St. Mary's Church, Woodbridge
"We are here for the glory of God; to be the body of Christ, broken and restored to reflect the Gospel in our lives."
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Another Monday Morning ...

For most children, the start of a new week at school is met with bleary-eyed reluctance. The next weekend seems ages away. And the last week of the summer term, before the long holiday, is the longest week of all.

But, for the children of St. Mary’s CEVAP School, Woodbridge, this particular Monday morning was different. A visit to St. Mary’s Parish Church – great! No lessons – great!

Bishop Nigel with children and banner

The occasion? The summer term Eucharist. The last one for the much loved retiring Headteacher, Mr. Gourlay. This was the second day at a church service for some of the youngsters. On the previous day, Sunday 13th July, representatives from the school were in the Cathedral at Bury St. Edmunds. Suffolk was hosting a service for Bishops from around the world prior to their gathering for the Lambeth Conference. Church schools throughout the Diocese had made a banner for one of the Bishops and children from St. Mary’s proudly walked in procession with their banner, made for our own Bishop, The Rt. Revd. Nigel Stock.

On the warm, sunny Monday morning following, the banner was again in procession for the whole school to see. This time, in their own parish church of St. Mary’s, with Bishop Nigel present once more. Made by all the children in the Foundation class, the Bishop thanked them and presented a certificate to hang in their classroom.

The Rector of St. Mary’s, The Revd. Kevan McCormack, guided the children through the service and injected his usual humour to hold the attention and interest of those present. The school choir led the enthusiastic singing and the music group performed so well, as always. Children from different year groups read the prayers and the Gospel with clarity and confidence.

The photographs show the beautiful banner made by the youngest pupils (above) and Bishop Nigel, Mr. Gourlay and some of the children, after the service (below).

Bishop Nigel, Mr Gourlay and children

Mr. Gourlay is famous for his collection of ties and the church was adorned with ‘cardboard ties’ brightly coloured by the children:

Mr Gourlays ties

It is difficult to find words to sum up Mr. Gourlay. The depth of love for the children and appreciation for the support he has received from staff and parents were, for me, best expressed in his own words: "Not once, in twenty four years as Headteacher at St. Mary’s, have I woken in the morning and not wanted to go to work."

For his leadership; for all he has given; for his sound example; for his wise counsel; for all that he has meant to pupils past and present; for the person he is; the whole school, parish and community wish him a very long, healthy and happy retirement. As one child wrote in his tribute, displayed alongside many at the back of the church, were words echoed by us all:

‘We will miss you, Mr. Gourlay.’