I have to confess that I’ve shed a few tears this week. The nice sort. The sort you cry when you have an overwhelming sense of the beauty of something, of the privilege of a moment, of the talent exuding from the people before you. The sort you cry when your faith is strengthened, you are brought closer to colleagues and children, and when you feel proud.
The richness of the carol service will be one of my highlights of 2017. As a service it was meticulously planned to take us through the background and full meaning of some very well-known carols. The children who spoke did so by heart and from the heart and it was no coincidence that the whole service ended with a song called the “Heart of Christmas” which sums up what we are called to do at all times but especially at Christmas.
“Will you find a way on this holiday to share with someone, a child with no home, a person alone, a family hungry for love?”
My own heart was moved by the eloquence of the children leading prayers, by their thinking and writing captured and shared, and by the polished and eager performances from choirs, ensembles and staff. Our pleasure came from theirs as well as the quality of what we heard.
Through poetry, prayer and music sung in four languages we were reminded of the need for a spiritual compass in our broken world, of the many nations, in which people worship and we experienced the powerful ways that music and worship bring people together.
We remembered that Jesus was in fact a kind of refugee and that he was displaced, born outside marriage and had the humblest of settings to start his life.
Perhaps the most important gift we can give this Christmas could be to someone like him, poor and far from home who needs our help.
It was an extraordinary service and words truly do not do justice to how special it was. Nonetheless it’s thank you to all who created it and made it perfect; to Rev Di, Laura Shield, Jack Bennett, Rob Maslin and Emily Balcombe, to the Estates Team who ferried equipment and instruments and cleared it all up, to Danny who played the organ and Liz and Ann who opened the church and welcomed us and of course a magnificent chorus of thanks from on high for Gordon Baird who year on year lifts this celebration to a new level.
On Monday our snow procedures were tested and worked. Congratulations to the Estates Team, who worked tirelessly to salt and grit and clear the snow.
Tuesday’s play in the snow day saw a lot of wet, happy and tired children going home at the end of it.
Our Christmas lunch on Wednesday was fabulous, festive and fun. In our final assembly we thanked all of our Admin, Catering and Estates staff with a gift from us all.
Then as we draw to the end of a busy term, we say goodbye and thank you to the fabulous Anna Collier who has been an exceptional maternity cover teacher in Kindergarten, to Sarah Stokes and Sophie as they move to Copenhagen and Jill Coulstock as she moves house and begins a new life by the sea.
In the New Year we will celebrate the extraordinary explosion of creative talents of the pupils in Years 3 to 6 as some of the best of the first homework challenge presentations are shared with the school in my assemblies.
I’m delighted and almost overwhelmed by the energy, variety and creativity of our first homework challenge and I know for certain that this new element of our homework policy is a life changer.
Today as a foretaste, I watched Georgie explain, present and perform her homework challenge, “Malala rap” delivered with style and by heart. Georgie’s rap took her small audience through Malala’s life story, through the politics and the brutality of the Taliban and the bravery and hope of someone who fought for what she believed and nearly lost her life so doing. Tomorrow we will watch another challenge in our final assembly as Sophie expresses her conflicting emotions on leaving the school through a devised dance piece that she’s been working on and will perform. I can honestly say that something extraordinary happens at St Michael’s every day and this makes me and everyone here so proud and happy.
To all the children and parents I extend my very best wishes for a peaceful and happy Christmas with lots of music and time together. To my colleagues I extend my very deep gratitude for their excellent and unstinting work. They all deserve a complete rest.
Happy Christmas, everyone and a very happy New Year.