How Long?
Tad Roach

 

It is August, a time of anticipation, preparation, and excitement for schools across the country. Students are buying back-to-school clothes and supplies. Parents quietly hope that their children will soon meet teachers who are skilled, kind, accepting, and thoughtful.

As educators, we have enough time in August to remind ourselves of the sacred and inspiring mission and work of schools.

We teachers prepare our courses and classrooms. We know we are sharing the wisdom, habits of mind and heart, recognitions, discoveries, and explorations that have led our country and world into both miracles and disasters.

We try to help our students find their way to creative expressions of peace, humanity, and solidarity as they study the human story in all its complexity.

We pledge on these August days to educate in such powerful ways that our students will succeed us with courage, grace, and honor. Maybe, just maybe, they as citizens will love fiercely enough to begin to heal and rescue a fallen world. 

We start by building cultures within our classrooms and schools, emphasizing the dignity of all in our communities and especially looking out for anyone who seems uncertain, insecure, invisible, or frightened.

Our students in this generation seem remarkably eager to respect and honor one another; they actively seek others who have different experiences, cultures, viewpoints, identities. They seek unity in diversity. The are impatient with ideologies of hatred, division, intolerance, and fear. They look at the adult world of paralysis and fear with growing contempt and impatience. 

It is August, and we could say that the events in El Paso last weekend remind us of what we witnessed in Charlottesville two years ago when ancient and poisonous hatred, prejudice, and violence suddenly sought expression and erupted on the streets of a town dedicated in large part to education. We sadly are not surprised at the early designation of the massacre as a “hate crime”, for we know that we in America continue to deny or forget just what happens when we demonize, objectify, and scapegoat the Other.

We have declared victory again and again in this country against these forces of hatred, only to find that as long as we have despair and desolation in our land, the sparks of hatred and division can always be ignited again. Those who worship hatred, intolerance, racism, and violence find affirmation from one another on the internet and yes, they hear, honor, respond to mainstream voices that deliberately or foolishly encourage and profit from vitriol and violence.  

We have held celebrations of how much we have learned and how far we have come in America, only to return to moments like these.

We put guns into everyone’s hands.

As schools open in the wake of these shootings this month, I say again to the politicians on the left and right that it is completely unacceptable for children to be arriving and schools to be opening this year with the ever-present threat of shootings in our midst. 

It is contrary to a free society, to our democracy, and to the principles of education.

It is unspeakable to ask a generation of children to run, hide, or fight in a school dedicated to learning, collaboration, and engagement in the community. 

It is a complete failure of our democratic government to ask teachers to awaken young minds and at the same time prepare for the violence of warfare in the hallways. 

It is appalling that law enforcement personnel know that at any moment they must put their lives on the line to protect our community’s precious and innocent children.

Our colleagues in education throughout the world wonder why American schools operate in a culture of lockdowns, gates, and security screenings. They wonder what happened to the promise and spirit of the world’s greatest democracy.

Yet here we are again, lighting candles of mourning, solidarity, and sympathy, preaching love and peace, while the threats remain unaddressed, unmentioned, and untouched. For over twenty years now, our schools and colleges, churches, mosques, synagogues, concerts, movie theatres, malls, stores, and public spaces have been subjected again and again to violence and human carnage. We do nothing.

St. Andrew’s mourns the deaths caused by shootings in Dayton, El Paso, and Gilroy.

We again ask, “How Long?"
 

  • Headmaster News
  • Homepage News
The Characteristics of a Dreamer: A Chapel Talk by Reverend Dr. Dorothy White
The Characteristics of a Dreamer: A Chapel Talk by Reverend Dr. Dorothy White
Dorothy White

The Rev. Dr. Dorothy White visited St. Andrew's campus this past Sunday and Monday to visit classrooms and deliver the homily at the Sunday morning Chapel service. Reverend White is an Episcopal priest who grew up in segregated Knoxville, TN. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She went on to earn a Master of Arts in Theology and Historical Studies from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University in Richmond. Reverend White serves full-time as the school chaplain at St. Catherine's Episcopal School in Richmond. She also chairs the Religion and Philosophy Departments and teaches religion in the Upper School. St. Andrew's Religious Studies Department Chair Terence Gilheany met Reverend White at the National Association of Episcopal Schools Convention in New Orleans this past fall. "She described her teaching in her philosophy classes," Terence recalled, "and I knew I had a lot to learn from her. We spoke at the convention for about an hour, and I invited her to visit St. Andrew's to both speak in Chapel and to visit our religious studies classes." Printed below is Reverend White's homily from last Sunday, January 15.


