“In the Christian tradition, truth is not a concept that ‘works’ but an incarnation that lives,” writes Parker Palmer in his book To Know as We Are Known/A Spirituality of Education. In keeping with our faith and practice as Episcopal schools in manifesting the daily experience of the love of God in our lives, NAES has developed this set of Principles of Good Practice for Furthering Episcopal Identity in Episcopal Schools. The Principles are intended to:
- Support the incarnational journey of each school as it endeavors to describe, teach, communicate and live our essential mission as Episcopal schools and our commitment to a loving and incarnate God.
- Assist each school in describing how the Episcopal ethos of the school makes a difference in the daily life of the community: students, families, faculty and staff, board, etc.
- Guide discussion and processes with the insights of the best practices gathered from the larger community of Episcopal schools combined with the anecdotal field work experiences from the staff for the last several years, rather than to prescribe a formula for Episcopal identity.
- Exist as a living document, expanding and changing as our schools’ missions are defined or re-defined and their communities’ lives are lived.
On a practical level, NAES anticipates that the Principles will be brought to bear on important aspects of our schools’ institutional life, particularly:
- mission statement development;
- strategic and annual planning processes;
- church-school relations;
- board, staff, student and family orientations and the understanding of their roles and responsibilities;
- leadership transition processes;
- regular self-study of its Episcopal identity coinciding with its academic accreditation self-study cycle;
- school worship, religious studies curriculum development and community service programs; and
- recruitment and retention of a diverse student, board and staff population.
Herewith are the Principles of Good Practice for Furthering Episcopal Identity in Episcopal Schools.
- The school’s mission dictates a commitment to embrace and fulfill the inclusive spirit of the Christian Gospel as conferred by its Episcopal identity.
- The school’s mission supports the spiritual as well as the academic formation of its students.
- The school’s religious mission respects and embodies the spirit of seeking, yearning, and searching which is at the heart of the spiritual experience and Anglican expression of faith.
- The school’s traditions and community life demonstrate its commitment to honor, celebrate, and worship God in Christ as the center of life and to support all people, regardless of origin, ability, or religion.
- Students are grounded in the school’s Episcopal identity through its community life. For example, the school’s discipline practices balance a commitment both to nurture students and to teach accountability.
- The faculty and staff are initially oriented and regularly supported in their understanding of and commitment to the Episcopal identity of the school as central to its mission and to their particular roles and work.
- The school has a fundamental commitment to be an inclusive community grounded in respect for each of its members. The religious pluralism of the school community provides a magnificent opportunity to foster the religious and spiritual formation of people from a variety of religious backgrounds.
- The school’s governance structure calls for regular review and examination of the school’s Episcopal identity by the board.
- The board, as it exercises its responsibility for strategic planning, assures that the school’s Episcopal identity remains a principal focus both of the content and implementation of any plan.
- The board membership includes sufficient representation of Episcopalians to assure and sustain the school’s continuing Episcopal identity. All board members, regardless of religious affiliation, share the responsibility to support and articulate the school’s Episcopal mission.
- At times of leadership transition, the board emphasizes the centrality of the school’s Episcopal identity as it seeks a new leader.
Leadership of the Head of School
- The head of school is the primary ambassador of and advocate for Episcopal identity and as spiritual leader of the school shares this ministry with the rector, chaplain, and other key leaders.
Parish Day Schools—The Rector and Other Leaders
- In a parish day school, the rector is a critical link within the governance structures of the congregation and the school.
- The rector exercises his or her ministry within the school in a collegial partnership with the head of school, and is a champion of the school’s Episcopal identity with its various constituencies.
- The leaders of the church and of the school are committed to build understanding of and support for the different ways in which congregation and school carry out religious and spiritual formation.
- Chaplains, lay or ordained, are custodians, models and teachers of the school’s Episcopal identity, and encourage and support the head of school’s ministry.
- The ministry of chaplaincy, lay or ordained, is itself a vital manifestation of the school’s Episcopal identity.
Leadership of Other Key Administrative Leaders
- The admissions officer, division heads, development officers, and other key leaders in the school community are also responsible for understanding, communicating, and supporting the school’s Episcopal identity. In particular, admissions staffs are knowledgeable about and committed to the school’s Episcopal identity when representing the school to prospective families.
- Worship is one of the most universal and effective expressions of Episcopal identity and community life, and is both held regularly and required for all faculty and students.
- The use of Episcopal liturgies on regularly scheduled or special occasions (for example, Opening Day, Founders Day, Lessons and Carols, Blessing of the Animals, Baccalaureate and Graduation) highlights the school’s Episcopal identity.
- The use of prayer, including explicitly Christian language when appropriate, in the life of the school, including major public occasions, is an important expression of Episcopal identity.
- The school’s worship services are sensitive to the diversity of religious identities represented by the students and faculty while remaining faithful to Christian foundations and Episcopal practice and tradition.
- The religious studies curriculum of Episcopal schools is as fully rigorous as any other academic course. If other courses are graded, religious studies courses are graded as well.
- Whether the content is provided through interdisciplinary study or religious studies classes, students in Episcopal schools, from the middle school years on, study Christian foundations; are introduced to sacred texts of other faith traditions; learn about other world faith traditions; study ethics and engage in moral reasoning; and explore the role of religion in American history and contemporary life.
- Religion classes, when offered in Episcopal elementary programs, are developmentally appropriate and stress commonalities rather than differences between individuals and cultures.
- Community service, service learning, and other forms of outreach are tangible expressions of the school’s Episcopal identity and are mandatory for all students beginning in the middle school years. Forms of outreach are also desirable for younger students, provided they are developmentally appropriate.
- The school’s commitment to make financial aid a major priority within its operating budget expresses its Episcopal identity. In so doing, it fulfills its mission to sustain a diverse and inclusive community.
Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided should not be construed as legal advice nor should it be used as a substitute for consulting with legal counsel.