Last night I caught a little of Huw Edward’s BBC4 documentary ‘Sunday Schools: Reading, Writing and Redemption‘. (Available on iPlayer until 24 Feb 2009.) I expected it to be your average media dismantling of religion, but was surprised how uniformly warmly the various participants, general public or celebrity, were about their contacts with Sunday School, and how it had so positively helped form their characters.
One of the participants was Roy Hattersley, who I knew had been in the choir at a Yorkshire church I did a curacy at: Wadsley Parish Church near Hillsborough, in Sheffield. When I was there in the late 1980s, Roy’s mother used to regularly be seen walking her Yorkshire Terrier through the church-yard, and was always up for a chat. Great to hear that the work the churches have been involved in since Robert Raikes founded the Sunday School movement in 1780 has had such a longlasting and positive influence. “Long live Sunday School” said Bill Tidy.
Huw Edwards ended the programme, conscious of the demise of Sunday schools in all but the largest and most significant of churches now, by saying “as one of millions who benefitted from attending Sunday schools, I think Britian is much the poorer – and one day we will wake up and will realise what we have lost”. May it not all be lost…
The programme blurb:
Documentary investigating the radical impact Sunday schools have had on
British society. Their early pioneers upset local bigwigs and the state
by teaching the lower orders to read. By Victorian times, huge numbers
attended the schools and they even gave birth to major football clubs.
In the twentieth century they still had a rich influence on the
personal lives of people like Patricia Routledge, Roy Hattersley and
Anne Widdecombe. Huw Edwards discovers their forgotten history.