Southfields’ Sketches: Reflections from the Senior Chaplain

A beautiful blanket of snow has covered the campus and it makes a cheerful sight. At least we’re not at the heart of the Polar Vortex being experienced in North America.

The following overview of the last couple of weeks emphasises the vitality of ‘all-things-Chapel’ in the life of the school.

Last week the mid-week Chapel theme was recognition of Holocaust Memorial Day at the end of January, and its focus for this year on homelessness. Head of Learning Support, Mrs. Jo McLean, spoke to the Shell about the success of McDonald’s restaurants in Wednesday Shell Chapel. Their formula for success is one we can adopt in our own lives, she suggested. ‘Respect and Courtesy’ are the foundations of that worldwide franchise, and the Shell pupils listened very attentively to her message.

In midweek Chapel, I shared my experiences of learning how to drive and of how engaging in that time-honoured tradition and step towards adulthood a student also learns tolerance, dependence, and humility.

Monday night included a fabulous gathering and dinner with the Senior Leadership Team of Marlborough College Malaysia. Plans are being made in numerous quarters around the College to further enhance an already strong and flourishing partnership. I am keen to develop links with their Chaplain and Chapel.

In Shell Chapel, Form Sb2 performed 3 of Aesop’s fables. Adapted for the ‘stage’, written, directed, produced and acted by the pupils, the moral of each story was writ large and much appreciated by their peers. As their ‘Form Beak’, I was mighty proud of them!

Yesterday, I was delighted to welcome to the Charity Think Tank, Angela Hughes from Friends of Erlestoke Prison who shared her profound knowledge of the system of penitentiaries in the UK and explained the nature of the Charity for which she is Head of Trustees. It was inspiring to hear of the generous response of the many who support the Friends. Angela will be back to speak to the school in a larger venue and context in the Summer Term.

Finally for this week’s summary, I want to share the title and author of a fantastic academic essay recommended by Kate Cayley to the gathered Housemasters at the Tuesday evening Maxi-meeting. ‘Awe, the Small Self, and Prosocial Behaviour’, from the ‘Journal of Personality and Social Psychology’, offers good news for schools like ours with a Chapel and vibrant program. Of particular interest is this: ‘Firsthand accounts of awe felt during experiences with religion and spirituality (italics and bold, mine), nature, art, and music often centre upon two themes: the feeling of being diminished in the presence of something greater than self, and the motivation to be good to others.’ This leads to ‘prosocial’ tendencies in behaviour. In other words, asking pupils to go to Chapel makes a substantial contribution to ensuring that Marlborough College continues to be the splendid community we all experience.

Not surprising really! But nice to see it in print.

Reverend Tim Novis
Senior Chaplain
Twitter: @MCol_Chapel

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