To the class of 2015

What follows is my address given at the Sunshine Christian School Graduation Service on Thursday 10th December 2015.

What a year it has been. So much has happened. So much has been taught. And let’s be honest, so much has probably been forgotten too!

To the parents of our graduating grade 6 class, I’m sure it feels like only yesterday you saw your child walk through our front gate for the first time. To our parents that brought their children to us in Prep at the start of the year, your child is only 6 years away from this evening. The advice I’m sure the parents of our graduating class would give you is this: “cherish these days for they will not last forever.”

This is the third time I have stood before our community at our graduation service and I thank God for the privilege and honour of serving this community. I thank the staff, parents, council and students for their continued support. A successful school is built on the strong relationship between students, parents and staff. We are indeed blessed by the richness of the relationships in our community.

I would like to particularly acknowledge the parents who volunteered with us this year. Whether it was leading a craft group, helping with garden club, hearing students read, covering books, making costumes, helping with events and excursions, assisting at morning teas, prep transition days, mother day and father’s day stall – your work has had a wonderful impact on our community and I thank you for this service. The school will hold be a special event for our volunteer parents early next year to acknowledge their service. Can we please acknowledge our parent volunteers with applause.

The school has experienced yet another successful year. Camps to Weekaway and Ballarat were wonderful. Music has been learnt and our walls have groaned from wonderful art. We have run and jumped our way through PE. We have read book after book. We have done sum after sum. We have programmed Bee-Bots. We have all experienced success and explored our God given gifts. There have been successes for all of us.

Tonight is a joyous occasion but also one that brings a small measure of sadness. In addition to farewelling out Grade 6 class, we say goodbye to other families as they moving out of the region. To the families leaving us this year, we wish you God’s richest blessings as you settle into new homes and schools. Thank you for blessing us with your time in our community.

And so, the time comes for the Principal to offer a few words of advice to the young men and women of the Grade 6 class.

On my desk, underneath a pile of paperwork, next to the Lego models, next to the ‘Mr Happy’ coffee cup and behind the book I’m currently reading, you will find a poem written by William Henley titled ‘Invictus’. Some of the parents here may know this poem quite well through being forced to study it at High School perhaps.

I will not read the entire poem, but will offer two verses:

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Grade 6, you are old enough to know now that life is not always a pleasant road. The marks you have received this year have come not from sitting around but from diligent, and hard work. The relationships you have with your fellow classmates, I know full well, came with their fair share of arguments, hurtful statements and needed forgiveness.

The poem I read reminds me of one of Mrs Klammer’s favourite things – the ocean. I too have a great love for the ocean and for the skies too. Humankind seems to have the land under our control but try as we might, the power of the wind and the waves cannot be controlled by human hands. The ocean is a constant reminder that God is indeed sovereign and in control.

The poem finishes with the line, “I am the captain of my ship, the master of my soul. “

The temptation of young people is to believe that they alone have the power to control the destiny of their life. I speak from experience – I too was young once. Perhaps some of you know already that you may be the captain of your ship, but the ocean you sail on and the wind that rages, are beyond your control.

We all sail a ship on God’s ocean, blown by a wind of God’s making. He was the one who crafted your ship – a ship that contains the special gifts and talents that you have. Your ship is like no other on the ocean because God made you unique, special and precious.

As you leave our little community, don’t go sailing alone. Sail in the knowledge that your friends, family and God, sail with you and will support you.

As our reading from Philippians reminds us “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Isaiah tells us today “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defence he has become my salvation.”

Be the captain of your ship. Have great courage. There is a large world out there that needs people who care deeply about others. Go where God needs his people to work. Do not choose a path that is easy and brings reward for you only. Seek always to place the needs of others above your own.

Remember always that God is your strength and he will be faithful to you through the storms of life. The land, the skies and the ocean are his.

May the creator God, who was with in the beginning, has walked with you at school, and now goes with you to High School, remind you frequently of his grace, mercy and deep love.

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