It was a great privilege for Principal Julie Peterson and myself to join school chaplains, religious studies teachers, principals and board members from across the Province in our biennial gathering, which took place at Dilworth School in Auckland.
Our theme was ‘A Place at the Table’, inspired by Rublev’s famous icon of the Trinity.
Guest speaker, Father Richard Peers, spoke about his own experience, as an incoming principal, at a struggling secondary school in inner London. Father Richard told how he began by challenging parents, staff and students to gather around the icon and suggest what it might be saying to them about their vision and dreams for their school. They came up with the phrase, ‘A place at the table for everyone’. This concept of education as fundamentally being ‘hospitality’ was developed into the school’s mission:
- To be seated
- To listen
- To value all equally
- To practice restorative justice
- To be mindful
- To see and find what is beautiful
- To be hospitable
- To work for justice and inclusion.
In short, the community began to explore what it is about the Christian faith that creates excellent schools for children. In time, the school saw significant progress in terms of pupil engagement, behaviour and achievement.
In other sessions, Bishop Victoria and principals from Christchurch movingly related their journeys in recreating school communities out of the destruction of the 2011 earthquake. The Bishop said that in that event people lost the illusion of being in control in the first place. In order to produce resilience, schools should therefore remind children that what is truly important is not ‘being in control’ but ‘being in a world of purpose and beauty’.
Students from Rathkeale College and St Paul’s schools spoke about their respective roles in serving their localities. For example, St Paul’s students pioneered ‘over the fence ministry’, in working with local low decile schools; a partnership that benefitted both communities, through listening, learning and sharing.
These presentations were complemented by interactive workshops on topics ranging from the Christian contemplation curriculum, restorative justice and international service trips.
In addition to the teaching and learning sessions, inspirational worship took place in the beautiful Dilworth chapel and a conference dinner at King’s College was enhanced by the exuberant playing of the King’s school band and the singing of their College choir.
We returned to school energised and inspired to seek out how we can further develop our Christian character of hospitality and aroha at Woodford House.
Reverend Deborah Wilson, Chaplain