writing about Wesley College
WHAT IT MEANS TO
BE A CHRISTIAN SCHOOL
(April, 1982, for the Council
of Wesley College)
Within minutes of commencing the
inaugural address of Wesley College in January, 1866, College President
James Waugh directed the overflow Wesleyan congregation to "recognize the
goodness of that Great Being whom in this undertaking we desire to serve
and glorify" and that "in promoting Christian education we are serving
Now, in our day, in his prayers preceding
each Council Meeting, Fred Webber constantly calls the Council to make
its deliberations in the service of God and with faith that God’s will
for His work through Wesley College may be made known in and through those
Furthermore, at the entrance to each
major campus and in the opening pages of the widely distributed and well-thumbed
Wesley College diary, the school goals proclaim that Wesley is "leavened
by Christian principles."
Within this timespan and from the
Council’s governance to the simple pleasure of Prep. School children faithfully
recording personal details opposite the Goals in the diary, Wesley repeatedly
professes to be a Christian school.
What does it mean to be a Christian
The theological clues to this question’s
implications for Wesley College lie in the first three paragraphs of this
1. "the goodness of that
The goodness of God, the Creator,
and His creation is fundamental. God’s creation is orderly, richly
sustaining and full of wonder. Humanity is part of that creation
and has dominant, but limited, responsibility within it.
2. "to serve and glorify"
Humanity is the steward of God’s
good creation. It serves and glorifies God by its own creative and
compassionate actions. These conserve and enrich the creation.
Humanity’s limit, however, is that it must never make itself out to be
But humanity does give in to the
temptation to be 'God'. When this happens, human relationships within
creation and with God become estranged and destructive. From such
discomfort, God saves humanity. Here lies the nub of the question.
It is uniquely 'Christian'
that the way of deliverance is Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, God
acts to save humanity, showing humanity its truest and fullest potential.
4. "God’s will for His work
through Wesley College may be made known in and through those deliberations."
This theme acknowledges the Lordship
of God. It calls the Council, as steward of the rich resources of
Wesley College and in delegating execution of its policies, to place itself
within limits and to have faith that God will guide and provide for the
work of the school.
5. "leavened by Christian
To leaven is to influence pervasively
so as to transform. In these words, Wesley expresses willingness
to be transformed by Christian principles. Jesus Christ does transform
lives. Acceptance of His teachings and acknowledgement that, in Him,
we are given a picture of our true humanity, re-united with its Creator,
cause constant re-appraisal and change on our part.
To take such a cutting from the 116
year old religious tree of Wesley College and attempt to give it some potted
theological significance is to deal extremely superficially with the school’s
Christian tradition and Christian theology generally. Nonetheless,
it can serve to identify some Christian imperatives, as distinct from principles,
for the school.
To be a Christian school means
1. Wesley College exists
to further God’s work of saving humanity from estranged and destructive
relationships and creating harmonious and constructive relationships.
2. The resources of Wesley
College are gifts of God, good and will sustain the college in its work.
3. The use of Wesley College’s
resources is constrained. They have value only in their service to
others, both within and without Wesley. They, their management and
their managers ought never to be worshipped for their own sake.
4. Faith in Jesus Christ,
Who inspires :-
(a) the vision of what humanity
ought to be;
(b) commitment to His commandment,
"Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another,"
in full knowledge of its implications;
(c) the ability to determine
the impact on others of decisions about the use of Wesley’s resources;
(d) the consequent wise
and unselfish use of those resources.
5. The acknowledgement of
repeated occasions when the members of the Wesley Family fall short of
wise and unselfish use of its resources. The fact and example of
Jesus Christ, however, provide the opportunity for new beginnings and recreative
6. All these imperatives
predominate in all areas of the Wesley Family life.
At the School
There will be no dispute that the
primary function of the school is the comprehensive and liberal education
of its pupils. Its goals express a firm conviction to develop the
highest and most idealistic attributes of young people. Educational
decisions ranging from the appointment of staff to the choice of a 'thought
for the day' on the Daily Bulletin ought to be governed by a sound knowledge
of the goals.
There are few areas of a student’s
life at Wesley that cannot be touched by values stemming from Wesley’s
How fundamental it is to a child’s
life at school that he or she receive a second chance! How often in formal
learning, in school discipline, in games and in personal relationships
a student will despair at errors made and yearn for a new beginning.
How liberating the teacher’s role of correction, guidance and re-generation!
Furthermore, in the education of
young people, the opportunities to instil a sense of wonder in creation
and humanity’s part in it abound. In these days of conservation
and 'quality of life' issues, many of our young people are openly receptive
to notions of stewardship of the environment and care for the needs of
others. However, scratch the surface, and very self-interested and
destructive prejudices emerge. This is not to be unexpected.
Indeed it provides the teacher with the very tension most productive for
nurturing reasoned and caring attitudes in the growing child.
In our outdoor programs, our scientific
and humanities classes, our sports and cultural pursuits senses of wonder
and responsibility for the beauty and intricacy of the creation can be
readily invoked by the alert and competent teacher.
It is in our Divinity classes and
our Christian observances that this wonder and responsibility can be synthesized.
Questions related to right use of creation’s resources, purposes for these
uses and consequences of varying uses ought to be explored. Also,
personal faith commitments in response to these questions, starting with
the Christian faith commitment, ought to be explored as purposeful human
Supporting the School
There are numerous groups of adults
who believe Wesley College to be of great enough value that they identify
themselves with associations which support its work. Primarily, these
are the Old Wesley Collegians Association, two Parents’ Associations, Wesley
College Foundation Ltd., two Common Room Associations and, of course, the
Council of Wesley College.
