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Pupils and teachers from a Lancashire school have been sharing their experience of speaking to former Archbishop’s envoy Terry Waite … on Zoom.

The online session is a great example of how church schools across the Diocese have continued to inspire our children and young people in innovative ways during the pandemic.

The event has also been praised by the school’s Headteacher as well as the Archdeacon of Lancaster, The Venerable David Picken, who is Chair of the Diocesan Board of Education.

Terry joined pupils from years 4, 5 and 6 at Cuerden Church School in Bamber Bridge, and their teachers, online.

Class teacher and Deputy Head, Mrs Patricia Merritt, explained how she told the pupils the story of Terry Waite, former envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, captured by extremists and imprisoned for five years.

Mrs Merritt said: “The children in Year 4 first heard about Terry in their RE topic about ‘light’. They were asked: ‘If you were sitting in the darkness, with no hope of light how would you feel?’

“They responded eagerly to this question and, as a school, we wanted to deepen their understanding of what this experience might be like. The children were captivated by Terry’s story and asked many more questions with a real and pressing urgency for answers.

“They learned Terry went to Beirut to negotiate the release of hostages and became a hostage himself. He spent 1,763 days in captivity and for most of the time he was alone and blindfolded.”

Following their initial learning the school decided to make contact with Terry … and they were delighted when he offered to answer pupils’ questions!

During a recent 30-minute discussion, Terry spoke very personally about his time as a hostage, the cruelty of people and how important it is to forgive and resolve conflict without violence. 

Mrs Merritt added: “We were all incredibly moved by his friendly, kind manner and the clarity of his message. He talked about the gifts we have which we must not take for granted: food, flowers, reading and our imagination. He was a shining example of hope, acceptance and ultimately forgiveness.”

For her school newsletter one of the pupils who took part, Erin, wrote a report of the event, as well as collating some reactions from her fellow pupils.

Erin’s report said: Terry’s faith kept him strong even when he was down and because of his faith he stayed on the right path and he did not choose to be violent; even if he was angry sometimes.

Now Terry writes children’s books and some adult books too. He lives peacefully in his own home reading books and making them.

Harrison reported: “He told interesting stories about his time in Beirut.”

Daisy said: “He encouraged us to keep reading, so that we would have stories in our head and not have to rely on the TV.”

Zachary remembered that: “Terry was very grateful for the small amount of food he had. His faith helped him believe people could put the past behind them and there was hope for the future.”

Lily was struck by the fact that: “Terry was taken to a dark place, but his faith in God helped him to stay calm.”

Zach said: “His faith in Jesus helped him stay brave and kind.”

And Kane wrote that: “Terry’s faith helped him to stay strong and focused. His courage and determination to stay positive in these testing times came from his Anglican Christian upbringing. This gave him hope and light, that he was never alone, even on the darkest days. Knowing God is always with you gave him strength to persevere.”

Headteacher Mrs Nicola Sherry said: “We are extremely grateful to Terry for giving his time so generously. This was so pertinent to the times we are currently living in and the time we spent with him gave a real sense of perspective to the current situation.

“It also really helped the children to focus on the importance of Christian values and how they can help us to find our way through very difficult times.”

Archdeacon David praised the event saying: “Across Lancashire our church schools continue to provide wonderful educational opportunities for pupils – even in the face of the restrictions we have all been facing.

“It is wonderful Terry was able to give up some time to speak to the youngsters of Cuerden Church School. I hope through the experience they were able to learn about forgiveness; the importance of faith when we are tested in difficult times and perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds.”


Ronnie Semley