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Why Choose an Episcopal School?
Why Choose an Episcopal School?
"Good morning. My name is Lauren Ray and I am parishioner of St. James Church and the Head of School at our wonderful parish Day School. Welcome to St. James on this Episcopal Schools Sunday.
Episcopal churches across the country, today, are celebrating their schools. This is a time for our church community to learn more about its largest mission, our Day School. Fr. Joe tells me that it is a tradition for the head to give the sermon on these days…I’m pretty sure, he made that part up. Nevertheless here we are…
I’m thrilled to take some time with you, this morning, to talk about what it means to be an Episcopal School and to have, what we call Episcopal Identity.
The gospel this morning talks about Jesus as a teacher and an authority figure. In fact 48 times in the Gospels Jesus is referred to as “teacher”. How fitting that today is Episcopal Schools Sunday. A time for us to reflect on teaching and educating our children in an Episcopal School.
Like any good teacher, when asked questions from his students, Jesus doesn’t give a straight answer. He turns the question back to the people. If you know anything about teaching and learning, you know it is much more powerful for students to ask questions than to sit in the front regurgitating information.
In fact, it is part of the history of the Episcopal church and our Episcopal identity, as a school to ask the tough questions.
Who are we? Who do we want to be? Are we who we say we are?
In the parable of the two sons, its asking us how we will respond to the truth of the gospel. And like any good teacher, Jesus asks more question than gives answers. Who will you be? Who am I?
Will you be the one who lives by your actions and eventually goes out to do the work of God like the first son?
Or will you be like the second son— polite, says all the right things, and then goes about your day as you always have?
Who do you want to be? How do you want others to see you?
The Gospel also talks about Jesus as an authority figure and that his authority comes from God.
Who have the authority figures been in your lifetime? There’s a good chance that there is an elementary teacher or two in there somewhere.
To me, this gospel is less about answers and more about questions.
Who are your authority figures? Who looks at you as one?
If you are an authority in someone’s life, or if you were standing in front of a group of children, What would you want them to see? And could you stand up to that image?
At St. James and all Episcopal schools, I believe want our children to be and do four things:
Kind and loving
Question the world
And Lead others into the light
Its about actions. Just like the parable of the sons…what will you do? Many people have said You ARE what you do? What are you teaching others. If we look at Jesus as less a carpenter, but as the greatest teacher that ever lived, could we use that as a model?
What example will you set for the little people in your lives who watch your every move.
At St. James we’ve decided that beyond academics and test scores and blue ribbons, we want our children to embody our Episcopal Identity.
And what does that mean?
I know you’ve heard Episcopalians described as Catholic Lite, we aren’t . Yet we are not so lose on the Gospels that just anything goes.
We teach our children that GOD is really big, loving, and wise.
At the Day School, we start each day with the Children’s Creed our babies can be heard reciting “Kind and loving, Lord like thee” It is a beautiful thing to hear and s wonderful way to begin each day.
We teach them Truth is complex. And using Christ as our example, we ask more questions than give answers and we work to help our students develop their own understanding of the concepts taught and the world as a whole.
My favorite author of a series of management and relationship books, Susan Scott, writes that “No one person owns the truth”…
This is why, in Episcopal schools, we teach as Jesus did, we question…we want our students, just like the followers of Jesus, to develop their own understanding.
We believe in academic rigor and that there is space for science and faith to coexist. Dr. Tad Bird, Head of School, at All Saints in Fort Worth told me once that in an Episcopal School what makes the experience so different is the “Dynamic but complementary tension between faith and reason.”
The Episcopal faith exists because humans are hard wired to question. So are our beautiful students.
What questions do you ask from those who look up to you? And do you listen to the questions of others?
Another question to ask yourself is do I serve others? Do I really serve others?
Part of our Episcopal identity at the Day School is instilling in our students the importance of service. Serving those who have a different life story from us. We work to teach tolerance and appreciation of others.
It is a privilege to watch our students care for our homeless neighbors by stuffing We Care bags on Thursdays. The generosity of a child will humble you and quite often, they inspire the adults in their lives to be more generous. They empty their piggy banks to give and serve others.
…we can learn so much from children if we pause a moment to listen and observe.
Shouldn't we give just as Jesus tells us to in our quest to be more Christlike?
As an Episcopal school, we believe in cultivating leaders who will go into the world with the tools they have been given and show others, through their actions just as the first son in the parable did, the good work that we can do when we come together.
We want them to lead. We want our children and our parents, and our teachers, and you our parish family, to be the leaders of a community who loves and is kind, who questions and teaches, and who serves their neighbors.
In short, to be an Episcopal school and to have what we call Episcopal Identity is a quest to reach the whole child. And while academic rigor, test scores and technology set us apart, the themes and virtues that endure are those virtues that come from the good teaching of GREAT teachers like Jesus.
There is so much hurt in the world and people talk about it often but I believe the future is bright for our community and the human race because their are good teachers in every corner of this planet, and certainly in Episcopal schools, who, using Christ as an example of great teaching, ask more questions than give answers and who work to reach the whole child….the whole person.
Jesus was a teacher. Even atheists would agree that he was the greatest teacher who ever lived. And while we as adults and Christians and parishioners of ST. James may never attain the title of BEST TEACHER WHO EVER LIVED…it is certainly the best example to follow.
And THAT is a wonderful thing."
*This homily was presented at St. James Church in honor of Episcopal Schools Sunday on Sunday, October 1, 2017.*