Right out the gate, as I offer answers to those two important questions, I will happily and cheekily go ahead and show my Episcopal hand by promptly pointing out that any two Episcopal chaplains could answer those questions in different ways on different days! And that’s a good thing!
What I’m getting at there is that, while the Episcopal ethos places high value on intellectual rigor and analysis, as well as on language itself, the Episcopal way is always to recognize the inherent limits of that rigor, analysis, and language, and always to be open to new and re-newed insight. In a word, who we are and what we are about as an Episcopal School is too rich and deep and alive to be pinned down too precisely or with any finality. I can’t help but think of how, in the “Chronicles of Narnia,” the children and the Narnians themselves occasionally remind one another that Aslan is not tame, after all. The same, thank goodness, could be said of Episcopal schools, and of Christ Church School in particular.
All of that said, I do think that the Episcopal spirit and character is especially well suited for schools. This is something I have long believed and long experienced, since my days in an Anglican boarding school in central Africa (Blantyre, Malawi), as well as at an Episcopal boarding school in western North Carolina (Christ School, Arden, N.C.), and then in college (The University of the South, Sewanee), and while teaching at an Episcopal K-12 school in Atlanta some years ago (Holy Innocents).
Episcopal schools are dedicated to the education and formation of the whole person: mind, body, and spirit. We invite and encourage our students on a journey of discovery, as we strive to equip and empower every boy and girl, every young man and young woman, and all members of our community, to enter and engage the world as their best possible selves, both for their own sake and for the sake of the world. And our passionate hope for them is that they set out on that adventure with a sense that God has a dream for them, and a dream for the world, and that those dreams are in fact thrillingly interrelated.
Some weeks ago, as we do each fall, we had what we call an “instructed Eucharist,” where we do some teaching about the gathering that stands at the very heart of our school: That each week, we come together in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, in the very heart of our campus; that we once again turn our attention to God, centering ourselves; and we are at peace with one another; and everyone is welcome, everyone has a place, is shown care and respect, and is invited to the table; and there is always enough. And then I encouraged our community—students, faculty, staff, and administration—to think of our weekly shared experience of the Eucharist as training for the world: That, as we leave the Eucharist and go out into the world, our job is to do our part in helping the world be more like the Eucharist, a place where everyone is welcome and respected, where there is enough for everyone, where there is peace. If that doesn’t get to the heart of what it means to be an Episcopal school, I don’t know what does.