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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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  • New Year’s Revelations

    Ann Mellow
    January 06, 2020

    three-kings-dayFor me, New Year’s resolutions always came with a sense of impending doom, as if I was being set up for failure. After all, how could I do something for a whole year? But soon after January 1 comes January 6, Epiphany. And Epiphany offers an opportunity that, to me, feels both profound and inspiring.

    The arrival of the Magi carrying their unusual (to modern eyes) gifts for a baby is a fantastic story, one celebrated with cakes and food and family in much of the Christian world. Epiphany has meaning in our secular English language as well—a revelation, a realization, an “a-ha” moment. Indeed, the word epiphany means “to reveal.”

    Seeing anew, seeing freshly, and finding new understanding—what a wonderful reminder and challenge, and surely the work of education at its best. And the kind of seeing embodied in the Magi story does not require fancy equipment or facilities. It simply requires us to be open to new understandings that are right in front of us if we are willing to move towards them, rather than away from them. The Magi were willing to entertain the notion that important lessons and learnings—revelations—might reside not in those most like them, those with grand titles and great resources, but in a small child and his parents, people who not normally acknowledged by the mighty and powerful, much less brought gifts.

    We in schools are lucky because January is smack in the middle of our academic year. We have this opportunity of Epiphany to keep our eyes and hearts open for new ways of seeing and for understanding that comes to us from expected places. The Magi paid attention. We can, too. Who in our community might reveal to us new ways of seeing and understanding? How can we, like the Magi, be willing to re-think how we understand empowerment and powerlessness? How might we retain a deep faith in the ever-present possibility of hope, change, and renewal, even when the world seems broken?

    In the hard days of January and February, may we remember the Magi and their most precious gifts of hope, faith, and new understanding.

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  • 'Tis the Gift to Be Simple

    Ann Mellow
    December 13, 2019
    Is it my imagination or is Christmas coming earlier every year? The Great Pumpkin had not even appeared before – boom! – here comes Santa Claus. It seems that stores just can’t get the bows, ribbons, and wreaths on the shelves fast enough I have found myself increasingly irritated by this pre-loading of Christmas trappings and holiday shopping – a distinctly un-Christmas-y mood to be in. And so this year I made it my particular goal to let the carols, cookies, and consumerism wash over me without care and instead cultivate the simplicity and serenity of Advent. I fell back in love ... » Read More
    Tagged: Advent
  • Tailwinds

    Andrew D. Armond, Ph.D.
    November 26, 2019
    I recently had the opportunity to preach in our school’s annual Thanksgiving Eucharist. It is difficult, every year, to come up with new and striking ways of communicating a similar message, the message of gratitude. But this year I was fortunate to come across Diana Butler Bass’ excellent book Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks, which provided more than enough novelty for the occasion. One of the most useful metaphors Bass uses is that of headwinds and tailwinds. “Headwinds” are those moments or seasons in life that offer us resistance, that are difficult to go up against; the “tailwinds” are ... » Read More
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