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Aiming for unity

combermerians gather for nostalgic, pertinent “get together”

“Enthusiasts soon understand each other” – Irving

Not so long ago at a meeting, a Combermerian said: “Let us have a grand reunion.”

“But how, shall it be done? Bring me a plan, that we may comprehend,” said the chairman, as he pounded the gavel and sang “Up and on, up and on”.

Now, one year later, the Celebration Of Combermere Unity became a reality when about 400 persons, including alumnae, praised and worshipped, registered, met and greeted at the St. Gabrielle’s Church, in Brooklyn, on Sunday, August, 26, 2012.

Some half an hour after the appointed time, the early bird old scholars from London, Canada, and Barbados, together with the New York contingent, gathered and marched up the aisle, in classic Episcopalian procession to the song, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, and King of Creation as the beautiful organ arrangement of Dr. Sean Jackson (Combermerian), filled the sanctuary.

When the alumnae reached and sat in the pews, they were at least six rows deep. Jackson, whose early music teachers were James Millington and Dr. John Fletcher, took his hands off the keys, worked the foot pedals and ushered in the last verse: Praise to the Lord… All that hath life and breath… Let the Amen sound from his people again, gladly for all we adore him.”

The Combermerians were proud and authentic: “Blazered” – blazers, ties, crests – old and new, they were loud, especially when rendering the school song in triumph as an anthem, and they were reflective, attending to every detail of the sermon that challenged them to be unified in a world of disunity and to pass on lessons from generation to generation.

“Lives are still in the making here. Hearts are in the making here, Mighty undertaking here. Up and on. Up an on,” said the Reverend Stephen Foster, as he began the sermon. “The school song made us rounded, responsible, citizens and gave us a bond which was part of us at that moment, but still within our grasp,” he continued.

With the prayers, remarks, offertory and recessional matters complete, another Sean Jackson arrangement ushered patrons downstairs for registration and a meet-and-greet session.

The noise in the reception hall was different – high fives, hugs, laughter, ageless stories and more. Moment to moment the huddles change, yet the resonance of Up and On spread all across the reception hall. However, like a few, I was a stranger in the midst.

“Wait. Is Edey one of us?” asked Clyde Sealy.

“No. He went to school at the other place. The enemy,” Clive responded.

Clyde then revealed this story.

“I passed the written exams for both schools but didn’t make it pass the Harrison College interview. I was happy, I loved Combermere playing field but my teachers at St. Giles School were upset. They called the school but the school couldn’t find my records.”

Thankfully, Clive Griffith, a childhood neighbour who went to both schools altered the conversation albeit, slightly.

He recalled that in our neighbourhood, Jeff Cobham (HC) lived on one side of the pipe, and he lived on the other side and wondered if I remembered Ms. Franklyn, who lived opposite the pipe and went to Combermere.

What Clive didn’t tell or know was that the pipe in Howells Cross Road had a symbolic value for the late Bruce Maycock, Ms Franklyn’s neighbour.

When it was known that I had passed for Harrison College, Bruce offered congratulations, and tersely said:

“Now don’t let me see you at the pipe. You here me?”

Some years later, a student at the Boy’s Foundation, who was often late for first period, shared a perspective that gave memory to my childhood experience.

“Don’t you have sisters and brothers to help you with your chores?” I asked the student.

“Yes,” he replied, “I have a brother and sister, but they go Harrison College and Queen’s College.”

We may never know how these perceptions became ingrained into our society. We can commend ourselves for the tolerance we have exhibited. But at some point the significance of Rev Foster’s unity pathways must be faced squarely, if we are to move beyond denial.

Foster’s first step to unity is self and the changes and concessions one is prepared to make.

Hopefully, others beyond this forum will also hear Foster’s final charge to his fellow alumnae – pass the message of our school song unto the third and fourth generation. Let unity be the centrefold of the world disunity in which we now live.

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