“Being you is not just about you”
When I first came to this role some three-and-a-half years ago I was quite astonished at the heavy emphasis upon what I would term ‘the primacy of the individual’. The thinking that I found amongst students when they had the opportunity to lead Chapel was an emphasis upon ‘me’; my rights as an individual, my freedoms to decide. At every chance they had, students wanted to play the song “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman”, which includes the words “When the sharpest words wanna cut me down … I'm gonna drown 'em out, I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I'm meant to be … this is me”.
Now, this is not an altogether bad thing. In its context in the musical, ‘This is Me’ is a ‘rise up’ anthem, refusing to be put upon for body shape or size. It is important that students develop confidence and self-esteem, that they learn responsibility for their own actions and choices.
But more than this, I am aware that such individualism is a hallmark of the age we live in; the age of the individuals’ right to decide. This itself is a challenge to faith - which is held in common - and thus, a factor in the decline of corporate church attendance and practice. And the strength of the sentiment in our student population surprised me. Admittedly, I was coming from twenty years leading in local congregational ministry, which bore a significant emphasis on the needs and hopes of a community of people.
So it has been heartening for me as Chaplain that our 2021 Year 12 Leaders have an emphasis on how we live together as a school community – building relationships of respect and equality. School Captain Aidan Ross said it well at this year’s Commencement Assembly at which Leaders were inducted: “We all want to fit in, and we all want to be accepted, but being you is not just about you. You can only be you if you feel comfortable doing so and that has as much to do with you as your support crew and the community you are a part of”. This reflection has been our focus in Chapel this last week: less ‘This is Me’ and more ‘This is Us’.
Rev Phil Hoffmann