Thursday, 23 February 2017

School

(c) gostudy.co.nz
I spent some of this week assisting my friend and colleague, Anne Van Gend of the Anglican Schools Office, in conducting a Special Character review of Rathkeale College, an Anglican boys school near Masterton. Rathkeale is an integrated school, which means that while the buildings and grounds  are independently  owned, in this case by the Trinity Schools Trust Board, the teaching staff is paid by the government. The partnership is embodied in an agreement between the proprietor and the state, the deed of integration, in which both parties agree that the state syllabus will be taught and all required educational standards adhered to while allowing the school to retain a distinctive character of its own; namely, that its life and work will be consistent with the teachings of the Anglican Church. The reviews Anne conducts, by invitation, provide an assessment of how well the school is adhering to this agreement. A report will be written in due course, and I am not going to pre-empt it here, but I will say that I greatly enjoyed being at Rathkeale, and was pretty darned impressed.

There is the sheer beauty of the campus for a start. The school has a stand of native forest and a wetland which the boys are in the process of replanting and restoring. There is a Greek theatre and a ropes course and a jaw droppingly pretty cricket oval. There is a football academy and an impressive history of academic achievement. But from my perspective, what took me by surprise was the easy way staff, board members and students spoke of and tried to live out their faith. There is a rigorously promoted anti-bullying policy. There is a programme of community service and an after hours youth group which attracts scores of students. At an assembly I attended, after all the usual assembly type stuff, the principal ended by praying for a student who had, the day before, taken ill and been hospitalised.
***
We walk with the young chaplain through the bushland to the small semi circular stand of Redwoods where he sometimes conducts worship. He's American, so we can forgive his love of these  exotics interposed amongst the totara and kahikatea, and the place does feel still and holy. We follow him to the small, rustic, wooden building set amongst the trees which serves as his classroom. The boys are waiting outside and he greets them, shaking their hands as they file one by one inside, using their names and mentioning, as often as not, some small personal snippet. Nice bowling on Saturday. How is your sister now? Are you ready for the history test? The class room is modestly furnished and decorated. He takes the roll by asking each to state the most positive thing that has happened for them in the past week. Then he stands and moves, seamlessly, into a telling of the myth of Theseus in which several of the boys are cast as the dramatis personae; and then, with the whole class engaged, we are suddenly into an animated discussion of what makes me ME? The boys are doing theology and they hardly even know it, engaging with the great questions of consciousness and its relationship to materiality, and realising how complex and deep and how interesting the concepts are. They leave the classroom still animated, still talking of the issues raised. Anne is smiling. She is the originator of the syllabus he is using and, while it is still very much under development, it is thrilling to see it so competently and powerfully taught.

I walked away from the classroom knowing that one of the things I would dearly love to do in retirement is to be involved in the development of this syllabus. A pastoral concern drew me home a day earlier than I had planned, but I flew back South more hopeful about the church than I have felt in a very long time.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

“. . to be involved in the development of this syllabus”
Hey Kelvin. Being retired is the time to kick back and relax. If you want to take a walk you don’t have to fly to Spain to do it. If you want to meditate you don’t have to hang out with some weird people in the mountains of Colorado. If you want to be a Christian you don’t have to be a Bishop. Time to step back and let the young people take control.

Kelvin Wright said...

"Being retired is the time to kick back and relax."

Well, that's certainly an interesting perspective,anonymous, and one that I hadn't really considered. I'll give it some thought. There. Thought given. Nope.

I tend to think that retirement isn't about stopping so much as stopping needing to be paid for it. Which brings an enormous freedom to do what I want to and what I think God wants me to do, which is continue on the journey I set out on over 40 years ago.

I certainly intend to go back to Spain, because although I can and do take a walk anytime, Northern Spain is uniquely set up for pilgrimage (not exactly the same thing) like nowhere else on earth. And I don't think the Camino is finished with me yet.

I don't think I'll go back to Snowmass, even though I'd dearly love to. The particular lessons and conversations of that specific place have been given, and though they were exactly what I needed a year or two ago, don't need to be repeated.

