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It seems to become increasingly harder each year; leaving All Souls that is. I’m constantly blessed with the way in which the students of ASSG welcome us and take time to befriend us. The way they take us into their community and share their lives with us is overwhelming. Being a smaller school it has been easier over the years to get to know students more closely than in larger schools. I guess that’s why leaving seems to be getting that little bit harder each year. It was particularly so this year as a number of the year 12 students will finish school this year and I’ll miss seeing them next year. We did have an opportunity to have a small service of blessing and annointing for some of those who we have come to know well and will leave this year.
Over the course of the last 10 days we have had opportunity to laugh, play and eat with the students, as well as challenge them and stretch their minds in the classroom. I was all too aware that some of the things we asked of students was hard for them. However, I appreciated the effort they put in stepping up to the challenges thrown to them. I was also particularly appreciative of the efforts of a group of students who braved the cold and wet to join us each morning at 6.30 am for a Eucharist service. I think these are exemplars of why I appreciate coming to ASSG; that is the student’s ability and willingness to try and to be a part of things. They are genuine down to earth people who will make an effort if and when asked. I’m already looking forward to 2008.
Following from the account of making Holding Crosses with the students in year 12 we found that making Anglican Rosary or Prayer Beads with the students in year year 11 was also a success. Again I was wanting to do something meaningful with the students which gave them something concrete to take away with them. Initially I was unsure how they would receive the idea of making a set of Rosary Beads. But again, to my surprise, the students were quite receptive. The students seemed to enjoy making their set of Prayer Beads. It was certainly a challenge to fit making 30+ Prayer Beads into a 50 minute session (twice). But fun nonetheless.
After making the Prayer Beads we had a session on the history and symbolism of prayer beads, as well as giving them some simple short prayers to use with their Prayer Beads. A few of the students came up to me later to tell me that they had tried using the simple prayers with their Beads. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that a number of students were wearing their Beads on their arms and wrists around school.
It is the first time I’ve tried doing a session on Prayer Beads in this context. In the past I’ve usually done them with groups that have requested to do the Prayer Bead workshop. Feedback from students, and some staff and parents were very positive and there were also requests from junior students to make sure they got to make them in year 11 too. I’m pleased that we had the opportunity to have some fun, make something practical students could keep, and give them a brief insight into one way of learning how to pray.
As I was planning for this year’s visit to ASSG I was wanting to do something special with the students in year 12; most of whom I had known since year 8. I wanted to do something not only interesting with them, but something that they could take away and would remind them of our visits over the years. Then I had a thought that it would be very appropriate to make Holding Crosses with them. Holding Crosses, first developed by Sr Angela, have a story behind them which seemed fitting for the occasion. Sr Angela developed her Holding Cross for a woman who had been under house arrest because of her anti-apartheid activities in South Africa. The Cross was sent with the message as you hold this know that we pray for you or words to that effect. This seemed an apt way to offer the students something meaningful which expressed a sentiment of similar thought; that it, as we said to them, this is a gift that we can give them that they could take away and when they hold it they might remember the times we spent together at ASSG.
We were overwhelmingly surprised at the positive response. Students spent a great deal of time preparing their Crosses; frequently coming up to us to show how they were progressing with their Crosses. Even students in junior years were wanting to make their own. We explained, however, that this was something we wanted to do with the year 12s and that we would do the same with them when they leave school. Some of the year 11s said they hoped they’d get a chance to make some next year.
Sometimes the simplest thing is the best.
For the past few years I have been visiting All Souls St Gabriels School in Charters Towers. It is one of the events in my calender that I truly look forward to. The school is made up of All Souls school for boys established by the Brotherhood of St Barnabas in 1920 and St Gabriels school for girls established in 1921 by the Society of the Sacred Advent. Originally a Diocesan school ASSG is now an independent school which retains its Anglican identity and traditions.
The Chapel has been, and is, the heart of the school community. Yesterday we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the consecration of the Chapel. The place was full, bringing community members, past and present students, Diocesan Bishops and Clergy, friends and supporters all together to mark 50 years of service to the school community. In his address Archbishop Aspinall recounted how the school has maintained it’s focus of to serve is to rule throughout it’s history. Indeed, he added, that the school it self was living testimony to its motto; having served in various capacaties, including as a makeshift hospital during the war.
One has to experience ‘Souls’ life to appreciate the reality of its place as both school and community. What particularly strikes me is the sense of welcome and inclusion one feels on entering this community of men and women. Their willingness to participate and have a go is their strength. We have been made most welcome by all here at the school. We have found both staff and students willing to befriend and share with us in meals, in play, in work, and especially in prayer.
Tuesday and Wednesday was a highlight of the school visit. Over 50 prep school students came to be Baptised and or admitted to Communion. Parents, friends, sponsors, teachers all came to support the students in this big day.
It was great to be a part of their preparation for First Communion and then to be part of the service. For most of them this was their first time wearing their Chapel Dress, or being in the senior Chapel. It was a particular treat for them on the Wednesday night when the senior school captain was present to show his support. Though a secret was given away about a certain prep boy who had to be asked to leave Chapel once, yes even great leaders can start out as terrors.
I’m sure that every proud parent and supporter looked on with pride as each boy for Baptism came forward and later as each of them affirmed their faith and their desire to be admitted to Communion. This followed by glowing prep students coming forward and taking their first Communion. The site had to be experienced, words cannot express it well enough.
