Year 12 Final Assembly
There is probably no escaping the fact that 2020 will be remembered as the year of COVID-19. Each year the publishers of the Macquarie Dictionary choose a “word of the year” and I reckon, this year, the word of the year is likely to be “unprecedented”. Previously, we thought we were pretty good at coping with change: in fact, we are becoming used to living in a world where change is occurring at an increasing rate. These are times American columnist Tom Friedman has called, an “Age of Accelerations”. However, even used to changes as we are, COVID-19 was something like none of us had experienced previously. Any plans we had made for this year were turned upside-down by the extraordinary global pandemic.
It is in this context that I would like to pay special credit to the Class of 2020 (and I’m going to address them directly for a while). Perhaps more than any of us, you had hopes and dreams for this year that quickly had to be amended and adjusted. When I think of the Class of 2020 in the future, I will remember what resilience you displayed in the face of disappointment and uncertainty. Of course, you have had previous opportunities to deal with change (and disappointment). You were the first group of Year 7s in Queensland to attend high school, and you are the first group of Year 12s since 1971 to experience external exams. In Year 11 you were challenged to create a new version of the Semi-formal, and you exceeded our expectations by organising a wonderful Social. This year your Formal was postponed, and dancing and outside partners were not allowed, but you still turned up looking wonderful and had a fabulous evening. You are a remarkable group of young men and women, and we are proud of the resilience you have shown in the face of all these challenges.
And now you are ready to graduate (with just the small matter of external exams to deal with first). How quickly the years have flown by – am I right, parents? I’m sure that, if I could go back in time and ask your parents thirteen years ago what they hoped the future would bring you, most of them would say either “I just want them to be happy” or “I want them to be successful” or, perhaps, both. And they probably still have the same hopes, as do I, but I will express it slightly differently. I want to use a word we use quite a lot at St Paul’s: as you leave school, my hope is that you flourish.
‘Flourish’ is a bit of an old-fashioned word, but it’s a word that psychologists use quite a bit (as do theologians, because it is also a biblical concept). The dictionary definition of ‘flourish’ is as follows – to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly congenial environment.
‘Flourishing’ is also suggestive of being fruitful or productive. Much more than being happy, people who are flourishing find purpose and meaning in their lives; they find life to be a source of joy and fulfilment as they discover their unique gifts and find a context in which they can exercise these gifts for the benefit of others.
Of course, ‘flourishing’ may look different for different people, because our gifts, abilities and personalities differ. But one thing is common: flourishing trees produce good fruit (to borrow an analogy Jesus used in one of his sermons). You might think of this type of fruit as the virtues that we try to encourage at St Paul’s – virtues like compassion, patience, humility and integrity. These are the ‘fruit’, if you like, of a life of good character.
Take a moment to reflect: consider how you treat people, how you spend your time and your money, how you define ‘success’. What is the ‘fruit’ of your life at the moment? And, if you are in any way dissatisfied with the extent to which you are truly flourishing (or being fruitful) at the moment, let me remind you of a great truth we have also tried to convey: you can’t do it on your own. There is a lovely word-picture portrayed in Psalm 1 in the Bible –
They are like trees that grow beside a stream,
that bear fruit at the right time,
and whose leaves do not dry up.
They succeed in everything they do.
Who are they? What is the secret to fruitfulness even in a drought, and flourishing even in hardship? The Psalm tells us that these flourishing ones are those who –
…find joy in obeying the Law of the Lord,
and (who) study it day and night.
So, Year 12s, I wish you happiness and I wish you success. But, more than that, I wish you joy, peace and love – the essential ingredients for a flourishing life. And always remember, RaVE is the most important subject of all!
Mr Nigel Grant
Executive Director of Faith & Community