Side Dish or Marinade?

During November’s NAES webinar on the Episcopal school trustee, the Rev. Peter Cheney* talked about each trustee’s responsibility to understand, care take, and be an ambassador for the school’s Episcopal identity. He commented, “A school’s Episcopal identity should be more like a marinade and less like a side dish.”

Too often, he noted, Episcopal identity is viewed by school leaders, including trustees, simply as a “nice extra,” something fundamentally apart from and not essential to the school’s “main courses” of academics, activities, secondary school or college placement lists, capital campaigns or any number of other “real” priorities.

On the contrary, he stressed: a school’s Episcopal identity should be more like a marinade that infuses the entire culture of the school, the essential if subtle flavor that can be “tasted” throughout the school, from the mission to the school’s strategic plan, courses of study, programs, goals, and how the school understands and talks about itself.

Hospitality is a fundamental Episcopal value. On Thanksgiving day, many of our family tables will be laden with an array of main courses and side dishes to be shared by family members and invited guests. Perhaps it’s as good a time as any to reflect on how our school presents it’s “Episcopal-ness” to those we have invited  to the feast. Are our Episcopal mission and values suffused in all we do—like a wonderful marinade—or just another side dish? Is our school’s “EI” a a bit like the traditional family recipe that is made but no one eats; or is it at the center of our table, a welcoming repast that invites all to partake and be nourished, body, mind, and spirit?

*The Rev. Peter G. Cheney was executive director of NAES from 1998-2007.