Friday 17 August
Day of Silence
Today, nationally in schools, there is a Day of Silence used in a variety of ways to stand against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia – and against any bullying that expresses that. The national stats are very concerning - and do not appear to have improved in the last ten years. Our own school shows some positive development, including two years ago, Tuis began - a new group formed for gay, bisexual and transgender former Christ's College students. If a girl was transitioning to a boy – would that person/ should that person be allowed to come to Christ’s College? And would he be safe? If a guy at Christ’s College decided to transition to being a girl – would this person be allowed to stay at Christ’s College? And would she be safe? As with Jews and women, the church, Christianity, has not helped. And yet we heard from the Bible today: “Who are you to pass judgement?” We began the service with silence; had a minute silence after the sermon, and ended in silence.
Monday 13 August
God's Name, God's Nature
Working through the Lord's Prayer in slow motion ("hallowed be your name"), we read, in Exodus 3, of God's name, God's nature, as the verb "to be" pronounced as the sound of breathing. God is not "a" being - God is being. We can begin each new activity with the intention to be present: "We Pray that with your help, Lord, we will open our Hearts and Minds to learning and allow others to do the same. Amen." (St Bede). This isn’t an extra something to add to a growing to-do list - it is accessing the Source of what we need to enable all this.
Monday 6 August
When the disciples watched Jesus pray - why did they want to do what he did? Did they see someone fully present? We now often call that mindfulness. How present are we to each other at meals? How present are we in class? How present are we now?
Friday 3 August
Concluding Round Square International Week
The last to notice the water is the fish. Many take their approach and experience of life as the norm. You don’t really notice the small bowl of water you are living in. The fish-bowl you live in is NOT the norm. It is the exception. And some of you have been tipped out of the fishbowl into the ocean.
That’s what I and other teachers try to do. We try to tip you into the ocean – but some of you, once you are tipped into the ocean still swim around as if you are in a 6 inch diameter fish bowl. Open your eyes and ears and experiences to the wide, wide exciting world.
Monday 30 July
Launching the Round Square International week, the International Languages Chapel Service was organised by Mrs Susan Harding, Head of the Modern Languages Department. Student, Junie Wee spoke about the value of other languages, challenging us to get us out of our comfort zone and connect with other people and other cultures.
Friday 27 July
The Lord's Prayer in Slow Motion
We reflected on the Wild Boars football team rescued from the cave in Thailand. They are a similar age to our students. The 25 year old coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, spent ten years in a Buddhist monastery and taught the teenagers to meditate.
Now that they are out, they are spending nine days in a monastery to deal with their own inner life and also out of respect for Saman Kunan, the Thai volunteer ex-navy seal who died in the rescue.
We have begun looking at the Lord’s Prayer in slow motion, and noted Jesus’ words which parallel the Thai reality: “whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” This is not about a shopping-list approach to the inner journey, in fact, Jesus goes on to say, “do not heap up empty phrases.” As we have, on a number of occasions, we spent a minute in silence.
Monday 23 July
The staff on pilgrimage together
We began the term in Chapel reflecting on the window of St James whose feast day was a couple of days away. With the whole staff present, we reflected on the image of pilgrimage – all on a journey from different starting places, along a variety of routes, all to the same destination, caring for each other, and being supported by people along the way. This is an encouraging and challenging image for us as a whole school community, to share a common goal and support each other towards this shared goal.
Friday 6 July
What foundations help and support us through ordinary life and through unexpected events? In a few days it is the feast of St Benedict - his Rule and monastic lifestyle helped us through the 'Dark Ages'. Our school looks like a monastery because that is where learning was maintained and flourished. In childhood, parents, family, and society lay those foundations. In teenage years, you take more control of your own foundations. How are you doing in the conscious forming of your foundations – because that is what you have been doing this term.
Benedict came up with a “middle way”, a balanced life. But not half way – more “both/and” rather than “either/or”. So we here aren’t choosing: culture or sport or social/emotional or academic or spiritual – because of Benedict, we are developing all of those dimensions of our foundations. How much ownership did you take of developing your foundations in each of those areas this term?
Monday 2 July
The Bible is absolutely brilliant about humility. The word itself – humility – comes from humus "earth". It’s literally and scientifically true, of course – in biology you study the processes of how we are made from the earth. And Genesis 2 begins a wonderfully playfulness around humans being made from earth – we are earth creatures. And humility is being down to earth.
Humility isn’t about grovelling, or not speaking directly. Humility is about knowing what you are really like – your weaknesses AND your gifts and skills. This is about having an open, a growth mindset in all that we do.
