Conkers and faith

06/10/13 | Posted by Ian Black

Horse chestnut seeds, high vis jacket, goggles, gardening gloves - it means just one thing: the conker season is here. Our garage is being bombed with conkers dropping off a nearby tree and the crop this year is plentiful. The game is fun, though I'm not sure how many children are allowed to play it any more or indeed really know how to play because of safety concerns. The protective kit mentioned above is probably rather over the top, though if you get a conker in the eye the point may seem clearer.


Conkers are a seed and if the seed is allowed to drop onto good soil it will grow.  It is a wonder of nature that something so small can spring to life in the ground and produce a mighty tree.  But it needs the right conditions to nurture it’s germination and growth.  It is not surprising that seeds are used as a metaphor for faith.  It too starts small, but with nurture and feeding it can grow and when lived change the world for good.  The nurturing comes through honest questions being taken seriously and used as a way to explore deep mysteries and a sense of awe at how wonderful the world is.  The stories of faith, through the bible, feed that faith and provide a framework for faith to explore and develop.  The lives of others become worked examples of how this faith can be lived - some are saints from the past, some are inspirational people we see today.  Some are known to us, some we just know second hand.

The report that over half of schools are not managing to engage their students in RE is a wake up call that not everyone is given the nurture they need.  RE is not supposed to be indoctrination, but for someone to be educated properly today they need to know how faith inspires people, how it is a valid way of looking at the world and to give them some tools for how they can puzzle on the questions of meaning and purpose that everyone has.  We need good quality RE in schools and it is currently rather patchy.

The comedian Milton Jones has produced a short video about how faith can affect people.  He asks if Christianity is weird.  Clearly some Christians are and sadly the worst ones are given more space on the media than they deserve.  Looking at them alone will dampen the heart of even the most devout person.  But Milton Jones goes on to give some examples of the way Christians have changed the world: setting up schools; working to end slavery; joining the struggle for women’s emancipation; providing the basis of our concepts of justice, decency and compassion; arguing for welfare provision; backing the arts; helping shape our system of government; we could add setting up and sustaining food banks.  The list is a long one.  Faith - sown and germinated, nurtured and grown - when lived shapes the world.  It starts with a small seed sown by a friend or neighbour, parent or inspiring figure.  It grows to be a force to change the world.

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I see you take it that Christianity, not Judaism, changed the world.

#1. By Steven Carr on October 29, 2013

Engaging children and anyone for that matter in RE is a matter of living a faith people can see, re your story about Jason Robinson.Yesterday, I attended The Boys’ Brigade national conference. Our latest survey shows that 70% of our members find in 2014, learning about faith cool. Most are from totally non Christian backgrounds. Perhaps such teaching is best done by people who believe in it.

#2. By Tony Drury-Smith on September 06, 2015




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