What's happening in our Chapel program?

Rev. Thomas G. Speers III Asks How Can You Change the World?

"The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

Some years ago, David Garrow wrote a book called Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. It won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. You might get to read it sometime in history class or on your own. It is worth the effort. Garrow quotes King's sister Christine Farris as saying: "My brother was no saint," but "an average and ordinary man." Yes, Martin was one of the greatest leaders this country has ever known, but he would be the first to proclaim that his greatness came from God. Garrow also quotes Diane Nash who said: "If people think that it was Martin Luther King's movement, then today, they—young people—are more likely to say 'gosh, I wish we had a Martin Luther King here today to lead us.' ...If people knew how that movement started, then the question they would ask themselves is, 'What can I do?'"1

I share this with you today because I want to suggest that you right here have the power to change the world. You right here are people who can make a massive difference in the world today. You may be young; you may be in high school; you may not have figured out what you want to do in your life, much less what you want to study in college, you may still be growing in mind and body, and you actually have the power to make a difference. Maybe one of you will be the next Elon Musk sending rockets into space and developing electric cars. Maybe one of you will be like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Maybe one of you will follow the lead of St. Andrew's alums like Erin Burnett or Maggie Rogers. If that happens, that would be wonderful and if it does don't forget this school and what it has done for you. More likely you will be given smaller opportunities to change the world and those opportunities are important as well. Some of them may grow from a tiny little seed into so much more.

Fred Craddock who used to teach at Emory University once wrote that "life consists of a series of seemingly small opportunities. Most of us will not this week christen a ship, write a book, end a war, appoint a cabinet, dine with the queen, convert a nation, or be burned at the stake. More likely this week will present no more than a chance to give a cup of water, write a note, visit a nursing home, vote for a county commissioner, teach a Sunday School class, share a meal, tell a child a story, go to choir practice, feed the neighbor's cat."2 I want to suggest that those little things can make a huge difference.

When I was in grade school, one of the most popular boys in my class was Don O'Brien—Don's uncle used to be Headmaster here at St. Andrew's; he has cousins here now. Don is a spectacular athlete. He was a running back on our football team. He played ice hockey so well that our team of eighth and ninth graders beat the high school varsity—eleventh and twelfth graders. Don was on the varsity team at Dartmouth all four years and he played lacrosse beautifully too. Frankly Don was good at pretty much every sport he tried. I'm sure that every one of his coaches remembers him. He's the kind of gifted player that every coach wants. Yet as I look back on our growing up years, I think that Don's greatness came not from his athletic or academic ability, but rather from the fact that he made a special effort to look out for and make friends with those who were not spectacular athletes and those who were a little less popular. I can tell you that changed their world. I know because I wasn't nearly so popular or strong. Who are the people right here you could lift up? How might you become greater by making a difference in the life of one of your schoolmates at St. Andrew's? And of course you can also make a difference in the larger community.

We are all of us hurting in the aftermath of the shooting in Florida last week. Students and teachers should not have to worry about guns in schools. One of the advantages of having a brother who is Associate Headmaster here is that he sometimes sends me Mr. Roach's letters to the community. Last week Mr. Roach was right on the mark: in schools that practice civility, kindness, compassion, citizenship, reverence for diversity, and respect for human rights, are we really expected to become locked camps always prepared to run, hide or fight for our very lives?3 Is that really the best we can do? There are people who will suggest that you really can't make a difference. You are too young, too naïve; your elders better understand the ways of the world. I hope you will not believe that. It was young people who sat in at lunch counters and joined the freedom riders, and so many other demonstrations leading to the end of Jim Crow. It was young people who helped to put an end to the war in Viet Nam and to Apartheid in South Africa. Maybe it is young people who will lead the way on ending gun violence in our land. Yes every one of us can take steps to reduce violence in our lives—everyone of us can do that—but I'd like to think that some of you here today will help us all to move towards a time when schools and concert halls and places of worship and places of simple human gathering will return to being sanctuaries for peace, joy, creativity, hope, exploration, renewal and joy.

Several years ago, a minister friend told me that she had gone to what she called church the previous week at Gillette Stadium. It had nothing to do with the Patriots, although some might say that Patriots fans have a religion all their own. The lights were bright and of many colors flashing all around. It was crowded and full of energy and really, really loud. It was, she said, a U2 concert. Part of the reason she called it church was that Bono, their lead singer, had been actively involved with the One Campaign, fighting global poverty and disease. He's made a great difference in the world. Yet, in the middle of that concert on the giant screen above the stage, Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke to those gathered: "The same people," he said, "who marched for civil rights in the United States, are the same people who protested apartheid in South Africa, who are the same people who worked for peace in Ireland and are the same people who fought against debt slavery in the Jubilee year 2000, who are the same beautiful people that I see when I look around this place tonight in 360 degrees. We are those people. We are the same person."4

That got me thinking. Right here you have the same potential for courage, compassion, justice and integrity that was shown by those Desmond Tutu mentions. Maybe it is not that they were so different from the rest of us, but rather that they took advantage of the opportunities that were offered to them. We are the same people.

