Column: School Matters with Dennis Richards

The fiercest resistance to a fixed Easter, on the second or third Sunday in April, is coming from Whitby.
The fiercest resistance to a fixed Easter, on the second or third Sunday in April, is coming from Whitby.

There is something rather reassuring about the church’s liturgical calendar.

The seasons change but there is a timeless certainty that the sun will rise and the sun will set.

The heady excitement of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany are behind us. And of course, the commercial world wasn’t satisfied with the old favourites, but added in a few of its own, just to keep us in a state of excitement and anticipation.

So, I woke up on Friday, November 27 to the news that Harrogate would be gridlocked because it was “Black Friday”. If you are interested, by the way, it will be on November 25 this year.

You can start preparing now. The Monday following Black Friday was apparently “Cyber Monday”, when we all purchased our Christmas gifts online. However, since a staggering quantity of the gifts we bought were neither suitable, nor even wanted, yet another date entered the calendar.

I recall a delicious cartoon with a sales assistant triumphantly holding up a rather garish kipper tie announcing to his colleagues “It’s back!” “Take Back Tuesday” has entered the calendar as the day we creep into the shops with our unwanted socks, ties, smellies and jumpers hoping we don’t bump into whoever gave us the damn things in the first place.

Flogging them on eBay is a touch too risky, as is putting them in a cupboard and wrapping them up as your Christmas offerings for the following year. The ultimate nightmare could happen.

You’ve guessed it. I swear I got back this year, the same bottle of wine which I gave as a present last year.

No wonder then, that all this stress takes a toll on us all. On Monday, January 16 this year we all suffered “Blue Monday”.

The third Monday in January is officially the most depressing day of the year.

It usually rains. Nothing new in that, this winter of all winters.

It is the day when we realise how much debt we are in, as a result of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Our New Year’s resolutions are collapsing all around us. As usual. And more couples petition for divorce on this day than on any other.

It comes as some relief, therefore, that after the excitement of the Christmas season, that the church’s liturgical calendar has a splendid description of this time of year. We are now in Ordinary Time.

In schools heads are down, it’s the time for work. “Mock” exams are over. All too soon the real thing will hover into view. In both church and school, you can’t get more ordinary than now. We know where we are. We have some really short half-terms and some longer ones from year to year.

The Easter holiday arrives as a blessed relief or a nice early surprise. It is with some consternation, however, that we hear that there is a proposal to change the way in which the date of Easter is fixed.

We can hardly accuse the church of rushing into this, as the current system dates from 664 AD. Easter is celebrated in Britain on the first Sunday after the first ecclesiastical full moon on after the vernal equinox.

In other words nobody, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury apart, has a clue when it will be or why.

The proposed change is to fix it every year on the second or third Sunday in April.

The fiercest resistance is coming from…er….er… Whitby. It will adversely affect the tourist trade. I love that. The robed and mitred Cardinals, Deans, Archdeacons and Venerables of the Church are having to take into account the views of Whitby fish and chip shops.

Whitby it was, at The Synod of 664, where Britain brought its Easter Festival in line with Rome. Given the normal speed of change within the church, I wouldn’t worry too much about your Easter holiday plans for next year, or for the next century for that matter.

Schools will always have plans even at this most ordinary time of the year.

If you read this on February 4 you will have time to note that February 5 is “Wear Red” day.

For some years the Children’s Heart Surgery Unit at Leeds General Infirmary was under threat of closure with a plan to move it to Newcastle.

Can you imagine the outrage when Leeds was told it would lose out to Newcastle? An award-winning charity was formed, firstly to save it, then to support it. And through it, schools became aware of the reality that students among their number, owed their very lives to this great Yorkshire institution.

More than 10,000 babies and children pass through it each year. There’s nothing ordinary about that.

Wear red on Friday. And an ordinary day becomes a special day.