Skip To Main Content

An Episcopal, co-educational 100% boarding school in Middletown, Delaware for grades 9 – 12

Practice Makes Purpose
  • Head of School's Blog
Head of School Joy McGrath ’92

One of my mantras at the school is to remind us that we are all works in progress, practicing. Practice takes so many forms here: homework is practice, class discussion is practice, dorm life is practice; we go to theater practice, sports practice, choir practice, and orchestra practice. We practice kindness, humility, service, and love. Every day is an opportunity to improve in these areas with the certain knowledge that we never will be perfect in any of them. Practice does not, and cannot, make perfect—but it does and can make a life of meaning and purpose.

Nowhere is our obsession with practice more evident than in our religious and spiritual life. As an Episcopal school, we observe the Christian liturgical year. We begin the year in Ordinary Time, the linens in the chapel all green; they are changed to white for the feasts at Christmas and Easter and are purple for Lent. As these colors change, we cycle through the lectionary each year, following the lessons and the gospels, hearing something new within the stories many of us have heard countless times. 

This moment in the year, this time of spring and change—where here in Delaware our campus bursts back to life with explosions of greenery, flowers, and birdsong—is the time in that annual cycle of spiritual practice that may mean the most. What is within us, what surrounds us, and what occurs in our religious practice all seem to align. We observed Passover with a seder in the Dining Hall for our Wednesday chapel service, students have been observing Ramadan and Lent with fasting and reflection, and of course, we have just completed the Christian Holy Week. Today we celebrated Holi, the Hindu festival of love and colors that marks the arrival of spring, with a chapel service in the morning hosted by the South Asian Affinity Group, and next week, with a color-toss on the Front Lawn. Many of these holy times begin with periods of sacrifice and self-reflection and self-examination, and they conclude with celebrations of family and community and the joy of renewal and rebirth. 

Some may find the repetition and structure of these practices confining, but I find it differently. The routine, the scaffolding, provided by our religious observance—whatever our faith may be—or for that matter by our syllabus, our daily schedule, or the routines associated with our sports at St. Andrew’s—this scaffolding provides us the structures within which we progress and ultimately flourish as human beings. What we practice in our faith will ultimately be reflected in our lives: growth, renewal, resurrection. After all, what is practice for but to teach us that when we fall or fail, we get up and try again? What is practice for but to learn to take that next step, to do that next thing, successfully?

The opportunity to reset and renew our spiritual lives each year is a blessing we share with each other on this campus, whether we are people of faith or people with no formal religious affiliation. We are all human, and we therefore all flourish when we are able to find happiness—and yes, holiness—within our very human imperfections, limitations that we push and stretch through practice to accommodate our growing and better selves, which we then share with the world. 

Are the shrieks of joy, the shouts of friendship, the peals of laughter, and the racket of games rolling across the Front Lawn each evening after dinner evidence of my thesis? They are certainly evidence of the beauty and flourishing of your children—their capacity for love, their boundless energy, and their desire to invest in each other—within the structure and practice of our days at school. Perhaps I was wrong, and practice does make perfect after all. 

  • Joy Blog