few months, but as I looked on the website this afternoon, I suddenly realised that I recognised the property. After a quick look through my photos from 2007 I found this. Small world after all…
Just to the right of this shot is the other of the twin lakeside pavillions where I proposed to Tracy six and a half years ago.
Recently I’ve been challenged about the use of an inappropriate image for a Christian project. What follows are my reflections on whether or not using the image was wise or appropriate.
When setting up a new project recently (Hope MK) and putting together the website, I selected a number of images which unmistakeably represented Milton Keynes. These each featured iconic scenes or landmarks from across the city: Xscape building, the Point, the central railway station, road signs, inside the shopping centre, the Stadium:MK (home to MK Dons).
However, one of the images caused a bit of a stir: the Peace Pagoda at Willen. I had selected this as the main image which was to feature on our earliest promotional material.
When our first ‘teaser’ cards were handed out at one youth group they asked why we were using a Buddhist Temple to promote a Christian event. An interesting question. We had a brief discussion within the core planning team and didn’t see a huge problem with it. Then a few weeks later we received an email in relation to the project which, whilst otherwise supportive, made it clear that they didn’t agree with the use of the Peace Pagoda image as it ‘portrays the wrong image for a Christian event’. At a later meeting we discovered that another individual had reservations about the image, and had initially dismissed being involved in the project as they assumed (based on the image) that it was an ‘inter-faith’ project.
All this led to lots of discussion and a great deal of reflection.
Initially the ‘problem’ image was chosen without much thought to the fact that the Peace Pagoda is a Buddhist monument. It was selected because it is one of the most iconic MK landmarks, with a beautiful sunrise which I felt inspires awe towards the Creator God & signifies the coming Hope (light of the world). It was that simple. A little naive perhaps – but as a lifelong resident of MK, to me the Peace Pagoda is simply a landmark and has no strong religious connection.
I had almost dismissed the earliest comments on the basis that the pagoda is not a Buddhist Temple (as had been stated) but just a monument. As I thought about the issue further, I also did a little research and realised that the pagoda is symbolically significant in relation to the Hope MK initiative too: being the first Peace Pagoda in the Western world, it was ground-breaking and a powerful unifying symbol (both things we aspire to for Hope MK). Of further significance is the fact that behind the pagoda is the ‘one world tree’ which is covered in prayers and messages of hope – a symbol of people’s faith and hope for a better world.
After plenty of reflection & discussion, I decided that personally I don’t have an issue with the use of the image. The fact that it’s a Buddhist monument doesn’t cause me any alarm. A Peace Pagoda is a monument designed to inspire all races, colours & creeds towards peace – that seems to me to be something that Jesus, Prince of Peace, encouraged and indeed prayed for (John 17).
The creator of the pagoda was committed to non-violence & reconciliation – a man of peace. He campaigns against nuclear weapons, for world peace and social and moral justice in the world. He sounds to me like the kind of man who is working towards Kingdom goals without even knowing the King. In Mark 9 Jesus said ‘whoever is not against us is for us’ (v38-41). Admittedly Jesus wasn’t specifically referring to a Buddhist monument – but I think it is applicable in this situation. We’re hoping to work in partnership with some non-Christian organisations in order to serve the city. On other projects, I’m happy to be associated with people & organisations who don’t share my faith, but believe we can work together towards a common goal.
There’s one final Biblical precedent which came to mind as I’ve been reflecting on this issue, and which more directly relates. In Acts 17 the Apostle Paul uses a secular statue to communicate the Gospel. Paul refers to a statue which has been dedicated to ‘the unknown god’. He had no fear of affording the statue power or credibility by using it/referring to it. He seems absolutely convinced of the sovereignty of God, and instead uses the statue to point the ‘locals’ to the God that he knows instead.
But whilst I didn’t have a problem with the use of the image, we still had to discuss and resolve the issue of the misunderstandings the image had caused about Hope MK. As a result we decided to stop using the image (once pre-printed materials had been used).
On a slightly flippant note, I suggested that if we rule out the peace pagoda on the grounds that it doesn’t give the right impression to use a non-Christian religious symbol to represent/promote a Christian event, we should probably also stop using the Stadium:MK image (on the grounds that football is practised as a religion by many), the Xscape image as it is a shrine to Capitalism , and the image of The Point as it is home to a bingo hall.
What do you think?
Taken on a recent visit to Stowe Gardens….
On 21st March we held an event, in partnership with the Milton Keynes Bridgebuilder Trust [MKBT], which aimed to ‘bless, refresh, resource & encourage’ Christians in Education across Milton Keynes.
We were joined by 18 attendees, representing 9 Churches & 11 schools/institutions/organisations. Delegates included teachers (current, supply & retired), teaching assistants, deputy headteachers, assistant principals, administrative officers, KS3 coordinators, a reading recovery teacher and private tutors. We were also joined by the MKBT Office Manager and a Trustee.
