Except for fighting wars, paying taxes and changing the clocks twice a year, receiving the results in August of national school-leaving examinations is perhaps the last thing which a rising generation in Britain does altogether, all at the same time.
It is a rite of passage which deserves a thought and some celebration. For those who sit them, the examinations are a set of points on a railway track. In some cases they are passed without hesitation or interruption. In other cases something sudden, impersonal (and fallible) intervenes to cause a life shift.
But the larger scene of what happens in educational terms every August is almost magical. Even more than on electricity, transport or money, our civilisation is built on learning and on the transmission of knowledge. This is true even for the survival of religious faiths. In each new generation that exploding body of understanding has to be re-created from nothing. In the perspective of the universe, all human knowledge and self-understanding flickers a millisecond away from extinction.
So while in August we may be tempted to say that this year’s TV game shows are even worse than last year’s, or to speculate that the rise in A level scores achieved by young people may be a consequence of global warming, nonetheless something amazing is happening in front of our eyes.
Thank you for good teaching and good learning - the glory of every human civilisation. Thank you for all those who work in our education and examination systems to make them a blessing. We pray for everyone receiving examination results and for everyone who supports them and will advise them.
Above all, we thank you for nurturing within the vast emptiness of space and time our fragile community of human knowledge and meaning. We add with delight a new generation to that community.
This new generation will come to know marvellous things which we cannot imagine, so we celebrate with them.
In new knowledge they will find new opportunities for service, so we thank them.
In new challenges they will confront new evils, so we pray for them.
In Jesus’ name we ask.