MAESA Matters February 2019


Greetings from MAESA! Although we are still in the midst of winter, springtime is not far away. We are planning for the annual MAESA Scholars Fair on April 26th at National Cathedral School . The Scholars Fair welcomes students in 4th-8th grades to compete in events including a spelling beee, multimedia demonstration, geography bee, juried art and science events and a non-competitive design thinking challenge. Your school does not have to bring students in all grade levels or all event categories. If you've never participated before, consider brining a smaller group of students to compete in one or two areas. In the coming weeks MAESA will be sending the 2019 Scholars Fair registration form, event guidelines and rubrics to all our eligible member schools. Please contact us to learn more if you're new to the MAESA Scholars Fair.

This Sunday February 10th join us for the MAESA Choral Evensong at 4pm at Washington National Cathedral . The MAESA Combined Choirs join the Cathedral Choir for Choral Evensong. If you cannot attend the service you can watch it streaming live using this link. MAESA is very grateful to the Washington National Cathedral for its generosity in providing the video streaming services, allowing those near or far to worship with us on Sunday. Our host St. Albans School and National Cathedral School add their voices to the choirs of Christchurch School, St. Andrew's School, DE, St. Andrew's School, Potomac, MD, Saint James School, St. Margaret's School, St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School, and Stuart Hall School in this beautiful service of Evensong. We are also pleased to welcome our homilist, The Rev. Scott Parnell, Chaplain at Christchurch School .
In the February edition of "Why I Teach in an Episcopal School " we hear from Rebecca Pearson Cooper, middle school religion teacher at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, VA about her own appreciation of different faiths and how she teaches her students to explore and respect them in her 6th & 7th grade religion courses.
In "Spread The Word" Washington Episcopal School in Bethesda, MD honors long serving staff member Amy Barnes in a special ceremony at their MLK Chapel. We'd love to feature one of your faculty members or a school activity in MAESA Matters. Contact us to be included.
2019 MAESA Event Dates
Next Up:
MAESA Scholars Fair: Friday, April 26, 2019 hosted with National Cathedral School . Please share this date with your faculty and students grades 4th-8th in preparation for attending our annual Scholars Fair. We return to NCS and are grateful to them for their second year as host. Registration forms and updated event guidelines will be sent to schools in mid-February.

Newly Announced Dates:

MAESA 2019 Members' Meeting: Friday, September 27, 2019 at 10a.m. at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, VA.

MAESA 2019 Episcopal Schools Day Service: Wednesday, October 9, 2019 at Washington National Cathedral hosted in partnership with Beauvoir The National Cathedral Elementary School.

MAESA 2019 Episcopal Schools Day Service : Wednesday October 16, 2019 at All Saints Church, Richmond, VA hosted in partnership with St. Catherine's School .

MAESA 2019 Early Childhood Conference: Friday, October 25, 2019 at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School.

MAESA 2020 Choral Evensong: Sunday, February 9, 2020 at Washington National Cathedral in partnership with St. Albans School and National Cathedral School.
"Why I Teach in an Episcopal School"

Rebecca Pearson Cooper 
Middle School Religion Teacher
St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School

During my childhood, a beautiful, classically designed mosque was built in my hometown in northwest Ohio. Its architecture looked striking set amid the corn fields and community soccer fields that surrounded it.  My father, an Episcopal priest, arranged for the two of us to visit the mosque when I was in high school.  I remember choosing my headscarf carefully, feeling curious about the division of gender, and appreciative of the hospitality of the people. When I learned in 2012 that a truck driver from Indiana had set fire to the prayer hall causing millions of dollars worth of damage, my heart was broken.  The community provided tangible support for the members of the mosque, but the emotional damage caused by the violation of this sacred space was difficult to heal.  My early positive exposure to Islam contrasted with the cruel realities of religious bigotry are sources of inspiration for my work.

