Every week, the National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES) publishes a weekly meditation, written by the Rev. Daniel R. Heischman, Executive Director of the organization.
For the week of September 2nd, the meditation featured Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, former Primate of the Anglican Church in Canada and the subject of a Portrait of the Week in June. In his message, reprinted below, Rev. Heischman invites us all to consider that as many students begin their time at new schools this month, they will wish not only to be welcomed but to be welcomed to contribute to the communities they join.
Please know that we would be delighted for you, our Portraits in Faith community, to contribute to the project by sharing your own stories and your thoughts on the stories that we share. Reach out to us directly here, find us on the Portraits in Faith Facebook page, or tweet us @faithportraits. We look forward to connecting with you.
“Andrew Hutchison, the former Primate of the Anglican Church in Canada, tells of the time in his childhood—at six years old—when he was shipped off to a boarding school, due to the fact that his family life had fallen apart.* There he found himself lonely, unhappy, and homesick. He found solace, however, in the daily chapel he experienced at school, as well as the time he spent alone in that chapel, simply sitting there and gazing upon the window above the altar. The window depicted Jesus standing at a door, holding a lamp. The door, however, could only open from the other side—its opening was obviously dependent upon the person hearing the knock. Hutchison found himself imagining himself being on both sides of that door. On the one hand, he thought about letting the light into his life represented by Jesus and the lamp he held. On the other hand, he felt an affinity with being on the other side, standing there and knocking, particularly in those moments where he felt he did not belong at school. He wondered in such moments if someone would in fact open the door; would someone let him in?
During these initial weeks of school, we need to remind ourselves of the fact that many people—students and adults alike—enter our doors wondering if they will fit in, if they will find a place for themselves in this school. As Atul Gawande told graduates at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, this past spring, the search for meaning in life is as much a search for a place as an idea, a place where the door indeed opens for all of us. We seek not only a place of welcome but also a place where we can contribute.
In ways small and large, in places such as the classroom or athletic field or the dining room, we seek to cultivate communities of welcome, where the door opens to so many. Statistics tell us just how crucial these initial weeks can be for people in determining whether or not this is a place where they feel a sense of belonging. Fewer and fewer people seem willing to wait it out and take the long-term view on finding a place.
Few things are more fundamental to our identity as Episcopal schools as the culture of belonging that we seek to develop. It is hard work, but the benefits are immense for those on both sides of the door. It turns out that, in opening that door, we are more than being gracious—we are letting the light into our lives.
*You can see Archbishop Hutchison tell this story at http://www.portraitsinfaith.
Our thanks to Alexis Kent for connecting our two communities, to Rev. Heischman for sharing this portrait, and of course to Andrew Hutchison for sharing his powerful story with us.