Good Shepherd School Episcopal Identity

Advent Story 2Good Shepherd School is an Episcopal School. While we practice in many different ways, you may not be aware of that. You might wonder what the main qualities of an Episcopal School are. That varies from school to school. We enjoy a wonderful relationship with The Church of the Good Shepherd. It’s our home, both in spirit and location. We are a member of the National Association of Episcopal Schools. They lend guidance and support to schools wishing to uphold their Episcopal Identity.

Episcopal Schools typically set aside time to practice their faith and worship together. Good Shepherd School has weekly Chapel. We meet each Monday morning at 9:30 in the Church and worship side-by-side. When school begins in the Fall, the older two-year-olds, Threes and Fours attend Chapel. Following the Christmas break, the younger twos and sometimes the one-year-olds join in. At any time during the school year, if the teachers feel a class is ready to attend, they are final program in churchwelcome to begin. We do a preschool version of Morning Prayer. The children process in with the cross and unlit torches and we open with the Lord’s Prayer. Each week a Bible Story is shared with the children. There are various props used in the telling of the story to help the preschoolers understand, while increasing the entertainment value as well. Following the story, we celebrate the birthdays of the week with a song and a special birthday blessing. Sometimes we talk about upcoming holidays in the church, let the children share their own stories about their practices and get ready to go. Closing with a final blessing and song, the children return to their classrooms.

Good Shepherd School also has Godly Play programming for Threes and Fours. The second half of the year, Super Twos joins in. Godly Play encourages participants to make meaning for themselves by inviting them into stories and providing the opportunity for them to connect the stories with their personal experience. The use of Montessori’s approach to education has been adapted to Godly Play in order to stimulate children’s active participation in the stories. Programs are held every other week. We have integrated our Chapel program with our Godly Play Program. In addition, the children participate in Art Response, which is the children’s artistic interpretation of the Bible Stories they have heard in both Chapel and Godly Play. In the course of two weeks, the children hear the same Bible story five times, told in several different ways. We have found the children know and understand the stories in whole new ways since we brought the three programs together.

We at Good Shepherd School are doubly blessed. We are not only part of an excellent educational community, we are also part of the intentional mission of the Episcopal Church. Many members of the Church staff share their time and talents with the children of Good Shepherd School. Kathleen Crevasse, the Coordinator of Christian Formation is also a certified Godly Play instructor and conducts our semi-weekly classes. In 2013, we welcomed The Rev Mac Brown, our new Assistant to the Rector. Fr. Mac also now serves as our School Chaplain, participating in weekly Chapel programs, along with our Music Director, John Wigal.

We host a special Chapel presentation for all of the friends and family members of the students. This enables us to worship and celebrate side-by-side with our larger community. It presents through prayer, song and displayed artwork the culmination of the work done through Chapel and Godly Play each semester. It is a joyful celebration for all.

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Other signs of our Episcopal Identity come in the many ways we try to model living in a Christian Community. Each classroom says a blessing before snacks and meals. There are many the children have learned during their years at Good Shepherd School. They are typically short, many are sung and the children are instrumental in making the daily choices.

We have several service projects throughout the course of the school year. During the month of November, we collect can goods. At Monday morning Chapel preceding Thanksgiving, the children process in with cans and set them at the foot of the altar. During the program, many thanks are given for our personal and collective blessings and prayers are offered for those less fortunate than us. It is also a time the children talk about hunger and learn that many children their age don’t get enough food. The cans are then taken to Metropolitan Ministries, Salvation Army or another deserving charity to be distributed for Thanksgiving or to re-stock their pantries.

During the Christmas Season, we participate in the Christmas Sharing program. We are assigned families or children and our families purchase gifts for others that are in need. Our families return a wrapped gift marked with a tag they have chosen from the Christmas tree in their child’s classroom. The gifts are then all bagged up, along with gift cards so the families can purchase food for a holiday meal or additional gifts for their children. They are then warehoused and the families come to collect their bags in time for Christmas morning. It is a very special program which we have all enjoyed participating in.

Our goal in being a part of programs like these is to model and create opportunities to talk about what “Living in a Christian Community” looks like. Acknowledging our own many gifts and taking action to share them with others less fortunate is a concept we hope our youngest community members will begin to understand and adopt into their own lives as they grow. As we share the Gospel messages with our children in Chapel and Godly Play, it only makes sense for them to also see those same messages lived in their daily lives.