I started primary school at the age of 5 at Hororata School. Hororata is a rural district about 30 minutes drive from from the western edge of Christchurch city. The school began in 1870 and so its 150th jubilee was in 2020. Celebrations were planned for March 2020 but Covid-19 put paid to that. So the celebrations were held over this past weekend.
It is something of a custom in NZ school jubilees which last across a whole weekend for a Sunday morning church service to be part of the programme even though our state school system is secular.
A service was part of the weekend's programme. The service was held at the school, led by the Reverend Jenni Carter, Vicar of Hororata, with the sermon preached by me. The scripture reading was John 1:1-14. Below is a shortened version of what I said.
School Jubilee (21 March 2021)
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming
into the world. (John 1:9)
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.
I am Peter Carrell. My early upbringing was in Hororata
because my father, Brian was Vicar of Hororata from 1960-1965.
Hororata has a special place in my heart and I have many
memories, despite being very young, of life in this beautiful district.
I started school at Hororata School when I turned 5 in the
middle of November 1964.
I remember being worried before I started that I didn’t have
a school bag – in those days, a leather satchell with a shoulder strap.
My Mum assured me it would be fine but I couldn’t see where
it was and there were no trips planned into Christchurch shops.
Nor did I have the ability to foresee that it was all
arranged that it would be a birthday present for me and thus be ready for day
one at school.
We lived in the old vicarage opposite St John’s so the trip
to school involved catching the school bus.
I don’t remember lots about my two and a half terms at
Hororata School but I remember that we learned some things which didn’t involve
reading, writing and arithmetic.
One of those was to tie our shoelaces for ourselves. Another was learning how to knit.
There was also something that happened when I was at Hororata
School which has affected the way I have lived ever since.
Back in that day the government ensured that there was free
milk for every pupil. So daily a delivery of half pint bottles of milk would
arrive and at morning break we had to drink our bottle.
But the delivery would be placed – as I recall – on the main
school building porch and if the sun was shining the milk would get warmed up.
I found warm milk was revolting and to this day I can only
drink milk if it is fresh and from the fridge!
Hororata School like all schools was and is a place of
Last night [at a dinner] Shaun Clarke spoke eloquently of the values
learnt at Hororata School –
- values which serve ex pupils well as we make our
way through life
and values that from a global perspective should
not be taken for granted.
But where do these values come from –
values which, for example, value human life and
value humans working together for the common good?
A British historian, Tom Holland, in a recent book called
Dominion, mounts an impressive case that the values we admire and propagate
through our secular school system are the result of Christianity.
That is, if Christianity never started as a movement and
became a dominant force in European politics and culture, the values of the
world, including in Aotearoa NZ, would be very different.
In the Scripture reading this morning, as St John introduces
his readers to his presentation of Jesus and characterises him as the Word – as
the supreme communication of God into the world – we heard these words:
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into
Tom Holland’s book Dominion presents the case for these
words being historically true: the influence of Jesus through the Christian movement he founded has
extended to the whole world.
It is something of a custom in Aotearoa NZ to have a church
service as part of a secular school jubilee weekend.
Perhaps the most important reason for doing so is that a
jubilee is an occasion for giving thanks and a church service is a means of
expressing that thanksgiving –
appreciation for all the good that flows from
the presence of a school in a community;
appreciation for all the benefits of education
in our lives as pupils and ex pupils.
But a service such as this service today is also an
opportunity to reflect on the future of school, of community and of society as
My question for that future is how long we can maintain our
commitment to the values we cherish if we have no connection to the origin of
those values, to Jesus Christ the true light of God.
May God through the light of Jesus bless Hororata School in
its journey through the next 150 years.