One of St. Thomas School’s distinguishing characteristics is the Chapel program. Chapel, a community gathering that takes place on a daily basis, serves many purposes. While STS is non-sectarian, Chapel is rooted in the form and ethos of St. Thomas School’s heritage. The Chapel program reflects the School’s earliest beginnings as a parish school, and celebrates its ongoing relationship with St. Thomas Church. Chapel is part of the School’s commitment to ethics and character development.
As an independent school accredited by the Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools (PNAIS), we subscribe to the association’s core values:
- Free and Open Inquiry
- Commitment to Diversity
- Ongoing school improvement
- Collegial relationships and ethical leadership
Although STS is a non-sectarian school, it maintains membership in the National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES). Reflecting NAES principles, St. Thomas School:
- Strives for justice and peace among all peoples, and respect the dignity of every human being
- Works to be comprehensive, inclusive communities with respect for all beliefs
- Values reason as a way to true understanding
- Embraces honor, tolerance, and intellectual curiosity
- Provides a safe and open community in which students can wrestle with the big questions that life presents.
As a pluralistic and inclusive community, STS takes seriously the development of the whole child. Daily chapel provides a space where the discussion of the ethical and spiritual challenges that are a part of daily living can be considered in an environment of respect for all beliefs and traditions. Faith is a deeply personal issue, and STS takes very seriously the delicate balance between the student’s and family’s own particular religious beliefs and the need to respect the various beliefs and traditions represented in our community. We seek to learn together and to teach one another about the wisdom in the religious traditions of the world.As a pluralistic and inclusive community, STS takes seriously the development of the whole child. Daily chapel provides a space where the discussion of the ethical and spiritual
We cherish values that unite rather than divide people of different traditions and the see opportunity to live, learn, and work together as a great hope for the future. We honor all persons and traditions, strive for justice, peace, and understanding, and respect the dignity of every human being.
The Chapel program serves several purposes:
Develop and Nurture a Sense of Belonging and Community
The commitment to Chapel on a daily basis is intentional. We believe that by coming together every day, either as an entire school or by division, we strengthen the social and emotional bonds among all students and teachers. By creating a learning environment that is calm, centering, and peaceful, we establish a culture of trust and support. This is a place to take risks, ask questions, and explore! What an extraordinary way to begin each day!
At times Chapel is about listening and doing the important “inner work” or reflection that allows students to bring personal meaning to the lessons and conversations. But students don’t just sit through Chapel. They share lessons and experiences, discuss in large and small groups, assist in the planning, share the teaching, and participate as readers, musicians, speakers, and actors. Chapel is predictable in its structure, yet unpredictable in how the lessons and conversations unfold.
Explore Essential Questions
Chapel takes place on a daily basis and encourages students to reflect on questions that have long been of central importance in human life: Who am I? What is the nature of the universe, of God, and humanity? How do we strive together to lead a good life? What is our relationship to the natural world? What makes life worth living? How do values and beliefs shape history and current events? How do I know that I am valued and loved? How are world religions similar and unique? What are my roles and responsibilities in the community and the world? How do I understand and practice the Core Virtues? How do I make choices and understand the consequences of my decisions?
Through the readings of great children’s literature and religious texts, we explore these “big questions” and revisit topics as students grow in their capacity to understand concepts, engage in discussion, and deepen their understanding. Sacred texts, music, ritual, and prayer enrich the experience. We use Chapel to explore questions of faith, morality, and ethics, and forms of worship and celebration.
Understand World Religions and Core Virtues
More concretely, Chapel teaches students about the religious traditions of the world, about approaches to spirituality and ethics, and raises important issues in school life. This is at the heart of global citizenship. Can one truly be educated without understanding one’s own faith and the religious practices of others? Don’t our children need a lens through which they can interpret and understand the influence and inter-relationship of religion current and historical events? St. Thomas School’s Core Virtues provide a common ground for much of the Chapel experience. We seek to develop a strong community through the exploration and commitment to a set of common values among all members of the school community.
STS places great value on the development of leadership skills. At STS, leadership embodies many skills and perspectives. Leading in service to others, facilitating discussions and decisions, and contributing to group processes are valued leadership qualities. Chapel provides students with opportunities to practice public speaking, while developing confidence in front of a large audience. The older students play more significant roles in leading and planning Chapel for the entire school, as well as the Middle School.
Our thanks to others who have helped shape and inspire our description of Chapel including Rev. Lex Breckinridge of St. Thomas Church, and John Allman and Rev. Timothy Morehouse of The Trinity School of NYC.