The last few weeks have been a rollercoaster ride of emotion and faith. As a kind of summary I wanted to share with you the letter I wrote to the Moderator of the Uniting Church:
Dear Rev D and the Alma Mater Task Force
This news is indeed the answer to some very fervent prayer! Praise God that the Uniting Church have the heart and the wherewithal to continue His work through the education of young women in Christian values and academic excellence.
As an Old Scholar and current parent we have travelled a challenging faith journey these past two weeks. After many years we have managed, with the aid of a Principal's Scholarship, to enrol my daughter at Alma Mater to complete her Senior education. Had my life circumstances been other, I would have preferred to have seen her complete years 8-12 but we rejoiced in the fact that she was able to attend at all. In typical teen fashion she commenced with some resistance but within weeks was able to see the difference in standards and expectations (her own words!). By the night of the House Choir Competition (an event I myself hold very dear being a former Nemean Choir Conductor) she was an Alma Mater girl through and through; with a lovely group of friends and a keen heart for her school.
Imagine then her distress at the news that our beloved school was under the most severe of threats.
"Why now Mum?" she asked me in genuine grief,"why when I am finally here?"
My answer was that we were precisely where God meant us to be at this time. He had placed us within the Alma Mater community at this moment of crisis to learn whatever we must learn and to contribute in whatever way we could. I saw the chief thing that we could do was to stand firm, support the School Council, the Uniting Church, the staff, students and other parents through prayer and positive example.
This decision, which through a friend in the ABC I was able to communicate on radio the morning after the very fraught community meeting, has earned me a fair bit of ridicule and my daughter some fairly heavy pressure from those around her. She was the only girl in her class who did not visit another school in the following week. I experienced some anxiety that perhaps I was placing her in an unfair position due to my passionate views but I actually believe that it is at times like this and in situations of pressure that our children see our true character and learn the values we would have them carry into their adult lives.
We had even decided that if a merger was the outcome, then that would be the outcome God had in store for us and that somehow it would be alright.
Imagine our unbounded joy then at yesterday's news.
Several things have emerged from this experience for me. The first is the realisation that for years I have taken the existence of the school for granted. On many occasions I have been asked for support by the College Foundation and have left it to others. To some degree, requests for financial support left me feeling a little inadequate and guilty that I had not used my education to become more 'successful' as the world would see it. I felt slightly intimidated by the glossy brochures and slogans and wondered what I could possibly offer.
The second thing which has emerged is linked inextricably to the first. It is about our role as Old Scholars and parents. For all these years we have been asking what the school could do for us. Could it provide us with nostalgia, good feelings, rekindled friendships? Of course, we should have been asking what we could do for the school and not only financially. As Old Scholars we should be encouraging each other to be active members of the current school community in gifts of time and service. It is through these contributions that true community is built.
My purpose in writing, apart from to offer the heartfelt thanks of our family (I have two sisters living overseas who also attended Alma Mater) is to suggest that at this very important time, the School Council be encouraged to survey the Alma Mater community and really establish what it is about the school that they value. Then, it is these values and 'differences' that we need to promote to wider society.
It is telling that a significant number of families so easily 'abandoned ship' in the days following the press announcements. I suspect that these people need to take a good look at what it is they are communicating to their daughters: individualism and materialism. It is a weak character that aligns themselves with whomever appears to be the most powerful at the time. These things were not the message I received during my Alma Mater education.
So, at the beginning of this new journey, I ask the School Council with the support of the Uniting Church, to focus the school once more on its core values; to embrace the Faith on which it was founded and to communicate these things to the world.
And I promise that I will now be much more proactive in my support for my school.
Thank you for taking the time to travel this journey with me.
A new Principal was appointed on Friday: here's the Baby Angel hogging the camera. if you look carefully you can see me in the background for about 1 millisecond!