In developing the new theological curriculum for secondary schools, I don't think Anne has been rushed off her feet with offers of help from young people. There's an enormous task to be done, and it's one I would have no pretensions to being in charge of. If you want to help shape it and have some pedagogical and/or theological expertise to offer, and are willing to put in some time for nothing,I'm sure she'd love to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

Kelvin - thanks for presumptuous secondhand offer Let me think about it?
Say, I was just wondering if you have ever had a DNA profile done? Many people in England have DNA roots in northern Spain. This probably goes back to the time when the England ruled over that area. Maybe that it is an attraction for you.

Kelvin Wright said...

:)
I have some French, but no Spanish ancestry that I know of. The Spanish would be pretty surprised and indignant at the suggestion that they were ever ruled by the English. (even the Navarrese, Gallicians, Asturians and Basques in the North who don't actually consider themselves to be Spanish)Spanish DNA in the UK comes from the time of the Armada. After being defeated by Sir Francis Drake the Armada sailed home the long way, North round Scotland and then South round Wales. Many ships were wrecked on the way and the crews abandoned to their fate. The survivors swam ashore, and integrated themselves into the nearest English village.

I go because the Camino Santiago is such a wonderful experience, and it becomes a bit addictive. I have only walked 3 of the principal routes, so there's another 6 or so to go.

Anonymous said...

Probably not the Armada, I think more likely the Angevin Empire

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3000998/Are-Welsh-truest-Brits-English-genomes-contain-German-French-DNA-Romans-left-no-trace.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angevin_Empire

Kelvin Wright said...

The Angevin Empire never extended beyond the Pyrenees. It had nothing to do with the Kingdoms which would, some time later, become Spain.

Merv said...

Some words just roll off the tongue like honey - say 'shalom' and 'tena koe' and 'Wyoming'.
I've always thought 'Rathkeale' to be one of those.

Alden Smith said...

I have now been retired for 3 years and a good retirement rule of thumb for me has been that there are really no rules of thumbs. Some doors open and other doors close. Sometimes I can control the doors, sometimes I can’t. One advantage of retirement is having a bit more time to feel, think, do and be; this includes weighing up the well meaning advice of others - I listen to some, pass over others.

I am always aware that my path and experience is unique and that the old cliche ‘listen in the silence to the small, still voice’ has been as useful a tool along the way as just listening to the silence and not thinking at all.

Kelvin Wright said...

Indeed they do, Merv. "Honey" being one of them. Barcelona. Lindisfarne. Bungalow. Felicity. Redolent. Umbrella. Sumptuous. Love. Lithe.Inglenook.Lissom. And, yes, Rathkeale.

Kelvin Wright said...

Well, Alden, so far it looks like the agenda is not open to a lot of choice. The house needs a paint. Most of the big, white,electrically powered things in the kitchen are stuffed. And so is the kitchen for that matter. Clemency and I had a leisurely stroll around our garden yesterday noting the things that need to be rectified now that we both have the time. We've got to buy a car. We want to buy a caravan. The deck needs to be sanded and restained. I have a pile of books bought over the past couple of years that sit unread and accusing in a pile on my desk. And Spain is calling - loudly and insistently. That should take care of the first year.

And 2018? I remember a conversation I had with you a year or two back about things we might like to do before decrepitude and impecuniousness engulf us. The ones involving motorcycles probably wont make it past my censors, but bicycling the course of the Rhine? Taking that boat of yours somewhere? Taking a trip North from Vancouver Island? What do you reckon?

Alden Smith said...

I have found that retirement agendas and agendas within agendas take the nature of beads being threaded onto an endless piece of string. What has worked for me is to on occasion squash a few together and on others spread them far apart which allows lots of space in between. The cunning part is the endless piece of string which allows for some big spaces.

I agree about the motorcycles mainly because of the amount of noise that is involved, I find myself drawn more than usual now to places of peace and natural beauty.

All of the ideas you mention would be real starters with me especially the idea of cycling in Europe. Our son in law and daughter are in the UK at the moment and the length of his PhD work and other domestic events mean we will be visiting the Northern Hemisphere on more than one occasion over the coming years - which leaves a number of opportunities for cycling (Something my arthritis doesn't scream out loud about).

kiwianglo said...

Dear Bishop,
I've been officially retired from full-time ministry now for 22 years - apart from a half-time stretch at Wanaka when you were CViarr-General with Bishop George in hospital.

