by Cathy Kits, SCSBC Director of Development ◊
How can we reshape the culture of our school communities in light of what we have learned over the past two years? What will be the design of this new place we find ourselves in?
“And here’s the great thing about being in the wilderness. You get to go to the heights and the depths, and the length and the breadth of the love of God in a way you never could if you’d remained inside where it was safe.”
In March 2020, life as we knew it changed overnight. We could not visit family, attend church services, meet with our colleagues, go out to eat, work out in a gym… we became isolated in our homes. Our world shrunk. We were thrust into the wilderness of a global pandemic. We experienced trauma. Each of us have our own personal stories about our journey through the constantly changing landscape of the past two years. But we also have a communal story, that of our schools and their communities.
As schools closed their doors, students moved to online learning and all of us worked from our homes. Daily routines shifted and new strategies for learning, working, and being community were discovered. The fabric of our school communities changed without the physical presence of one another. Beyond the obvious challenges for learning, it was also difficult to authentically connect with families and schools’ larger support communities.
It was with a profound sense of relief that schools opened their doors this September. Expectations ran high for a return to “normal.” But it has been anything but that as schools continue to deal with covid exposures, the polarization of views regarding vaccines and masks and for some, an erosion of trust as schools worked to adhere to provincial mandates. There continues to be frustration, confusion, and yes, even grief! We are still trying to find our way through the wilderness of the pandemic. And then as if that wasn’t enough, here in BC we experienced devastating wildfires, catastrophic flooding, and mudslides that shut down our highways. It is tempting to cry out, “Where are you, God?”
But He is here! In the midst of the wilderness God calls us to peace and rest.
“Shalom I leave with you. My shalom I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you. Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.”
Our God is in control and He is faithful. He meets us where we are; you have experienced His goodness through the beautiful actions of many in your school communities who have reached out to encourage and serve as Christ’s hands and feet during these challenging times.
“This is what Jesus had in mind: folks coming together, forming close-knit communities, and meeting each other’s needs”
We are resilient and we will recover, but we need to acknowledge that life as we knew it may be forever changed. How can you now reshape the culture of your school community in light of what you have learned over the past two years? What will be the design of this new place you find yourselves in?
As you have new opportunities to reconnect in person, what can you do to recover community, to stitch yourselves back together and emerge stronger than before, building unity in diversity?
Consider that perhaps you are being invited into a better story, not returning to the old story. My invitation is for you to move forward confidently, trusting the maker of the heavens to cover you with the shadow of his mighty hand even in the wilderness, to rebuild flourishing communities as part of God’s story of renewal.
Can you see new opportunities to foster connection and belonging among your staff, student, family, and extended support communities? Is it time to help each other refocus on Who we belong to, what He is calling us to do, and how as school communities we are going to move forward as His instruments of kindness, peace, love, and care? Because, of course, our schools are not physical buildings, they are communities of learning that are built on trusting relationships among their members.
If we have learned nothing else during the pandemic it is that we are made for community and that we profoundly long for it. Rachel Held Evans spoke about how seductively our culture lures us away from community and how challenging it is to really restore and foster it. She wrote that we can be so convicted and inspired to live our lives alongside other people and yet frustrated by the excuses we find not to. We convince ourselves that community will have to wait until we have got it all together and until everyone else has it together too. We have convinced ourselves that a community is a place without sin, conflict, or change. The great irony, she says, is that community thrives on imperfections. Where one person is weak, another is strong. When one person cooks, another can clean, another can teach, and another can lead. Where one sees the forest, the other sees trees. We need community precisely because we are imperfect, and if we wait until we are perfect to embrace community, it will never happen.
Can we step back and reflect on how this unprecedented time may have altered our perceptions of each other, acknowledge our imperfections, and have the courage to reach out to one another with the love of Christ? Because if we truly want to excel in being community, our relationships need to match the spiritual reality that in Christ we have been graced, loved, forgiven, guided, blessed, comforted, and sustained. We are part of an evolving story where creation is being restored, people are being forgiven, and the future is good. We are building school cultures that reflect the heights and the depths, and the length and the breadth of the love of God.
“There can be unwavering peace today when an uncertain tomorrow is trusted to an unchanging God.”