Australia · Christian Schools · Christianity

Celebrating 60 years of reformed education

Rejoicing, recounting, remembering, reflecting!

What an evening it was! The convention centre in Perth was packed with 2300 voices praising God in song and words! I don’t think I ever heard that many voices at once singing in unison from the psalms and hymns: Come thank the LORD, his goodness praising (Psalm 118), O LORD our Lord, yours be all adoration. How glorious is your name in all creation! (Psalm 8), Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation (Hymn 78), etc., accompanied by organ, piano, trumpet.
The theme for the event provided the entire focus for the evening – A GraceFull Covenant, Commemorating His Story: 60 years of Reformed Education. Yes it was God’s work alone and to Him alone be the glory! The commemoration evening marked 60 years of the John Calvin Christian covenant schools established by the Free Reformed School Association in 1957 in Armadale and expanding to surrounding regions. Parents from the newly established Free Reformed Church of Armadale worked together to establish a school association to address their baptismal responsibilities in finding a way to educate their covenant children entrusted to them by the Lord.
The highlights of the evening were the choral fest singing of school children and the launch of the book A Gracefull Covenant. Through these highlights, the evening was marked with praise to our almighty God by rejoicing, recounting, remembering and reflecting on His work in our church and school life.

The highlight of the evening was the choral fest involving the singing of some 350 children from the 4 primary schools and the middle/high school choir. Arrayed on stage in their beautifully blended schools colors – blue for Bunbury, red for Byford, yellow for Kelmscott, green for Rockingham and white for middle/high school – the students sang their praises to God wholeheartedly and with enthusiasm, accompanied by piano and other instruments. They sang beautiful renditions of songs that had interwoven into them the well-known hymns of A Mighty Fortress is our God, Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God our Help in Ages Past, and Amazing Grace.

The evening was filled with snippets of recounting the early days of establishing and building the first school and hiring the first teachers. The Lord blessed this work with growth in student numbers, building and educational resources and increasing the number of schools to four primary schools, a middle school and high school. The evening commenced with a video showing the first church building at Wungong, commencing the building of the school and opening the school with the first cohort of students and teachers.
The second highlight of the evening was the launch of the book A GraceFull Covenant. The first copy available was presented to the first teacher of the school, Mrs Van der Gugten (nee Rozema). Then a reflection by one of the students for each decade since commencement was played on video, commencing with Mr A Hordyk, one of the first students in 1957. Each of these persons was present on stage and enacted their reflection by holding the book and peering through its pages while their reflection was played audibly. This glimpse into the book for each decade of the school’s life showed how the book was not a dry history book, but a living rendition of the activities, developments, struggles and growth of 60 years of reformed education. We look forward to receiving our own copy and reading, recounting, reflecting….!

Throughout the evening, images displayed and videos played provided the audience with a remembrance of school days gone past, many having been students in the past 60 years, and many with children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren who have been blessed with covenant education in the John Calvin Schools. Many people saw themselves in the various photos and videos, bringing back remembrances of many teachers, fellow students, events and activities. The audience was truly involved in remembering the Lord’s work over that past 60 years and the influence and importance of the schools in their church and family lives!
Particular mention and attention in the words and singing of the evening were also given to the Great Reformation 500th anniversary this year, commemorating God’s work of reformation in the church through Martin Luther and others. Incredible to remember such events in the life of the church and to see how God used such humble people and activities to gather, defend and preserve His church through the ages.

In fact one of the first teachers, Mrs Van der Gugten accepted an invitation to travel to Western Australia from The Netherlands to attend the celebration. She reflected on applying for and accepting the teaching invitation and arriving on the boat in 1957 to take up her task and what it was like to teach in Western Australia in those early days. A number of other people used as instruments by God and that had a great impact on the development of the schools also reflected on various aspects of the past 60 years.
The current chairman of the School Board, Mr Henry Dykstra, reflected on the relationship between the church, home and school, a relationship which was necessary and instrumental in the school’s development. He did this by personifying the school with the church as it’s “mother”. The church is where God gathers His covenant children who grow in Him through the preaching of His Word and administration of the sacraments. The church as mother is where the children of the school come from; these children need to be nurtured in the ways of the Lord and prepared to serve Him in their life and task on this earth. The school provides parents with assistance to carry out their baptismal vows. The struggle to remain Reformed in every way should also characterise our home situation. This presents the challenge for us: let the school, church and home relationship be close and harmonious, based on the one foundation which is Christ.
The overall theme of the evening was carried throughout all the activities of that evening! God’s work and story through covenant education in Western Australia was highlighted beautifully through the children’s singing, community singing, reflections of God’s work and blessings in the development of the schools. The focus on God’s work through our humble, weak and sinful efforts shows the greatness of His Name. All praise to Him alone!