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Service of Commissioning at St Paul’s Cathedral

In the rich tapestry of Anglican education in Australia, the appointment of a new school principal is seen as a special occasion. It signifies the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the School, and to mark this transition Anglican schools traditionally hold commissioning services, ceremonial events that symbolise the importance of the role and the support of the wider community. These services provide an opportunity for the incoming Principal to publicly commit themselves to the School's vision and values, while also inviting the community to join in that commitment. 

The Service of Commissioning of Ms Narelle Umbers

I was honoured to be at St Paul’s Cathedral last Friday afternoon with all our Years 3 to 12 students and staff for my Service of Commissioning. We were joined by past Principals Dr Deborah Priest (2018 – 2022) and Dr Heather Schnagl AM (1998 – 2017), Board members, Life Governors of the School, members of our School Associations, Cooerwull members and parents. It was also lovely to have family, friends and past colleagues with me. As Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School’s 13th Principal, I promised to be faithful and responsible in the performance of my duties and was humbled by the support shown by the community. 

There really is nothing that compares with being in St Paul’s Cathedral as a whole school, with the incredible bells and organ and the wonderful acoustics which allow the voices of our choirs and the massed hymn singing to ring out into that huge space. A Cathedral Service is one of the rare occasions when students from our Junior School and Senior School choirs perform together. The pride on the faces of our very youngest choristers (Year 4) was lovely to see as they joined the ‘big students’ at the front. To hear the Cathedral organ played by Year 10 student, Kathy Ma was also a special experience. 

Symbolic gifts were presented as part of the ceremony: the School Bible, as a sign of the faith and values of the School; the School Candle as a sign of our commitment to nurturing the light of learning; a copy of the most recent School History as a sign of all who have been part of the School; a 2023 School Roll listing of staff and students as a sign of my responsibility to look after, nurture and support the School community; and a Golden Mitre Rose as a sign of our appreciation of beauty and hope that we all grow in strength and knowledge together.

As I pointed out to the students, it made it seem a little bit like the School is all about the Principal, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The School is all about our students, they are why the school exists, and they are the lead characters in the next chapter of the history of Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School, not me. I count myself lucky to have the privilege of being part of their journeys and I take great pleasure in imagining where those journeys will take them. The things they’ll learn, the experiences they’ll have, how they will speak for themselves and others, and how they will change the world with their bravery, curiosity and kindness. It is being part of their journey that makes this opportunity very special for me.

Ms Narelle Umbers