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Girton Parish News - December 2001
Peace and Goodwill to AllThis year has had some unforgettable moments. Take September 11th, for example. "Where were you when the planes hit the World Trade Centre in New York?" That terrible event will become the current generation's version of "Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?" I can still remember the period in 1963, though not the particular time of day, when JFK was assassinated.
We are still living through the aftermath of New York: a war in Afghanistan and the search for the alleged promoter of the World Trade Centre disaster; a war where the odds seemed so imbalanced. But it is also a war where many innocent men, women and children may suffer untold hardship if aid supplies cannot get through to them during the harsh winter months in Afghanistan. To us, these people are unknown, nameless and remote.
There is the legendary story of the 'Christmas Truce'. This happened over Christmas during the First World War in 1914. Men, just ordinary men, both British and German, laid down their weapons, just for Christmas Day. They came out of their trenches and played football in no-man's land with their opposite numbers. They even exchanged small gifts. Sadly, the 'happy' day ended and battle had to resume. In my dictionary of modern phrases it says, "Such fraternization was frowned upon by senior officers, who made sure that such contact between their troops never occurred again for the rest of the war."
Recently, I read in the paper of a German who was turned from his Nazism during the last war, by meeting a Russian woman. The Nazi regime had demonized the Russians and other ethnic groups. He is now a convinced peace campaigner.
Since shortly after the Second World War, Cambridge has been twinned with Heidelberg in Germany and exchanges have taken place annually ever since. These have not been exchanges just for the civic dignitaries, but for 'normal people' so that they can get to know what life is like in another country. They share their homes, common interests, meals and so on.
Girton has its special role to play in welcoming foreign students into our midst. Being a host family, gives one an opportunity to learn about other countries and cultures. As one gets to know people from other countries, one may realise that the threads that bind us into a common humanity are far tighter than those of political dogma that try to separate us.
Peace between people and nations cannot be imposed from above: it comes from within individual people. A sure and long lasting peace is built from the 'bottom up', from the grass roots, and not 'top down' by the politicians. When you know your neighbour personally, there is a much greater chance of peace between you.
In the Bible, the prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of Christ, and also had a vision of a world at peace. It was not an imposed political peace, but one built on and by individual people faithfully following the way of the Lord. This was a peace known as 'Shalom'; a wholesome peace which isn't just the absence of war, but a peace where individuals are respected for who they are - as people.
Many of you may know the hymn 'Make me a channel of your peace', based
on the famous prayer of St Francis of Assisi. 'Where there is hatred,
let me bring your love,' it goes on, 'Where there is injury, your pardon,
A peaceful Christmas to you all.
Dugald Wilson, Reader
Christmas - the end or the start?I was once in a department store when I overheard two women discussing Christmas. They were rummaging through a big box full of special offer socks and one said to the other, “I hate all this preparation for Christmas!”
“Oh I know”, her friend replied, “You never know what to get, I’ll be pleased when it's all over.”
I smiled to myself and reflected that they were in for a long haul, for they were Christmas shopping in the August sales! In a nutshell the two women had summarised what I think are two problems that the modern world has with Christmas; the season is too long and we see Christmas Day as the end.
Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier every year. The Christmas lights are on in Cambridge and although I have yet to hear a Christmas carol, the stores have been full of decorations and presents for weeks. At home I received my first Christmas card in mid November, I have been to a (pre) Christmas party and friends have already been out to a Christmas Dinner. I haven't seen a Christmas tree in a house yet, but some people have had them up for weeks. According to an article in the Daily Mail, a couple in Bristol start putting up decorations in October so as to finish by Christmas. They have forty yards of tinsel and an amazing 5,500 fairy lights all twinkling at once in their ordinary sized lounge. There are so many lights in fact that they have to keep the windows open to reduce the heat and they confess that they dare not read their electricity bills during the winter quarter.
Please don't misunderstand me, I love Christmas, it is a fantastic celebration, but if it starts too early the result is that Christmas Day becomes an anticlimax. The couple in Bristol have a depressing January, for it takes them a month to pack everything away, and then they spend February repairing paint damage caused by blu-tack. Department stores that have been festive for months cannot wait to pull out the January sales, which now start on Boxing Day, the day that the refund departments dread as so many people queue to return unwanted Christmas presents. Christmas day in secular terms is seen as the end, whereas in spiritual terms it should be viewed as the start.
Jesus' birth, on the first Christmas Day, was the start of something new. The shepherds knew nothing of the preparations, but they witnessed the arrival of Jesus. They went to the stable, saw the Christ child, and returned home praising God and telling everyone the good news that they had seen the baby who was to be their Saviour. That was the start of a new relationship between God and the world. Begun in the birth of Jesus, Immanuel (God with us), brought to fulfilment when Jesus died on the cross for our sins and still there in the promise of the risen Jesus that he is with us to the end of the age.
That is still the message of Christmas, that God has broken into the world. He came at Christmas and is with us for evermore, on Boxing day, the 27th, New Year's Day, May Bank holiday and even in the August sales!
Phillip Staves, Minister, Girton Baptist Church
Message from the SchoolEarly in October we entertained four OfSTED inspectors who spent four days gathering information about our school from a range of sources; observing lessons and looking at children's work as well as listening to parents governors and children.
The inspectors were very pleased with us and in the final report say: This is a very effective school that has improved substantially since its last inspection, takes good care of its pupils and achieves good standards. In the 2000 national tests, children at the end of Key Stage 1 achieved results that were above the national average in writing, and well above in reading and mathematics. Children at the end of Key Stage 2 were above the national average in science, and well above in english and mathematics. Information Technology, however, still needs considerable improvement. Provision for more able children is now good.
Teaching is lively, thorough and well supported by monitoring and advice. A new and very effective senior management team has been established, two thirds of teaching is now good or better and a fifth is very good or excellent, with good arrangements and practice in assessment. Relationships with parents and the community have been markedly improved. National initiatives in literacy, numeracy, Curriculum 2000 and the curriculum for the Foundation Stage have been implemented efficiently. Leadership and management by the head and senior staff are a strength of the school.
We are delighted with this report as an acknowledgement of the commitment of the whole school community.
We wish you all a very happy Christmas
Susan Baker, Headteacher