Worship is an essential element in the process of spiritual formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal School. Chapel’s sacred purpose connects those present to the awe, beauty, and mystery of the divine. A respite from the busyness of contemporary life, it offers the opportunity for music, prayer, story, silence, and reflection. Worship in the Episcopal school tradition is closely attuned to the social, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual needs of our students. The chaplain and student lay leaders create an intentional chapel program that moves participants forward in their spiritual development and that encourages a positive outlook and intentional practices of overall health and well-being.
Episcopal schools have been established not solely as communities for Christians, but as diverse ministries of educational and human formation for people of all faiths and backgrounds. Much as Jesus spoke to all present before him, both followers and non-believers, Episcopal school worship embraces the full breadth of the human family.
Corporate worship plays a unique role in drawing students of different ages together and building community throughout the school. Parents, parishioners, alumni, and other members of the wider community of the school are graciously welcomed to join us, whether we are sharing worship online or celebrating God’s love together in person.
Lower School Chapel
Lower School students gather for chapel once a week on Tuesday mornings. The service is a simplified, age-appropriate form of Morning Prayer from The Book of Common Prayer, the central worship guide for the Episcopal Church. Students hear stories from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, along with a brief reflection on what God’s Word has to say to us today. We sing together, we pray together, and we listen for God’s loving voice in the words of Scripture and in the meditative quiet of our own hearts.
While celebrating the times and season of the church calendar, students also learn to honor the observances of other religious traditions and the secular calendar. When social distancing protocols have been lifted, students will have the opportunity to serve as worship leaders by being acolytes, readers, song leaders, and ushers. Until that time, worship is offered virtually through a multi-media presentation that can be accessed online by students in their classrooms as well as by students who are learning from home.
Middle School Chapel
Middle School students gather for chapel twice a week. Like the Lower School, they gather on Tuesdays for Morning Prayer, but a service of Holy Eucharist is also offered to Middle School students on Thursdays. Middle School students learn leadership skills by serving as intercessors (prayer leaders) and lectors (readers) during the service of Morning Prayer, which is taken from the service of the same name in The Book of Common Prayer.
Worship for Middle School students is multi-media and incorporates teachings on other world religious traditions and cultures. In this sense, Middle School worship at St. Mark’s highlights the diversity of the world’s religions while simultaneously sharing the strengths and commonalities of different traditions of belief and practice. Middle School students take an active role as worship leaders, and they lead the service of Morning Prayer almost entirely themselves. Holy Eucharist is offered to the Middle School community as a way for students, faculty and staff to connect with the sacred tradition of Christ’s Last Supper, and to be included, regardless of faith background, in the central worship practice of the Christian faith.
In addition to celebrating Christian feasts and holy days, Middle School chapel honors with integrity the diversity within and among the world’s many faiths. Worship is enriched by sacred or secular texts and music from a variety of religious traditions, languages, and cultures. Extraordinary care is taken to prevent misuse, misappropriation, or stereotyping of the beliefs, rituals, or expression of any faith, denomination, or religious culture, whether Christian or non-Christian.
Chapel helps students to negotiate the territory of childhood and adolescence in forthright ways. It deals honestly with real problems and moral complexities, teaches us something about ourselves, and helps us to discern and understand the universal aspects of our human experience. It reinforces the school’s core values and the programs and themes related to our community life. Students of all ages are presented with authentic voices and believable models of people of integrity and faith.
For more information on our worship program at St. Mark’s Episcopal School, please contact our school chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Robyn M. Neville, Ph.D., at firstname.lastname@example.org.