[SMITFES] The church was filled on Tuesday evening, December 11, as parish members, school families, and friends from the communities of Severna Park, Maryland, and the Diocese of Maryland gathered for the Celebration of New Ministry, which installed the Rev. Frank Sawyer, D. Min., as the Headmaster of St. Martin’s-in-the-Field Episcopal School.
The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, Bishop of the Diocese of Maryland, was the celebrant. He spoke of welcome and hospitality in the Christian tradition. “This event tonight is not only for our school and the Severna Park area but also for the Maryland diocese and beyond. Welcome!”
Bishop Sutton inspired the congregation as he described three characteristics that distinguish Episcopal schools, of which there are 24 in the Maryland Diocese:
- “Spirituality—the Anglican tradition in worship, yet hospitality to those of other faiths as children of God.”
- “We welcome all the best that cultures of the world have to offer and all that new knowledge brings. We encourage scientific inquiry. We welcome poetry, inspiring literature, and soaring music. We welcome all we can learn in geography and history. God gave us minds to think, hearts to love, and hands to serve. The word “Episcopal” in the name of school has become a brand for excellence in the public consciousness.”
- “We’re good at welcoming children. So much of our present world thinks of children as consumers, economic units. We welcome them as children of God. And we try to provide the resources to make our schools affordable and available to everyone.”
Dr. Sawyer prayed for God’s guidance and assistance as he carries out his ministry of education and leadership of the Age 3 through Grade 8 Episcopal School serving families in central Anne Arundel County.
“Tonight was a reminder that I felt called by God to this ministry of Head of School and that in carrying out this work I need to remember to, in the words of St. Paul, “walk by faith, not by sight.” Dr. Sawyer said when asked later what the occasion meant to him. “I am also keenly aware of the responsibility I have to the students and the whole St. Martin’s-in-the-Field community through the promises I have made as headmaster. It was very meaningful to receive gifts during the service that are important symbols of my work at St. Martin’s.”
The service was a joyful celebration and included the presentation of gifts from both the church and the school, including staff members, parishioners, school families, students, and teachers. One gift that elicited admiring murmurs from the congregation was an icon of St. Martin of Tours, the patron saint of the school and parish, painted by the school’s Godly Play and Sacred Studies teacher, Missy Kelly. Bishop Sutton and the Rev. Allen Spicer, chaplain for clergy of the diocese, blessed the icon. Two pre-Kindergartners, Andrew Kokoski and Vivian Major, charmed the congregation with their presentation of lighted candles, symbolizing enlightenment, education, and nurturing.
Chair of the Board of Trustees Louise Knight and Senior Warden of the Vestry Mark Zielinski gave the by-laws and keys to the school, asking that Dr. Sawyer “open the doors of St. Martin’s to new ideas and a bright future.”
St. Martin’s-in-the-Field has long had a sister-relationship with an Episcopal parish and school in Gros Morne, Haiti, called La Resurrection. Over the years, students and parishioners have held fundraisers and have visited La Resurrection. In honor of this long-time connection, parishioners Dan and Merla Tootle offered a cross as a sign of church and school joint ministry to our sister-school La Resurrection.
The Rev. Dr. Frank Sawyer knelt at the altar and prayed for God’s assistance in carrying out his ministry, and his prayers were shared in spirit by the community.
It is the tradition of the Episcopal churches to welcome a new head of school, or those entering into new positions, with a Celebration of New Ministry. Dr. Sawyer assumed the headship of St. Martin’s in July 2012 after a nationwide search for a new head. He came from Episcopal Day School in Augusta, Georgia, where he was chaplain and chair of Religious Studies. He received his Doctor of Ministry from Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, California, and his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from University of Toronto
“While I have felt welcomed by the St. Martin’s community from the very beginning, this occasion was a real affirmation that I belong here. This Celebration of New Ministry expressed the warmth and welcome that both I and my family have felt since our arrival in Severna Park,” said Dr. Sawyer.
St. Martin’s-in-the-Field Episcopal School, founded in 1957, has grown from a local preschool to a highly respected independent school where students from nursery to grade 8 become learners, leaders, and friends in a nurturing, stimulating environment where each person is valued as a child of God.
Photo courtesy of Marcia Kokoski.