I'd like to think that a great many years from now when you return for your 20th or 30th or 50th reunion, you will be celebrated as one who had the courage to stand up for your friends and for those who couldn't stand up for themselves, as one who showed compassion and courage and strength, as one who changed the course of history. You have the power to change the world.

Now to the One who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all we can ask or imagine, to God be glory in this community, and in our world, to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.


Blessing

May you be blessed with discomfort
at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.
May you be blessed with anger
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May you be blessed with tears to shed
for those who suffer from pain,
so that you may reach out your hand
to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
May you be blessed with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in this world,
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
May you be blessed with the continuing knowledge
that you are precious and honored and loved.

Amen.


Footnotes

1 David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.(c) 1986 Harper Collins.

2 Fred B. Craddock, Luke, Interpretation A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. © 1990 John Knox Press.

3 Daniel T. Roach, Jr., Letter to the Community, St. Andrew's School. February 18, 2018.

4 U2 Concert at Gillette Stadium, September 2009.

"Secret Lives" of Faculty Featured in Gallery Show

On Friday, February 9, the Warner Art Gallery showcased the "Secret Lives" of faculty and staff at St. Andrew's. Arts Department Co-Chair and Warner Gallery Director John McGiff first had the idea for this type of gallery show approximately 15 years ago, prior to the O'Brien Arts Center being built. The show then was on a much smaller scale; however, was successful in creating what John referred to as "a sense of community that celebrated the adult population regardless of staff/faculty designations."

John's intention this year was even more ambitious. He noted, "This time around, it was important not just to underscore the working community of adults here, but to help the students look beyond the obvious roles we fill in our jobs to create the opportunity for them to be surprised by how multi-dimensional one's interests could become as one grows up. We also wanted to expand the definition of what a creative life might look like. How can one develop a creative practice that engages one with the outside world and commits one to being sharp, constantly developing a skill set and always looking to get better at this given practice? 'When you stop getting better, you stop being good' is a life attitude that many of us subscribe to in ways that are 'secret' or unknown to the community. We wanted to celebrate this power, have some fun and then break the mold a little."

The gallery show kicked off with a Chapel service in Engelhard Hall celebrating creativity and featuring a piano performance by facilities team member Joe Kalmbacher, a poetry reading by English faculty member Will Porter, and a musical theater performance of Sisters by Arts Department Co-Chair and Director of Theatre Program Ann Taylor, Director of Choral and Vocal Music Program Quinn Kerrane, and Director of Technology Peter Hoopes. Following the indoor performances, community members were invited outside to watch an ice carving demonstration by Chef Ray from Sage Dining Services and to view and discuss the restoration work facilities team member Jay Knight has completed on his 1966 Chevy Nova. Inside the gallery, the many talents of faculty and staff were on display through paintings, photography, sketches, wood carvings, model car building, ceramics, knitting, and quilting—and the list goes on.

The Secret Lives gallery show will remain open through Wednesday, February 28.


John McGiff's Chapel Talk

One of the experiences I've come to appreciate here, after meeting and working with so many persons—young, middle-road and beyond—is how I am constantly surprised by the hidden dimensions of the lives of our faculty, staff and students—where we've lived, how we spend our time away from here, what activities and practices we engage in to keep ourselves at least partially whole and balanced, and maybe even downright boisterous and crazy passionate about this gift of life we all share.

Because we live so closely with one another, two different social expectations tend to form. We both appreciate the multi-dimensional character of everyone here—adults are teachers, coaches, parents, advisers, and staff members; students are artists, athletes, scholars, and budding social citizens. We teach one another so much, but we are also mysteries to one another and tend to put each other in neat, understandable boxes to keep it all manageable and in check. Makes sense; makes our social landscape navigable. Oh yeah, that guy Joe Kalmbacher in the sunglasses and goatee in the white van, he delivers my Amazon Prime boxes to Central Receiving—but did you ever hear him play piano? And Ron Lindsey, he's an incredible electrician and good guy—but did you know that he races Suzuki Hyabuse motorcycles up to 170 miles an hour, plays pool better than Jackie Gleason in The Hustler, and could give Garry Kasparov fits on the chess board?

We humans are tricky to understand and appreciate, so we are dedicating this chapel today, and this current gallery exhibition to the "secret lives" of normal persons who have creative passions they pursue on their own because this brings them joy and fulfillment. This is the healthy, energized adult at play. These are examples of the curious child alive in adults that you know: these are your role models and outliers... This focus also begs the question of us all:

How do we spend our time when it opens up; what restores, renews, and connects us, roots us to being, in our bodies and imagination, glad to be here, alive and feeling creatively in motion. Not just that we are contributing to the social good but that we are investing in—and growing—ourselves and thereby benefiting the world around us with an uprising energy.