What can we learn about leadership from a piece of string? The question I posed to the prefects-elect at their Institution Service. Basically it is easier to pull a string than it is to push it. That is, leadership which seeks to lead by example, drawing people forward will be more successful than leadership which seeks to ‘expect rather than do’. Leadership, I shared with them, is hard, it requires sacrifice, it requires time and energy, it requires stepping up to the plate when you risk popularity and friendship.
Leaders who model themselves on the life of Christ will be leaders who pull the string and don’t push it. Christ taught us that we must be concerned about those who others are not concerned, to help those who cannot help themselves, to stand up for those who have no one to advocate for them, to be prepared to serve rather than be served.
New and continuing prefects were challenged to think about the kind of leadership style they would express. Would they be a leader who leads by example or one who leads by force. After which the newly elected prefects stood before their peers, friends, family, and school community and pledged to exercise their office with honesty and integrity. It was particulalry good to be a part of this service when one of the gentlemen was a fellow who I have worked with alongside through his role as Sacristan.
Part of the brother’s visit to TSS is centred around the Confirmation (and Baptism) of students, family members and staff. I always find this part of our visit a particular privilege. We get to spend time getting to know the candidates and talking with them on various aspects of faith. This year we were invited to talk on aspects of scripture, prayer and rule of life as well as reinforcing information on the Sacraments.
I initially found it challenging to try and link the topics of scripture, prayer and rule of life. However, as I was preparing for the session it became crystal clear. Scripture, I shared with the candidates, is the basis of our faith. Scripture is the way in which God reveals God’s self to humanity. It is in Scripture that we learn all we need to learn to know how to respond to God’s call for us to enter into relationship with God. Prayer then, was the way in which we respond to God’s Divine Revelation. Prayer is the way in which we hear God’s Word, allow it to become part of us and transform us, and to then live that out in our lives. Through developing a rule of life we can develop habits which allow us to hear and respond to the Word of God.
After reviewing the Sacraments of the Church and how we are called to a Sacramental life as members of the Church the Candidates then met with Bishop Rob Nolan. This was their opportunity to meet him and vice versa. Lunch with the Bishop is an integral part of the Candidates’ Confirmation experience.
Finally the time arrived. Parents, friends, sponsors, and members of the school community all arrived for that special moment. One cannot help but feel anything but pride as the young men and women came to affirm their faith, and for some to be received as members of the body of Christ through Baptism. As each candidate for Baptism and or Confirmation came forward I realised the privelge one is given in these moments to help start them on a new faith journey with God.
We cannot give these students our God experiences, which would lead them into a relationship with God, but we can help create a space for them to have their own God experiences. I know from talking with some students who have been part of the Baptism and Confirmation service, either as a Candidate or supporter, that they do indeed have some experience of being open to the present reality of God.
There are many moving experiences that I have during visits to schools. I was particularly moved by the experience of praying with the First and Second XV rugby teams and the First XI football (soccer) team. The rugby teams meet in the Chapel before their games and the football team meets on their pitch. They don’t meet to pray for victory over the other team; though I’m sure it is also a silent prayer left unsaid. Rather they meet to be a team who prays together, giving thanks to God for their talent and prayers to use that fairly. They also meet to pray for team mates who are injured and to give thanks for those who support them and coach them.
The Chaplain will share some words of scripture with them and then some reflection on mateship, team spirit, or reflections on who we can draw out experiences of living a christian life through playing sport; or rather how to express christian values through playing sport. The Chaplain will also bless a palm cross for the teams, he gives this to the captain who then gives each of the players a piece of the palm to carry with them during the game. This connects them to their school motto ‘let him how deserves victory bear the palm’. The rugby boys then finish their service by singing verses of Amazing Grace. They may be only be a few young men but the Chapel rings out with their voices. Their singing is not the quietness of one hiding under a bushel but one who is unafraid to express their faith.
Br Wade and I were especially privileged on the Saturday as we were invited to share some prayers and blessings with the First XI between their pre-game warm up and the match. The captain of the 1st XI himself one of the candidates for Confirmation on Sunday.
It can be easy to make jokes about ‘the other religions’ of society (i.e. rugby). But from the experience of a few boys we can learn that there are moments when the divine and the secular can meet.
The Southport School is an Anglican Boy’s day and boarding school located near the Gold Coast, Qld. The brothers have been visiting the school for a number of years, participating in the life of the school, sharing time with the boys and being involved in the boy’s preparation for Confirmation. This year is my 5th visit to the school. I always enjoy visiting the school and spending time with the students, staff and parents. The school community is always very welcoming and I have been particularly blessed to have the opportunity to live with the students in one of the school house; Biddle House. The hospitality of the students, resident masters, house master and his family always makes me feel part of the school family.
Br Wade and I arrived ‘hitting the ground running’. We arrived in time to assist the Chaplains and other members of staff with the preparation of over 50 prep school students to be admitted to First Communion. I was taken by the prep students’ interest in the various topics we covered. Particularly so by students who wanted to enter into discussions about the nature of the Trinity or the nature of Jesus (humanity v divinity). The level of interest and desire to learn took me by surprise; I had to defer some of their curiosity to their regular RE teacher who would have more time to satisfy their curious minds.
Later in the evening we met most of the 17 students who were undertaking preparations for Confirmation. It was pleasing to see so many young people who wanted to explore and affirm their faith. It was also pleasing to see a variety of students, siblings, senior students, prep students, students who are strongly academic and students who are strongly sport oriented. It showed me that faith and religion transcends other boundaries which can sometimes separate or ‘catagorise’ individuals and groups.