The Quiet Garden

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31

I was privileged to attend the NAES Heads’ Retreat on February 23 and 24 in San Francisco for two days of reflection and conversation with Episcopal schools heads facilitated by Dan Heischman, NAES Executive Director, and Tom Clarke, school consultant and former headmaster of Campbell Hall (Episcopal) in North Hollywood, California.

This brief quote from the Gospel according to Mark is spoken by Jesus to the apostles after a busy time and serves as the prelude to the gathering of the multitudes and the feeding of the five thousand.

The same scriptural quote is used by English “quiet garden” movement. Started in the 1990s by Philip Roderick, an Anglican priest working in the Diocese of Oxford, England, the quiet garden movement encourages communities to intentionally create spaces for people to find some holy and sacred space in their lives where they can reflect without distraction, subscribing to the motto, “Don’t just do something, sit there!” They may be private homes and gardens, retreat centers or local churches, or simply places of stillness and beauty.

This reading from Mark and the metaphor of the “quiet garden” were offered by Tom Clarke as a starting place for a discussion about personal rest and reflection. How and where do we find spaces and moments for quietness amidst the many demands and busyness of school life—whether a literal escape from the hurly burly sounds of the world, or simply finding a calmness of sprit? We were asked to answer the question: where is your quiet garden?

The same question can be asked of our schools. How does the school encourage and incorporate the notion of a “quiet garden” into school life, whether literally or figuratively? Like Jesus and the apostles, teachers and school leaders encounter the multitudes daily; they come to us with their needs and expect from us some guidance, love, and wisdom. Where can and do we all—students, families, and faculty members—find that quiet place so critical to the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of each and all?

Where is your quiet garden?