Last week I had the privilege of participating in the Christian School’s Australia National Leaders Summit in Alice Springs. Having never travelled to the Northern Territory before I was excited at the prospect of visiting the red centre of Australia which boasts iconic sites such as Uluru, Kata Tjuta and the MacDonnell Ranges. I was not disappointed. The landscape was breathtaking encompassing rugged red cliffs, orange desert sand interspersed with green shrubs and the occasional tree set against a brilliant blue cloudless skyline. Uluru itself is mesmerising and I found myself unable to take my eyes of this magnificent monolith and was in awe of the endless diversity clearly visible through God’s creation.
Our tour of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was enhanced by the commentary provided by an able guide who carefully explained to us the cultural significance and importance of these sites to the traditional owners of the land the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people. Through this descriptive account my knowledge of the traditional laws, customs and practices of the Aboriginal people increased exponentially. I was able to walk inside one of the caves which served as a “school room” where young people were taught by their elders via gentle conversation, storytelling and paintings. Here the children learned about their ancestral heritage, tribal laws and morals as well as practical skills to equip them for the future. Our guide also directed us to an area that once served as a communal kitchen where women young and old worked together amidst casual banter and singing to prepare food for their community.
It was against this amazing backdrop that the conference was set, focussing on the theme of Christian community.
As I heard each of the keynote speakers expound on this concept I could not help but reflect on the striking parallels between the biblical model of Christian community and the traditional practices of Aboriginal Australians.
In Acts 2:42-47 we are presented with a picture of the early church who modelled for us an authentic Christian community. These people were bound together by their common faith and commitment to God and to each other. It was a community where God’s word was shared and discussed openly and freely and where the needs of the individual were met through the collective resources of the community. Like the traditional Aboriginal tribes, these early Christians enjoyed the benefits of being part of an interdependent community, interacting with each other daily by sharing meals and conversation and in doing so provided practical support, encouragement and comfort to one another.
Unfortunately, our current society runs counter to this model, where independence is valued and a growing sense of competitiveness has thrust many toward a lifestyle where the pursuit of our own individual goals is paramount, even if it is at the expense of others.
While this may be true, at Cedars we continue to hold fast to our commitment toward developing an authentic Christian community where relationships are important and each person feels valued and supported.
At Cedars our students, teachers and parents have the opportunity to benefit from the collective wisdom and resources that are available to us as members of a community linked together by our faith in God and our care for one another. This commitment to building community is an essential part of who we are and what we do and is clearly articulated through our mission, vision and values.
The College Board, Executive and Leadership teams are intentional and strategic in working towards this by providing opportunities both formal and informal to allow parents, students and teachers to connect with each other. Our Parent Connect Groups are one example of this, where parents, students and families regularly get together with others in their child’s year group over a social activity. It is here that friendships are developed and strengthened, experiences are shared, advice and encouragement is sought and found.
Whether it is an assembly, an information evening, a sporting event or working bee – there are opportunities each week for parents, teachers and students to come together and contribute to developing and strengthening the Christian community that is so much of who we are at Cedars.