Our school shows the marks of its age – our array of traditions being one of them. How we frame those traditions makes the difference between our customs holding us back or setting the groundwork for our students to thrive in a constantly evolving world.
One of our most intriguing traditions is Chapel. After all, our school is not formally tied to a denomination, no matter what the rumours suggest. We don’t offer stand-alone courses in global religions, let alone biblical studies. Our historical nod is to the Anglican Church, mainly because one of our founders and, until recently, all of our Chaplains have been ordained from that denomination. This makes sense, given that there was a time when our students were almost exclusively Christian, the vast majority of whom were Anglican.
Today, the same cannot be said. We still have a body of students who actively practice that faith – but at the same time, we also have members of the Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities. Increasing the complexity, most of our students aren’t active in any traditional faith system and several self-identify as atheist.
So in such a context, how does one approach the tradition of Chapel at SMUS?
We hold to its most basic principle: Chapel reflects the student population – now a profoundly diverse and global community. Today in Chapel, you are now as likely to hear words from Kong Qui (Confucius) or Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) as Jesus of Nazareth. Of course, the values at the core of the messages and wisdom stories run across all these traditions, providing stable ground for our students (no matter their background) as they prepare for and enter the wider world.
Staying relevant in this context requires a good deal of listening. For an example of both that exploration and the kinds of themes shared in Chapel, I wrote more about this on my personal blog. Click here to read that post.