We had hoped that the school year would not end this way but there are sometimes things that are beyond our control. At issue is how we face them. And so, too, with Encaenia which, like last year, will have to be delayed formally. It would have been wonderful to gather in the Chapel on the last day of the year and to hear Righo Etou read Isaiah 55. 6-12 and Sarah Bell read John 15. 1-14. They are powerful readings which contribute to our thinking about the graduating class of 2021 and about the nature of their time at King’s-Edgehill School. Encaenia reminds us of the foundational principles and ideals that belong to our abiding in the intellectual community of the School.
Many of you who are graduating have been physically abiding for several years here at the School, but Encaenia is also about our metaphysical abiding, our abiding in the things that are beyond the physical, to take the word in its most literal meaning (μετα φυσισ). Chapel speaks to all of the pillars of the school: the athletic, the academic, the artistic, and to leadership. In that sense it has been a reminder to you about an education which concerns the whole person in relation to a whole community, the School in its purpose and intent. Encaenia is really the celebration of those principles and ideals as they have shaped and formed you over your time here at the School and have become an important part of your experience.
I want to commend all of you for your spirit and determination over the course of the last year and a half. It has not always been easy for some of you to be isolated and separated from your families for such long periods of time, whether it be your homes in the other Atlantic provinces or on the other side of the world. This place has been your place of abiding in a more than usual sense. It has become, if anything, more intense, more concentrated. I commend you on how well you have borne with all of the ups and downs, changes and alterations of this unusual year. We have been, I think, very fortunate - blessed, really - here at King’s-Edgehill over the past year. Some of you have faced more risks of COVID-19 in your travels home than here in Nova Scotia and especially here at the School. There are lessons, no doubt, to be learned about ourselves and about our communities in and through these challenges.
You have completed your High School with good grace and decorum. It is unfortunate that IB exams were cancelled as well as our regular June exams, though I doubt that any of you think that way! Yet the year has been about another kind of exam: the test of character under pressure to persevere and to stay focused and disciplined about your learning. That all goes to the qualities of abiding in the understanding. John’s great image of abiding is drawn from the world of agriculture, the image of vine and branches, the idea of living in what we grow from and upon which we depend. He uses that image of a vine and branches to talk about our abiding in the love of the Father and the Son. How? By attending to words spoken and read. By “abiding in my words,” Jesus says. They are words which speak to our lives spiritually and intellectually. Such is the nature of your metaphysical abiding signaled in Chapel but as belonging to the whole life of the School.
I am most impressed and grateful to the student leadership of the graduating class - to our Head Boy and Head Girl and to the Prefects. The Chapel Prefects have been absolutely outstanding under the superb and confident leadership of the head Chapel Prefect, Sarah Hilborn. Working together, you have helped to keep things going in an organized and dedicated manner. It has been a joy to work with you each morning given the restrictions under which we have had to operate. In a way, you have embodied what Isaiah is saying about attending to the purpose and meaning of the things that have been set before us in Chapel. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I please.” It is on that basis of God’s Word in creation and redemption that you now “go out with joy” and are “led forth with peace,” “the mountains and the hills break[ing] forth into singing” and “all the trees of the field clap[ping] their hands.” It is a wonderful image of the whole of creation taking delight in God and in one another. Just so we take delight in you and in your graduation. At Encaenia you are the pride of the School and of your parents and grandparents, family and friends.
Encaenia is always an emotional time. We are both glad and sad to see you go and especially so this year. We have been through so much together including a global pandemic! Yet you have not lost your year. You have accomplished so much academically and intellectually in and through the challenges. There is much for which to be grateful, much in which to take a certain pride about a sense of accomplishment. The things that have belonged to your abiding are things which I hope will continue to live and grow in you, like branches in the vine of life. The things which abide are the things which live and move in us.
There are things which didn’t happen, to be sure, but I would suggest that you focus on the things which did happen and which were accomplished. Some things, like the four Advent/Christmas Carol services all held in the Chapel were unique, poignant and special and all largely owing to your leadership and commitment. We have missed yet again the Church Parade but we were able to hold a Remembrance Day service at our own cenotaph. In short, there is much that has been done and done well. Congratulations.
These last few weeks have been surreal on the campus without you being here in all of the excitement of graduation preparations. But rather than be full of regret for what you have missed, think about the nature of your time together with one another here at King’s-Edgehill. There is much to cherish and to celebrate. I wish you all the best in the years ahead. Adieu, Adios, Aufwiedersehen, Gruss Gott, Go with God and abide in his love. Yay, God!
(Rev’d) David Curry
Chaplain, English & ToK TeacherChair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy