St. Stephen’s is known in many ways – through our Montessori philosophy, global IMYC and IB curriculums, cultural diversity, and fierce inclusivity. We are known as relational, #wildlycreative, the bulldogs, and artsy. What may escape our understanding is that oft-bypassed third word in our school name: EPISCOPAL.
As Director of Spiritual Life, part of my call is to help surface this Episcopal identity of our school. The word is rooted in the Greek language (episkopos) and is best understood as overseer. As the church developed, the word evolved to mean bishop. In short, to be Episcopal is to be connected to something greater. This notion, of course, can be used to free up or oppress. Authority is tricky that way. But so is the lone ranger who lacks accountability. The Episcopal Church values this connectivity and oversight – aware that we are all a part of something bigger, more grand; and that we would do well to stay humbled in our Americanized individuality. Our ultimate authority rests in God, whose oversight leads us to truth.
Oversight cultivates responsibility and lays the groundwork for healthy communities. Living in silos will inevitably cut off integration with the world, serving to stagnate growth and sever diversity. The Episcopal Church uses the phrase “communion of saints” to help us recall that we are connected to a wider circle; that when we gather for prayer, we not only gather with those who are immediate, but also with all of creation that transcends space and time. Part of what oversight in the church looks like is to maintain the sanctity of how we gather.
The same is true of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. Our students and teachers in Orientation are connected and accountable to those in High School. Such is the case with our Primary, Elementary, and Middle School. Our campus may be full of individuals – but we all stand to impact one another in community - regardless of what posture is taken. This principle surely extends beyond the campus. We are intimately connected and accountable to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Our standards and expectations are woven into regional (Southwest Association of Episcopal Schools) and national (National Association of Episcopal Schools) bodies of education. We are accountable to our alumni, along with those who will come to be with us in the years ahead. For that matter, we are responsible to future generations, as our campus master planning recalls.
While “Episcopal” may need to grow into our nomenclature, the spirit of this identity is already rooted. We value each student as a child of God. All are respected for who they are and where they stand. But we also acknowledge the call to be global citizens, accountable to the planet, those in need, and whoever the “other” may be.
St. Stephen’s is truly an Episcopal school. Bound to a people that transcend space and time. Accountable to all of God’s creation. And worthy to live into this holy expectation.
Brandon Peete | Director of Spiritual Life