It is an annual tradition that the Archbishop of Sydney invites Anglican schools to commission their prefects each year at a large gathering in the city. 

This year, 35 Anglican schools tested the limits of St Andrew's Cathedral as hundreds filled the centre, sides and gallery of the building. They came from the South Coast, the southwest, all parts of the city and just across the Cathedral Square to be commissioned and question Archbishop Kanishka Raffel about leadership.

"The instruction is, ‘Practice humility in the service of others’," said the Archbishop, paraphrasing Paul's words in Philippians 2:3 as he began his address. 

"Now I'm very, very glad indeed that our Anglican schools are open places and diverse places, which include people of all kinds of backgrounds and dispositions. So I know that not everyone here will identify as a person holding to the Christian faith. Nevertheless, I assume that you would all be happy to affirm these words that I've just read."

The Roman world, the world into which Jesus was born, did not regard humility as a virtue at all 

The Archbishop went on to point out that Western culture still largely approves of humility as a virtue, citing the fact that, in Australia, the quiet achiever is still a heroic figure.  

"The Roman world, the world into which Jesus was born, did not regard humility as a virtue at all,” he told the students. “The ancient world prized honour and reputation and status. The Roman world regarded humility – lowering yourself to serve others – as shameful and disgraceful. 

“But when Paul writes to the first Christian church in Europe, he's saying something not just surprising and strange, but something shameful and disgraceful – something that would never have been said to a community or an individual. In humility, value others above yourself, ‘not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of others’ (Phil 2:4)." 

The students had morning tea together in Sydney Square (photo above), followed by the Q and A session and, later, several selfies and group photos with the Archbishop.

The theme of humble service ran through the whole assembly, with the Archbishop fielding questions from prefects about his own leadership and conversion to Christ.

One of the questions asked by students was how leaders should handle testing situations.

“I think one of the most testing contexts is simply failure," Archbishop Raffel said. "When you make a mistake, when you get something wrong, when you say something you shouldn't have said because you didn't know the whole story, when you made an assumption about a person which was untrue. 

The more leadership responsibility you have, the more likely it is that something will go wrong. It is inevitable that you will get the decisions wrong at some point. The test is, can you own up to it? Can you go to the person and say, ‘I was wrong, I'm sorry’?”

He assured the students from personal experience that "People generally are not used to someone who has a leadership position come to them and say, 'I'm sorry I got it wrong... will you forgive me?' People are not used to that happening and I've never met a person who said, 'No, I won't forgive you'. They will actually trust you more because they know that if something happens again they can talk to you about it and you're not going to be angry or defensive or deny it. That is really hard but it's really important." 

A Christian testimony was given by Roseville College student Abbey Sherwood (above) who spoke of the pressures the student leaders would face in the HSC year. 

"In the moments where school or life is stressful, remember that God is real," she told the assembly. "Know that he will never leave you nor forsake you in times of stress or doubt. Know that he loves you more than the times you stuff up. Know that you are precious to him, so much so that he sent his son to die for you, so that you are freed from sin to a relationship with him. 

“Trust God to guide us this year and I pray as we leave, as we have fun, as we study, we can look forward to the things he has in store for all of us.”

Main photo: Students from Macarthur Anglican College take a selfie with the Archbishop after the service