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The Commons: Our Blog

Timely, sometimes tough, questions and insights from NAES and Episcopal school leaders on leadership, governance, Episcopal identity, community life, and other issues.

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  • Far from the Tree

    Ann Mellow
    November 06, 2018

    ApplesWhile looking for something to watch last week, I encountered Andrew Solomon’s remarkable documentary, Far from the Tree. Based on his bestselling book of the same name, this moving film is a sacred exploration of the infinite dimensions of humanity.

    In it, Solomon tells the stories of families with a child who is clearly and dramatically “different” – in this case, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, the searing story of a teenage boy who commits murder, and Solomon’s own journey as a gay man.

    By allowing us to listen to these parents and their children – many of them now adults – the film drives home the many ways that those who consider themselves “the norm” miss opportunities to connect to others. But to make matters worse – and what hit me hardest in this film - is the simple truth that, in our need to define who is “normal,” we dehumanize, exclude, and actively harm those who we’ve decided do not merit belonging.

    Ours are more than sins of omission – in this case, a missed opportunity to connect. They are sins of commission - denying our neighbor’s very personhood.

    As Episcopal schools, we seek to affirm the humanity of each person, to make everyone feel that they belong. We want to be places where people truly connect. But we need people like Andrew Solomon to ask us to take a closer look at our culpability for the harm we incur when we fail – and how to make amends.

    For Far from the Tree is also a film of profound transformation, possibility, and hope. Each person in the film – parent or child – changes and is changed. Journeying through sorrow, disappointment, anger, and hurt, they also discover profound acceptance, love, and connection. Their stories reveal just how difficult it is, this journey into shared humanity. They also demonstrate that it is a journey we must be willing to take.

  • Holy Scripture & Social Media

    The Rev. Canon Norman S. Hull
    October 26, 2018
    In response to the constant use of social media and cell phones, Campbell Hall invited a technology expert who consults with law enforcement to speak with our 7th graders in small groups. You could see the eyes of students get bigger as she described all of the hidden perils of sharing too much information in a system where there are very few safeguards. The next day during my 7th grade World Religions class, the students were reflecting on the presentation and I could tell that it had impacted them in ways that I had not seen before. They wanted to ... ยป Read More
  • Sacred Candles

    Andrew Armond
    October 10, 2018
    I think that most of us who are either clergy or laypeople actively involved in ministry would admit that, despite our best efforts, our family’s spiritual life is not always a picture of perfect piety. Modern life and its accompanying demands being what they are, often it is the best we can do to offer a heartfelt but brief “good night, I love you,” sometimes accompanied by a prayer or bible story. Good intentions and lived practices frequently run counter to one another, at least in my house. But recently, I had a revelation: a profound moment of spiritual power in ... ยป Read More
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