Equipping Principals to be the Spiritual Leader

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Principals have a critical role in leading Anglican Schools and shaping the direction of their ethos. Over the last fifteen years the idea that Principals have the role of spiritual leader of their school has developed and been strongly affirmed in some places. Potentially this is a role they may feel ill equipped to fulfil. This profile focusses on how the Anglican Church in Southern Queensland is trying to address this. It is from the second edition of Experiri, Term 2 2013 and was contributed by Geoff Smith, General Manager for Brisbane Diocese.

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What was the need or challenge being addressed?

The annual retreat for Heads of Anglican schools in Brisbane Diocese has been occurring for more than ten years. The retreat was run on fairly ‘traditional’ lines with lots of silence and addresses from the retreat conductor. There was a feeling among Heads that this style was not successful in addressing both their need for equipping as the spiritual leader in their schools and for collegiality.

What was the response to the need?

Both the style of the retreat and the style of the input were changed towards a conference format with the input focussed on helping the Heads in their role. Over the past three years the focus has featured – an overview of the New Testament, the ministry of Jesus, and an exploration of the history and nature of Anglicanism. The program now includes good opportunity for informal conversation and relaxation, corporate worship through morning and evening prayer and the Eucharist including reflections on the Bible readings by the heads on a roster basis, and formal ‘sessions’ for the input.

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What was the impact?

The impact has been very positive. Attendance is very high (>90% of Heads), with the Heads appreciating the opportunity for rest, relaxation and learning. The retreat is an important strategy in achieving our vision for Anglican Schools in the Diocese of Brisbane. The Bishops recognise the importance of this retreat, and sessions in the last few years have been led by the Archbishops and Bishops. One of the aspects that the Heads value about the retreat is the opportunity to talk with one another on a personal and collegial level about issues relating to their school and role within it.

What were the greatest challenges?

The Heads were very positive about the transition from the start, and are consulted each year about the theme or focus for the following year, but the biggest challenge remains time: the very tight diaries of the Heads. We find most Heads very committed to the retreat so we determine dates very early.

Experiri was a quarterly newsletter presenting stories of innovation in school ministry from Australia and beyond. Each edition provided two or three profiles of  innovative strategies that had been developed in response to challenges or emerging issues for chaplains or others in Anglican Schools, including Heads and Religious Educators. 

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