O God we pray for the courage to continue in the good tradition of our forebears. May we, and those who come after us, build on that tradition so that through us, others may be encouraged to strive towards excellence and the lives of many people may be enriched. Amen. (Founders’ Day prayer)
Founders’ Day, celebrated each year in February, commemorates the courage and commitment of our Founders in bringing to fruition the vision of a girls’ school in Hawke’s Bay, dedicated to educating the whole person in mind, body and spirit.
Our Founders’ vision involved faith and engaged them in establishing Christian foundations in the Anglican tradition from which Mabel Annie Hodge came. Although the current Chapel was not built and dedicated until 1928, worship was always at the heart of the Woodford House community and a service has marked each year’s anniversary of the founding of the School.
Central to our service is the lighting of the seven candles, representing our seven founders:
Mabel Annie Hodge
Thomas Mason Chambers
Thomas Ezekiel Crosse
Winifred Beetham Nelson
John Davies Ormond
Elsie Jane Beetham Williams
We are honoured to have a number of girls currently in school who are directly related to some of these people. They have the privilege of lighting their relative’s candle. This year they included:
Zara, Milly and Tessa Waldin (great, great grand-daughters of Thomas Mason Chambers), Emily Crosse (great, great granddaughter of Thomas Ezekiel Crosse), Poppy Renton (great, great, great granddaughter of William Nelson), and Annabel Patterson (related to William Nelson).
We were also honoured to have representatives from our Old Girls’ Association with us, as well as members of the Foundation, Board of Trustees and Board of Proprietors.
During the service we sang The Kingdom is within you; a modern hymn by New Zealand writer Cecily Sheehy. But the words are those of Jesus.
‘The kingdom of God is ours to build, a place where love, kindness, courage and hope prevail’.
I also highlighted our immense debt of gratitude to the Founders, in the conclusion of the sermon:
“Our Founders and forerunners built on a rock, the rock of faith. It took faith for Mabel Hodge to believe in the education of girls at a time when distinguished medics were claiming that an academic curriculum was damaging to girls’ mental and physical health. In similar vein, it took faith for Mary Holland to believe in a broad, liberal and holistic approach to education at a time when government schools were insisting on a narrowly focused schedule of cramming for outside examinations”.
We continue to build on that rock of faith. Where will it take us in the 21st century? We face our own challenges of the times – globalisation, consumerism, social media, and political and religious extremism, to name but a few.
Reverend Dr Deborah Wilson, Chaplain