'Spirited Arts' Competition 2021

In lockdown, all children at Senior House took part in the Spirited Arts competition as part of a specific Religious Studies unit of work. This competition gives children the chance to be creative and imaginative in this subject and is linked to the children's spiritual ideas and skills. Last year over 50,000 pieces of art and poetry were created for the competition and some of these are displayed online. After much careful deliberation, ten pieces were selected to be sent to represent St John's with the winners being announced after the end of the academic year. Winning entries will provide a good response to one of the 5 themes and judges will be taking into account whether it is original, well-created and is an excellent example of Religious Studies. Now in its 18th year, Spirited Arts has attracted over 380,000 participants since 2004, with 2,000 entries being sent in to NATRE (National Association of Teachers of Religious Education) each year for judging. Hundreds of schools take part and the organisers get entries coming from as far-a-field as Hong Kong, Australia, Thailand and Bahrain.

Children in each year group at Senior House focused on a range of provoking themes and questions: 'Where is God?' (Form 3), 'Inspiring' (Form 4), 'God's good earth?' (Form 5) and 'We have far more in common with each other than that which divides us' (Form 6). The theme for the oldest children was a quote from Jo Cox MP which introduces the question, are we one human race despite our differences and divisions? We are all different and our religions different but can we be united? What holds humanity together? Is it faith? Hope, love, music? The children were also encouraged to consider what threatens to tear us apart and what can we do to prevent these divisions. The Form 5 theme had an environmental element to it with the beauty of the earth celebrated in many religions but the spoiling of the earth and the imminent threat of climate change a continuing crisis. In this theme, the children were invited to explore ideas and beliefs about the natural world, human responsibility for the earth and ways of praying about climate justice.

Form 4's theme, 'Inspiring',  explored the notion of whether religion offers people inspiration to live. Sometimes an inspirational life, a person’s example, a text or a piece of music crystallises our inspiration. The youngest participants thought about whether God is in your heart, in prayer, in the temple or the universe? Or is she hiding? Is he not there at all? Looking for God, searching for him or her, matters: but how are we doing in finding God? Would you search with google or a ‘god-detector? Is God on Instagram or WhatsApp? Can God be found by prayer or by looking among the world’s suffering people?

As well as producing a piece of art or poetry the children submitted responses to their chosen theme. A Form 6 explained, 'I wanted to show the theme through a physical moment in time. On one side is a rich businessman of Christian faith. He is upper class. On the other side is a poor Buddhist man in rags. They are nearly touching hands over a huge void which divides them. This crevasse is meant to symbolise the constant and misleading thought people have, that everyone on earth is different. Different due to how they were nurtured and what they surround themselves with, rather than where they were born or their mental or physical character. Whilst creating my project, I tried to use subtle yet recurring themes, such as the wheel of Buddha which sits beside the man in rags, symbolising his faith.'

You and I  

You are black, I am white,
I am tall and you're slim,
You have short hair, mine is long,
I have brown hair and yours is blonde,
I'm obese, your features broad,
Mine's a long nose, yours is short,
One outer beauty,
One inner strength
I am East and you are West,
You lack my freedom.

Your talents lie where mine do not,
My God is Alpha, Omega yours,
I lack your wealth,
Our genes are different, fate as well       
I lie in heaven, you in hell.

And yet....

I feel, you feel,
You cry, I cry,
I love, you love,
You hurt, I hurt,
I breathe, you breathe,
You laugh, I laugh, 
I fear, you fear,
You hope, I hope,
I dream, you dream,
A common purpose to survive,
To live, experience, and die.

We cannot help our origins,
But we can shape our outcomes,
With love, kind thoughts,
And tolerance. 

By Lydia Kopanou

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

A Peace Offering 

My roots are old: I've been here from the very beginning. Long before you were here. I have sung with birds...from tender hatchlings to wise owls who sit in oaks as aged as they. I have stretched for the sun with the morning flowers and danced with the autumn leaves. I have watched your species grow and learn: Adam and Eve were like siblings to me.

My ways bring peace and unity and calm and harmony and joy and earthly dignity. Gushing rivers for veins; ropy jungle vines for hair; beckoning deep pools for eyes.

But you, pilgrims, perpetually drive your tracks into my rocky peaks and endless ravines. You are blind to my pain.

I thought we were friends bound together with everlasting unity...

But no - you mine into my tender skin leaving me with deep cuts just so you can look nice. You scar me with marks from your tree-killing machines to feed and slaughter innocents. How could you?

Millions of lives call my delicate skin home.

Our future is together entangled. We are one: our actions - harmful or helpful - will affect all of us.

We are one.

What happened to the 'us'?

Please don't make me endure these excruciating sufferings. I can't take it much longer. I helped, cared and loved you, but you returned my generous favours with painful blows.

I want the old ways again. Please can we be friends again?

Gaia                 

By Vivian Knight