Dear SAES Community,
In this short December Newsletter, the last of the calendar year, I want to reflect on how much stronger our schools are when the church and school are aligned. Last Sunday as the Rector of my church ascended the pulpit, she began her sermon with these words, “In my 5th grade religion class, that I teach each week at St. James’ School, is the highlight of my week.” I remembered how much joy and meaning I got from teaching my weekly 6th grade religion class.
As a head of school, teaching my religion class reminded me that we belonged to the Episcopal Church and, we as a school, were part of something bigger than our small school might suggest. I often talked to the Rector in our weekly meetings about what our students were thinking, saying, and believing. Episcopal Schools talk about spiritual growth in their mission statements, and we usually look at chapel services where spiritual growth often occurs. So, when the Rector talked about teaching fifth graders in her religion class, I loved the connection between church and classroom.
Last Sunday was also the Festival of Lessons and Carols, which for me has always been one of the most holy times of the year. The bulletin stated that, “The Choir of St. James sings an Advent Procession of Lessons and Carols. The style of this service originated at King’s College, Cambridge, England, in 1934 and was composed by Dean Eric Milner-White…In his Preface to the Advent service, Dean Milner-White wrote: ‘In the old English liturgies, the Advent Offices made a preparation for the coming of our Lord to the earth far more vivid and eager than those of our present Prayer book.’ One purpose of this service is ‘not to celebrate Christmas, but to expect it.’”
Today, on this last day of school for 2021, I hope we all head “home” to celebrate Christmas and also expect the “coming of our Lord.” We in schools are mostly optimistic people driven by hope. Hope for our students’ academic, physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. As I walked into the front office of a school I visited this week, I could barely make it through the reception area because it was filled with Christmas presents. I knew immediately that these were not presents for their students—they were presents from their students to people in their small city who would go without otherwise. Later listening to the school head describing their community’s present drive I knew they had gone from expecting students’ giving to celebrating their generosity. Episcopal Identity is palpable at our schools, especially in our classrooms and the chapels, in our communities and especially at Christmas.
Pat, Mary Katherine, Jeanie, and I wish you have a Christmas filled with wonder and awe.