Address at St Michael’s Primary Leavers’ Service
22nd July 2019 by Kenneth Padley
There are many children’s books with good endings. But there are very few as good as the passage I am about to read. Some of you may have heard it before; in which case I suggest it is worth hearing again.
“Christopher Robin was going away. Nobody knew why he was going; nobody knew where he was going; indeed, nobody even knew why he knew that Christopher Robin was going away. But somehow or other everybody in the Forest felt that it was happening at last.”
This is the beginning of the final chapter of the Winnie the Pooh stories. It brings a tear to my eye every time I read it. Christopher Robin is leaving his home for a boarding school. He will be away from his family in a world that is very different from his home. More importantly, Christopher Robin is leaving behind his childhood.
All those soft animals, that the readers know and love, come and pay Christopher Robin a final visit: Tigger and Roo and Piglet and Eeyore. Finally, in the last few pages, Christopher Robin says farewell to his very favourite, Pooh Bear, and asks that Pooh never forget the times they have had together. Quote, “wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”
To be in Year 6 is to be Christopher Robin. You are leaving a place which has been a very significant part of your lives to date. Life will never be the same again. Whether you are itching to leave, or desperate to stay, you must do this. You are going to new schools. They will be different from St Michael’s. They will be exciting. They may be challenging. So let me share something which may be of use for the journey.
Winnie the Pooh seems to have a sad ending. But the very fact that oldies like me still enjoy Winnie the Pooh is because humans carry the best things about childhood into our adult lives. The values and experiences which have shaped you to date will continue to be important going forward.
Remember it is your primary education that you are finishing. It is your primary education because it is your first education. But it is your primary education also because it is the most important. Everything which follows from these seven years will build on them, like a house on foundations. If you didn’t have it, the rest of your life would fall down, like a really rubbish building.
So the things that have marked your primary education are fundamental. Central here are those Values about which we have been exploring this year and around which we have been praying tonight: Friendship, Peace, Perseverance, Respect, Responsibility and Wisdom. And of course these six team up with the other six that we reflected on last year and to which we will return in September: Love, Humility, Forgiveness, Justice, Trust, and Hope.
These Values are fundamental. They are primary: they shape good people, whatever their faith or none. But even these values have a foundation. They have come down from the great religious traditions of the world and to us here in St Michael’s from Christianity in particular. This is what you have been discovering through collective worship in school, and what can be discovered in this church and every church worth its salt when we meet on Sunday and at other times. These Values are important for human living ultimately because they are grounded in the nature of God Himself. That is what makes them truly primary and totally unshakeable.
And because God is unshakeable, he will walk with you from your old school to your new schools. He will be with you and for you, whenever and wherever you need him. And it is in that confidence that we commend you to continue building on that which is truly Primary.