This is a message to all of us—student, alumna, parent, faculty and staff. Like all of you I watch with dismay as an insidious virus decimates families and essential workers across this country and one segment ofour population in particular, our African American sisters and brothers.
I watch how these same citizens are treated differently in the eyes of the law than someone of my skin color and it often leads to their death. We are a nation in great distress right now and many of us are in pain. I am not in a position to understand that pain because my life is one that has known and enjoyed safety, good health, and opportunity from the moment of my birth.
But I know this pain is deep and broad and it is a heavyburden I don’t know if I could ever bear. And yet, many of our Chatham Hall sisters have spent their lives bearing this burden and they need our support now, and in the days, months, and years to come.
I have searched to find the path for Chatham Hall to put a stake in the ground in this moment and declare how we will be here for each other, for our beloved school, and for our respective communities. I did not have to look far because it is alive in our Episcopal heritage. It is waiting for us to discover it, or rediscover it, and to pick it up and live it in every aspect of who we are and what we do. It lives and breathes in the many sermons of Bishop Michael Curry, the Bishop of the Episcopal Church. It is, quite simply but, I assure you, not simplistically, choosing to lead and live from the path of love.
Bishop Curry recently shared:
“Our nation’s heart breaks right now because we have strayed far from the path of love. Because love does not look like one man’s knee on another man’s neck, crushing the God-given life out of him. This is callous disregard for the life of another human being, shown in the willingness to snuff it out brutally as the unarmed victim pleads for mercy. Love does not look like the harm being caused by some police or some protesters in our cities. Violence against any person is violence against a child of God, created in God’s image. And that ultimately is violence against God, which is blasphemy—the denial of the God whose love is the root of genuine justice and true human dignity and equality. Love does not look like the silence and complicity of too many of us, who wish more for tranquility than justice.”
Bishop Curry continues to share that the path of love is one of engaged citizenship, engaged and sustained care for our neighbor, even a neighbor we don’t understand or don’t even like.
Loving our neighbor as we do ourselves. This is the ultimate engagement.
And this is, of course, the ultimate message in the teachings of Jesus Christ. We must commit to this in a way we never have before, certainly not in my lifetime. This is not quick work, this is the long-term stuff.
This is work that means the exhaustion, frustration, and the fear a segment of our community has tolerated for so long will need to be acknowledged, understood, and distributed more equally so that it can be ultimately expelled. This means a reckoning and reconciliation commences at every level of our lives individually, here at Chatham Hall, and in our beautiful, troubled country.
If anyone felt a flicker of concern reading those words above, I also tell you this. Bishop Curry reminds and assures us that there is enough love to go around. There is enough love to go around. “When love is the way, there’s plenty good room—plenty good room—forall of God’s children.”
Work grounded in the power of love has more moments of pure, true, selfless joy than many of us have ever known, certainly this Rector. Our perspectives broaden, our friendships broaden and deepen, our livelihoods are enriched. Ultimately, our nation, through the daily living and giving of its citizens, sets itself on a course of healing and wellness and, yes, prosperity.
But it can only come through honoring the worth and dignity of every one of us. At Chatham Hall, we have alegacy with an honor code. We have a legacy where trust is given before it is earned. This is a powerful and singular foundation that we offer a girl and every member of this community. Let us take this legacy and combine it with the power of love to helpour sisters, strengthen our school, and heal this nation. Thank you.
Rachel Avery Connell Rector
P.S. If you are interested in reading the work of Bishop Michael Curry I recommend a collection of his sermons and reflections entitled The Power of Love. It was given to me by our Episcopal priest, Rev. Rebecca Crites at the time of my investiture to Chatham Hall.