The motto on our school badge declares simply and boldy: Veritas, Scientia Fides, which translates as ‘Truth, Knowledge, Faith.’ What the exact relationship is between those three concepts will differ depending on who you ask.
But as a school founded by Christian men and women in the Methodist tradition, it has always been important to say that our search for truth and our acquisition of knowledge goes on in the context of our faith. Faith is not there to restrict that search or limit that knowledge, but it is there to offer a framework within which that search may be conducted and to offer guidance about what we do with what we learn.
This is where the values that the Methodist Church has always treasured are so important. In a report carried out in 2008 by the Social Research Centre at Roehampton University, the following words were repeatedly used to describe that elusive ingredient in Methodist school life – its ethos:
- Friendliness and happiness
- A welcoming, family atmosphere
- Inclusiveness and openness to diversity
- Understanding of others, tolerance of different views
- Teaching of Christian values
- Good discipline
- Responsiveness to the individual learning and emotional needs of pupils
- Strong pastoral care
- An emphasis on being kind and thoughtful towards others
- A concern for the global dimension to learning and life
Our ethos does not just magically appear out of nowhere; it is something we have worked hard to create and something we work hard at maintaining. It would be easy just to teach students lots of facts, but to educate for life means first building up a community with spiritual backbone and then making young people feel they can belong to it. The existence of a full-time chaplain at the school is an acknowledgment of just how important this ethos is and of the need to nurture it constantly.
As chaplain I could say my role is the successful delivery of corporate acts of worship. Although these are regular, important and hopefully enjoyable, for me chaplaincy means so much more: it is about opening doors, making invitations, holding out alternative possibilities.
Such choices can be offered at all times and in all places: in classroom discussions or in chance conversations; in the chapel or on the touchline. The joyful variety of everyday life in the school means that there is no point at which you can say that the sacred stops and the secular begins.
Someone once joked: ‘God is not dead, but alive and well and working on a much less ambitious project.’ Accordingly, I hold out the hope that for every pupil in our community the ordinary everyday life at Rydal Penrhos School might just be the place for an encounter with the divine.
Reverend Nick Sissons