Each of these groups has the enhancement
of the educational opportunities of the current and future pupils of Wesley
College high on its list of priorities. Each starts from a point
of freely serving an enterprise beyond itself. It is here that the
most rigorous application of Wesley’s Christian imperatives may be exercised.
In one way or another, the adults
of the Wesley Family either supply, manage or are the resources of the
school. What, then, is our attitude to their use? Are
we mindful of the imperatives italicised above?
The greatest danger to the most fruitful
use of these resources is the temptation to make our own interests the
purpose of our support. It may be too easy to be active in the Parents’
Association only when our own children will benefit. Or, to support
Wesley only if it perpetuates a style which we treasured when attending
the school but which is singularly inappropriate today. Perhaps,
it is too easy for teachers to confine their vision of Wesley to the campus
on which they serve.
These are but three examples.
The point is that the school’s Christian imperatives call us not to give
more worth to the centres of our own interest than to the greater mission
of the school.
Furthermore, in supplying, managing
or being the resources of the school we are asked to accept constraints,
drawn from Wesley’s Christian foundation and educational priorities, upon
their use. Sometimes these constraints appear as folly but, then,
how much do we believe God will sustain our school beyond those constraints?
Offering the School
To this point, this paper has taken
a somewhat introverted look at 'us' and what may guide us as we work within
Wesley College. Where is Wesley’s place in society?
In 1866, James Waugh was in little
doubt:- "May our College be like an angel standing in the sun, sending
forth streams of light for many a year throughout this land!" We,
it is to be hoped, are in the 117th year of the fulfilment of his wish.
Wesley College is a school of rich
resources. It has myriad people of great calibre and expertise supporting
its work, often well into Jesus Christ’s 'second mile'. Its educational
plant is superior. Its educationalists are hand-picked. Its
pupils come from homes where learning is highly valued. Its educational
philosophy, soundly founded and identifiable, is actively examined, defined,
re-examined and re-defined over decades.
None of this wealth must be drawn
to ourselves only.
It only has worth if it is liberally
and humbly offered to society. This is not to advocate the simplistic
throwing open of the facilities for 'wider community use'. It means
that if we believe we have things of value to offer, then we should seek
sincere and constructive ways to do so regularly. It behoves us,
for example, to
encourage competent staff to take positions
in influential professional bodies;
innovate with a view to establishing
worthy practices previously untried in schools;
allow, freely, inspection of the school
by interested parties, accept large numbers of teachers in training and
encourage teacher exchanges;
train our young people, many of whom
will significantly control the lives of numbers of other people and manage
valuable physical resources later in their life, in sound moral values;
seek, sincerely and creatively, ways
to lower significantly the fee barrier to attendance at Wesley College;
respond, interestedly and positively,
to requests for use of facilities;
allow our educational, social and spiritual
attitudes to be known abroad;
involve ourselves formally in sporting
associations other than those of our own kind;
make our facilities, staff and students
available for worthy educational research projects.
But, and of the most crucial importance,
a word about Waugh’s 'angel' :-
In our time of full enrolments,
imaginative building programs and undoubted educational vitality it is
increasingly tempting to re-phrase Waugh’s image to read "May our College
be like God ..." so that it is Wesley we "serve and glorify", not God.
Thus usurped, God becomes the core material of the futurists’ prophesied
consumer religion - another service that the school offers
its clients! In the meantime, Wesley College unlimited, stepping
beyond its fundamental constraint, is all the less inclined to honour its
other Christian commitments!
Mr Justice J.T. Ludeke and Emeritus
Professor W.G. Walker, speaking to the Third National Conference of the
National Council of Independent Schools in 1981, also speak to us :-
Mr Justice Ludeke:
"For the great majority of independent
schools, I suggest there will be little dissent from the view that a true
education aims at the formation of the human person so that he might walk
in the steps of the Lord, while at the same time learning to contribute
to the good of the society of which he is a member and whose responsibilities
he will later share. The recognition of the primacy of the task of
contributing to the development of the whole area of man’s relationship
and response to God does not diminish the other attributes of the independent
school, but it does correctly establish the order of values."
Professor Walker :
"First, the self is not autonomous
or independent: each of us is part and parcel of something greater.
Second, the road to salvation sooner or later requires self sacrifice,
the turning of oneself over to that which is greater. Thus, St Francis
prays, "Help me to learn that in giving I may receive; in forgetting myself
I may find life eternal.’ .......
"Until this matter of the centrality
of religion in both its cognitive and affective dimensions to the curriculum,
whether formal, informal or hidden, is clearly enunciated and firmly recognized
the crucial question of the objectives to guide the school will remain
The Wesleyan Chronicle,
20th January, 1866
2. Young, N.J., Creator,
Creation and Faith, (Collins, London, 1976)
3. Cross, F.L. (ed),
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, (O.U.P., Oxford,
4. Good News Bible,
The Bible Societies/Collins/Fontana, London, 1976)
5. School Governance in
the Eighties, (National Council of Independent Schools, Sydney,
6. Bruner, E., Our
Faith, (S.C.M. Press, London, 1949)
7. Johnstone, G., (ed),
The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary, (O.U.P., Melbourne,