Educating the whole person

One of the strengths of the Diocese of Sydney is our network of Anglican schools.

I say “network” because, while some of our schools are members of the Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation and others have independent governance structures, they all share in common the purpose of providing quality Christian education within the framework of Anglican theology and practice.

While many are governed by an ordinance of the Synod, they are all related to the Diocese and the Archbishop of Sydney in some form or other, and share in the commonality of being Anglican. This unity is expressed in various ways – not least of which is the annual meeting of all heads of schools with the Archbishop on Ascension Day for the sharing of ideas, mutual encouragement, prayer and fellowship over a meal.

While we have wonderful access to students in our state schools through Special Religious Education (SRE), which we value highly, the opportunities on a daily basis to shape the character, engage the mind and enrich the spirit of the 40,000 students who attend our Anglican schools is a wonderful opportunity and a great privilege.

We have a wealth of talent among the students in our schools and it is therefore a special honour for me at the start of each year in St Andrew’s Cathedral to commission the Year 12 prefects and leaders from the 30 Anglican secondary schools within our Diocese.

I well remember when I was in Year 12 coming to the Cathedral along with hundreds of students to hear the Archbishop of the day, Sir Marcus Loane, address us and commission us as prefects. What particularly impressed me on that day was the Archbishop’s invitation to make contact with him, if we had any questions about leadership or the Christian faith. I confess I was too scared to make any approach to an archbishop (I am less intimidated these days!), but the fact that he personally offered to engage with us was profoundly moving.

The format of the occasion has changed somewhat since the 1960s, as it now begins with a 45-minute session of Q&A, followed by morning tea and then a service of commissioning for the prefects. For many the opportunity to ask questions of the Archbishop is a highlight, ranging from predestination to same-sex marriage to tips for leadership in the school.

However, in the footsteps of Archbishop Loane, I also extend the same invitation as was given to me, inviting the prefects to contact me personally with any questions they might have and were afraid to ask publicly or unable to ask because of time constraints. To my surprise and delight, each year a small number of students take up the offer through emails and it is a privilege to respond to each one in a personal manner.

We have a long tradition of Anglican schools in our Diocese of which we can be justly proud. Whether it be The King’s School founded in 1831 or Oran Park Anglican College founded in 2012, we are blessed with a great variety of schools which seek to mould both Christian knowledge and Christian character in the lives of their students.

Preparing the next generation to take their part as citizens in the world is an enormous responsibility, which needs our prayers. Engaging Christian teachers who are able to present their own subject areas, within the framework of a Christian worldview, is an ongoing challenge but one that will reap eternal rewards.

I thank God for our Anglican schools as they continue to strive for the education of the whole person in body, mind and spirit.

This article appeared as 'Archbishop Writes' in the March edition of Southern Cross