Open Hearts and Minds: Our Episcopal Heritage

by The Rev. Kathy Boss, Chaplain

Recently a friend of mine told me about an experience he’d had of entering the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. It was a communion service, but it was unlike any he had seen before. Religious leaders from a multitude of religions—Islamic imams, Jewish rabbis, Protestant and Catholic priests and ministers, Hindu pujaris, Sikh granthis, and more—were walking down the aisle together. They were all dressed in their traditional garb, singing together, coming together in communion. It was one of the most profound religious experiences he’d ever had.

This story is an example of the rich Episcopal tradition and heritage on which The White Mountain School was founded. It also illustrates one of the primary reasons I chose to be ordained in The Episcopal Church and take on the role of White Mountain’s chaplain—the commitment to open hearts and open minds. One of the practices that distinguishes an Episcopal school is a regular chapel service. However, the service at an Episcopal school, including here at White Mountain, often looks very different from other schools from Christian traditions.

Because White Mountain is rooted in Episcopal heritage, there is a commitment to openness, inclusion, and drawing on a multitude of resources across many faith and spiritual traditions. What it means to be human, to be ethical, to be spiritual, to worship are entered into as ongoing conversations. These conversations draw from the diverse field of humanity’s interaction with the Divine, with mystery, with what is “more than.” Episcopal and Christian traditions and prayers provide a thread, but always with the understanding that there are many threads, many ways—some explicitly religious, others more secular.

In my short time here at White Mountain, I have already seen the fruits of this commitment to open hearts and open minds in the compassion that our students, faculty, and staff all have for one another, and in their openness to dialogue and personal growth. I feel privileged to be a part of this community.

My role as chaplain is to maintain and nourish this sense of inclusivity and compassion (for self and for others), to provide thoughtful engagement with the religions of the world, to uphold a commitment to social justice and scientific thought, and to create spaces for spiritual and personal growth. How this manifests will grow and shift over time. It is not something I will do alone. I look to all of you—and your diversity of lived experiences, intellect, and imagination—to shape my work as we respond to the needs of the community.

In all of this, together, we cultivate the way of love. As The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, presiding bishop and primate of The Episcopal Church, writes, “When love is the way, we will lay our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more. When love is the way, there’s plenty of room for all of God’s children. When love is the way, we actually treat each other, well, like we are actually family.” Those religious leaders at St. John the Divine embodied this love, this family, and gave us a taste of what is possible.

I invite you to reach out with any questions you may have, or if you’d simply like to have a conversation. This world is a mysterious place, and it is filled with hard questions that defy simple answers. Being in communion with one another across differences and across the world reminds us that we are all seekers, all on this journey together.

Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a gender-inclusive, college-preparatory boarding and day school for 140 students grades 9-12/PG. Our mission is to be a school of inquiry and engagement. Grounded in an Episcopal heritage, White Mountain prepares and inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion.

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