A Foundation Built on Prayer

Around 10 years ago Beth and I walked around the school ground discussing what it might mean and what it might look like for us both and for the school if we prayed regularly for this community. Beth’s daughter had begun in term 4 of the previous year in year 2. I was the new Chaplain, and although I’d been teaching for quite a few years I was only recently ordained as an Anglican Minister. 

I knew I needed God’s help every step of the way. But I was wary too. What did this person whom I barely knew expect from prayer? A prayer walk seemed safe and we chatted, talked about what our concerns were for the school and agreed to meet again.  We continued to talk over praying for the rest of that first year of my chaplaincy. I’m not sure how many times we met, usually in the school yard before or after school.  As I look back on that first meeting, I am so aware of Jesus’ promise to be present when two or three meet in his name. I am so encouraged by the way those tentative steps were the starting place for regular meetings of prayer for this school community and the most amazing support for me as chaplain.

These days we meet about 3 times a term.  It is in the School Calendar as “Prayer and Pastries” although none of us seem to want the pastries so we just enjoy a hot beverage. We begin with a short Bible passage and time to reflect on the passage. A one-page summary by me the chaplain indicates things to pray for. This could include staff and student illness, various bereavements, general student concerns including anxiety, loneliness or examination pressure. It is also a chance to encourage all who meet in their walk of faith. 

In the second year of my chaplaincy Beth and I agreed that meeting to pray regularly for the school was good to do.  We began to meet maybe twice a term, I’m not sure. Then a third parent joined at the invitation of Beth. After some time, and it is hard to recall when, we had grown to a group of 6 or more and so had to move to a bigger room. We advertised the group in the regular school news but it was word of mouth which brought new members. This was either from group members inviting them, the principal suggesting someone could be interested and me the chaplain following up some people who I happened upon.  Beth is now no longer involved n the group, her daughter having graduated, but the group continues.

During the various lockdowns over the last two years, it became a fortnightly meeting over zoom. We all needed to meet and share our concerns and then pray. One of the mums, a doctor, suggested it was her lifesaver during those 262 days of confinement that Melbourne experienced.  I remember her zooming in from her car outside the surgery, for 40 minutes, because she needed this groups encouragement, support and prayer. And we needed her to keep working and subsequently organising for many of our students to be vaccinated.

Jesus encouraged his disciples to always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1). This group has encouraged me to keep being God’s minister in this school. As I retire from School Chaplaincy, I give thanks for this group and the way God has answered our prayers and blessed each and every one of us involved. I write wanting to encourage other chaplains to find good ways to meet with others and pray for their community.

Reverend Philippa Lohmeyer-Collins has enjoyed many years’ experience working in schools as both a chemistry teacher and as school chaplain. For the past 11 years she has been working as a School Chaplain at Mentone Girls’ Grammar as well as teaching Philosophy and Religious Studies from Prep to year 12. She is also a member of the executive of the Victorian branch of Chaplains in Anglican Schools. She enjoys the vibrancy of school life and the outdoors and especially when worship services can be held outdoors.

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