I recently led my school’s first pilgrimage to the Holy Land. One morning we woke up before dawn to silently hike a mountain and watch the sunrise over a path traveled by Jesus across the Judean Desert. Just as the sun began to illuminate the land, a soft breeze rippled across the ground and I heard a voice from behind call to me – “Timothy.” I turned around and walked about 20 feet to the person closest to me. “Did you call for me,” I asked. “No,” said the elder priest I was co-leading the trip with. “But if it happens again,” he added, “say ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” While I had never experienced a divine call in a literal, auditory sense, I was aware that I was in the Holy Land and it would not be the first time such a calling took place.
I looked beyond my elder and, walking in the other direction, I saw our school’s diverse group of pilgrims. Included among us were a Jain and Hindu mother and son, a Jewish grandfather and grandson, a spiritually-curious seeker and his son, Taiwanese Americans, Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, Roman Catholics, a history teacher, and a boy who came so I could baptize him in the Jordan River. As I paused and beheld this diverse group of pilgrims, it occurred to me they exemplify the eclectic population common to many Episcopal schools. Ministering to such populations was what drew me to Episcopal schools in the first place. And here we were, united across our differences in search of something holy, using the story of Jesus as our guide, sharing life experiences together. Later the morning, after our sunrise Eucharist service, many commented on having an overwhelming sense of a holy presence. God was there.
God continues to call me through my relationships with students and their families. Being a chaplain is all about creating opportunities to encounter the holy – whether that’s during chapel, in the classroom, around a table, serving the community, or traveling on a pilgrimage on the other side of the world.
The Rev. Timothy J.S. Seamans is Chaplain at Cathedral School for Boys in San Francisco, CA.