Despite the disruptions, there are still opportunities to recognise “history” being made at Barker. Let me share a couple of examples that future generations may cast their eye back to see these moments.
As many of you will be aware, just after the Easter break, quietly and without ceremony (as befits this COVID-19 year) the School welcomed a new Senior Chaplain. This coming weekend, the Rev Pete Tong will be commissioned by the Right Rev Chris Edwards, Anglican Bishop of North Sydney, as the fifth Chaplain of Barker College. Our beloved Rev Ware remains with us to care for us all as our Community Chaplain and we shall ever be thankful to God and to Rev Ware for his constantly kind presence among us.
It might be of interest to many to know a little more about our beautiful Chapel and about Chaplaincy at Barker. Our Archivist, Ms Morwenna Dixon, provided me with some valuable material.
The Chapel – a brief history
After the sale of the School to the Church of England in 1919, the newly formed School Council released its first master plan, which included the construction of a stone chapel to the value of £3,000.
The Depression, WW2, post War shortages all delayed the construction of the Chapel, with the Foundation Stone finally being laid on 28 April 1956. It was in the final years of the revered fourth Headmaster of the School, Mr W.S. Leslie (1933-1957). Tragically, the first service ever conducted in the Chapel was Mr Leslie’s funeral.
It had taken 37 years of planning, meeting with architects and fundraising by generations of the Barker community for the dream of the Chapel finally to be realised. The Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev Howard Mowll, on the occasion of the laying of the Chapel’s Foundation Stone, said the following to emphasise the place of the Chapel in at Barker College. We should remember that Barker was a boys’ school until 1975:
“To-day is an important day in Barker’s history because now it is possible to build a chapel which will be worthy of its purpose and of the School. Future boys and their parents will be constantly reminded of the part played by Christian Education in the training given at this School. It is not formal religious training only that makes this a Church School – education here centres around the Christian faith and the part revealed religion must play in the life of an educated man…
“Here boys will come for worship, for prayer, for Holy Communion, and in later life they will remember this Chapel and its services and those with whom they worshipped, and they will be inspired by the knowledge that this Chapel commemorates the service and sacrifice of those who fought in two World Wars.”
The day of the official opening occurred on 10 August 1958. Once again presiding over the service was Archbishop Mowll who: “spoke of the importance in the lives of boys at a Church school of the Chapel, which he described as ‘setting the seal’ on a school. He stressed it is fitting that it should be a War Memorial Chapel because the Old Boys to whose memory it was dedicated had set a wonderful practical example of Christian service and faith.”
Headmaster John Dewes (1958-1963) reflecting on the Chapel and its role in his Speech Day report in 1958, observed:
“One thing about Barker which is unique in my experience is its Chapel. The school Chapels in England are often 100 years old and hoary with age. Ours here is young and fresh. The architecture is superb: it is everything a Chapel should be. It is my hope and prayer, which I know the Chaplain shares with me, that the spiritual excellence of boys passing though the school should match the excellence of the surroundings in which we worship, and the tradition which we inherit from our fore-runners at Barker.”
The fundraising for the Chapel received a significant boost from the estate of one of the most distinguished School Captains at Barker, Francis Ross, whose death in WWII was deeply mourned by all at the School. The Chapel reminds us ever of their sacrifice.
Chaplains at Barker
When Barker College moved to Hornsby from Kurrajong Heights in 1896, the Founder and Headmaster, Rev Plume, became Assistant Minister at St Paul’s Wahroonga. Mrs Plume became the Choir Mistress and organist. In return for their services, the Rector of St Paul’s would come up to the School to take prayers, teach Divinity and prepare the students for Confirmation. Essentially, the Rector or Curate of St Paul’s was also the Chaplain at Barker.
Barker employed its first Chaplain, Rev Hubert Dixon, in 1947 who served until his retirement in 1980. The tribute to Rev Dixon quoted below appeared in The College Barker at the time of his retirement. Whilst speaking specifically about Rev Dixon, much the same could also be said of Jeff Ware, as it reflects on the role of the School Chaplain and their legacy. Chaplains must walk with love and grace as they commend Christian truths to their students - Speaking the truth in love.
“As Chaplain, he has conducted services with a fine balance between the need to maintain ancient Christian traditions or worship and to minister to the needs of young people with restless minds and bodies. The undercurrent of protest about compulsory chapel has never been vented as personal criticism against him, for his ministry of the gospel has always been characterized by patience, gentleness and a humility that does not seek to dominate or to browbeat.”
“He has in a real sense stood in loco Christi to half the students ever to come to Barker, and there are numberless people now who can look back on his ministry with gratitude that he gave them insight into what Christianity really is. “
List of Chaplains
- Rev Hubert Dixon 1947-1980
- Rev Paul Perini 1981-1985
- Rev Donald Hood 1986-1990
- Rev Jeff Ware 1991-2019
- Rev Peter Tong From 2020 -
On Saturday 20 June, for only the fifth time in our History and in the presence of a suitably COVID-19 restricted gathering of 50 representative members of our community, the Rev Pete Tong will become our Senior Chaplain. In such roles rest much of our history, our character and our hopes for the future. Please pray for Pete and his family as they join our community at Barker. My arithmetic suggests we will have nearly 20 years to meet him!