I have worked with children and families as a volunteer and in my previous career as a psychologist. I knew that the calling I felt as a lay person would continue as I transitioned into ordained ministry. Upon my ordination to the priesthood in 2016, I was called as an Associate Rector for a parish in Amarillo, Texas. Part of my responsibilities included being a School Chaplain for a Pre-K through 8th Grade Episcopal School. In 2019, I accepted a new call to be a full-time School Chaplain at All Saints’ Episcopal School (3s through 12th Grade).
I love that worship is what binds our community. We pray the Daily Office every day and celebrate Eucharist each week. We (chaplains, faculty, and students) work together to create an Episcopal liturgy that is engaging and age-appropriate for our community. Being a School Chaplain requires me to be more creative with worship than I might otherwise be in a parish setting because we have students and faculty from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. As a result, we must be very intentional about how we make sure we are welcoming to all students. In a parish setting, the people attending are doing so voluntarily and are seeking a specific Episcopal experience. This is not so in an Episcopal School setting.
I also love the community life found in Episcopal Schools. We worship together, we grieve together, we celebrate together, we serve together. I treasure these opportunities to share that journey with the students, faculty, and families. The students remind us of what is immediate and important every single day. Even in the midst of challenges, our young people remind us to embrace joy wherever we find it.
School chaplaincy requires flexibility, patience, and a lot of grace and mercy (for myself as well as others). The days are lively. I remind myself daily that this work is God’s. I am just one of the many vessels in this community that seeks to share the love of a God who will never give up on us. My prayer is that every single person in our community truly knows that we are loved beyond our wildest imaginations.
The Rev. Dr. Jill A. Walters is Chaplain at All Saints’ Episcopal School of Fort Worth.