Friday 29 June
Honesty is one of the explicit virtues held by our school. In the survey, it was also voted as a top Character Strength of Jesus.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour; you shall be honest – is one of the commandments. The “post-truth culture” and “fake news” we live in affects us, including learning. We can feel uncertain that we can discover truth, disheartening us and the effort required for the search for learning.
We are called to live in the truth, to bear witness to the truth, to have respect for the truth. There’s lots wrapped up in this command: to respect a person’s reputation – that includes not gossiping; to avoid rash judgement; to be careful to interpret another person’s words and deeds in as positive a way as possible.
His closest friends found that Jesus’ words, his teachings, and his life – were totally aligned. He had integrity with a capital I – well with the whole word in capitals.
You and I are part of a school named after him. On Monday I challenged you each day, each one of us to do one random act of kindness – how has that gone the last 5 days? Be honest with yourself – honesty. Today I challenge us to grow in integrity. To walk the talk - me as much as you.
Monday 25 June
In Chapel we looked at Kohlber’s stages of moral development:
Stage 1: How can I avoid punishment?
Stage 2: What's in it for me?
Stage 3: Social norms – you do it because… that’s what everyone does; this is what your mates do; this is what your school does; this is what your family does; this is what Kiwis do.
Stage 4: Law and order morality – well we’d just have chaos wouldn’t we if we didn’t obey the rules? It’s the law! It’s in the school rules!
Stage 5: (Many people don’t reach Stage 5) – is about developing a social contract. At Stage 5, we respect different values, different approaches, and we try and balance social order and individual rights.
Stage 6: Scientists have found it found it difficult to identify individuals who consistently operate at stage 6 where actions are based on abstract reasoning using universal ethical principles.
In the school, you voted for Kindness as a top Character Strength of Jesus.
The VIA Character Strengths website says:
Kind individuals believe that others are worthy of attention and affirmation for their own sake as human beings, not out of s sense of duty or principle – now you see the connection to Kohlberg’s stages. The VIA website says: There are three traits of altruistic personalities:
– Moral reasoning
– Social responsibility
I quoted from the famous speech by George Saunders.
You can watch it here – https://youtu.be/ruJWd_m-LgY?list=PLV3AEsja8PkopMgPEwAAt2caU4u6Yi3rc
or read it here – https://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/george-saunderss-advice-to-graduates/
Friday 22 June
Leadership was voted a top Character Strength of Jesus. We are ALL leaders - in what we say; in the way we act.
In Chapel we focused on the Proverb: "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." How are we keeping our heart so that we are growing as a character-based leader? Someone who has integrity, is trustworthy, has emotional intelligence, is open, humble, honest.
Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.
Character; calling; competence; community; Christ (We have the example, teaching, and in fact the life and energy of Christ – arguably the greatest leader in human history).
Monday 18 June
Nelson Mandela was a leader against apartheid in South Africa. In 1962, he was arrested. He spent 27 years in prison. When he was released, he said, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”
Forgiveness is about breaking the chain, the incessant chain of cause and effect – Person A hurts Person B – so Person B hurts or tries to hurt Person A back. Or even Person B now hurts Person C.
Both the school and beyond the school survey placed forgiveness as a top Character Strength of Jesus.
When someone hurts us, mistreats us – we are connected to that, like a chain. They may not even realise they’ve hurt us, what they’ve done. Forgiveness breaks the chain. It’s not simply being ‘nice’; it’s not simply letting people just walk all over you – it’s much stronger, much braver, much more powerful than that. Forgiving people aren’t weak people – they are strong people.
Getting someone back for hurting me – that doesn’t really lessen evil in the world. It simply increases the evil in the world. Retaliation simply makes me more like the person who hurt me.
From the VIA site I’ve been quoting: "When you practice forgiveness, you experience less of the negative emotions of anger, anxiety, depression and hostility. There are a number of potential benefits from your strength of forgiveness including having productive interpersonal relationships, thriving in team situations, job satisfaction, high morale, greater productivity, and innovative problem solving."
Friday 15 June
From the surveys – inside and outside the school – love is an agreed top Character Strength of Jesus. The VIA Institute on Character website gives a cluster of different dimensions of love. That is nothing new. The New Testament has:
Eros – Romantic love
Philia – friendship
Storge – love within a family; a parent of a child
Agape – altruistic love; compassion
And then there's
Ludus – playful love
Pragma – longstanding love
Philautia – love of the self.
Love is not simply about feelings (good though they might be) but about action – about putting another first; about not having me as central. It (like the cross) is I crossed out. Jesus, God, the 'Universe', love – this has our back. That's the good news. We don't need to incessantly put ourselves centre stage (that's what sin is). I challenge you to try it: put others first – you might be surprised by the positive experience that results.