I have been fortunate to design and teach two courses in our middle school - a 6th grade course on Genesis and a 7th grade Religions of the World course. Both courses afford me the opportunity to model Christian hospitality, support the faith formation of my students, and increase empathy and understanding of religious differences.  Over the years, I have witnessed the increasing diversity of our student body and have been especially sensitive to our growing religious diversity.  For example, over the last 20 years the percentage of our students who are Episcopalian has decreased 15% and the percentage of students with no religious preference has increased by 8%.  These changing demographics provide an opportunity for us to examine how our school honors our Episcopal identity while at the same time actively working to support and nourish our students who are non-Christian or practice no faith.

One of the highlights of my Religions of the World course is our annual field trip to three local houses of worship. These visits are important to hear from practitioners within faith traditions such as Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, and Judaism, to explore our local community, and to increase understanding.  In addition, the timing of this field trip during the middle school years is valuable.  My students are beginning to discern their religious identities more clearly through participation or observance of rites of passages such as Confirmation or Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies and by exploring faith traditions different from their own.  Modeling respect for the religious beliefs of others as well as fostering respective discourse are two vital objectives of the field trip and my course on the whole.

In addition to teaching religion, I also work with our chaplain to organize and lead our weekly chapel services.  Our norm is a morning prayer service, but three times a year we celebrate the Eucharist. It is during the Eucharist services that I am keenly aware of the members of our community who are not Episcopalian and/or Christian. I worry about how they are feeling and wonder about their perceptions of this sacred ritual.  Are we doing enough to explain our traditions and to make ALL feel welcome at the table even when they do not receive?  On at least one occasion, I can answer affirmatively to this question. During a Eucharist service last year, I was helping to distribute the bread. In my line, I had one of our Muslim students and one of our Jewish students who had come forward to receive a blessing.  I felt privileged and moved to say a prayer with each of these young men.  They could have remained in their seats along with others who were not receiving, but instead they came forward.  For this moment, I felt reassured that our school was living out its mission.

This year, more than any other, I am convinced that our mission must go beyond Christian hospitality.  It is not enough to make non-Christians/Episcopalians feel welcome and included at the table.  We must actively teach religious literacy and build the skills of respectful dialogue needed for our complex and changing world.  Current events have too often necessitated that I let go of my lesson plan or recreate my lesson plan to give space and time for students to examine difficult topics such as racism, xenophobia, Anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia. Teaching in an Episcopal school enables me to live out my Baptismal covenant, to model curiosity and compassion, and to provide opportunities for my students to analyze and reflect on times when our society falls short of honoring the dignity of every human being. I am reminded of the importance of this work every time I return to my childhood home and see the mosque with its two minarets still firmly rooted in the community. 

"Spread The Word" News From Our Schools
Washington Episcopal School's St. George's Society Induction 
Washington Episcopal School in Bethesda, MD used its January 23rd all-school chapel to celebrate the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to induct Mrs. Amy Barnes into the school’s St. George’s Society. (photo: Tim Kennedy, Chaplain; Amy Barnes, honoree; Danny Vogelman, Head of School).

Many Episcopal schools enjoy long tenured and beloved faculty and staff, but at WES this honorary society allows them to celebrate and thank those that serve so loyally in their community. The St. George’s Society honors faculty, staff and administrators who have faithfully served the school for at least 15 years. Mrs. Barnes was the 51st member to be inducted; a milestone and a clear indication of the dedication and satisfaction of those who work at WES in service to their students. 

“Being part of the Washington Episcopal community has been a privilege,” said Mrs. Barnes. “I have loved being able to be part of a school that transforms the lives of its students.” As the school’s business manager her expertise in finances, investments, budgeting, and audits served to transform the school’s business office. Mrs. Barnes also served as the human resources director where her contributions to the WES long-range strategic plan were invaluable. With a career in several Episcopal schools and sons who are products of an Episcopal education, her dedication to creating strong and sustainable business operations so that schools are able to continue the work of education has been a life’s work. Joining Mrs. Barnes at the WES chapel service were nearly two dozen current and past faculty and staff who are members of the St. George’s Society. At the reception following the chapel service the comradery and respect evident among so many who have served WES since its founding in 1986 was inspiring to witness. The St. George’s Society tradition honoring past and current generations of educators and administrators is a beautiful way WES shows gratitude and appreciation to those who have dedicated their lives to its students. 

Let us hear from you!
Katherine F. Murphy 
MAESA Executive Director