The below Start of Term Address was given to pupils by the Head Master as we begin the Trinity term today:
"Welcome back; even if we cannot gather together in Cathedral for our start of term service, it is great to see Cathedral Close filling up again with pupils and staff.
This morning’s bible reading talks of 'The secret of being content in any and every situation.' I can imagine that we would all love to know this secret, particularly with the fast-moving changes and challenging situations that we have had to cope with during the last year. In his letter to the Church in Philippi, Greece, from which today’s bible reading comes, St Paul states that it is his Christian faith which provides him with this resilience and adaptability.
Whether it is through religious faith or other methods, finding ways not just to cope but to thrive is helpful for all of us as we start this summer term.
There are some natural grounds for optimism at the start of this term: the days are getting longer; the weather is improving (well, sometimes at least); lockdown restrictions were eased on 12 April and there is hope that this will continue during the course of this term, the next punctuation mark being 17 May and a possible further relaxation on 21 June.
All the way since last March, I feel that we have kept the rhythm of lessons going well, both remotely and at school, while both teachers and pupils have been simply heroic in maintaining the intellectual, sporting, creative and philanthropic co-curricular activities that we value here. Yet now we have genuine hope that we will be able to start to add back aspects of our programme that will move us closer to normal school life: inter-school fixtures, live performances, perhaps even with audiences, vertical clubs and societies.
More widely, to track people’s reactions to the reopening of outdoor hospitality and non-essential retail in the last week, there is a sense of society coming out from hibernation. This brings to mind a story about BBC coverage at the start and end of World War Two: when war was declared in 1939, a Mickey Mouse cartoon which was running on BBC television was stopped mid-flow. When the war ended in 1945, the cartoon was shown again, starting at exactly the point where it had been paused six years earlier.
I am not sure we have been in quite such a cryogenic state and do not think it is appropriate to push far any comparisons between war and the pandemic. However, there is a sense of us having to relearn behaviours which were second nature before March 2020 and we will have to temper this process with a sensible approach to any easing of restrictions.
In some ways, the timing helps us to ease into new ways of operating: this has always been a term of contrasts so some of the activities mentioned above are scheduled to take place in the second rather than the first half of term. In the summer, the scholarly calmness of the first half of term gives way to a blossoming of activity, performance and colour in the final weeks of term.
Talking of calmness, I offer particular good wishes to our U5 and U6 as they get ready for assessments in the first half of term. The circumstances for them are certainly unusual, but the final stages of public examination preparation are always challenging and in some ways they know more about what is coming than in other years. I hope they will retain perspective and calm purpose for the coming weeks and certainly know they can rely on their teachers’ support as they go through the process.
I close with some brief words about the Duke of Edinburgh. The holistic nature of the award he created has enabled generations of Norvicensians to pick up experiences which are life-shaping; even the headings provide a helpful guide for ways us to spend discretionary time: expedition; skills; physical activity; voluntary service.
I encourage you to listen carefully to the words of the Chaplain’s prayer shortly, particularly in respect of the last category, voluntary service. It is a quality by which we set much store at Norwich School and, counter-intuitive as it might be to think of someone royal as being a servant, the information we have been given in recent days about Prince Philip’s shows how accurate a description it was about him. He was patron to 780 organisations during his life but perhaps an even more telling statistic is the 22,000 solo engagements he undertook; remember that this is not including any commitments as consort to the queen, if he were to do one per day, that would take over 60 years. A lifetime of leadership and service indeed.
Please continue to observe the guidelines about Covid compliance, as indicated in tutorials this morning, and on which there will be more information in tomorrow’s assembly, particularly; wearing a face-covering in lessons and indoors; lateral-flow testing at home.
It is very good to see you back and I hope you all have a good term."
Reading (Phil 4:10-13)
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
A prayer for this Easter season
We give thanks for the good news of Easter; for the hope of new life and sins forgiven.
Help us to be hopeful people, faithful and forgiving.
Please bring hope wherever people are lonely or despairing,
And may your kingdom come. Amen.
A prayer for the Trinity Term
We thank you for good weather and that we have been able to explore the world again over the holidays.
We thank you for this new term, and we pray for fresh minds and a fresh start.
Please be with us in our work and in our friendships, and help us through every challenge. Amen.
A special prayer following the funeral of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh
We give thanks for the life of Prince Philip and for a life well lived.
Hear our prayer for the Royal Family in their time of mourning.
We pray especially for the Queen; be her strength and her companion,
in all the days that lie ahead.
May all our leaders, and may we, serve you, through serving others, after the example of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.