Well, after 14 years I have finally left school !
I know that sounds strange, but I refer to the 14 years I have spent as unofficial Chaplain to Aldercar Community Language College (formerly Aldercar Secondary). 14 years ago in September I stood outside the school gates with my colleagues Pastor John Parker (Baptist Pastor) and Rev Ian Jonas (Anglican Vicar) at the start of the school year and we prayed for the school, for its safety, its wholesomeness, for the pupils and for the staff.
A month later I was invited in to take my first school assembly and the rest, as they say, is history. That history has comprised carrying out between one and two assemblies every week, becoming a school Governor for eight years, helping out with the GCSE humanities occasionally, running a Christian lunch time club, and supporting the school in activities and in any way I could. In that time I`ve pretended to eat dog food, used magic bags, magic tricks, appeared once dressed only in fig leaves ( a lot of them) and generally tried to bring the Gospel message in easy understandable ways. Many of the youngsters I’ve known since 5 years old and younger (I’ve baptised some of them !), through earlier connections with Aldercar Infants, Sedgewick Street Infants and Langley Mill Juniors and it has been a real privilege to see them grow and to have journeyed their whole school lives with them. It was some of these students who, at the age of five, inspired me to learn sign language so that I could communicate with them.
More latterly that hasn`t happened with being in Ripley, but I’ve seen the Codnor Primary school youngsters come through.
It has been a tearful morning today; the staff turned out for my assembly and some lovely things were said, Joe Bancroft spoke powerfully about me being the best friend a school could have, Tony Cooper (the Principal) spoke of warmth and generosity, of support and wisdom. Kathy Hardy gave me a generous hug before the assembly began saying that she was going to lock herself in her office as it was too emotional. Sadly David Windsor couldn’t be with us as he was in France on a school trip (the length some Nottingham Forest supporters will go to avoid the success of Newcastle United). I’ve received cards, bottles of wine, a book about the school, a pen and a tie pin.
As I reflect upon this kindness and this generosity, I have to record that every nice thing they said about me I could and did say about them. The staff have become good friends, from the maintenance staff to the teaching staff. They have been supportive, interested, generous in their time and energy, and they have been loyal to me. I really appreciate what they have done for my Ministry in this area.
The pupils are brilliant; many people will sniff and look down their noses at people from this part of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, but if they would bring themselves to look deeper into the lives of people they would find great people. I have tried over the years to instill into these students that they should be proud of their school and their area, that they can hold their heads up high, look people in the eye and say “I live in a great area and I’ve attended a great school”.
I hope and pray that I’ve given them esteem and respect, for they’ve given me so much over the years.
I can feel the tears coming on again……………. Thank you Aldercar for everything you’ve given me.