Faith Matters

Bishop McKeown: Pandemic has increased 'educational poverty'

The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified structural problems in the education system 'in such a way as to advantage the already advantaged', says Bishop Donal McKeown. Picture by David Jones/PA Wire

AHEAD of the resumption of public worship on Monday, Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown has said he is looking forward to being able to gather "in a real and not just a virtual congregation".

It will, however, be strange to be "both together and socially distant", he said.

"But, please God, we will have churches where all can be fed and encouraged - and no-one's mental or physical health is endangered by careless behaviour or poor practice," he said, adding that people will gather "if they hear the Good News of Jesus".

Speaking in a homily delivered online in an empty St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry on Sunday, Dr McKeown said churches had much to learn from their coronavirus-enforced closures.

"We have seen the large numbers who have turned to prayer and worship, privately and online," he said.

"In many homes there has been a rediscovery of the domestic church, where households have been, ate and prayed together much more.

"Parishes have often been very creative in finding ways of communicating and encouraging.

"And with the prospect of re-opening our churches for public worship, there has been a great surge of volunteers who want to be part of both planning and implementing the 'new normal'."

However, he also urged caution about a rush to return to 'normal', with its suggestion that "our earlier ways of running society and Church were the best that they could be".

"We are facing into a period when there will be new poverties," he warned, highlighting how the pandemic had caused a poverty of hope and economic confidence.

The bishop highlighted how the pandemic "has also increased the level of educational poverty".

"If we structure our education system in such a way as to advantage the already advantaged, are we building a future based on community or on competition?" he asked, referring to the debate around academic selection and the transfer test.

"After three months with an emphasis on dedication and service, do we want to go back to children believing in the survival of the fittest, as if that were divinely ordained?"

Christians should present a way of looking at life "which inspires our young people to look forward rather than just anaesthetising them", he said.

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Faith Matters