Monday 11 June
Spirituality – Jesus' Character Strength
In the survey, inside the school, "Spirituality" was chosen as the top Character Strength of Jesus.
VIA Institute on Character: If Spirituality is your top strength you have strong and coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe. You know where you fit in the larger scheme. Your beliefs shape your actions and are a source of comfort to you.
We all need this at some time or other in our lives, so even if it is not a strong Character Strength, we can dial it up: "Cultivate sacred moments in which you set aside time to "just be" with a special/sacred object or space/environment.
Build in spiritual tools as a regular practice (ex: prayer, meditation, exploring nature) or as a way of approaching life (eg: giving charity, showing compassion to less fortunate individuals).
When experiencing trauma or a difficult situation, look for the deeper meaning and purpose of the experience."
Fascinatingly, the survey done by (presumably) older & churchy people online, did not rank Spirituality at all. This is a disconnect where young people have a message for the church.
Friday 8 June
A student asked me, "What does Shalom mean?"
It is a Hebrew word. Words in one language regularly do not easily translate to another word in another language - with each occurrence being simply "find and replace". Shalom means a whole cluster of English concepts: peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, tranquillity. Jesus often greets with "Peace be with you" shalom aleichem.
We can sometimes get the idea that wellness is some newly discovered concept. Sure – the word “wellness” may be newish – but the idea of living fully, wholesomely, healthily, flourishingly – and wishing that we all do this – equally; and expressing this to each other positively – that’s been around a good 4000 or more years. In the Jewish & Christian tradition, the word Shalom is a good way to talk about it.
Friday 1 June
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged - is the proverb, the whakataukī we heard.
You become a grandparent when you have a grandchild. You need both: grandparent AND grandchild; the older AND the younger; older and newer. This is a good symbol for Christ's College: Innovation AND tradition.
Innovations you notice different since you came last year: the new welcoming waiata; a box for hopes, thoughts, prayers. The former as an expression of being a 21st Century school in Aotearoa New Zealand in an increasingly global village. The latter as another expression of mindfulness - encouraging people to pause and be present in the present.
Monday 28 May
St Augustine of Canterbury
On Saturday, it was the feast day of Augustine of Canterbury – the left light in the southern sanctuary window.
Christianity has been in England it seems since the first century – probably with the Roman Empire there.
The Roman authorities withdrew from Britain in 410 and they were left to defend themselves against the Saxons. The Southern Anglo-Saxon areas of Britain became pagan. But the Western part of Britain stayed Christian, with the same Celtic type of Christianity as was in Ireland.
In 596, Gregory, the Bishop of Rome, sent Augustine and a team of 30 other monks from St Andrew’s monastery in Rome to England. They landed in Britain in 597. Although Christianity was already present, Gregory spoke of this as the foundation of the Church of England.
Just as Augustine found himself combining different traditions from Rome, from monasteries, from Celtic Christianity – so today’s Archbishop of Canterbury leads a church that combines Christian traditions from Rome, from monasteries, and from Celtic Christianity.
A lot of the traditions of Christ’s College can be traced to the spirituality of Augustine. Augustine also had a wise approach in converting people. He respected all that was already good in their lives. He transformed pagan temples into churches and transformed pagan celebrations into Christian ones.
Combine good in all you find: innovation and excellence wrapped in tradition.
“Middle Way” – not half way but combining. Not half way between spirituality and academic, but being engaged well in each dimension of our lives: spirituality, academic, physical, cultural, emotional.
Friday 25 May
Feast of the Venerable Bede – 8th Century English monk (we have a window representing him in our sanctuary)
The ideal of his lifestyle is echoed in the ideals of this school – very much holding things in balance. Spirituality, academic, social, cultural, physical.
1. We need to know history - including reflecting on our own individual history/story as a foundation towards the future
2. We need intelligent Christianity/spirituality
3. We need to find and make space in our increasingly busy lives
Monday 21 May
Today is the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
Reading: The Day of Pentecost, Acts 2
I spoke about travelling with my wife Helen for six years, experiencing a huge diversity of cultures and languages. I focused on Africa – going through the Sahara for three months; biking in the sub-Sahara; spending time with the Dogon people, who still produce rock art; travelling for two weeks on the Congo River with 2,000 people and 24-hour discos; hunting in the jungles with the Pygmies; seeing gorillas in the wild ... And how the one we call God – the mystery at the heart of the universe – creates diversity; and how we need not be afraid of diversity, but are enriched by it.