From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: St. Paul's School symposium explores community and character

Date Fri, 28 Jun 2002 12:06:56 -0400

June 28, 2002


Episcopalians: St. Paul's School symposium explores community 
and character

by Jana F. Brown

(ENS) "If we do not give the Christian message to our young 
people today, they will turn elsewhere to meet that need," the 
Rev. F. Washington Jarvis warned 120 private school educators 
who gathered June 16-18 to explore how secondary schools can 
teach spirituality that will inform moral and ethical decisions 
in tomorrow's leaders. 

Jarvis, an Episcopal priest who is headmaster of Roxbury 
Latin School in Boston, the oldest private school in the United 
States, said that a "spiritual malaise" exists among today's 
youth as they seek, but do not find, answers to their most 
fundamental questions.

The participants, from as far away as Australia and South 
Africa, included administrators, trustees, teachers, and several 
students from nearly 80 of the world's leading private schools. 
The two-day symposium, entitled "Community and Character: 
Schools and the Spiritual Formation of Young People," was held 
at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire.

Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold was the celebrant and 
preacher at the Eucharist on Sunday evening, the first event of 
the symposium. During his homily, Griswold, a 1955 graduate of 
St. Paul's, spoke warmly of his time at the school and recalled 
how his vocation in the church was identified while he was a 
young student. 

Character not formed in solitude

Internationally known Lutheran theologian and scholar Martin 
E. Marty kicked off five plenary sessions addressing spiritual 
formation as the foundation for teaching values and ethics in 
American secondary school education. His thoughtful and often 
humorous discussion on "Language and Languages, Religion and 
Religions: The Generals and the Particulars" focused on the 
evolution of religion and its role over the years in the 
formation of community and character. "Community and character 
are not only formed in a religious context," Marty said. "There 
is an inhibition not to push too far, particularly in 
church-related [academic institutions]."

In his address, Marty presented three theses, asserting that one 
can acquire anything in solitude with the exception of character 
(which needs community support to develop); that while the 
development of character in school is related to texts, the main 
influences are personal and born of narrative; and that these 
narratives have connections with theology in some definitions.

Jarvis spoke on the topic of "Addressing Our Students' 
Deepest Needs." He questioned the identities of today's schools 
and proposed that most educators are afraid to tackle religious 
questions for fear of offending anyone. He also underplayed the 
importance of the the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 
and the current sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. "All 
of the great spiritual revivals have occurred in just such 
circumstances. These are prime conditions for a great renewal," 
he said.

Jarvis warned educators of the dangers accompanying the 
failure to meet students' spiritual needs. While schools are 
busy enhancing what they are physically able to offer their 
students in the way of facilities, many are missing the boat on 
the need for spiritual indulgence. "Many schools are missing 
this opportunity. No one can say we are not meeting our 
students' physical needs, but that can't make up for the failure 
to meet their spiritual needs," he said. "God needs our help. 
Our calling in schools is to save the world one by one."

The evening program on June 17 included a reception hosted by 
the National Association of Episcopal Schools, which 
co-sponsored the symposium. The Rev. Peter G. Cheney, executive 
director of the NAES, was the keynote speaker.

Encouraging accountability, making amends

Offering perspectives from her doctoral scrutiny of boarding 
schools and as a sociologist, teacher, and journalist based in 
Bern, Switzerland, Dr. Kim Hays explored the question of 
teaching our children the values of compassion and 
accountability. In a presentation entitled "The Merits of Saying 
I'm Sorry: A Secular Approach to Moral and Spiritual Growth," 
Hays outlined the cultural failure to acknowledge and atone for 
our mistakes and the effect that phenomenon has on the world's 

"We must oppose the spirit of the times in the way we talk to 
our children," she said. "We must help our children to feel 
accountable for their mistakes, to feel sorry, and to make 
amends. These things are important in creating a moral society."

In a plenary session, Dr. David Hornbeck, chair of the Public 
Education Network and former superintendent of the Philadelphia 
public school system, addressed the symposium on the values of 
service learning, asserting that America has "morphed" into a 
society in which value is determined not by service to others 
but by economic utility.

"It is not possible to overstate the centrality of productive 
citizenship to the happiness of the human being," said Hornbeck, 
who also serves as chairman of the board of directors for the 
Children's Defense Fund. "Those among you who will really be 
happy are those who have sought and found the capacity to 

Scattered among the plenary lectures were small group 
discussions, during which participants were encouraged to 
further explore the issues raised by the plenary speakers. The 
plenary sessions concluded soon after Hornbeck's address with a 
panel discussion that included Hays, Hornbeck, Jarvis, St. 
Paul's School rector Bishop Craig Anderson, and Emily Baines, a 
senior at the school. Questions for the panelists ranged from 
queries on political correctness of teaching morality to the 
challenge of meeting the needs of parents, as well as the role 
of the adult in a moral community, channeling moral outrage in 
productive ways, and enforcing accountability among today's 

The symposium concluded with a service of Evensong, with 
Anderson as the preacher, and a closing banquet and humorous 
address by the Rev. Anthony C. Campbell.


--Jana Brown is a staff writer at St. Paul's School.

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