Student Vestry leader Griffin Pitt ’21 (see here during a Saints basketball game in December 2019) gave this Wednesday night Chapel Talk on February 3, 2021. You can also listen to this talk here
Before I begin I want to thank everyone who was able to log on today. I want to thank the Vestry for putting in the work to make this multi-year dream of having a Vestry Chapel service actually come to fruition. And I want to thank Hutch for his guidance and support of the entire Chapel program. Now, you may be wondering why those strange passages Georgia and Lily read were included today, but do not worry, we’ll get to that eventually!
I think the logical way to start this talk is at the beginning. You see, I always dreamed of giving a Chapel Talk: I actually have a little bit of an obsession with them which traces back to my middle school days. So when I casually mentioned it to Hutch a couple of months ago, I was ecstatic when he said that could be a possibility. Of course, for all my dreaming you would think I would have an idea for what I was going to say. I did not. It had always been a figment of my imagination, up until Monday night or rather early Tuesday morning, as I realized I needed to eventually put words to paper. So as I started brainstorming for this talk naturally I struggled, and I stressed, and I procrastinated—as we all do, when we want something to be perfect. Nevertheless, through my persistence, I eventually came to the realization, which all perfectionists must eventually arrive at: this Chapel Talk will never be as good or as thorough as I want it to be. It’s simply not possible to talk about everything I want to and as eloquently as I wish to. And yet, that is ok. You see, my fixation with Chapel Talks started way before [I enrolled at] St. Andrew’s, but they’re actually an integral reason for why I decided to come.
My obsession with St. Andrew’s began in the Chapel. To set the scene accordingly, it was May 13, 2016—Friday the 13th—but what seems now like a much simpler time. The top song on the Billboard Hot 100 was “Panda” by Desiigner, closely followed by Drake’s “One Dance.” But I can tell you, for sure, that was not the music the Pitt family was listening to as we drove down St. Andrew’s Main Drive for the very first time. You see, being the nervous seventh grader I was, as well as the oldest child—or the “test guinea pig” as I’m lovingly referred to—in my family, we had eagerly arrived an hour early to my tour, which I’m sure is an Admission Office nightmare. But instead of having us wait in the Common Room, Mrs. Zendt kindly invited our family to join her and Mr. Wolinski for the all-school Friday Chapel and lunch that followed. What seemed insignificant at the time, and unplanned, was simply one piece in God’s roadmap for my life. It was there, listening to Althea Clarke ’19’s Chapel Talk that I decided this was the school for me. Even going back and listening to the recording today lets me fall in love with the school all over again.
My obsession with Chapel Talks and moreover, St. Andrew’s, continued as I approached Move-In Day of my freshman year. As anxious and excited as I was, I had to be prepared. The date drew nearer, and along with reading twelve books from the summer reading list, I meticulously combed through the St. Andrew’s website memorizing teacher’s names, I stalked my future classmates on Instagram (yikes), and I dove head first into the St. Andrew’s archive. Yes, creepy I know, but I was prepared. And it was there that I found one of my greatest assets from the past four years: Rachel Sin ’17’s Chapel Talk from May 17, 2017. Towards the beginning, Rachel explains about her arrival at St. Andrew’s: “Even though I knew I didn’t have life and all its secrets figured out, I genuinely thought I was at least 80% done with growing up.” Yes! freshman Griffin exclaimed—I agreed completely. It was only when Rachel continued saying “But you, St. Andrew’s, you proved me so unbelievably wrong!” that I was intrigued. I was going to grow not only as a student, but as a person in high school? I couldn’t believe it. St. Andrew’s was going to be a breeze. After all, I was the most prepared I could possibly be. I had it all figured out. But before I set foot on campus, Rachel warned me of the hardships ahead, the moments of growth, but the triumph in the end. Do not worry! There will be hardships, but eventually, she told me, it will all work out in the end.
To clarify, I’ve never met Rachel. While I would go on to live across the hall from Althea during my sophomore year, Rachel Sin graduated months before I arrived on campus. But nonetheless, I still consider her one of my greatest mentors at St. Andrew’s. To this day, I only have two “songs” saved to my computer’s Apple Music app: 1) the first chapter of Robo en La Noche por Kristy Placido (Gracias, Profe!) and 2) Rachel’s talk.
Rachel’s lesson extended beyond St. Andrew’s. Having a growth mindset and not worrying so much turned out to be good advice to take. Unfortunately, it was difficult to remember, and when I returned to a no-technology summer camp, she was unable to join me.
