The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd Preschool is a member of the National Association of Episcopal Schools.
Episcopalians, like all Christians, believe that our life is founded on the life of Jesus, and that as a Church we are called to offer the redeeming love of God in Christ to all people. Episcopal schools are a concrete expression of the Church’s care for young people and their families, and of the belief that God calls us to love all God’s children.
Episcopalians have always treasured their particular traditions, and it may be that the principles embodied in the history of Church in this country and its roots in England might help clarify the mission of a school that calls itself Episcopal. The points that follow are an attempt to provide not an exhaustive system of such principles, but the framework for a discussion and clarification.
An Episcopal school is comprehensive and inclusive.
Our church encourages respect for the other person’s beliefs. An Episcopal school may be expected not to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, or national origin, and actively seek out faculty and students of diverse backgrounds and traditions in the belief that they bring something to be valued and respected, and because we would like to be broadly inclusive of the community we serve. An Episcopal school will look for the values that unite people rather than those that divide, and not allow factionalism to undermine the life of the whole. The unity of an Episcopal school is based on rite and tradition rather than doctrine.
If you want to understand what it means to be an Episcopalian, you have to come worship with us.
In an Episcopal school there will likely be no single dogma to which we all subscribe, no list of rules that define who we must be as a community. An Episcopal school ought to be able to point to its own rites and traditions without getting stuck in them, recognizing that these embody the common values of school community. Its rituals may not all derive from the Book of Common Prayer, but every member of the community should be able to join in celebrating the life of the community in some ritual ways (rituals can be formal or informal). There is at work here too a sacramental principle which we hold dear: God makes sacred the things of this world as they are offered to God in worship. Students should have the opportunity to experience the best of Episcopal worship if they are to understand the heart of the Church’s teaching.
An Episcopal school values reason as a way to true understanding.
Anglicanism has always put faith and revelation first, like most Protestants. But Anglican theologians have suggested since the 17th century that human reason offers a tool to interpret scripture and to wrestle with the most difficult spiritual issues. (Again, because there is no human authority to tell us how to think, the responsibility to reason our way to understanding becomes essentially an individual enterprise, in good Protestant fashion, which in turn underlies the idea of respect for individual beliefs.) So, in the Episcopal tradition, learning is important not to find the right answers to be used as weapons against “unbelievers”, but, in order to arrive at God’s truth.
Clearly, then, an Episcopal education is not indoctrination, not about enforcing an unquestioning acceptance of a fore-ordained set of doctrines. An Episcopal education should begin from the premise that we (teachers, children, administrators, staff) are all a community of explorers, that we all need to continue to learn and to grow. It should encourage all children and teachers and staff to pursue questions wherever they lead, to use their critical faculties, to value the learning and thought we have inherited from the past. It should also, one would think – and here we part company with secular education – refuse to allow students to separate religion and spirituality from the rest of the curriculum, since the Anglican insight is that reason and learning are ultimately intended to serve our exploration of the deepest issues of humankind. An Episcopal education will raise issues of meaning, identity, and ultimate truth at every opportunity in all parts of its program but also will acknowledge the limits of human reason.
An Episcopal school has a concern for the well-being of society.
The Episcopal Church began its life in the country as an established church and has had a hard time, some would argue, admitting that it is not. The positive side of this is that despite its essentially conservative nature, the Church has maintained a commitment to be involved in shaping society.
An Episcopal school is founded on love.
This is not a peculiarly Anglican idea but so fundamental to the Christian view that it can get overlooked. Love for students, for their value as children of God, for their unique gifts, must under gird everything we do. We must act out of love, teach love, model love, and love one another in our community above all else, or all else will be meaningless.