On Sunday February 29th, 1948, the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Mombasa, preached a sermon in the school chapel of St Andrew's School, Turi, Kenya. According to Wikipedia, the Bishop of Mombasa at the time was the Rt Revd Reginald Percy Crabbe. It does not look like it was the best sermon ever preached, but as a piece of the school's history it is certainly interesting. He made a number of really very good points, that are as relevant today as they were then.
[You may wish to consult my 3 previous posts about the history of this, my former school. I've covered the fire of 1944, the period after the fire, and the re-opening of the school on Saturday 28th February 1948.]
Here, courtesy of the school magazine from 1948, is the text preached that Sunday:
It is very happy that when that dreadful the burnt our school this Chapel was saved, and that we are able to meet here this morning, And now that the new buildings—these lovely new buildings——have grown up, this building is a kind of sign that though the old school is no more, so far as buildings are concerned, what the school stands for, and what this 'Chapel stands for, still remains.
Now, I have heard of special services being held for Publicans, and I have heard of special services being held for Costermongers in South London, and once I was invited to give an address at a special service for Sportsmen. (I was surprised, and rather shocked, when I went in, to ﬁnd the church decorated with footballs, cricket bats, hockey-sticks and goal posts.) If we can have special services of these kinds I do not see why we should not have special services for Parents, though I must say at once that I did not expect to speak to parents in the presence of their children, and therefore, you will understand, that some of the things I might have said, I shall have to leave unsaid.
The fact is, of course, that parents, teachers, and we ministers of religion share a very sacred partnership in helping the younger ones as they grow up to take our places. I once heard of a Headmaster of a school, who was devoted to his children, Speak of parents as “necessary evils’, but I do not think that would be said by the Heads and Teachers of this School about the parents of their children. On the contrary I am sure that they feel that they share in the sacred partnership of which I spoke just now.
We are meeting at a time when all of us who have to do with young people ought to feel a great sense of responsibility, because things are not well in the world.
Some little time ago, a very eminent educationalist, whose name you. would know, was giving a talk at a prize-giving or some such similar occasion at a school, and he said these words :—“Learning and intelligence, lacking good foundation and moral purpose, are no blessing, but a curse. The growth of character must keep pace with the growth of knowledge”. And he went on to say — “You are a Christian School and our religion has one great lesson above all to teach us— what our true purpose is, and what we want to seek ﬁrst. You know the answer, and that all other aims must come a long way after in a Christian’s life”.
I would like to quote also from something I was reading some time ago — an account of a speech by Cardinal Grifﬁn of Westminster when an Honorary Doctorate was conferred upon him at Birmingham University. He said he believed that it was never more clear than it was to-day that without the guidance of Christian Philosophy, secular learning and mere physical sciences would encompass the destruction of mankind. All human activity was gradually being circumscribed by the politician. Throughout the greater part of Europe the State was arrogating to itself the direction of the human mind. Those who attempted to secularise education would end by nationalising and destroying it.
In this connection I am reminded of the heading of the 28th chapter of Job in our Authorised Version of the Bible—“There is a knowledge of natural things, but wisdom is an excellent gift of God”. That is a summary of the message of that chapter, and the chapter ends—“Unto man God said—Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding”.
I read to you this morning as our lesson a story from the Old Testament, the story of the boy Samuel. This story has always been a favourite with children—but for myself, I wonder whether it is so much a story for children as for older people, particularly for parents and teachers. Eli and Samuel: The story represents the older and younger generations. Without Eli, Samuel would never have known that God was calling him. It was Eli who perceived that the Lord had called the child. And without Samuel, a little boy serving in God’s Holy Temple, Eli and the people would not have received God‘s message. I want you to notice the introduction to the story. “The Word of the Lord was precious in those days, there was no open vision.” It was a time of moral degeneration, and things were going badly. God’s voice was not being clearly heard, and at such a time, God used the child Samuel to call the nation back to God—to give God’s message to the nation.
