We commenced the 2021 academic year with thoughtful service and prayer and reflected on our heritage, the past turbulent year and our hopes and dreams for our future. We did this on our first day with our whole staff with an Ecumenical Service of Morning Prayer in the Chapel of St Luke. Ecumenism is the concept and principle in which Christians belonging to different denominations work together to develop closer relationships and promote unity. The Morning Prayer service was according to the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and dated back to 1662. At that time, the BCP was the only liturgy authorised for public use, and so all Chapel services and public prayers would have taken place according to its rites.
Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is appropriate that our first acts of community worship followed the same formal worship of years gone by. In the first weeks we held special Chapel services for our students in their sub-school groups of Morris Hall, Wildfell, St Hilda’s and the Senior Years.
We are a proud Anglican School with rich traditions; we are also an invitational community where everyone is welcome at our Anglican Services, irrespective of their own faith, position, or background. During their time at Morris Hall and Merton Hall all Grammarians are encouraged to explore questions of faith and together as a community supported by our Chaplain, Reverend Kirsty Ross we strive for an inclusive and caring approach. We celebrate worship using Anglican rituals and liturgy; however, our Anglican identity also positions us to welcome dialogue, discussion, and debate about all kinds of matters including faith. Indeed, our School’s motto Nisi Dominus Frustra or ‘Without the Lord (all is) in vain’, Psalm 127, calls upon us to act with greater purpose in the Anglican tradition and our School values reflect this.
We value and celebrate the differences within our Anglican School community because we believe that diversity and inclusivity enrich our lives. These include differences of culture, religion, political view, sexuality, and ability. We respect the right for all members of the MGGS community to personally hold different views, however, as a School, MGGS is welcoming of all students from all religions and sexual orientations and we embrace students from all cultures and families with a multiplicity of structures.
In late 2019, the School commissioned international renowned ceramist, Mr Kevin White, to design and make four lidded vessels that represent the four core values of the School: Courage, Integrity, Compassion and Self Discipline. This coincided with the ratifying of our Strategic Plan 2020-2025 by School Council and the vessels are to reside in the Chapel of St Luke as a symbolic and constant reminder of the essence of what is important to us all at MGGS. Our central element in our Strategic Plan is Culture and one of our key targets for this element is to ‘focus on School Values and making them visible in all that we do’.
Our selected artist has a very impressive curriculum vitae and I precis it reads as: Kevin is a ceramic artist and adjunct professor at the School of Art RMIT University. In 1978 he was awarded a prestigious scholarship from the Japanese Ministry of Education and was a research student at Kyoto City University of Fine Arts after which he worked in the Kyoto Studio of Satoshi Sato, a well-known contemporary ceramic artist. He then returned to England where he studied his masters degree at the Royal College of Art London, before migrating to Australia in 1985. Kevin has exhibited widely both in Australia and Internationally and has work in major national collections including National Gallery of Victoria and The Australian National Gallery.
Through a difficult COVID-19 year of 2020, the brief took a little more time than expected, however, I was delighted to receive a communication in early January from Kevin that the vessels were complete. This was a perfect way to start our 2021 academic year and so we incorporated a reflection on our values on our first whole staff day and our Grammarians will follow suit as the year unfolds. We asked each staff member to consider the value that resonates most and write on a strip of archival paper where they see this in action in the daily life of the School. Each staff member, signed, dated, and folded their observation and placed it in the corresponding vessel. Each vessel serves to capture the proof points of how we live our values.
As we start the year, we have already experienced some disruptions, however, with a ‘glass half full’ mentality, we have ‘made hay whilst the sun has been shining’ and we have been able to fit in many wonderful MGGS events so early in the term. I am so pleased that we have been able to have our Rowing, Swimming and Sports camps; we have been able to have our Commencement Assembly and celebrate with parents our Student Leadership Inauguration. All students have started the year with time to meet their teachers and classmates, have their class photos taken and understand their timetable and our expectations. I have been impressed with all Grammarians as they have approached the new year with appreciation and respect. Additionally, we have been able to hold other key events in the calendar including our Morris Hall Parents Welcome Breakfast, our Years 7 and 10 immunisation program, House Swimming, and our Year 12 Formal. Congratulations to Hensley House for winning triumphantly at the 2021 Swimming Sports! Congratulations to our Sports Captains and each of the House Captains who were impressive in their leadership of their Houses and led the chants brilliantly. The 2021 Sport Captains are are Phoebe Faulks and Isla Tremlett, and the 2021 House Captains include Lucy Green and Georgia Anastasiou (Batman), Tenley Brandon and Grace Whitbourn (Clarke), Latasha Townsend and Josie Burns (Hensley), Elsa Ajani and Sorcha McGill (Mungo), and Sienna Stockdale and Charlotte Drake (Taylor). Thank you to our Director of Sport, Mr Anthony Bruhn, our Head of Swimming, Mr Brad Harris, and our amazing Artemis Team for leading this annual highlight of the calendar.
Our first Parents Association Meeting and Parent/Teacher/Student interviews have occurred via Zoom. In 2020, we found that this enabled greater attendance and inclusion of parents when we used digital platforms such as Zoom, and webinars and we will continue to use these platforms in 2021. One of the greatest safety factors for our Grammarians is for their parents to be involved in their education. I encourage you to get involved, reach out to our new families, and invite everyone in. Our School is one that celebrates its community and we welcome you to participate as much as you can.
In closing, the DHHS continues to update Victorians with Tier 1 exposure sites. If you visited a Tier 1 exposure site then the advice from the DHHS is to immediately isolate, get a coronavirus (COVID-19) test, and remain isolated for 14 days. A list of these sites can be found here. If you have been to one these sites and a 14-day isolation period applies to you, please notify the School immediately so that appropriate arrangements can be made. We must continue to be vigilant and precautionary.
Our teachers are taking many of their classes outside into our beautiful gardens and we have also been spilling out into the Botanical Gardens. It has been the perfect time of year to do this and as I have walked the School daily, as I do, it has been a delight to see students deep in conversation with their teachers under the shade of a big tree or using the Artemis amphitheatre as a stage. We are an intrepid community, and we will continue to model strength and courage.