A new school building has appeared in the parish. After 88 years in the old building, Northway Infants and Primary School have moved into their new plant, a state of the art building, fit for the purpose of education in the 21st century.
As a frequent visitor to Northway school I’ve always felt that special atmosphere that you get when you walk into a place that’s loved and where people are happy. It’s almost as if love and happiness imprint themselves onto the stonework.
I felt this the first time I walked into Northway, 8 years ago. I knew it was a welcoming place and a place where people were happy, and that initial feeling has never been proved wrong.
I was a bit worried that this would go when the new building was opened. However, on the few occasions when I’ve visited the new school in the final weeks of the school year, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find the same welcoming and happy atmosphere still in evidence.
Of course, buildings are inanimate structures; they only became organic living places when they contain people, and in the case of schools, children – with their infectious enthusiasm for life and fun.
These qualities of happiness, love and a welcoming spirit come from people, and more particularly from the principles that they adhere to and, especially with organisations, the ethos that gives them their life. What some might call old fashioned values, things that never wear away.
I was in conversation with a man who said to me, ‘I’m a bit old fashioned, I like traditional values.’ Well, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong in holding to traditional values – certainly not those whose purpose is to enhance the life of oneself and others, and those values, most especially, that hold dear the principles that make society flourish and protect the welfare and privilege of the individual to privacy and respect.
As individuals – and collectively – we complain and lament the loss of so many ‘old fashioned values’ in the face of the steamroller approach that many organisations have adopted to address the needs of a modern state. There does seem to be a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude in response to such complaints, an attitude that seeks to persuade us that this is progress and that progress can only be achieved at the expense and loss of those things that people instinctively hold dear. I’m not so sure about that, nor that these things that give our lives meaning need to be jettisoned in the way they sometimes are.
I was recently told a story about Napoleon. When he declared himself emperor, a great coronation service was planned. At the moment of the crowning Napoleon grasped the imperial crown from the pope and placed the crown on his own head. (And this is the bit that I can’t be sure if it’s true or not, but it sounds as if it could be.)
Horrified, the pope leaned forward and said to Napoleon, ‘I know what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to destroy Christianity. Well let me tell you, the Church has been trying to do it for the past two thousand years and it hasn’t succeeded!’
Organisations are the first to lose traditional practices in the face of a changing society. But I hope, and I believe that the Church, faced with the many difficulties it has, today, and the need to reflect these changes in the way it works, will always hold dear to those founding principles in the gospel, which were so much a part of the mission of Jesus as they were so evidently lived out in his own life.
That life Christians believe, dwells in the life of the Church as it does the life of each of its members.
Jesus said these words to the crowd at the Sermon on the Mount:
‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.
‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Matthew, chapter 6,verses 19-21)
(This article by Rev Robert Williams was originally published as part of St David’s Messenger in September 2015)