12th July 2021 — Surely the trendiest School Chaplain ever, the Reverend Sarah Norbron, the queen of social media and DM-wearing evangelical Christian retires this term after 32 years at Gordon’s School.
Warm, compassionate, empathetic and down to earth, Rev Sarah, as she is fondly known, has turned her hand to food technology; textiles; design technology; PSHE; charity; cover teaching; counselling; lay preaching and finally chaplaincy since her arrival at the Surrey Heath school in 1989.
She was persuaded to apply to Gordon Boys, as it was known then, to set up a food and textiles department as part of the expansion of the school, which also involved the arrival of girls a year later. At the time, she was just one of a few female teachers!
She recalls that the Chaplain then, Geoffrey Charrett and his wife Pam had been praying for a Christian to take the job and being assured she was the answer to their prayers.
Rev Sarah, in turn says: “I felt I was being led by God to the school”.
With just 247 students (now it’s over 900), Rev Sarah remembers the boys marching to every meal in the dining hall and her eating Christmas lunches with every year group!
While she was first appointed to widen the curriculum for girls, Rev Sarah was soon involved in the CCF and as a member of staff living on the school site, would take the residential boarders out on a Saturday to Windsor Safari Park or Thorpe Park, as well as entertaining Sixth Formers for ‘progressive suppers’.
For many years she and her husband Tom helped with a Christian youth group called Break Out, a Friday night of entertainment, with a Christian message, for students. Their ‘outings’ took them to a multitude of places and activities, particularly enjoyed were the picnics in the Surrey Hills at Newlands Corner.
Rev Sarah moved across the various departments at Gordon’s, at one stage heading up the Design Technology Department. She was also a House Tutor in both Residential and Day Boarding Houses.
It was the former School Chaplain Reverend Denis Robinson (Rev Rob) that suggested she consider becoming ordained. However, her first step was into lay ministry. And then in 2009 she became Assistant Chaplain to Rev Rob before becoming ordained in Guildford Cathedral in 2017 and licensed in the Victorian school chapel of St Edward the Confessor.
Highlights of her life at Gordon’s with its varied roles include one Year 7 class of girls making the salmon mousses for her wedding to Tom, the weddings and baptisms performed in the school chapel, cycling to Brighton to raise money for Cancer Research in memory of a student, meeting Prince Michael of Kent and one of the girls’ boarding houses filling the staff room with balloons!
A more recent favourite memory was the Sixth Form boys and girls sitting outside the school chapel in the sun, slow stitching as part of a Culture and Arts Day.
Reflecting on her 32 years, Rev Sarah said: “I have absolutely loved taking Chapel in the mornings, it was the favourite part of my day. I had the privilege of having all those students sitting in front, whether or not they were listening, is just extraordinary, it really is.”
“I will miss the young people. In some ways I feel I am too old but I absolutely love them really. They are such fun.
Rev Sarah added that she would also miss the food at Gordon’s and her colleagues. “All the staff are incredible”, she said and have pride in their work. Even at the height of the pandemic, she felt safe using the toilets at Gordon’s as they were so spotlessly clean. “The housekeepers take pride in their work and are an example of how everyone serves everyone in this place.”
Paying tribute to Rev Sarah, Gordon’s Headmaster Andrew Moss said: “The whole school community joins me in thanking Sarah for her commitment and kindness over the years. She has touched the lives of thousands of students through her guidance and care and she will be much-missed.”