Introducing the Chair

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’( Matt 13: 31-32)

One of the treasured gifts I was given before moving to take up my new post as Archdeacon of Chesterfield was a scrap book signed by all the children in the local primary school I had worked with. The book is full of little messages from Reception classes to Year 6 with pictures and memories of the times we had shared. For more than 10 years I had supported the school as a governor, led assemblies in all the different bases, hosted visits to the church, and organised activity creative weeks that linked the School and Community. It was a working partnership and I was so pleased and privileged that the young people in the school had got to know me.  I felt that because of this involvement they were also a part of the church that I represented.  It would often be the case that if spotted when I was out and about they would say in passing.. that’s Revd Carol!  From their comments I was left with the impression that they enjoyed my assemblies, and I hope that I have sown a little seed in their hearts that will grow in years to come.

 That’s what it is all about.  sowing seeds. A headteacher once said to me when I was a novice probationary teacher, “You have to find their growing point, where the seed is, water it, and then let it grow”

 There is a turning point in our life when we realise what we are capable of and know that we can reach our potential. For me this came from particular teachers who recognised that potential, saw the seed and helped it to grow. One momentous event was when in early secondary school an English teacher had faith in me and gave me some information on a special competition. It was the Hardy Memorial Prize.  At that point I hadn’t read much Hardy, but I chose “Under the Greenwood Tree”, read it and then proceeded to present my project, a mixture of musical analysis, links with the countryside and the faith of the villagers in the little church of the imaginary Mellstock. I sent in the project and was surprised to receive an award. The English teacher and I attended the presentation in London. It was a turning point for me in the realisation that all things could be achieved and that, “I was believed in.”

All of you working in Church schools will be encouraging your pupils to fulfill their own potential, to help them grow in knowledge, confidence and faith. Spiritual development is at the heart of nurturing the young people of today who will become the church of tomorrow. They need a safe space to grow in the knowledge of God’s love. They also need to feel welcomed into the church family. Bridging the gap between school and church is vital. We learn to know God, by being made to feel welcome when we come to worship or visit a church for the first time. We need to work as a partnership between School, Church and Community. But it is not all about clergy providing that link. Other members of the churches need to be involved, other members of the villages, all being willing to participate and offer their expertise. From my first few months here in Derbyshire going round the villages one such event has impressed me. The Well Dressing Festivals provide great school and community opportunities and it is wonderful to see such creativity involved.  I hope to see more next year and be part of the blessing ceremonies.

As Archdeacon I have a special responsibility for the Board of Education and the DDAT.  I am a firm believer in the power of education to make a difference and release the inner potential of our young people so they lead full and enriching lives. My previous background has meant that I have been a foundation governor of a church secondary school and local primary schools. I am so looking forward to visiting your schools, meeting head teachers, and I would be very pleased to take an assembly if you ask.

We can all play a part in sowing seeds for the Kingdom of God, and I hope as I work with you that we can truly nurture the smallest of seeds and see them grow so all children of God realise their potential growing in  Faith, Hope and Love.