The following message was printed in the April issue of Pathways, the publication of Virginia Mennonite Conference; EMS is affiliated with VMC. Paul’s recorded mini chapel and others in the series can be seen here.
A Message from Paul Leaman, Head of School
In February, when Virginia Conference requested our content for this issue, we had no idea that we would be in the midst of an extended school closure when the copy was due.
As I write on March 20, we are adjusting to the biggest transition I have experienced in my 30+ years as an educator and school administrator. The change is calling on all of us to bear with one another in ways we never imagined.
Our teachers — like educators across the region and country — have risen to the unprecedented challenge of teaching from a distance. Our students are showing resilience and positivity, even as they grieve lost time with friends, athletic competition, performances, and milestones.
I believe our resilience as a community now — in a time of crisis — comes, in part, because we are intentional about building relationships in “normal” times. We encourage students, teachers and staff to listen to each other, not just to hear, but to develop empathy and understanding.
In Curt Stutzman’s Bible 10: Sermon on the Mount class, for example, students choose a topic that is divisive, particularly in the church. They research the topic and interview people on opposite sides of the argument, trying to understand why each thinks and believes as they do.
“They present what they hear, and we talk about the issue,” says Mr. Stutzman. “I see students become able to disagree with each other in a respectful manner, and still maintain their convictions, while gaining new insight and understanding.”
With grace for each other in this time of unknowns and communication challenges, God is with us. We feel God’s presence in nature, in connections made virtually, in the hope in our hearts, and in songs we sing.
I invite you to listen to music by our Touring Choir to uplift your spirit at this time, explore additional resources, and see some of the things happening in our community during the closure. Find a link to “resources” on our website. [Note: You will want to read about and listen to the EMS virtual choir singing “Don’t Be Afraid,” which has blessed more than 30,000 listeners.]
In these days and always, EMS aspires to reflect Christ’s light as a learning community where every student belongs, thrives and lives God’s call. We remain committed to that vision and join with the broader community in prayer for people of all ages and places as we’re reminded more than ever of our reliance on God’s grace.