Happy Holidays from Grace!

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A Message From the Head of School

Dear Gryphons,

At each moment of this school year, I have been struck by the miracle of being on campus with our students. The joy that pours out of every car door in the morning is then multiplied by each student inside our school’s walls as we gather and learn each day at Grace. At one point when the colors on campus reached a fevered orange and yellow peak, I wondered if last fall had even happened. Did I see the trees then? I know I saw the kids occasionally during our outdoor learning, but it was never enough and it wasn’t as brilliant as it is now. Together again, everything shimmers and shines in a way I will never take for granted. The gathering of a community of young learners is a stunning thing to experience and we get to do it each and every day at Grace.

During this season of Advent, I am reminded of the season of “waiting” as we approach Christmas and celebrations of light and new life. If I look back over the last eighteen months, before we knew we could come back on campus safely, before we had vaccines for teachers and some of our students, we were in a holding pattern and it was a prolonged time of advent and waiting. When could we be with our grandparents? Give hugs? Go to school in person? In all of that long waiting, I know we likely unleashed a deeper appreciation for all of the connections and communities we value and that we need to help us feel whole and human. We certainly wished and waited for it to happen at Grace. And there has been so much joy in our re-gathering this fall with new and old friends when we finally made it to campus again in September.

One of my own advent practices has become a daily ritual of readings by someone I admire and want to emulate. This year that person is Kate Bowler, an author, podcast host, and professor at Duke University. Kate was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer at age 35 and wrote a stunning book entitled, Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I’ve Loved). This year she has a daily devotional for advent and even though I downloaded it in mid-November, I have saved it for this emerging season. 

For day two of Advent, she quotes Deitrich Bonhoeffer, an anti-Nazi activist who wrote letters from German camps and prisons during the second world war. He writes: “Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot.... For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. It happens not here in a storm but according to the divine laws of sprouting, growing, and becoming. Just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.”

Boenhoeffer’s writing about waiting speaks to me in a profound way. It is not only an end to the pandemic that we anxiously await. It is the end of so much of the pain that plagues our lives and our world. An end to racial injustice, poverty, senseless violence, the destruction of our planet. We talk about wanting to return to “normal” while also acknowledging that normal is not necessarily a place of peace and renewal. Instead, we wait for something more miraculous, a chance for something entirely new. As we look towards the Christmas holiday, and as advent continues to unfold, I find myself craving a world where equity and justice is in our reach and where belonging can exist for many and not the few. While I continue to extend grace to all of our students day in and day out, I pray for this same grace to spread into the wider world as a healing and forgiving force for good. And I am reminded by Bonhoeffer, “For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. It happens not here in a storm but according to the divine laws of sprouting, growing, and becoming.”

As I pray for this new justice and good to emerge, I am continually reminded of my gratitude for the abundance of our Grace community and the connections that have sustained many of us over this challenging time. All of us have sewn ourselves to the health and well-being of one another as a way forward and in the “waiting” for a new hope and change. We have managed to keep our children safe and show up for those in our community who were sick or unwell. I see our school and its mission engaged in “sprouting, growing, and becoming.” This is our definition of the Beloved Community. And we need not wait for it to be real. 

As you prepare for the new year, I send you blessings and tidings of good news about this special school that each of you has committed to sustaining in your own special ways. May you find joy and contentment in these days of waiting and listening and may your holiday be abundant and restorative. I look forward to beginning anew with all of you and our wonderful students and teachers in 2022.

Jen Danish Signature

Jennifer S. Danish
Head of School