I think that most of us who are either clergy or laypeople actively involved in ministry would admit that, despite our best efforts, our family’s spiritual life is not always a picture of perfect piety. Modern life and its accompanying demands being what they are, often it is the best we can do to offer a heartfelt but brief “good night, I love you,” sometimes accompanied by a prayer or bible story. Good intentions and lived practices frequently run counter to one another, at least in my house.
But recently, I had a revelation: a profound moment of spiritual power in which I was privileged to see the latent spirituality in my middle child come alive. She had gotten a candle as a gift from VBS, a simple scented candle, that we decided to light one night. There was something in this candle that flipped her spiritual switch. She knelt in front of the candle, hands together, and prayed—beautiful, genuine prayers that brought tears to my eyes. The veil lifted, and for that one moment, the kind of spiritual connection that I wish I could consistently make, as a parent, a chaplain, and an aspiring priest, was made manifest. My daughter does not pray this way every night—only occasionally—but when she does, she always uses that candle. It is sacramental for her, a sign of God’s loving presence.
We are privileged in Episcopal schools to have many opportunities for liturgical experimentation. In some of our schools, Eucharist is regularly celebrated, but in most, we have the chance to create some kind of a hybrid Chapel “service” from many liturgical resources. We stretch those resources in two directions simultaneously—one, toward the roots of our Anglican heritage, and two, toward the pastoral needs of our communities. Sometimes it’s quite a stretch, depending on our ministry contexts.
What I hope for all of our schools, however, is that we can find the “candle,” the liturgical structure, or sacred object, or prayer, or song—whatever it is that makes our communities aware of the beauty of holiness and draws forth from them the prayer of their hearts. It is a challenge, to be sure, since we serve diverse communities in which some students and faculty may have their own innate reasons for suspicion or rejection of certain liturgical elements. We have to keep trying, however, listening to our communities over and over again, as they change, and we change, in our best efforts to enable that profound moment of spiritual connection that can inspire a lifetime of prayer and service.
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