Our parish includes people engaged in schools, as well as other learning communities – universities, early learning centres, TAFE and U3A (a large provider of education programmes for seniors). So our ministry team asked:
“How can we best pray for leaders, students and staff in our early learning centres, schools and universities to encourage and bless them as they begin another year and celebrate the gift of education?”
By asking this simple question, our popular Celebration of Education service has emerged as one way our parish prays for students and their families at the beginning of the school year.
We held this service at 9.30am on Sunday 29 January, encouraging people in our community to invite anyone who would appreciate prayer for this annual milestone. We encourage everyone to see themselves as life-long learners, growing in life and faith and discipleship.
The Rev’d Canon Stewart Perry invited Ms Sherril Butterworth, Executive Director for the Anglican Schools Commission (ASC). Through Sherril, Vanessa Gamack and other ASC team members attended.
Stewart also invited principals and chaplains of four nearby Anglican schools – The Southport School, St Hilda’s School, Coomera Anglican College and All Saints’ Anglican School, as well as leaders of other schools whom we are connected to. Some of these people worship with us regularly. Many leaders joined us to intentionally worship and pray, along with people from their senior leadership teams.
Stewart also reached out to someone who is serving as principal in a regional Anglican school who is a member of our parish community. They joined in the service online, as they do most Sundays.
We gave thanks to God for the gift of learning and the opportunities of education for building God’s kingdom, commissioning everyone to lead and learn with God’s love throughout 2023.
What was also beautiful that Sunday was holding our quarterly welcome brunch for new people after the 9.30 morning service, offering hospitality to people who have recently joined our community, along with people who came for the special Celebration of Education service. Engagement between people after the service and over coffee was a joy to observe.
I’m a long-time advocate for schools and parishes working together. Our special service was a tangible and purposeful interaction between people whose common mission worshipping and serving in the Anglican tradition is the flourishing of families and individuals and making Christ known.
The benefits of this kind of service are many and significant – intergenerational connection, authentic faith formation for today’s world, and offering encouragement to teachers, children, young people and families in an ever-changing world.
To follow up, our video announcements on the next Sunday highlighted learning and child-focused ministry opportunities for people in our church community, including:
- Kids church planning
- Kids Hope mentoring for vulnerable children, partnering with Merrimac State School (the model is simple – one mentor, for one hour, with one child, each week)
- Teaching Christian religious education in local state primary schools
- “Washing angels” for the Kids Op Shop
- A new initiative for life-long learners (Conversations @ 5, to explore life and faith by diving deeper into Sunday’s gospel reading and sermon).
For parishes seeking connection with schools, taking the time to build relationships by meeting genuine needs is critical. And it’s so worth it – for everyone.
I reached out to people I had connections with, especially the chaplaincy and RaVE worship music team at Coomera Anglican College where I previously served. And they also joined in.
We were delighted by the response to our invitations. People came because what we were offering seemed to meet a need. At a busy time for leaders, staff and families, people appreciated putting aside time to mark the milestone of a new academic year, to pray and to celebrate the gift and privilege of education in an accessible and inclusive way.
The inclusive nature of the service was especially visible during intercessions. Stewart asked anyone who was a principal/director of a school to raise their hand, then anyone on staff in a learning institution, then people with children or grandchildren at school or universality, then anyone who borrowed from their local library or watched documentaries…until everyone had a hand up. People were then invited to stand as they were able, and we prayed for everyone – leaders, staff, students, young children, families, university students and people engaged in learning via alternate pathways.Jump to next article