We live in days not unlike those. These are difﬁcult days, when there is a widespread sense of frustration, disillusionment, disappointment—days of tremendous problems. We can only take, as His Excellency the Governor said yesterday, one step at a time as we try to do our duty faithfully.
I was reading, some years ago, an account in a paper of a visit of Mr. Lloyd George, the then Prime Minister, to a college where young men were preparing for the Ministry, and he said to them-— “You young men, in the work for which you are training, have a greater responsibility, and a greater opportunity, than we politicians have.” There you have a great politician realising that it is the religion of Jesus Christ that matters most in the world.
Eli was an old man who was grieved with the burden of his days— too old to put things right. “He perceived that the Lord had called the child.” In other words, he realised that a new generation would be needed to put things right, and I wonder whether we older people are in danger of being a stumbling block to those younger ones coming after us? The fact is, of course, that the younger people growing up now are not really concerned overmuch with some of the things that we older people think important, and we have got to give the younger people their chance. Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child, and he received the message through that child. It was not a very complimentary one either, and Samuel was afraid, in the morning, to give it to the old man. It is a fact, of course, that God does teach older people through the younger. Some of the old ways are bad old ways, and we must not be unsympathetic towards the ideas of the new generation.
I want to tell you two true stories about children. The ﬁrst is about a little boy who said his prayers every night with his mother, a Bible story with her. It happened at that time they were reading some of the Old Testament stories. After one of them, the little boy said to his mother, “Mummy, aren’t you glad we don’t live in those old days before God became a Christian?” I think we teachers, parents, and clergy might make careful note of what lies behind that question, and take great care that our children get the right picture of God. The other story is about another little boy. He went to School for the ﬁrst time, and listened to the other children talking about Santa Claus, and he heard one child say — “Of course, you know, it’s Daddy, and not Santa Claus at all.” When he got home, he said to his mother, “Mummy, is it true about Santa Claus being Daddy really?” Instead of being a wise woman and telling him that what Santa Claus stands for is really true, she said — “Yes, it is only Daddy, but don’t spoil things by telling your little sister.” The little boy then said to her, “So you’ve been telling lies about it all-«was it all lies about Jesus, too ?”
We must have respect for the personality of our children; I use the word “respect” quite deliberately.
One thing more—I have been using the old story of Eli and Samuel as a peg on which to hang what I have been trying to say to you. You remember the words that Eli said to Samuel, “It shall be if He call you, that you shall say ‘Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth’.” This is just what we have got to say to children to help them to hear God speaking to them. I am thinking of another story in the Old Testament—you will remember the story of Solomon when he came to the throne after the death of his father David. He had a dream, and in that dream God said to him, “Ask what I shall give unto thee.” Solomon, in his dream, asked, not for riches, nor for victory in war, nor for fame, but for wisdom to do God’s work, and govern his people well. God gave Solomon the wisdom he asked for, and many things for which he did not ask.
The old man Eli told Samuel what to say when God’s voice came to him, and I think the greatest thing we can do for young children is to help them to hear God’s voice, and to help them to choose the best things which God offers. That, really, is the secret of true living. I am going to end by telling you a story which you younger ones may like to hear. Some years ago I spent a day or two in Khartoum, and amongst other things I saw that beautiful memorial to General Gordon. It is a ﬁgure of Gordon, life size, riding a camel, and mounted on a high plinth, in the middle of the wide road, dividing it. Gordon’s back is turned to what is now the Governor General’s house built on the site of the spot where he was murdered. He is looking across towards the homes of the people of the Sudan for whom he gave his life.
A little girl who lived in Khartoum was very devoted to this Gordon Memorial, and very often, when she went out, she would go for a walk round it. The time came when they had to leave Khartoum, and the little girl said to her mother, “I must go and say ‘good-bye’ to Gordon.” They went, and she walked round and round it, and then they started for home. When they had gone a little way, she turned round, waved and said, “Good-bye, Gordon.” After a few moments’ silence she said to her mother, “Mummy, who is the funny little man riding on Gordon?” How like a child.
The camel was, to her, much more important than the hero. And, I sometimes think you and I may make the same kind of mistake.