Inspirational and thought-provoking messages informed by my faith, ministry in education and community development
This year a 4th-grade male and 5th-grade female battled a record 20 round run-off to determine this year’s winner of St. Philip’s Spelling Bee. Watching this year’s final rounds of the Spelling Bee gave me a flashback.
One of my most vivid elementary school experiences involves a heated competition in 2nd-grade. My teacher had divided the class into groups to square off in a math competition. In this battle, teams had to be the first to respond to math questions. After several rounds, the competition came down to two teams of four out of the dozens who were in the class. To say the atmosphere was one of excitement was an understatement. Even the teams that had been eliminated had selected sides to cheer on. My team was in the finals! This is when I was publicly called out by one of my classmates who were on the opposing finals team.
One might assume the Spelling Bee competition caused my flashback; that is partially true. The full truth is connected to one of St. Philip’s mantras, “it’s okay to pray and make an A”. During the Spelling Bee that was held in our Morning Star Chapel, kids were praying. Praying for success, praying for their classmates and for kids who had just been eliminated. When I pressed rewind, my memory flooded me with the 2nd-grade experience as if it were today. I landed smack dab in the middle of a math competition where I was called out when my team was up to respond. The teacher was preparing to give us the question when everything screeched to a stop! A classmate pointing at me, yelled out, “NOT FAIR! HE IS PRAYING! All eyes focused on me, including the teacher’s eyes.
Indeed, I was praying. Praying for my team’s success. The look from the teacher made me think I was in violation as did the look of my accuser. My anticipation of victory was transformed into uncertainty as to whether I had committed a major violation. Little did I know that when I entered kindergarten two years earlier, the Supreme court had ruled that prayer in public schools would no longer be permissible. Like the students here at St. Philip’s, I was saying a prayer and the thought of that being unacceptable never occurred to me. The privilege to pray is both encouraged and celebrated at St. Philip’s. The notion that as a country we would uninvite God to any place, specifically a school would puzzle our students as it did me back in second grade. Our daily worship on occasion initiates with all saying, “Holy Spirit you are welcome in this place.” Then the caller says, “The Lord be with you” and the responders say “Also with you.” St. Philip’s is a place where “You Belong” and God is with us.