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.
Hororata 150th 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 learning.
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 the world.
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 a whole.
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.