Spinning some complex shape on a 3D printer, planting and growing a garden, whittling a piece of wood, making a table, creating a forest dream space with discovered timber and stones, finding that one part of the newly made car engine that was screwing up the timing of everything else, and then fixing it, choosing the right tie, that perfect, marvelous hairband, having your heart stopped by a pitch of voice in a song, the particular riff of a guitar: we are all designers and purveyors of taste and beauty, everyone here, and many of us find happiness in regular hands-on acts that give us a sense of satisfaction which is the feeling of movement—super essential to the shark in all of us. Let us celebrate this drive and passion that is a human—nay, an animal—siren call with thousands of manifestations. We are all of us created and, by the virtue of this shared cosmic energy, we are creators, as well. This active principle drives everything we attempt. Let's embrace it and celebrate its flowering in our community.

St. Andreans Celebrate Chinese New Year

On Thursday, February 16, Peter Geng '20 and his parents, Yan Qian and Xiaoping, presented a Chinese New Year's Dinner to our Chinese students, their advisors, and Head of School Tad Roach. Continuing the tradition they started at Peter's previous school, the Gengs brought more than 18 meat and fish dishes to the celebration, made homemade dumplings in the Arts Center kitchen, and decorated the Arts Center with colorful red and gold banners, displaying blessings for health and wealth in the New Year. The Gengs gave great thanks and praise for family, including the extended family St. Andrew's provides for their son and all of the Chinese students. Dinner was complete with oranges for good luck, many traditional Chinese sweets sent by other Chinese parents, and traditional red envelopes for the students from international student advisors, Chiachyu Chiu and Louisa Zendt.

On Friday, Sage Dining Service joined in, offering a "Taste of Home" at lunch (in place of the regular "Tastes of Home," a cultural experience started by Richard Zhang '18, usually served on Saturday night). The full community enjoyed a feast of Chinese specialties, homemade by Chef Ray. The celebration of the Chinese New Year continued after lunch with a well-attended voluntary chapel service during which seniors shared their own Chinese New Year's traditions with a slideshow of colorful photos and stories.

Richard Zhang '18 commented, "Many students attended the voluntary chapel on Friday, and we were able to introduce this great holiday to many members of the community, which made all of us feel like we were at home. I hope that more students from different countries and backgrounds will celebrate their cultures and festivals with the SAS community too!"

Chapel Program

We are an Episcopal Church School, but our students come from a wide variety of religious backgrounds. In addition to those from Episcopalian and other Protestant denominations, our community includes students of Catholic, Jewish and Muslim faith, as well as students from no religious tradition at all. We gather twice weekly for services in the A. Felix duPont, Jr. Memorial Chapel, and we honor all, welcome all, and celebrate all who join us in the Chapel and in our community.

Our Chapel services provide welcome shelter from the whirlwind of our daily life, and offer us a time to look inward, a chance to focus on what we have done and left undone, a space to think of loved ones and those in sickness, sorrow, or need. Most importantly, Chapel services turn our attention the great, eternal mysteries of life.

Following dinner on Wednesday evenings, all members of the faculty and student body gather in the Chapel to hear a faculty, staff, student or guest speaker deliver a Chapel Talk on a subject of his or her choosing. Wednesday night speakers are encouraged to share personal experiences and stories of emotional or spiritual growth. On Sunday morning, all members of the student body and weekend faculty group attend Chapel service, which follows the Episcopal Church liturgy. Students who wish to attend other worship services off-campus may do so with a faculty chaperone. We also offer one voluntary service each Friday afternoon. Special programs throughout the year lend variety to our moments of communal reflection. Among the most popular of these are the Christmas Service of Lessons and Carols, St. Francis Day Blessing of the Animals, and outdoor Earth Day and Easter services.

Whether we are in the Chapel or not, we work to practice radical hospitality and acceptance of others; we work to "love our neighbors as ourselves." To express empathy, share compassion, foster generosity of spirit, and build courage, we thus come together as a faith community to recognize and affirm our common humanity. Both our Chapel program and our community service program are rooted in our need for deep contemplation of our values and our desire to share generously with those less fortunate than we are. In all of our pursuits, we aim to instill in our students a reverence for the humanity in each of us, and a sense of personal responsibility to use their talents now, and throughout their lives, to serve others and the world in which we live.

Why are we here? How did we get here? Do people have a purpose? Do I have a purpose? What is it? Is there a God? These are all questions which all of us face in some capacity at some point in our lives. As students who are about to find themselves on the brink of the big, bad, adult world, where we must pave our own way, I can think of no better time to start asking these questions, if you have not already. Chapel serves as a place where we are invited to explore.
Thomas Lindemann ’16

Chapel Student Leadership Roles

Students help to lead all aspects of individual Chapel services, and the overall Chapel program. The Student Vestry determines and carries out fundraising activities to benefit St. Andrew's sister school in South Africa, St. Mark's College, and to support charitable organizations and causes in and beyond Delaware. Vestry leaders also work with School Chaplains to plan upcoming Chapel services, and help to lead those services as

  • Speakers;
  • Readers;
  • Acolytes;
  • Sacristans;
  • Communion assistants; and
  • Sunday School teachers.

Two representatives from each Form are elected to lead the Student Vestry by their respective Forms.