The Characteristics of a Dreamer

I would like to give special thanks to Mr. Terence Gilheany as well as the Revs. Hutchinson and DeSalvo for this opportunity to share with you today. I am aware that a meal awaits you, so I will be conscious of our time together.

In our lessons for today we hear about a man named Joseph who was described as a dreamer. Also, we pause today in our busy lives to honor a dreamer named the Rev. Dr. MLK, Jr. I am here by the amazing grace of God to acknowledge to you that I too am a dreamer. Dreamers have one reality in common. Somewhere along the way in the midst of our dreaming, a few nightmares have shown up.

For Joseph, the nightmares manifested within his family unit. The favoritism of his father Jacob proved very costly as Joseph received the unfiltered resentment of his brothers. For King, the nightmares manifested within the movement to which he was called. Leadership may get you on the cover of a magazine, but it can also be a heavy and lonely burden to bear.

Joseph dreamed of ruling. King dreamed of freedom. King described his dream as one deeply rooted in the American dream. In acknowledging the reality of the different experiences that brought our ancestors to these shores, King said:

We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.

So, how do we live out the true meaning of the American dream? What does that look like to you?

Our gospel lesson for today lifts up standards that certainly sound like manifestations of dreams. Let us hear beyond the limitation of audible sounds and think about what loving our enemies may actually look like.

Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest who is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM. I want to share some of his words on the topic of love. Rohr writes:

How do we come to know love so that we can live from its depths? Love cannot be understood by the mind. And if God is love, God will never be subject to the mind, as we know it. God and love can only be experienced.

King said, I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

So, you may likely be thinking, Fine, love can only be experienced. What does that have to do with me at this hour of the morning on a Sunday when I would rather be in bed? Well, I am glad that you asked. This is what it has to do with you, with us.

MLK said:

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

We must not allow the bridges of compassion and grace to become blocked by self-centered motives that isolate us from the world. We must not allow our view of America to become so narrow that we abandon entire countries and peoples to the tyrannies that actions of our citizens brought about. We must not rock ourselves to sleep in the lap of drug abuse and alcoholism in the name of "the pursuit of happiness." Do you really believe that such a reality is what the founders of this nation had in mind?

With privilege comes responsibility. With affluence and access comes awareness of those without. So, here I am, standing before you as an African American who clearly remembers a day when my ride here would have unfolded on a segregated train car. I clearly remember a day when the meal that I shared last night with the Gilheany family would not have been possible since I would have been denied admittance to the restaurant where we ate.

You see, people dethroned themselves and made a conscious decision to put others first. I live in that reality every time that I vote, every time that I walk the halls of the campus where I live and work. People must dethrone themselves and give voice to the reality that any religious tradition that interprets its mission as hatred and its goal as the destruction of people is illegitimate. [The thoughts in this paragraph are drawn from the Charter of Compassion website.]

Any religion that depicts God as a narrow-minded bigot with issues needs to bow the knee and look again. We cannot see nor experience God through violence, hatred, and exclusion.

What King and Joseph and Jesus have in common is that each made the decision to dethrone self. Each placed others ahead of self.

Your dreams must be bigger than you and your bubble. One of the best things that has ever happened to me has been a call that has stretched me as well as a God-given dream.

So, are you a dreamer? I sure hope so. You are not only America's present but also her future. I sure hope that you are being stretched and challenged to not only dream but to grow. I hope that you desire to change the world by living into the reality of being changed yourself. I pray that you reach beyond wealth and possessions for yourself.

The self-evident truths of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...? Loving, doing good to enemies, praying for those who hurt you? No wonder dreamers had to be the messengers of these truths. Surely, since we are all in the same boat now, surely we can learn to hear beyond the audible reality and live into love. We can allow God to transform us and through us to truly make a difference.

As we receive the bread and wine—symbols of unarmed truth and unconditional love—can we not do so this day with an awareness that we have the ability to not only be messengers of love but carriers as well? I join King and many others who believe that, "... unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."

God bless you.