Dear Saint James community members,
I write to acknowledge with sorrow the recent attacks on Asian citizens, which do not reflect well on our country. Regardless of the motive in the Atlanta spa shooting, the increase in violent acts throughout the country has been particularly heinous and can only be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
We are encouraged that our federal, state, and local authorities are taking these attacks seriously and acknowledging the history of exclusion, persecution, and prejudice against Asian people in America that is often forgotten but needs to be addressed directly and forcefully.
Certainly, recent racist and xenophobic rhetoric describing the COVID-19 virus as “Chinese” can only be condemned as well.
Please be assured of our prayers for all who are victimized and our commitment to our own Asian and Asian-American students, alumni, parents, and faculty. We encourage any students who may be concerned to speak to their advisor or the school counselor or to their dorm faculty, and I am asking the history faculty to discuss these incidents in class and to explore the historical and contemporary context.
I personally am particularly proud of the growth of our reputation and footprint in Asia during my time as headmaster and grateful for the many wonderful students from Asian countries and Asian American families who have greatly enhanced and improved the quality of our school. I have very much enjoyed my several visits to Korea, China, and Taiwan visiting with our families, who have always welcomed me warmly and generously. For this, I am especially grateful, and I always return greatly impressed by the grandeur, elegance, and importance of Asian culture and history, which we teach in our history curriculum, and impressed by the size and vitality of modern Asian cities and economies.
The link between Asia and Saint James is a distinguished and substantial one, beginning with our alumnus Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky, who was himself an immigrant from Lithuania when he came to Saint James in 1854 and was confirmed in our first chapel. After he graduated and was ordained to the priesthood, he traveled to China as a missionary in 1859, starting in Beijing and becoming the first Bishop of Shanghai in 1877, where he founded St. John’s University. He also translated the Bible into Wenli, completing this work after he was paralyzed in 1883 and could use only one finger on his crippled hand, dying in Tokyo in 1906, where he is buried.
Bishop Scherescheswsky is venerated and celebrated in the Episcopal Church as a saint and is particularly remembered for an inspiring quote from the end of his life: “I have sat in this chair for over twenty years. It seemed very hard at first. But God knew best. He kept me for the work for which I am best fitted.”
May we be fitted for this work as well.
The Revd. Dr. D. Stuart Dunnan