After eleven fulfilling years as Chaplain to the four schools in the Mill Hill Foundation and also as Head of Religious Studies at Mill Hill, I am taking early retirement, largely to coincide with the impending birth of my first grandchild. Exciting family times lie ahead.
Although there are many things that could be said, it seems appropriate that I sign off with some words written to me by an Upper Sixth pupil. Over the years, I have frequently told the pupils to "Look up!" when they enter the Chapel, in order to appreciate the glorious stained glass and the beautifully adorned ceiling. Little did I know that this pupil - and it subsequently transpires several others - took my words and added their own deeper meaning.
"The first piece of advice I received at Mill Hill was to "look up" when you took us on a tour of the Chapel. At first I found the value of this to be purely aesthetic, looking up at the building and even at the sky outside. However, over the past few years I found it to have a greater meaning: to be an optimistic person, to look on the positive side, to look above bad things and to be the bigger person. I have used this countless times and will continue to do so. I sincerely hope you teach this lesson to others; it is invaluable."
Therefore, I am taking this simple advice and passing it on for the last time as the Mill Hill Chaplain, although as a freelance Chaplain to those on the fringes of organised religion, I daresay I will use it again in the future!
I would add that, metaphorically, we can also ‘look up’ to receive divine inspiration to help us on our way. Hence, as I leave, I include a Teacher's Prayer for people of all faiths and none, the sentiments of which my remarkable colleagues, with whom I have had the privilege to serve, seek to inculcate in the pupils at Mill Hill.
The prayer encapsulates the aspirations in our magnificent School Motto and its current translation: Et Virtutem Et Musas - Instilling Values, Inspiring Minds.
A Teacher's Prayer.
I want to teach my students how to live this life on earth;
to face its struggles and its strife and understand their worth.
Not just the lessons in a book, or how the rivers flow,
but to choose the proper path wherever they may go.
To understand eternal truth, in knowing right from wrong,
and appreciate all the beauty in a flower and a song.
For if I help the world to grow in wisdom and in grace,
then I will feel that I have earned and justified my place.
And so I ask for guidance that I may do my part
in building character and confidence and happiness of heart.
With my warmest wishes and prayers for this Foundation,
Rev Dr Richard Warden