This specific summer, I remember, was a challenge. After failing the summer before, I was about to retake the biggest oral exam I had ever faced—twice the size of the exam I had failed the year before. For the past five summers I had been working up to this very moment, and this was my last chance. In an act of desperation, an hour before my test, I turned to my Bible, prayed and opened it to a random page of the 1200 bound before me asking God for a message. On the first opening, it landed on Matthew, Chapter 6, Verse 25: “Do Not Worry” the page heading exclaimed, “you of little faith” the verse echoed. It was so obviously a message from God.
After returning to school, this passage stuck with me. Not worrying is a lot easier said than done.
People often think of “not worrying” as a passive act, but I argue that it is more difficult to not worry than to worry. Not worrying is pain-staking, heart-wrenching, soul-battering work. Willingly putting your fears to rest, your heart at ease is not natural. Especially as the world burns around you. Especially as you turn on the TV and thousands more have died since the last time you clicked that red button. I wish I could unclick it. I wish I could afford to live in ignorance, because they say that ignorance is bliss. But not worrying is different than not knowing. Not worrying is knowing all of America's imperfections, it’s watching that death toll tick upwards each day, and knowing the toll it takes on your own body to do so. Not worrying is a test of faith. And faith is difficult.
This year will not be perfect; nor is any year, ever. Every year we face difficulty, and hardship, and we overcome it. In preparation for my Chapel Talk, I was revisiting some of my favorites from past years: and in every one the common theme was difficulty. Of course, there was no worldwide pandemic, but in every one I listened to, racial injustice, climate change, political instability, or difficulty here at St. Andrew’s were all prevalent. We tend to look back on past years through the golden hue of nostalgia. But we must remember that our country, our democracy, and even our beloved St. Andrew’s, like any school, has never been a walk in the park: otherwise, it wouldn’t be accomplishing its job. We’ve all had difficulties in one class or another, in sports, clubs, activities, or socially. And certainly there is a vast difference between this year and others, but I argue that the same principles apply.
Although the Dog and Cat Diary comparison Lily and Georgia read tonight may seem elementary, I think it’s a lesson we should all reflect on. Yes, it’s easy to complain. Yes, it’s easy to compare. Yes, it’s easy to worry. In fact, now more than ever, we are completely justified in doing so. And yet, even though we complain, compare, and worry, time will continue to move forward, vaccines will continue to be distributed, and God will provide. We can either be the cat and believe that the entire world is out to get us, that life is not fair, and write this year off. Or we can be the dog. We can embody the ethos that St. Andrew’s instilled in us. We can refuse to give into the temptation of negativity. Together, we can work for this year not only to be known as the year of the coronavirus spreading all around the world, quarantine, and physical distancing, but also the year of the St. Andrew’s ethos spreading all around the world, togetherness, and social proximity. Give yourself affirmations, share them in class, talk with your friends, even yell them to your neighbor if you wish!
St. Andrew’s faculty!—My favorite thing!
St. Andrew’s students!—My favorite thing!
Continuing Chapel Talks despite a pandemic!—My favorite thing!
Spending time with my parents—(even though they don’t believe it)—My favorite thing!
Staying safe!—My favorite thing!
It was empowering to read Gavin Frazer ’22’s SNN editorial article from this past week. It was motivating when he called on our community to “fight the current of our society which leads us down a path of pessimism. When we constantly dwell on the negative headlines in the press, cable networks and social media we run the risk of letting the negative become the only narrative…” He goes on to say, “I’m writing this piece not to say that American’s should avert their eyes when things get ugly, rather I’m encouraging our generations to not let our modern world trick us into division and pessimism. Creation of 'the beloved community' will require patience and optimism, not division and pessimism. We must not let the actions of a few act as water on the fire of our generation, and we should certainly not succumb to the pitfalls of divisive politics and media. The way forward for our generation starts with optimism and unity."
I thank Gavin for his article. Because we all need reminders to stay positive. Remember that “Not Worrying” is always difficult. It’s strenuous labor, not only bearing the burden of the facts, of the news, of the truth, but also the weight of remaining hopeful through the many faces of adversity. Right now, we’re facing a lot of them. It’s easy to see, yes. But, with a little more work, we can also see the joy and hope that still exists even now: like the snow day on Monday or the opportunity to return to my no-longer-empty-nester parents. Whether it’s through family, friends, meditation, Rachel’s chapel talk, Matthew from the Bible, or Gavin’s SNN article, we must find ways to educate ourselves not only in the current events of today but also the ways in which to live our lives as disciples of Christ and harbingers of hope and optimism. We must all work to be instruments of peace and sow love, pardon, faith, hope, light, and joy.