A note from Mr Bray - 27 March 2020
I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure. Psalm 16: 8-9 When we contemplate the word ‘school’, the images that usually come quickly to mind are of groups of students in classrooms, on sporting ovals and seated around the grounds under the direct supervision of one or more members of the teaching staff. During the past week, this definition of ‘school’ has undergone a huge transformation throughout our nation’s educational systems. For many Australian schools, including Nowra Christian School, this past week has seen the vast majority of our students located at home, engaging in an alternative educational delivery program. By Friday, we had 79.5% of our students participating in the off-site delivery mode. (Of course, it is important for us to acknowledge that schools in NSW have remained open in order to cater for the children of parents/carers who have work commitments that have not allowed their children to remain at home.)
From the outset, I would wish to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all of our parents/carers, students and staff for your incredible support and understanding as you have all made the necessary adjustments to accommodate the requirements of this new format. It has, indeed, been a major ‘team’ effort and one that has clearly reflected our key school values of ‘care, community and character’. It is clear that meaningful teaching and learning programs have continued throughout this past week, even though the delivery style for most of our students has been markedly different.
Thank you, also, to the many parents/carers and students who have provided encouraging feedback to our staff, indicating that you are most appreciative of their commitment to continue to deliver quality programs. I have also been very interested to hear your ‘stories’ of how you have set up learning areas within your homes to enable this alternative educational delivery model to work effectively. (For your general interest, I have included a number of photographs, depicting various members of our school community participating in their off-site lessons.)
As stated in recent editions of NCS Bytes and in previous letters that I have written to our school community, due to factors beyond our control, virtually all of the usual range of exciting excursions, camps and major sporting programs have been either cancelled or postponed. As you are aware, this has been a direct outcome of the COVID-19 restrictions that have been felt by all sections of our wider society. However, I am pleased to be able to provide you with an encouraging update in relation to two important projects that are continuing and that have made significant progress throughout the past two weeks. Both of these projects are indicative of the fact that our school is continuing to plan for the future, well after the impacts of COVID-19 have been contained, through the provision of excellent educational facilities for our students.
Our building company have continued to coordinate the many tradespeople who are making amazing progress on the erection of our new TAS/Visual Arts Centre. During this past fortnight, we have seen a very large crane and other significant machinery on site as steel girders and other heavy materials have been expertly put into position. At the time of writing this article, most of the steelwork is in place and roofing material has been installed, meaning that the construction program will soon be able to continue without any interruptions due to adverse weather. Yes, we have much to look forward to when this new facility comes into use later in the year!
The other project that I was referring to has been taking shape on our school oval, next to the construction site. During this past week, more heavy machinery has been in action, levelling out the many truckloads of soil that were excavated some time ago during the early stages of our building program. These works will see our oval restored to its full size and we anticipate that there is still some good weather remaining that will allow the re-growth of the grass surface. We look forward to having this important sporting facility back in action in the not-too-distant future.
One other project that has captured my intense interest during recent weeks has been the development of a Secondary vegetable garden complex. A number of students, under the direction of their teacher, Mrs Arthur, have been working very hard as part of their school program to develop this incredibly productive garden precinct. I am a keen gardener and I must admit that I am suffering from a degree of ‘garden envy’ as I have noticed how remarkably healthy all of these plants appear to be. Hopefully, many of us will have the opportunity in the future to sample some of these delicious vegetable offerings!
As indicated elsewhere in this edition of NCS Bytes, the decision has now been made to defer the celebration of our NCS 40th Anniversary year until 2021. This decision has essentially been inevitable due to the significant restrictions that have been placed on social gatherings with no clarity as to when these will be removed. The 40th Anniversary Planning Committee had already met on a number of occasions and we have many exciting events planned that will appropriately celebrate God’s amazing goodness to our school community over the past 40 years. I guess that we will all need to wait patiently until the next year when we will have the opportunity to celebrate with great energy and enthusiasm!
Obviously this past week has contained further significant challenges for all of us as we continue to encounter media updates from all around the world that focus on the COVID-19 pandemic. Such media saturation, that penetrates all the way into our very homes, can produce heightened levels of anxiety within us, not to mention the significant negative impact that it can be having within the hearts and minds of our children. At NCS, we are very aware of these dangers for our children and, consequently, all school families should have received correspondence this week that outlines services being provided by all of the various members of our Wellbeing Team, designed to support you in your important role as parents and carers.
I often state what a privilege I consider it to be to belong to a Christian school community. My awareness of this privilege is further heightened during confronting times such as these. Throughout this past fortnight I have been writing letters to both our parents/carers and staff. In a recent letter to staff, I made the following observation. ‘I have also personally been greatly encouraged by the obvious desire of staff to faithfully bring these confronting events in prayer before our God. This has been very evident as we have continued to meet during our various devotional times. Those leading devotions have shared many inspiring verses with us that speak of God’s great power and His love for His people.’
In conclusion, I would wish to share with you just some of the encouraging words that were recently contained in one of these devotional sessions. I trust that, as together we confront the challenges of a world being threatened by the spread of the COVID-19 virus, you will also feel strengthened and reassured as a result. My focus verse for this fortnight comes from this particular devotion session.
'I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.' Psalm 16: 8-9
We were reminded that sometimes when we have problems, we allow ourselves to focus so much on the problem itself, that it begins to consume us. It can threaten to undermine our joy, our rest and our peace. We can feel so overwhelmed that we omit to humble ourselves before God and seek His face and His guidance and reassurance. We can become too busy (or too fearful) to remember to simply experience His presence and the strength and renewal that this can bring us. Our focus verse reminds us to ‘keep our eyes always on the Lord’. This is clearly more helpful than keeping our eyes glued to the media where we, and our children, are being continually bombarded by extremely graphic and confronting images of a world being challenged by the COVID-19 virus. Our focus passage reminds us that we can find rest and security in our God and in His words to us contained in the Bible. We are also encouraged that God wants to be Lord of everything in our lives. He desires that we bring our emotions, our families, our work, our finances, our relationships, our health, our insecurities and every other aspect of our lives, before Him. He wants to lift the weight of these burdens from us and to provide us with His peace and His reassurance. We do, indeed, serve a great God who has not been taken by surprise as a result of the current challenges that we are all facing.