The place of ritual and symbolism in a community cannot be underestimated. Unfortunately, in an increasingly secular world, the meaning behind rituals and symbols that often linked them to a higher purpose has been forgotten, or at best, become confused due to the commercialisation of these events. An example of this, and something that I rail against every year, is the ridiculously early availability of hot cross buns!
Thankfully, this is not the case at St Peter’s College, and we have had some beautiful examples over the last few weeks of how rituals can enrich our lives and enable us to focus on what’s important, as long as the meaning behind those rituals is clear.
Firstly, the annual ritual whereby we induct the Captain and Vice Captain of the School, which occurred in Week 1. The ceremony was simple, but in front of the whole School Indran and Seb promised to “always, (and) in every way possible, work for the honour of the School and the welfare of its members”.
In turn the staff and students acknowledged these young men in their new positions by loudly proclaiming that we “…accept(ed) them and support(ed) them as they under(took) their new responsibilities.” A public declaration like this does two things. It asks the office bearers to clearly state the core philosophy that will drive their work in their new roles. Secondly, it asks a community to acknowledge this declaration and offer support as the office bearers carry out their work. I can’t adequately describe how powerful these ritualistic exchanges felt on the day, but there was a real joy for Indran and Seb, a sense of gravitas for the occasion, and a feeling of shared responsibility for the year to come.
Last week there was an incredibly rare ritual that occurred when we commissioned Tim Browning as the 15th Headmaster of the School. Again, there was a beautiful simple formality to the ceremony as Tim was welcomed into our community and acknowledged as the leader of this School. Fittingly, there were representatives from all parts of our community to bear witness to the occasion and to signify the breadth of the role that Tim will undertake. Part of the ritual of the commissioning service saw a number of symbols presented to him. Tim received a copy of the School’s Constitution from Joe Thorp, the Chairman of the Council of Governors to symbolise his responsibility for the stewardship and leadership of St Peter’s College. Tim then received a Bible from me to symbolise his commitment to nurture our sons in body, mind and spirit. Finally, he received a candle from Reverend Ben Bleby, as a symbol of the light of Christ shining in the Diocese of Adelaide – the new home for Tim and his family.
There are many more rituals that we will celebrate throughout the year and there are symbols all over the School to remind us of what we value at St Peter’s College. I urge all members of the community to look carefully as they walk around the School and think carefully about the messages contained within our walls and expressed on and around our fields. Pro Deo et Patria.
Ben Hanisch, Deputy Headmaster/Head of Senior School