Inclusive and Episcopal, Inclusive Because Episcopal

Every Monday morning a brief meditation arrives in my emailbox courtesy of the Rev. Dan Heischman, Executive Director of the National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES).  Dan was our guest preacher at Day School Sunday 2010.  His insights are enlightening without fail, but this week’s offering was particularly compelling for me.  It is a particularly insightful and inspiring articulation of the gift of our Episcopal identity.  Not only is it in the core nature of the Episcopal Church to be inclusive, inclusiveness is a core dimension of the very nature of God.  With Dan’s permission, his meditation follows below.  I thank and welcome him as a guest on this blog.  

God’s Inclusiveness 
The Rev. Daniel R. Heischman, D.D., Executive Director

 
Two weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking with the board of trustees of Canterbury School in Greensboro, NC, on the subject of Episcopal identity. There I was fortunate enough to see once again the Rev. Russell Ingersoll, former head of Christ School in Arden, NC, and now a member of the Canterbury board. Over the years I have regarded Russ as one of the real pillars of Episcopal schools, embodying so much of what they stand for and can be.
 
During the meeting I was reminded of why I regard him as such a model. As we discussed a board’s awareness of the Episcopal dimension of the school’s mission, Russ made a remarkable comment. “God’s inclusiveness is larger than our own inclusiveness,” he observed.
 
On one level, I thought about the fact that, “At what other type of board meeting would one be gifted with such an observation?” Beyond that, however, Russ’ comment was one of those worth not only pondering, but returning to, again and again.
 
For many people in our culture, the opposite of what he said is assumed. God represents less inclusivity than what we humans can possess. God represents the narrow way, the exclusionary way, the way of religion, as opposed to the openness of spirituality or a secular world-view. We enlightened human beings are supposedly moving beyond the narrowness of the God of religion. However the reverse is actually the case. Throughout the pages of the Bible, God is pushing people to more inclusivity, not less. God is the one, for example, who declares Cyrus, King of Persia, to be God’s instrument for the liberation from exile. It is also Jesus who breaks beyond the restrictiveness of social or religious norms at the time and ministers to so many at the margins, bringing the whole world to himself.
 
We human beings may well have made some progress in our understanding of inclusivity, but it is God who challenges us to ever widening circles of care and openness to difference. We still have much to learn about our own limitations when it comes to accepting other peoples and groups. Fortunately, not only is God there to teach us what we have yet to learn, it is the very nature of God is to be inclusive.
 
That means that Episcopal schools are in an enviable position when it comes to being more inclusive, given the fact that we can talk about God and can spend time discerning what God is wanting from us. We possess a deep theological reason for wanting to be more inclusive.
 
A true reversal of what we might have thought to be the case! Imagine that, and it all stemmed from a school board meeting!

 

Until next time…

My best,

Leo

A Time and a Place

Yesterday at our weekly all-school chapel we had a powerful Holy Week service, the centerpiece of which was the dramatization of the Passion of Christ from the Gospel of Mark by our drama elective class members.  The poise of the performers and their clear sense of the power of the story they were portraying induced a moving and special moment for all of us in the congregation.  From the youngest kindergarten student to those of us in the baby boom generation and beyond, it was a moment of reverence.  Such moments of reverence are in increasingly short supply in our culture.

One of the greatest gifts we can provide our young people is a highly developed sense of the appropriate attitude for each situation they might encounter.  I was consoled that our students exhibited such a clear sense in chapel yesterday that reverence was the proper attitude in that setting as such a powerful story unfolded in compelling fashion. 

And they proved themselves to be quite nimble in sizing up a different time and place shortly after the chapel.  We filmed a short video in our gym to offer thanks to our Annual Fund donors from our students, faculty and staff.  We all moved appropriately from reverence to exuberance as we shouted happy thank you’s for the video.

In sum one of the many lessons we attempt to inculcate in our students is the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3 that there is a time and place for everything.  They and we are all the better for those moments when that sense of the right time and right place is experienced across our school community as it was so exquisitely yesterday morning.

Until next time…

My best,

Leo