The term is fast drawing to a close, although the level of activity in and around school is definitely on the increase. Father Christmas’ elves and, by the sounds of it, the elves on the shelves in your homes are busy at this time of year; however, I think it is fair to say that the school staff are even busier!
With the seasonal festivities well underway, I must express how delightful it was to be part of the Winter Celebration on Friday. It was truly a treat to see the confidence and talent of our girls as they stood up to sing and play musical instruments: a moment to be savoured and celebrated. I extend my sincere gratitude to Mrs Munro for her dedication and hard work organising this fabulous event. I would also like to give special thank yous to Mr Boxall (Director of Music) for playing both the organ and piano, Ms Salzmann (Visiting Music Teacher) for playing the harp and Ms Sheehan (Y1 & Y2 parent) for adding an extra layer of magic with her beautiful singing. I look forward to welcoming Reception parents to the girls’ Winter Play on Wednesday in the Arundel Centre, our purpose built theatre across the road at the Senior School.
As we approach the end of this term and the year, I wanted to share with you the highlights from today’s assembly, where we delved into the rich Unitarian heritage that defines the ethos of our School. We began our assembly with the Unitarian opening: ‘We gather today with open minds, loving hearts, and helping hands.’ This powerful invocation encapsulates the spirit of our Unitarian School, where kindness, tolerance, respect and inclusivity are the foundation of all that we do.
Channing, founded in 1885 by Miss Emily and Miss Matilda Sharpe, along with the Reverend Robert Spears, has a unique history. In the 1880s, it was uncommon for girls to receive a quality education, but the founders were pioneers, ensuring that girls had the educational support needed to thrive. Our School is named after William Ellery Channing, a leading theologian in Unitarianism, reflecting our commitment to the Unitarian values of free thinking, acceptance and inclusivity.
Our Winter Celebration on Friday was a beautiful blend of traditional carols with a modern twist, reflecting the vibrant and close-knit community we have at Channing. In the programme, you may have noticed an extract from ‘A Sermon by the Rev. Paul Oakley’, emphasising the Unitarian influence on the Christmas traditions we hold dear today. Unitarians played a pivotal role in popularising customs like the Christmas tree, as introduced by Charles Follen, a radical Unitarian minister, and the iconic Christmas carol ‘O Holy Night,’ translated by Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight. The Key Stage 2 girls sang this carol beautifully in the church.
Our assembly shed light on the Unitarian contributions to Christmas, from Unitarian Charles Dickens’ novel ‘A Christmas Carol’ to the creation of the now-iconic image of Santa Claus by political cartoonist and Unitarian Thomas Nast. Even the beloved Dr. Seuss, a Unitarian, shared the true meaning of Christmas in his timeless work, ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas.’ I very much enjoyed listening to the Senior Team enthusiastically reading extracts from this on Friday.
In essence, without the Unitarian influence, Christmas as we know it would be very different. It is testament to the lasting impact of our Unitarian heritage on the festive season and the values we hold dear.
As we approach the holiday, let’s carry the spirit of unity, kindness and inclusivity into the new year. Thank you for being an integral part of the Channing community and for your continued support. I wish you and your families a wonderful holiday season. Wishing those of you celebrating, a very Merry Christmas! And to families celebrating Chanukah, Chag Chanukah Sameach! And to you all, a Happy New Year! I look forward to seeing you all again in January.
With warm wishes
Miss Dina Hamalis
Head of the Junior School