Rev. Andrew Scott commissions Mrs Duthie as principal by Kelk Photography

Chaplaincy

The school year began with a lovely Commencement Service at Knox Church. Rev. Dr K. Enright spoke to us about a young girl called Tārore in a story of faith, forgiveness and the spread of the gospel.

The Service of Installation for our Prefects and Year 13 students focused on the importance of servant leadership. Just like a senior staff member stopping to sew a button on a student’s blazer, servant leadership is about commitment and bringing out the best in others. 

In our weekly Chapel Services, we spent most of Term 1 working through sections of Psalm 139. This beautiful poem was written about 3000 years ago by King David; a man who faced significant opposition at times in his life. In the poem, David recalls that God truly understands him – quite a contrast to the quick and often superficial judgements we encounter in contexts such as social media. David had a sense of God’s love surrounding him, like a big safe down jacket. We considered the value of true and loyal friends, friends who talk to us rather than talking about us, and that God has made each of us for a purpose.

Following the tragic events in Christchurch on March 15, all students were given opportunity to write thoughts, prayers and responses on paper hearts and doves. Sara Hashemi Oskoei co-ordinated the sale of black ribbons as a fundraising effort and Emily Hill, Citizenship Prefect, organised students to write messages of support to produce ‘Paper Chains of Love.’ A group of Year 13 students then took these contributions to Al Huda Mosque the following Friday. Hanin Taha wrote a thoughtful speech, which she read courageously during assembly, and she taught Dr J. Macleod how to say the school blessing in Arabic.

The term ended with a dramatic rendition of scenes from the Easter story, with thanks to Mr J. Chambers and a group of Year 13 students. Easter is a story of people who failed: Judas, who betrayed his best friend, the disciples, who were too scared to speak up, and the crowds, who wanted to stay on the right side of those with social influence. Even Jesus seemed to fail in his mission. Thankfully, the story did not end there and the Easter story is one of hope – hope that God is greater than our failures and greater even than death.

The Commissioning of Mrs P. Duthie as Principal was a wonderful occasion with which to start the second term. The service was hosted at Knox Church by Rev. Dr Enright. The late Mr T. Pōtiki welcomed us warmly in a mihi whakatau, which was followed by a beautiful wiata from his daughter, Rīpeka Pōtiki. We reflected on bring forth ‘treasures old and new’ (Matthew 13:52) in the life of Columba College. Rev. A. Scott, Moderator of Southern Presbytery, conducted the Commissioning with the support of other members of Southern Presbytery, the Board of Governors, the Board of Trustees, senior staff and representatives from John McGlashan College.

Our Saint Columba Day Celebrations provided the opportunity to remember the founders of the College. As early as 1900, Rev. A Whyte advocated for a Presbyterian college for girls, stressing the importance of girls’ education and advocating for schooling ‘within the atmosphere of the church.’ Mrs C. Freeman, the Miller sisters and Miss F. Ross all had significant roles in the founding of Columba. This task took vision, effort, persistence and teamwork; there was a cost to establishing a community. In Ephesians 4:1-6, the Apostle Paul reminds us that these same qualities are required for maintaining good communities. We need to contribute to something greater than ourselves.

The Saint Columba Day Service at First Church was led admirably by the newly-appointed Rev. E. Masters. The service fell on Pentecost Sunday, the day in the Church Calendar when we commemorate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the Church. Dr Macleod led worship and the readings were in keeping with the theme of Pentecost. Rev. Masters spoke to us on the importance of listening, without which we cannot communicate effectively or have good relationships. The Junior Choir, conducted by Ms A. Leese, sang beautifully during the offering.

While students in Years 9-13 sat their mid-year examinations, members of the Junior School had special Chapel service. Year 8 students took the roles usually assigned to Prefects and carried out their responsibilities admirably. In keeping with the season of Matariki, we considered that God is bigger than the biggest things, like stars and galaxies, yet still cares about the little things, even the things that other people don’t notice. We have the opportunity to join in with what God is doing by caring for and including people who are sad or lonely.

During our Cultural Heritage week, we had a special Chapel Service that focused on hearing the perspectives of others. Approximately 50 students from a range of cultural backgrounds were interviewed by Dr Macleod. They answered two questions: ‘What is something that you like about Kiwi culture?’ and ‘What is something that you wish Kiwis/Pākeha knew or did?’ The responses were read anonymously by the Prefects in what was a thought-provoking and even challenging service. As a school community we are very grateful for the courage of those who contributed from their various cultural perspectives. We all learnt something and hope to use this knowledge well.

Weekly Chapel Services in Term 3 revisited a theme from the previous year. Paul’s famous passage on love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a) is often read at weddings, but it is a description of the sort of love that is the basis of good community and all healthy relationships. We considered the challenges of resentment and irritation, and the harm that these attitudes do to others and ourselves. The importance of the truth and the refusal to rejoice in wrongdoing have been exemplified powerfully by the work of Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and others. Ms C. Hillier generously spoke to us about the importance of this passage in her life and in the life of her wonderful Nan. As we consider 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, two things stand out: we are called to demonstrate this sort of love because community and relationships are so very important; and that as we give this love to others, we can know that it is the nature of the love that God has for us.

The Junior Spring Service was, as always, a highlight of the third term. Year 0-6 pupils sang beautifully under the leadership of Ms Leese, accompanied ably by Samuel Leaper. We saw some lovely displays of art and heard compelling readings of poems and of Scripture. As we thought about our own enjoyment of creativity, we reflected on God’s joy in making good things. God likes making good things so much that He even likes making good things out of our mistakes – and we can always ask Him for help.

As the third term drew to a close, we enjoyed hearing the welcome and Bible reading in Te Reo during Māori Language week; having some Year 12 students lead us in a service that was both fun and thought provoking; and acknowledging the retirement of Mrs C. West by singing her favourite hymn, Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer. Term 4 holds our Leavers’ Service, donating Christmas boxes to Presbyterian Support, a focus on the Christmas story and the build-up to our annual Carol Service at First Church.

There are many who support and contribute to the Chapel Services at Columba College. Acknowledgements go to the Prefects for their positive and ever-helpful attitude as they deliver their ‘Last Word’ speeches, work with the Chaplain to co-author the Chapel prayers and take on various roles at special services. Particular acknowledgement goes to Annia Tomkins, who has been a genuine, compassionate and committed Chapel Prefect. Many senior students have served as ushers and helped in a range of ways, including reading poems at our ANZAC Service. Quite a number of students in the middle school have brought us Bible readings and it has been delightful to have Sienna Harper playing the guitar. The school community continues to make a significant contribution to the Presbyterian Support Foodbank and Morgan Trelevan led a fantastic project in which more than 200 hand-knitted peggy squares were made into blankets for Presbyterian Support. Finally, many thanks go to Mr R. Madden for playing the piano so faithfully and with such skill and flair; we will miss you.

Dr J. Macleod

Chaplain