On Thursday 29th June 2017, the whole school gathered at an assembly to farewell our Foundation Chaplain, Reverend Duncan McArthur. The school community was joined by special guests, including SCAS Foundation Principal, Mr Chris Pitt and his wife Gaye, former Deputy Principal, Mrs Heather Norton and her husband Colin, and former Director of Pastoral Care, Mrs Lorrae Sampson, and her husband Ian. Representatives from the Anglican Diocese of Grafton and local churches were also in attendance, along with members of the St Columba Anglican School Council.

Rev. Duncan joined the School in January 2002, its foundation year. As another foundation staff member, Mr Bruce Little, the Head of Primary, recalls it, “Rev. Duncan joined the staff when the school office was in a little old cottage near a large fig tree adjacent to the current school entry, and this is where we met as a staff until the school was built.” Mr Little also recalls how much Rev. Duncan enjoyed participating in school activities with such good spirit. “At one of our early Book Week parades Rev. Duncan brought the children great delight when he came dressed as The Fat Controller. He also took on the part of “Mr Wonka” in the Primary School production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The farewell service for Rev. Duncan included several musical numbers from the School’s Senior Choir, Chamber Choir and a beautiful rendition of the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean by the St Columba Concert Band. Brother and sister Roxy (Class of 2014) and Michael (Year 10) Montgomery performed two songs in tribute to Rev. Duncan. Michael has the honour of being the first baby to be baptised by Rev. Duncan at the School back in 2002, and Roxy was one of our foundation students, starting her education at SCAS in Kindergarten in 2002, and completing Year 12 in 2014. The service also included several farewell speeches, including from the Chair of the School Council, Rev. Canon Dr John Barrett OAM, the School Principal, Mr Terry Muldoon, and the new School Chaplain, Rev. Paul Hodge.  The 2017 School Captains, Malki Senanayake and Nick Kosmeier, also gave a speech in honour of Rev. Duncan. Having both only been at the school for a few years, they only had recent memories of Rev. Duncan and therefore took a more personal approach to their thanks. A transcript of both speeches is reproduced below.

I was born into a family of Buddhists in a country where Christianity was a minority religion and churches were few and far between. As I grew up and moved to Australia, I found myself neglecting my spiritual side more and more. I didn’t really think about life after death and I was convinced that life didn’t really have a purpose at all and humanity just came into being by some big accident. When I came to SCAS, I was welcomed with open arms and I was honestly overwhelmed by the daily kindness I saw in the students and the sense of community within the school. It can be easy to forget how good we have it in this school; and especially the attention we receive from the staff. It’s my personal theory that it is the Christian ideals embedded into the School’s culture which makes this community so loving and supportive and naturally day by day, I became fascinated by the Christian lifestyle and ethos.

SCAS has offered me an environment where I can explore the idea of being in a relationship with God, where I have met strong Christian friends and witnessed the light brought into their lives by knowing Christ. I learnt that it was okay to pray for things and even better, to ask for forgiveness. I’ve always enjoyed chapel, I like singing hymns even though I can never figure out the right pitch to sing at, and I like being able to take a break from everything to just sit in an air-conditioned room and reflect on the important things in life, and what might come after. Reverend Duncan, I’ve never had the privilege of getting to know you personally but I hope you know that your legacy as a founding member of SCAS has and will continue to shape our lives and bring us closer to God. The strength of our school community and our collective faith is a testament to your work, and we have been incredibly blessed to have you with us for all these years.

~ Malki Senanayake,  Girl School Captain 2017

My story is a little bit different. I was brought up in a Christian home where church life was life, and I am a strong believer in the Christian faith. However, like Malki, I only came to this School three years ago, and as a result I have not had a lot to do with Reverend Duncan. Yet, unknown to me, this man has had a much larger impact on my life than I actually realised. Coming to SCAS in Year 10, I had the privilege of attending the Christian Studies class run by Mr Hodge where I further learned about the Christian faith and gained a platform to share mine. The weekly Chapels, absent in my previous public school, were a pleasant change. The Christmas and Easter services, all centred around Jesus as opposed to the secular consumerist view so readily celebrated by the world, was another reminder of the high standard of the Christian ethos upheld at SCAS. The lunchtime youth groups were my most favourite. Every Thursday long break, Mr Hodge a few others and I, gathered to discuss the good news about Jesus Christ, and despite the many side tracks usually ending up in a discussion about the Sabbath, we had some good and constructive chats. This Thursday tradition become a highlight of my week and when School Captain speeches came around, by coincidence or providence they fell on a Thursday. Not wanting to miss my weekly blessing, I attended ‘memet’, where Mr Hodge prayed for me and the other candidates. And although I’m not saying that the prayer was what got me the position, it certainly calmed my nerves and at the end of the day it’s not what you know but who you know!

One of the founding fathers, birthing the very idea of SCAS, this god fearing environment found in this school is a direct result of the input of Reverend Duncan McArthur, and for that I thank you. To conclude, in the words of the most humble man who ever lived, “may the lord bless you and keep you, may the lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you, may the lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” So on behalf of St Columba, goodbye and God bless.

~ Nick Kosmeier, Boy School Captain 2017