One of the most beautiful chapel windows in Mill Hill is adjacent to the organ. The gorgeous stained-glass depicts St Peter standing by his boat with its broad sail, holding a fishing net, and with the blue waters of the Sea of Galilee behind him. One of the eternal messages evoked by this window resonates in these challenging times. It is summed up in the title of a book by John Ortberg, “If you want to walk on water you’ve got to get out of the boat!”
This is a delightful reference to the story of St Peter clambering out of his boat at night during a storm in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, in order to walk towards Jesus who was beckoning him to step out in faith onto the heaving surface of the water.
The spiritual message of the story of walking on water is multifaceted and transcends any discussion of the scientific impossibility of defying the laws of nature. It can be understood as the threefold challenge to step out boldly in faith, in order to achieve remarkable outcomes, in the midst of turbulent times.
Frequently life is turbulent and calls on us to find new ways of living; to “walk on water” both as individuals and as a society. At Mill Hill we did not volunteer to “get out of the boat”, but rather we were pushed out when we were forced to close! Yet in recent weeks, like St Peter, the school has taken bold steps, to achieve remarkable outcomes in a time of upheaval.
As a community we have come together as governors, teachers, pupils, support staff and parents, uniting around the vision of a virtual Mill Hill School community that not only survives but thrives in adversity. Our St Peter window is dedicated to Richard Buckland who was a member of the Court of Governors for over 50 years. The inscription says that he was, “A good steward, a wise counsellor and an openhearted friend who loved the School and was unwearied in its service.” As we all play our part at Mill Hill, we could do much worse than try to follow his example.
So may we have the faith to “get out of the boat” and “walk on water” by setting high ambitions for ourselves in these unsettling times. As we do so, may we be inspired by this prayer of Sir Francis Drake, who was the first English person to circumnavigate the globe – an amazing achievement, albeit by boat rather than on foot!
“Disturb us Lord when we are too pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little, because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wilder seas, where losing sight of the land we shall find the stars.
Help us to push back the horizons of our hopes and so travel into the future in strength, courage and love. Amen.”