From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Episcopalians: St. Paul's School symposium explores community and character
Fri, 28 Jun 2002 12:06:56 -0400
June 28, 2002
Episcopalians: St. Paul's School symposium explores community
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
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
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,"
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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