As we all are aware, every word from John Perkins’ mouth is sincere – whether on this occasion they are true, or not, I will leave others to decide. It has been a privilege, and at most times a pleasure, to work with John and other members of the Humanities Faculty over the past fifteen years.
It has been most satisfying to be a part of the development of a Religious Studies Department that, fifteen years ago, was somewhat of a Cinderella set-up. I doubt whether anyone today would similarly describe it as such (there are no “ugly sisters”, probably no “Prince Charming”, perhaps a pre-occupation with shoes, but we have had a bit of a ball).
For the previous fifteen Summer-term holidays and end-of-year lunches, I have sat in this centre and wondered what it would be like to have to respond to a farewell from the school. Now I know!
A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a colleague, during which she asked me if I had, already prepared my leaving speech. I answered in the negative. The colleague then proffered me the advice to “keep it light” (note: she did not say “keep it short”). Obviously, this colleague has a keen awareness of character.
I am not too sure Ruth if I can easily “do light”, but I do trust that what follows will not be too “heavy”!
Those of you who know something about me, other than what you have seen and experienced at school, will know that I have had the required three careers:
- I began my working life as a servant of the Australian Federal Government – working with telecommunications (I believe I am on the records of ASIO – the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation).
My middle working life saw me being a servant of the Christian Church. I was an ordained Minister of Religion – a priest, a vicar, a clergyman, pastor, a “reverend person”.
In 1996 I started my third career as a servant of the British Government’s Ministry of Education, as a teacher at Campion School. The very day I started this third professional phase, I “defrocked” myself, dropped the “Rev.” and became a plain and simple “doctor”. As such I have been known to successive staff and students of this school – except maybe Alan Hackett who, occasionally, calls me “Rev” or “Father”. The temptation has been to reply, “Yes, my son?” Our traditions, if not our ages, hold a strong influence over us.
I have sometimes been asked if “I have ever missed the Church?”
Now, I might have missed the Class A social status of being a vicar, the opportunity to harangue a silent congregation for twenty minutes on a Sunday, and to have every Monday away from the office. However, I have never missed the subsistence level salary, the guilt of perhaps misrepresenting the Christian Deity with what I said from time to time, or the need to always vicariously strive to please those whom I was meant to be serving.
But, the answer to the question “have I missed the Church?” is an emphatic “No!” Why would I miss the Church when I have had a church right here at Campion?
The largest ever single church congregation over which I exercised a leadership function was in the Central Baptist Church in the City of Adelaide. It was 200-300 strong. But…I have taught around that number of students every year at Campion and, if desired, I could harangue them every lesson! At this school, in this church, we have a total staff and student membership of around 1600, which is large enough to not even begin to feel guilty about not having pleased everyone.
There have been special moments which have brought together my previous and present roles. Sharing the lives of staff and students is much the same in every walk of life – even if the counsel or solutions are seen to be different. A couple of examples may be illustrative.
Several years ago, I received an award from a Year 11 Tutor Group. They called it the “Teacher-Preacher Award”. Apart from showing the wisdom and taste that can sometimes shine through with a Year 11 group, it also possibly indicated to me that “You can take the boy out of the Church, but not the church out of the boy”.
Following last year’s Creativity Week here at Campion, I received a letter from a Year 7 student in which he commented on one of my lessons. He considered it to be the best of the week for him. He felt that the lesson was fun; had taught him many things about the Olympic Games, with videos, pencil drawings and the laminating of pictures – clearly good teaching methods!