This week’s message is written by Jane Borgeaud, who joined the Diocese of Gloucester on 1 September as the Director of Education.
Mentioning the start of the year in my family has the potential to cause a little confusion. There is of course the start of the calendar year: 1 January. Or is my father, the accountant, talking about the new tax year, starting on 6 April? Are the churchgoers in the family referring to the first Sunday of Advent: the start of the Christian year?
Of course, for schools in England, and their staff and pupils, it is September that marks the new year and the new opportunities and challenges that it offers. It is a very great privilege to begin my own new chapter alongside them, as your new Diocesan Director of Education.
While new jobs, new school years and the like are very visible new starts, the Christian faith offers constant opportunities for renewal. Each day, each moment, can be a time to turn to Christ and set out refreshed in new dedication to worship and service. Perhaps the list of different new starts above is therefore not too long and confusing, but rather too limiting to allow us to see the opportunities we are offered to begin new chapters with Christ.
As I contemplate all the children stepping forward into new chapters, the verse that springs to mind is Matthew 18:1-3, which speaks of entering the kingdom of heaven like little children. I have heard many interpretations of this verse in sermons over the years. However, as a teacher and parent, I have always tussled with understanding what this passage asks me to do, because the simple fact is that no two children are alike. As I cast my mind back over all the children who have entered my classroom for the first time, I remember the ones without a care in the world, the ones with the weight of the world on their shoulders, the timid ones, the brave ones and the ones whose bravado hid their fears. Yet even that is an oversimplification: the same child will react differently from day to day and lesson to lesson. The most confident child will encounter a situation that feels too much, and the most timid will find new confidence in a particular activity or conversation.
In reality, are we adults not the same: each unique and each with different feelings and levels of strength at different stages of our life, or even our day? And perhaps this is exactly the point: God meets us exactly as we are, exactly where we are, and invites us to a renewing, loving and beautifully challenging relationship with Him. As Jennifer beautifully puts it in the invitation to the Diocese ‘Pray like Hannah’ initiative, starting in November, God invites us to see things from His perspective and helps us through both hard times and amazing times.
May I invite you, then, to join with me in praying today for our schools and for each individual within them, whether adult or child, as they begin the new school year and live, love and learn together?