This April, the Rev. Daniel Heischman, the Executive Director of NAES, and Ann Mellows, the Associate Director, visited Holy Trinity for two days to provide an audit of our school. The purpose of the audit is to provide a proactive evaluation of how well we are fulfilling our mission as an Episcopal school. The results of the NAES audit are forthcoming; however, the initial feedback was extremely positive.
Recently, Rev. Dan wrote about his experience at Holy Trinity in his “Weekly Meditation” email:
The Rev. Daniel R. Heischman, D.D., Executive Director
All of us have learned that it often takes a student to help us understand something!
A few weeks ago, Ann Mellow and I visited Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Melbourne, Florida, and at one point we had the opportunity and privilege to sit and talk with a group of sixth graders. I asked the group how they might respond if a friend from another school asked them, “What is it like to go to a religious school?”
One might think that these students would respond by saying, “Well, it is not really that bad,” or, “It’s not what you think it might be.” That may well be what we are tempted to say to families who are looking at our schools and wondering what this “Episcopal thing” is all about. Instead, these sixth graders took quite a different approach, and they did it quite naturally.
Instead of apologizing for being a religious school, or thinking they would attempt to reassure their friends that religious schools were not forbidden places, these students talked about the opportunity they felt they had going to a religious school. They identified the freedom to go to chapel, the freedom to discuss God, the freedom to learn about different religions and to take the character education classes they seemed to love.
What was it like for them to go to a religious school? They saw it as an opportunity.
That may sound counterintuitive to the outsider. After all, isn’t religion about restriction? What’s more, how could a religious school provide the opportunity to discuss different religions? Wouldn’t it be a roadblock—standing as it does for something specific—to appreciating and exploring the wide diversity of religious expression?
These sixth graders remind us of the unique opportunity we have in Episcopal schools, an opportunity that many administrators, teachers, and families do not fully appreciate until they have gone on to a school where religious talk and expression of any kind is out of bounds. There, in sensing that something is missing, many speak about an absence of freedom that it is our privilege and joy to pursue in Episcopal schools.
In spite of this opportunity, it is sometimes our default mode to explain our school’s religious mission in a muted or apologetic manner, or attempt to avoid the issue altogether.
Those sixth graders at Holy Trinity remind us of what unusual opportunities we have in Episcopal schools, opportunities that are sorely needed in our world today. They challenge us to incorporate that pride and enthusiasm in what we tell the world about the uniqueness of Episcopal schools.