As I write today, we are gearing up for an event that hasn’t happened in 99 years in the U.S. – a total eclipse of the sun. While I have to admit that I’m a little over the barrage of media about it, I am also finally taking a moment to absorb its potential larger meaning. Earlier today, I read about the significance of the eclipse in many American Indian cultures. While there are many tribes, all with different rituals and beliefs, a number of native people believe that the sun is dying during an eclipse, only to be reborn again. So it has me thinking about a new school year, a turning of the page to what will pass in this next year at Grace.
Also on my mind as we end the summer and begin school anew are the events of the last month in Charlottesville, where hate groups unleashed an ugly and tragic rally. The events of that weekend were a reminder of the legacy of hate and white supremacy in our country and the work that needs to continue to end racism and bigotry. It brought to mind our own community, and what we believe and what we model and teach here at Grace. It called me to revisit our Diversity Mission Statement:
Grace Episcopal Day School is a community of students, teachers, parents, and administrators that cares about and respects all people within and outside the walls of the school. We model and teach love for all humanity, and we value the contributions and perspectives of each individual. Our community welcomes all who share these values regardless of differences such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, family composition, sexual orientation, disability, and socio-economic status. Grace Episcopal Day School is committed to preparing students to live, work, and thrive in a diverse America and a global society.
I am drawn to the words, “we model and teach love for all humanity.” I do believe love is a powerful part of Grace – a force at work in each classroom, on the playgrounds, and in the lunchroom. I see it in the many tiny and big interactions students have with each other and that teachers have with students. As we begin a new year, I am grateful that we will add a faculty diversity committee to our community. It is my hope that this committee can lead us in “preparing students to live, work, and thrive in a diverse America and a global society.” We are indeed fortunate to be in such a diverse community, but it takes work and commitment to be truly inclusive, and to nurture and embrace the differences amongst us. I believe that a re-commitment to tending to our equity and inclusion work at Grace is a strong way to begin anew this September. I also know that this work will be supported by the PTO and the wider parent body.
Finally, I am so thrilled to be infusing our chapel services with new vision and leadership this fall. As an Episcopal School, this is a space where we can gather and reflect on our humanity and how we can make the world a better place. So, I thought of a new year when I came across a video of Father Michael J. Graham, S.J., President of Xavier University, on the occasion of first year student drop-off. In the video, he offers prayers to parents and students. He asks the parents to place a hand on their child’s shoulder as he reads the first prayer. Many of you know that I have a college-aged child, Sam, who began their second year just this past weekend. So watching this video, well – I needed to have tissues handy. While it made me think of Sam, it really made me think of our Grace students. I want to share the prayer with you – and offer it as a call of renewal as we enter another school year in these tumultuous and emotional times. The words in this prayer are what we want for our students – what we hope we are modeling and teaching them while they are in our care.
May you be powerfully loving and lovingly powerful;
May love ever be your guide, with family, friends, and colleagues;
May you listen carefully to your own heart and to the hearts of others;
May you have the strength to overcome fear and pride and follow instead what has heart and meaning for you;
May you be an active, committed, positive force in your community;
May you show respect to people of all ages and races and help to make a better world for the sick, for the poor, the elderly, and for the young;
May you constantly bring forth your gifts and talents every day without hesitation, reservation, or expectation of reward;
And may you know every day how grateful I am to God for the gift of you and know as well in your heart the depth of love I have for you.
I look forward to having you all back on campus soon. Do enjoy these last moments of summer together. They are fleeting! And know that we await you and your children with open arms, ready to begin anew.
Jennifer Danish, Head of School