On Monday the Diocese of West Tennessee and St. George’s Independent School (SGIS) announced their renewed partnership. Below I have copied the letter to the Diocese from The Right. Rev. Don E. Johnson, Bishop of West Tennessee, as well as my letter to the SGIS community. As I was drafting my letter I found myself reflecting on our family’s visit to the United Stated Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel in Colorado Springs a few years ago.
The connection in my mind between the Cadet Chapel and our relationship with the Episcopal Church is partly circumstantial–it was three summers ago that we visited my sister and brother in law, as well as their three children in Colorado Springs where my brother in law served as the Air Force Band Commander, and while enjoying new summertime adventures I often look back on past ones.
However, there is more to the connection as well…The Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel is a stunning space. Unmistakeable as a place of worship, it does not look like any other place of worship I have seen or heard of in the world. Bathed in blue light, the sanctuary calms and centers its visitors, as well, I am certain, as the generations of cadets who have sought solace there.
One reason my thoughts drifted back to it is that I realize I wish for our students a similar spiritual solace and comfort in the face of challenge that the Cadet Chapel provides. The world we ask young people to enter is difficult; it is confounding; it is often disappointing. The world we ask young people to enter has always been so. The world we ask young people to enter today seems particularly torn and frayed. What we strive to give our students at SGIS–regardless of where they find themselves on their spiritual journeys–is both the comfort that faith can offer, as well as the challenge it provides to live lives of service to others grounded within faith in something greater than themselves alone. The Cadet Chapel sends this message.
In architectural form it communicates the priorities that I believe should accompany our school’s work as an Episcopal School. By design and function it welcomes people of all faith backgrounds–it embodies the idea that all of us are children of God. For all the community, national, and world problems that await the next generation of students, they will also enter a world rife with opportunity–opportunity to contribute, to design, to make, to serve, and to lead. In order to take on the roles we wish for them as adults, I hope our school can help them grasp both the comfort and challenge of faith.