I am not normally one to write blog posts whilst in an emotional state (except the misanthropic), but I need to refect on the day that I have just had.
I have spent the day at the school in Aylesbury where I serve as both chaplain and governor. It is has been a wonderful day for a panoply of reasons, among them:
1. Year Six Leaver's Assembly: Awards were given for a range of wonderful gifts and skills, most significantly for effort and good endeavour. Yes, there were cups for those who were good at sport and science, and rightly so - but the most poiganant awards went to those who bust a gut trying. It was my (painful/emotional) job to close the Assembly for them with a Blessing, painful because it is tough to let go, even to crowds of kids you don't really know very well. I reflected that in them we all have hope. I reflected on the quality of their characters in all the colours and hues they were made manifest, that grace poured out from them to us. It is my belief that if we invest in children properly, that the world might just be saved one little bit at a time.
2. The Headteacher Retired: Today was the day when the Head retired. I commented that she reminded me of the Good Shepherd: loving her flock, knowing them by name, laying down (all but) her life for them, looking for the lost sheep, and so on. I am part of that flock, a young(ish) Curate who entered her school after ordination petrified. I am now a gob on a stick thanks to her oversight and care for me. Even kids feel the pain of separation, and I can't be sure if the tears were for the leaving kids or for the leaving Head. Oh Lord, how I wish I could bottle the purity and intensity of care and connection that children have for and with others, whom they trust with just about anything.
3. Being mobbed: I have worked my socks off to be a positive clergy presence in the school. I am there with collar as often as I can be, and when I am, I am a normal human being. I don't do needless piety or waffly kid-centric theology. We have fun and we 'do theology' at the same time. At three points today, this 38 year old priest, in blacks and collar, was being chased by well over a hundred screaming kids around the school field. They loved it, and so did I - what a remarkable privilege to be a priest whom kids are not afraid of, or diffident about. Maybe I have had the the good fortune to convince some children that being a God-botherer is ok, a bit fun, acceptable even - possible maybe. These moments were among the Magic Moments of Vicarring.
4. Leaves from the Prayer Tree: Kids are so instinctively altruistic. The things they they hold in their prayers are remarkably mature and insightful. There was a simple prayer saying 'thanks for pencils', for example - that is one child who does not take the richness of the gift of their education for granted. I recieve them termly and pray over them at church so that they have a way of 'processing' them meaningfully. They pray for those in need and for loved ones, quite without prompt and in private (the tree is in the main hallway and accessible at all times). If I could pray like a child, my own flock would be the better off I think.
I nearly cried (fool that I am) at one point when addressing a full school hall. Our children are the best asset that we have as a society. They are real and pure and believable and honest in a way that adults simply are not. Perhaps childhood is wasted on the young, I don't know - but I know that I would love to be seven-year-old again. Tonight (heat and twins allowing), I will sleep safe in the knowledge that the world we live in isn't quite on the edge of peril as I had once feared.
May God bless those and all children as they start their holidays. May they find rest, live in safety and surrounded by love, and may they return safely next term. Amen