Sunday, September 02, 2007

New Episcopal chaplain seeks to expand faith boundaries [Austin, Texas]

From the Austin [Texas] American-Statesman:

Chaplain plans to introduce Episcopal school students to other faiths.

The Rev. Cathy Boyd, who looks a good decade younger than her 49 years, has cropped blonde hair, deep blue eyes and passion for pushing the boundaries of her faith.

Recently ordained, she found a job uniquely suited to her personality: upper school chaplain and diversity officer at Trinity Episcopal School, which opened in 1999 for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Her goal: to bring diversity to the daily chapel services required of the school's roughly 400 students. She plans to invite faith leaders from Jewish, Muslim and other religious communities to share their experiences on the West Austin campus.

With only about a third of Trinity students belonging to the Episcopal Church, Boyd finds herself in what she calls a "post-denominational opportunity," a chance to expose kids to a wide range of religious thought. . .

. . . Boyd didn't imagine her seminary training would land her in an Episcopal school, but she said she knew she wanted to do something meaningful. "I really was concerned about getting into ordained ministry and doing nothing but propping up the institution (of the church)," she said. "I want to do work that really matters. And this really matters."

Right now, the grand plans — impressing upon students the importance of social justice and respecting the dignity of others — reside in her mind. But Boyd says she's ready to put them into action. In addition to bringing people from other faith backgrounds to address the students, she will identify diversity training for teachers and encourage campus discussions on racial and cultural prejudice.

Though most of the students are white, she said, the school's values will help them be "diverse thinkers." "This right here is an intentional community," she said before chapel service, "which is here because of the academic excellence of course but also because there's something intangible that an Episcopal school offers to non-Episcopalians and non-Christians."

Liz Powell, a lay person who has overseen chapel services at Trinity for six years and is now the lower school chaplain, laid some of the groundwork by showing students the "wisdom of other seekers." "I'm not hoping, at the end of the day, that there are a bunch of small Episcopalians walking out the door," she said.

What is it about Episcopal schools and their reluctance to proclaim the faith and their adherence to whatever the prevailing culture happens to be? Read it all.

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