Linda Morgan Stowe
Chair of Fine Arts and Organist/Choir Director
Saint James School, Hagerstown MD

My professional life is framed by two occasions when I have been ‘transported’ to Episcopal schools which have proven to be life-changing for me. The first came when a last-minute decision was made to send me to Chatham Hall in Virginia. I had been festering in mediocre schools in Florida before there were other options. We packed the car at the end of my first week in tenth grade and drove to Virginia. I had my interview with the rector, Rev. William Yardley, and went off to classes that same day with no sense of where I had landed. I only knew that I felt transported into an extraordinary community, and ultimately, found my vocational calling. I found it a place where students of diverse backgrounds were open to exploration and learning, where I was surrounded by encouraging teachers, and the beautiful St. Mary’s Chapel. I was a budding musician, and there was not only a wonderful organ at my disposal, but an exacting teacher and choir director. I discovered the Book of Common Prayer and the practice of daily evening prayer in addition to Sunday mornings, and subsequently was confirmed in the Episcopal Church while in college.

The second call came with the opening of an opportunity to teach at St. James School in Hagerstown, Maryland, where the Rev. Dr. Stuart Dunnan has been headmaster for 26 years. The school has just celebrated the 175 th anniversary of its founding, and there has a been a good deal of digging into history. Reflection on the goals and tenets of its founders reveals that their ideals for a Church School remain at the core of Saint James today. This has also been a year of change as we celebrated the retirement of three faculty members with over 100 years of service to the school and welcomed a number of new ones. The question, then, expressed as fear by our many of our students was: will Saint James no longer be the place I knew and loved?

However, the school remains rooted in its daily patterns of community worship and seated meals. Aside from classes and athletics, it is this coming together to sing and pray and eat which shapes us individually and collectively. Our relationships are strengthened through confession, forgiveness, reconciliation, and grace because we know we are loved by God and by each other. This faithfulness to its founding principles sustains it today, while allowing it to change and grow.

Teaching in an Episcopal school both frees me and charges me to love each child as God loves them, to show it to those who do not yet recognize it, and marvel in the beauty we assume is within each person. Because students have been welcomed, they have the power to welcome others. They are more willing to discover, to be transformed, to be vulnerable, and learn to be honest, grateful, generous, brave, and kind. At the end of the year, as we celebrate their many achievements, my faculty colleagues and I trust that they will continue to grow in faith, confident in God’s love for them, responsive to his grace, and willing to do his will as leaders for good.