Communities are impacted by the realities of life in a fallen world. Yet, at the same time when a community encounters difficulty and laments because there is disruption to shalom, God is always redeeming his people and shaping them to be who he calls them to be.

I would recommend that schools develop a couple of profile statements. The first, a “School Profile” setting out some clarifying statements indicating what the community is committed to be and do. The second would be a “Graduate Student Profile” describing what would be some desirable attributes that we would dearly love to see in our graduating students. These statements should not be used as curriculum outcomes but as helpful reminders as to the purpose and direction of our educational ministry.

In one of the school groups in which I continue to have involvement, one of the School profile statements says: We will “Pray and struggle for shalom, celebrating its presence and mourning its absence, within the school community and beyond.”

Here there is a clear recognition of future hope, tempered by the reality of present brokenness.

Recognising brokenness, sadness and grief is an important part of community life. We need not fall into the trap of sentimental self-indulgence, but we do need to recognise that pain and suffering is part of our present life.

The Scriptures reflect this reality. Around forty-five percent of Psalms focus on lament.

There are two dangers. Firstly, that we will adopt a positive thinking approach; attempting to manufacture happiness despite what we experience. Or secondly, we will indulge in sentimental self-pity and play the present secular game of rejoicing in victimhood.

We must have a culture that includes lament – and by that we mean that we can experience grief without despair; immense sadness with hope. We can hold to a strong faith in God whilst recognising the pain of brokenness and tragedy in our lives and beyond. Lament avoids trite answers and quick solutions, progressively moving us toward deeper worship and trust.

In our school communities let us be careful that we’re not simply singing happy upbeat songs in our chapel times. Rather, let us be sensitive to the experiences of all community members by providing opportunities for open discussion and questioning to take place.

And let us continually see pain and suffering through the Cross of Christ. That way there is always hope.