by Jeremy Sierra
In October, Trinity convened more than forty educators and church leaders who are working to support public education from across the country in Richmond, Virginia.
“Right away the connections started to happen. People got together, started to share their program, saw connections, linkages, possibilities.” said Anita Chan, Associate Director of Faith In Action.
All around the country Episcopalians are working to support children and improve education, but they rarely get the chance to speak to each other.
“When you get to see your peers from elsewhere doing this work, you feel reenergized,” said Ariella Louie, Program Assistant for Faith In Action. It’s not easy working in public education, she said, but it’s events like this that help people keep focused.
The program included a school visit, worship, breakout groups, and lots of time to talk and connect.
“I thought it was very powerful that so many people from so many cities around the country came together to talk about what they were doing,” said Suellyn Preston Scull, a Trinity Vestry member with over forty years’ experience in education.
“It got me really energized and excited,” she said. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel; we just have to realize this is happening.”
She was especially impressed by the Micah Project, a project of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church that supports Woodville Elementary. In part due to the work of St. Paul’s, there are more more than 125 religious and nonprofit institutions supporting 25 schools in Richmond.
The weekend was a way for organizations to connect and learn from each other. Churches in Houston and Dallas that had never connected are now thinking of ways to collaborate, as well as programs in Boston.
“Not every child is the same, not every school system is the same,” said Louie. “What are the basic elements to provide all these different kids with all these different backgrounds with a good education? I think it really starts with the passionate people we got to meet at the conference.”
Faith In Action staff are in the process of looking at the many ideas that came out of the conference and prioritizing what they will do next, including future conferences.
Trinity’s ability to coordinate and bring people together may be an important part of its ministry going forward. Both Chan and Louie were impressed with the Episcopal Service Corps members who attended. Trinity funds this program, and many of the participants are coordinating partnerships between public schools and churches.
“When we did our closing [ceremony] on Thursday morning, the energy in the room about what’s next was just unbelievable,” said Chan. “It brought home how natural it is within the Anglican faith to do this work. Education is part of who we are as a church.”