The evening started with refreshments (yummy cakes, freshly brewed tea & real coffee and the option of apples, of course) and time for delegates to introduce themselves and chat. We then assembled to introduce the plan for the evening and the presenters (myself & Rachel Foster, Primary Schools Worker for MKBT). The primary audience for the evening was those involved in teaching, but the event was also intended to bless the whole range of roles involved in the Education Sector. We wanted to say a big ‘thank you’ to Christians involved in Education, for the long days and late nights, for their hard work (blood, sweat and tears) and for enduring stress and occasionally despair.
I shared some of my reflections from my school days, the adults who stood out among the many I encountered. Some for the right reasons (tailored teaching, excellent personal care and attention) and others for the wrong reasons (because I was a hormonal adolescent – but enough about that).
I included this video by Taylor Mali, which seemed to catch the mood of those present:
In preparation for the event I had been asking friends, family, colleagues and, occasionally, strangers about their experiences at school and what made individual adults stand out to them when they look back now. Their reflections helped to shape part of the evening. I shared two testimonies with them:
- The person she reflected on was her 6th form tutor and A-level Psychology teacher.
- ‘she understood that I didn’t want to talk about the issues I was dealing with, but realised that I was depressed and self-harming’
- ‘forced me to sit down with her and organise an action plan – helped me stick to it’
- ‘took walks with me during lunch breaks just to chat about how things were going’
- ‘treated me more like a daughter than a student’
- ‘was concerned with my welfare as well as being an awesome teacher’
- ‘she let me take naps in her office when I had insomnia’
- ‘she stayed in touch with me for a few years after school to see how I was doing’
- ‘generally took care of me when I was unable to take care of myself’
- ‘I definitely wouldn’t have made it to Uni without her support’
- ‘and may not have even made it out of A-levels alive’
- She reflected on her secondary school RE teacher
- a ‘consistent presence during six years at secondary school/sixth form
- ‘an amazing teacher who knew and loved her subject’
- ‘she genuinely cared for the young people in her class
- demonstrated personal care and support during a key crisis point in Alison’s life
- above and beyond what was/is expected
- long term support, care, encouragement – two years after the crisis
- ‘two of the toughest years of my life’
- ‘she helped me to believe in myself, because she believed in me’
- ‘her constant encouragement and reassurance enabled me to achieve my A-levels when they seemed to be impossible’
- ‘she inspired and encouraged me to follow the path of higher education’
- ‘I will always be massively grateful to her for that’
I followed up by reflecting on my own experiences of pastoral care & support at school. But then pointed out that simply providing great pastoral care isn’t what makes a Christian teacher distinctive from any other teacher. We would be pursuing that later.
We moved on to briefly introduce the resources which we’d provided around the room which delegates were free to browse and take away as they wished. Rachel started us off by explaining the role of the Bridgebuilder Trust and detailing some of its projects, then I introduced the following resources:
- Mindset Conference
- Prayer Spaces in Schools
- Pray for Schools Network
- Association of Christian Teachers
Then we broke for further refreshments and delegates had time to chat together and browse the resources.
When we reconvened we spent some time considering what makes Christians in Education distinctive by exploring Ephesians 2:12-18. I summed this up with the phrase ‘I AM @ work’ – that God is at work in each one of us, through all our interactions & relationships. [Further notes on this section can be made available if desired.]
Then Rachel led the part of the evening where we commissioned the delegates to go in the name of Jesus and continue their ministry in the Education sector and prayed for them. The evening closed with further chat, and delegates completing feedback forms about their impressions of the evening. They were overwhelmingly positive, and have given us a great deal of food for thought about future events. Plans are already in motion…
‘If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 30 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.’
Here are a few images of the set-up – I didn’t get any once the delegates arrived as I was busy chatting…
I loved playing Monopoly when I was younger, but I was often frustrated. Sometimes by how long the game would go on for, but usually by the amount of time some people used to take thinking about what they’d like to do when it was their turn. The game’s tagline of ‘the fast-dealing property trading game’ never really rang true for me. I was always keen for a speedier version of the game. We tried instigating a time limit for each person’s go, and an overall time limit for the game, but it didn’t quite cut it.
Clearly others shared my frustrations, as I noticed that a new edition of the game has been released with a ‘play faster’ feature for those who can’t wait. Not a new rule to limit the time of each player’s ruminations, but a special die which settles faster once rolled.
Imagine how much time would be saved if all board games were sold with the new faster die – what would mankind be able to achieve with all that extra time?
Born at 00:58 on 22nd November 2009 to proud parents Tracy & Ricky, and weighing in at 8lb 5oz. Following a long and difficult day of labour, Isaac still didn’t want to be delivered. At 11:30 it was decided to take Tracy into the operating theatre and attempt a forceps delivery, but it was unsuccessful, so Isaac was delivered by Caesarean Section.
Mother and baby are doing very well.