• School Worship that is creative, inclusive, draws fully upon the liturgical resources of The Episcopal Church, and is a regular part of school life for all faculty and students.
• Community Life, in which reflection, prayer, and matters of the spirit are honored and cultivated and the physical, mental, and emotional health of all are supported and nurtured.
• Religious Formation and Study that is meaningful, academically substantive, and age-appropriate; and in teaching the Christian tradition, fosters dialogue with other faith traditions.
• Social Justice, which is the integration of the ideals and concepts of equity, justice, and a just society throughout the life of the school; the embracing and honoring of diversity; and the inclusion of community service and service-learning as an integral part of the life of the school.
At St. Stephen’s Episcopal School these principles are manifested in a variety of ways. School worship and religious formation is integrated into weekly chapels that are created as age specific opportunities for reflection and worship. Five to six times a year we come together as an entire campus for All School Chapels. All chapels are open for parent involvement.
Importantly, worship and formation is done with respect for the tremendous diversity of our school. The last time the school community was polled (2014), 4% of the families were Episcopalian – most of these families are also members of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.
Of course, what this means is that 96% of the students and families are not Episcopal. Though a majority of families identify as Christian, the school is home to Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish families, Scientologists, agnostics and athiests. In 2014 parents were asked if St. Stephen’s “is inclusive of all students and their families regardless of beliefs.” The response was overwhelmingly positive with 70% strongly agreeing and 25% agreeing (95%) – several were neutral but no one disagreed.
The framework of social justice operates within the school community and also influences how the school community engages outside its walls. Within the school community, we’ve maintained a commitment to economic diversity, setting aside 15% our income for tuition assistance ($500,000 this school year). We have also partnered with UPREP to provide educational opportunities for first generation college-bound youth for the last 8 years. Finally, the school is part of the Welcoming School’s initiative and is certified as No Place for Hate school.
The impact of these initiatives (and the principles underlying our participation) is very positive. In a parent survey done last year, parents were asked if St. Stephen’s “is inclusive of all students and their families regardless of ethnicity.” The response was 95% agree or strongly agree. Finally, parents were asked if the St. Stephen’s “is inclusive of all students and their families regardless of sexual orientation.” The response was 74% strongly agree and 24% agree (98%!). Though a handful of parents were neutral on these questions – no one disagreed. The welcoming and nurturing environment of St. Stephen’s clearly sets it apart from most schools, public or private, and is a characteristic of the St. Stephen’s community and its Episcopal identity that is to be cherished.