Religion has always been a powerful driving force in society – for good and ill. It affects us all, whether or not we hold a religious belief. A good knowledge of religion is needed to inform our own political and social understanding of history.
Undertaking Religious Studies at Queen Margaret’s is guaranteed to be a fascinating experience, interesting for its own sake and useful in that it sharpens the mind and provides an insight into the study of ideas and their accompanying debates. It forces you to examine your own ideas and raises questions where before you thought there were none. The focus on developing analytical skills means Religious Studies qualifications are valued by universities and employers.
Queen Margaret’s RS department is well resourced with textbooks, artefacts, CDs, DVDs and videos. Furthermore, over thirty guest speakers of various denominations and religions speak in chapel throughout the course of the year; a number will also speak about their faith and answer questions in lessons.
The department enjoys a very good relationship with the local Imam and pupils visit the Mosque in nearby York.
On the morning of Thursday 17th May, Queen Margaret's celebrated Ascension Day - the fortieth day after Easter, when Jesus rose to Heaven - with a special Communion service, as has become one of our traditions. Chaplain gave the sermon and the choir sang beautifully - as always! It was a special moment for the newly-confirmed Roman Catholic girls as they received their second-ever Eucharist, having celebrated their confirmation a couple of weeks before. We are now looking forward, though of course a little sadly, to our final few chapel services of the year...
Report by Sacristan, Amber Boydell (Upper VI)
In Morning Prayer on Monday 3rd October, we celebrated the Harvest Festival with a beautifully decorated altar and a visit from Major Sheila Duncanson of the Salvation Army. As we do every year, Queen Margaret’s donated a sum to the very worthwhile charity, and Major Duncanson was kind enough to come to speak to us about how important our input is to our local community. She thanked us for our gift, and explained to us the work that the Salvation Army carries out in York, telling one stirring story of a homeless young man whom they had helped to find a home and to regain some stability. It is so special that we are able to offer a tiny contribution to continue this great work going on, which makes a huge difference to the lives of people around us.
Report by Amber Boydell (Upper VI)
St. Margaret's Day
On Wednesday 17th of November, the whole School had a Eucharist service. It was in remembrance of St Margaret. She was recognized for her personal holiness, fidelity to the Church, work for religious reform, and charity. She attended to charitable works and personally served orphans and the poor every day before she ate. She rose at midnight to attend daily church services.She was considered to be an exemplar of the "just ruler", and also influenced her husband and children to be just and holy rulers.As it was a communion service Rev Richard Kirkman from Escrick Parish was kind enough to come and help. The readers were Auriol Drummond-Hay and Amy Tomlinson.
On Sunday 19th of September, the whole School had a Harvest Thanksgiving Service in the chapel. It was particularly special as for the first time ever, the Salvation Army Brass Band accompanied our hymns. It was a pleasant alternative on this occasion and was enjoyed by everyone who attended. Captain Sharen Furlong was our guest speaker who did well in managing to link her talk with the reading Chaplain gave the girls and the one she had intended for them to read! Finally, the altar was beautifully decorated with baskets of fruit and thanks must go to Miss Thackray for her efforts.
Report written by Florence Joly de Lotbinière
Focus during these years is placed on ‘learning from religion,’ an objective encouraging girls to gain an appreciation of other religions. Two central strategies are used to help girls make religions relevant to their lives: thematic structure and a focus on developing critical thinking skills. Girls’ interests are engaged by introducing ideas through themes and concepts already meaningful to them (e.g. relationships, right and wrong, power and communications). Students are encouraged to develop their skills as they respond, evaluate and apply questions to what they have learnt about religions.
In the first two terms, girls explore aspects of the Muslim experience, ranging from the time of Muhammed into present day. These studies include beliefs, forms of prayer, rituals marking stages of life and the traditions that give to millions of Muslims their distinctive way of life. Girls are encouraged to reflect on the teachings and practice of Islam while also developing their own views.
During the third term, the girls study ‘Art and the Christian Faith,’ a course centring on the historical pastime of learning stories and beliefs of the Christian faith not by reading but rather via drama, story, music and art. Themes include Signs and Symbols, the work of the Holy Spirit, the Incarnation, and Attributes of God and Salvation.
Girls will begin their GCSE full course in Year IV and sit their examination at the end of Year V. During this time, the girls will study the AQA Religious Studies curriculum, including Specification A, Unit 2, Christianity: Ethics, which looks at how different Christians respond to moral questions such as questions of right and wrong. Unit 5, Mark’s Gospel is also covered, which looks at Mark’s account of Jesus’ life and teaching, and the significance of Jesus for today.
A Religious Studies GCSE is a valuable qualification for a wide spectrum of careers. It can be especially valuable in a career requiring analytical thinking.
For Exam Board information please click the following link: www.aga.org.uk
To study Religious Studies at A Level, girls do not need to have done GCSE.
Over the course of two terms, girls have the opportunity to take two RS classes: Religious Ethics and Philosophy of Religion. In the first, students will learn about four main philosophical approaches, including Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics, Natural Law and Christian Ethics. Pupils will learn how to assess and evaluate strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches and see their usefulness when making moral/ethical decisions. In the second, girls will make their way chronologically through philosophical development, beginning with Plato and Aristotle. Students will also review the traditional arguments for the existence of God, the Problem of Evil, and a study on Religion and Science to teach girls about current debate on spheres of thinking.
Girls will continue the two modules, furthering their understanding of Religious Studies by introducing principals of Sociology, Psychology, Meta-Ethics, and Virtue Ethics into lessons. Questions include understanding what the words “Good” and “Bad” really mean, or how to apply ethical knowledge to subjects of Business, Environmental and Sexual ethics. Furthermore, girls will study aspects of Religious Language, Religious Experience, Miracles, and Life After Death and be asked to apply their developing philosophical frameworks in unravelling deeper questions.
On Friday 21st January, a very different type of sermon was given at Evensong in the Chapel. Catherine Lee works as a Church Missionary Society representative in Taiwan, where she is now returning for another stretch of mission work. In her characteristically inimitable style, she leapt up the Chapel steps and instantly commanded every girl’s attention as she strode across the platform demonstrating the traffic light signals in Taiwan compared to the UK. Do we want to merely look as if we will set off walking sometime, or are we actually going somewhere right now?
Catherine has been in Taiwan since 1999, but before this she was a CMS representative in Tanzania, and she compared the two very different sets of problems that faced each of these countries and the Christian messages that were important to her and to the people she met. Catherine drew parallels with life in the UK and challenged QM girls to make the most of the opportunities here and give something back of themselves. In a change of pace, Catherine then led the school in quiet prayer as we held in our minds those to whom we both inspired and were inspired by.
Catherine stayed for supper after Chapel and was joined by several girls who continued the discussions on cultural differences and the role that charity work plays in the World. We look forward to welcoming Catherine Lee back to QM in three and a half years, when she is next in the UK.