As Chaplain I was at a meeting recently when the discussion became bogged down in ‘models’ of chaplaincy: how each of the schools of those present organise and structure our function. To break the impasse, our host posed the question, “What is it that makes you a Uniting Church school?’. Formed in 1977, the Uniting Church is a distinctly Australian church with emphases on a practical, ‘doing’ faith, service and the involvement of its people. Where is that evident in our school?
There were several good answers around the table – most of which we would share at Westminster; that the Uniting Church is in our values, our foundations and heritage. Perhaps it is that we engage students in Chapel each week as part of their education and formation. Even the presence of a minister of the Uniting Church as Chaplain might be a feeble hint or sign.
One aspect of our community life that is remarkably strong and which we all celebrate is our culture. Staff, students and families often comment that Westminster is a wonderful place to be. They speak of Westminster as a kind, respectful, inclusive environment that gives faith a place. It is unseen, but unmistakable.
My answer to the question the meeting addressed was therefore different. At Westminster we know we are a Uniting Church organisation because it is in our culture. It is in being a School community marked by compassion and mutual care. These features of our community life have been forged over many years by the service, dedication and faith of many people. And we should safeguard and preserve them.
We see Uniting Church amongst us when students willingly and cooperatively work to shape and contribute to Chapel each week. We see it when students embrace their Indigenous colleagues in wonderful chapel services marking reconciliation. We see it when an Old Scholar unfortunately and sadly dies too young and over 200 of his family and friends return here for his final public farewell –these moments all drawn of this term’s activity at Westminster.
Strategies and planning are important, and often helpful. But Westminster as a Uniting Church school is in our DNA. It is who we are. The good that happens here occurs because of that.
Rev Phil Hoffmann