What keeps me going is being part of a parish in Christchurch with the Daily Eucharist, in which I share the priestly ministry. I am still able (and allowed by the vicar) to sing the Gospel at the occasional Sunday High Mass, and take my share in conducting Evensong and Benediction on Sundays. This activity, and the people with whom I am privileged to share in it, serve to keep me relatively young and focussed. I can recommend it.

There is, of course, also the fact that I am no longer a 'priest-in-charge' of anything - a factor that keeps the stress level low. However, I do have my liberal-leaning blog at kiwianglo, which keeps me out of mischief (mostly). Do ENJOY your retirement. Agape!

Kelvin Wright said...

Thanks, kiwianglo. Being part of a parish is going to be a bit of a transition. It's been about 40 years since I have been a parishioner anywhere, that is, since I've been in a church where there was no expectation that I would lead and teach. I guess I'll be attending my local parish church, and perhaps I'll eventually be on some sort of roster there, if the Priest in Charge and the new Bishop are willing. I have had a number of enquiries to see if I might think about doing things away from St.Michael's Anderson's Bay, but we'll wait and see what happens.

Brian Kelly said...

"(even the Navarrese, Gallicians, Asturians and Basques in the North who don't actually consider themselves to be Spanish)"

- or do they consider themselves to be Spanish but not Castilian?

"Spanish DNA in the UK comes from the time of the Armada. After being defeated by Sir Francis Drake the Armada sailed home the long way, North round Scotland and then South round Wales."

- Are you sure about this? I have always thought and taught that the returning Armada went around Ireland - and I have been to a site on the Antrim coast where some Armada ships were wrecked, and the recovered treasure trove is in the Ulster Museum. They didn't go into the Irish Sea - far too dangerous. Nor did Drake "defeat" the Armada - he harried them in the Channel until they put into Calais for repairs, where fireships drove them out into the North Sea and up around Scotland, where a great hurricane - 'the Protestant Wind' commemorated in the medallion with its text 'The Lord sent the wind and they were scattered'.

"Many ships were wrecked on the way and the crews abandoned to their fate. The survivors swam ashore, and integrated themselves into the nearest English village."
- Maybe in Catholic Gaeltacht Ireland but not likely for their deadly enemy, Protestant England in 1588. My romantically-minded mother believed that my Ulster-born Catholic father had Armada blood in him, and I wish it was true, but I suspect it has more to do with her taste in fiction.

Kelvin Wright said...

Fair points, all, Brian. The extent to which the Northerners regard themselves as Spanish varies. In the Basque Country you will never EVER see a Spanish flag flying and the Basque flag is everywhere. There is graffiti on the walls and the roads in Spanish and English and Basque: "You are not in Spain". We conversed with a Basque woman. "Spain is so pretty" we said. "True, she replied, "But how do you like our country?"In Asturias the ratio of Spanish to Asturian flags rises to about 50/50 and to be honest I don't even know what the Galician flag looks like. They are all autonomous districts. And I understand nationalist feeling runs high amongst some Catalans also, but I haven't spent enough time there to really know.

As to the armada etc., you may be right. It's one of those things I have "known" for ages and may be wrong about. I know there are Scots and Welsh who claim descent from Armada sailors, but I've never actually researched it. Another wee retirement project! As to whether the Armada was defeated, well that's a matter of interpretation of the word "Defeat". A fleet was not able to fulfill its intended mission and returned in disarray having lost a considerable number of ships in battle and to shipwreck. Is that being harried or defeated? Your call.

Kelvin Wright said...

Acrually, now that I think of it, I do know what the Galician flag looks like. It's on heaps of souvenirs.

Brian Kelly said...

The Armada was certainly defeated in the sense you mention, in that it failed to fulfil its objective, to pick up the 30,000 Spanish troops of the Duke of Alba in the Spanish Netherlands as the invasion force for England.
Drake did inflict some damage in the Channel but I have long wondered if hi role has been over-stated; it was the fire-ships at Calais (I forget who sent them) which caused the Spanish to abandon the project and set sail and it was the hurricane that devastated many on the Irish coast (and maybe Scotland as well).
As for Spain, I've only been to Andalusia and Barcelona and certainly very many Catalans are agitating for independence, helped by their buoyant economy. The Catalan language is very much alive but it isn't spoken outside Catalunya. I wouldn't want to hazard a guess how thins will go in the next few years: Europe is entering a very unsettled period.