Father Vincent Kopp
The beautiful black leather-bound New Revised Standard Version bibles published by Oxford University Press were gifts from Bishop Sam Rodman—who delivered the commencement address—and were paid for through a combination of diocesan and Chaplain funds.
It has long been a tradition among Episcopal Schools for graduates to receive bibles. My own three children received their personal bibles when they graduated from Episcopal boarding schools and my college age niece received hers when she graduated from Trinity Episcopal School in Charlotte before going to high school.
All remember their gifts as important reminders that education at an Episcopal school is a grace-filled experience that seeks to form and nourish the soul even as it prepares the mind and body to live life differently in ways secular education does not and – frankly – is not meant to prepare a person to live.
Not so with an Episcopal school education. To quote the National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES) web site (http://www.episcopalschools.org/library/articles/2012/03/15/what-are-the-principal-qualities-that-distinguish-a-school-as-episcopal-):
Above all, Episcopal schools exist not merely to educate, but to demonstrate and proclaim the unique worth and beauty of all human beings as creations of a loving, empowering God.
This is the goal and the challenge St. Timothy’s School faces as it continues to strive to discern the meaning of “Episcopal Identity”— a long-standing but incompletely realized school strategic goal for many years. As Chaplain one of my roles is to help the community do exactly that, especially through prayer, worship, and teaching Religious Studies Courses (RSCs); but also by being a bridge across which love between the parish and the school can travel.
Here, too, is the place where St. Timothy’s Church is called to be an Episcopal model for St. Timothy’s School, which counts among its students an Episcopalian minority that includes less than 1% representation from St. Timothy’s Church itself.
As the originating parish and physical home of the school, the church sustains the school by nourishing its historical identity and providing property connections that can never be broken without harm to both parties, much as is true in any marriage.
As with any love story—something Bishop Rodman pointed out when he told graduates and their families that the bible is first and foremost a love story—a waxing and waning of affection among partners is to be expected but so is reconciliation and restoration.
In the bible, God stays in relationship with his beloved creation and people no matter how bad things get, now and forever. In our parish, St. Timothy’s Church will remain in relationship with St. Timothy’s School, for as long as each is committed to being committed to the other, openly and honestly.
Together, church and school join two means of grace as one when they model God’s love through education. And as is always the case, experience of this grace depends on our sustained trust, hope, and love in our “…loving, empowering God.”