A Letter from the Headmaster to the SJS Community

From the Headmaster
To the Community of Saint James School
2 June 2020

Dear Friends,

In the aftermath of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd's recent apparent murders and the subsequent protests and now riots in our cities, I wanted to be sure to reach out to our students, alumni, and families of color to express our concern and regret at what must be a time of disappointment, disillusionment, some fear, and great anger.

I also wanted to reach out to our alumni and parents who are serving in law enforcement and in the armed forces, many of them also of color, to express our concern for their safety and our gratitude for their brave and selfless service to our communities and our country.

As someone who grew up in Washington, D. C. in the 1960's and 70's, this all seems sadly familiar with many recurring themes: the inherited and present racial injustices with which we continue to struggle as a country, the courageous vision of those who campaign peacefully for positive change, the fragility of civil society, and the remarkable loyalty and sense of duty of those who risk their lives to preserve the peace.

In all of this, we are reminded of the ability of the criminal few to subvert our society and threaten the lives and prosperity of the law-abiding majority. We see this when individual police use their power to harm and not to protect, and when rioters and looters use the cover of peaceful and justified protests to steal and burn other people's property, destroying the very neighborhoods in which the people who legitimately feel aggrieved actually live and work.

We are also reminded of how much we need the rule of law to protect us, and how much we need it to be fairly and universally enforced and observed. More fundamentally, we are reminded of the value of human goodness and of basic civility and decency, which is what we learn by living in our own particularly close and diverse community at Saint James School.

Finally, we are reminded in these times especially of our great need for "leaders for good in the world," not the world as we pretend it is or want it to be, or even our own more comfortable part of the world, but the whole world as it actually is, which makes for challenging work.

And this of course is the mission of our school: to produce these leaders for good with the resilience, skills, and values they will need to confront what is evil and wrong, to guard and defend the vulnerable, to pursue justice for all God's children, to build a lasting and universal peace.

So, as we pray for this peace and strive for this future together, I commend to you two prayers from the Book of Common Prayer:

For Social Justice (p.823)

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Our Country (p.820)

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And we should always pray as Our Lord has taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen

For surely, this is the prayer which alone can save us all.

Yours faithfully,

The Revd. Dr. D. Stuart Dunnan

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