All-School Opening Worship Service

Welcome to the 2022-2023 school year at St. Christopher’s School.
All-School Opening Worship Service
Remarks from Headmaster Mason Lecky
September 2, 2022

Welcome to the 2022-2023 school year at St. Christopher’s School. What a glorious morning it is for us to gather as one community to officially commence a new school year together. I want to welcome all of you—students, faculty, staff, and parents—to this beautiful campus, to this joyful worship service, and to this celebration of a united Saints community, one that shares a mission to know, love, and celebrate boys—all types of boys, and especially each of the 1,003 unique ones under our care this school year.
 
We gather and worship today unencumbered by COVID precautions for the first time in three years. The last time we were able to gather and worship in this liberated manner, our seniors, the Class of 2023, were freshmen, looking up to members of the Class of 2020, just in the way that our current freshmen, the Class of 2026, look up to you, seniors.
 
And perhaps no one is looking up to you more intensely, seniors—both literally and figuratively—than your Kindergarten buddies, members of the St. Christopher’s Class of 2035. Thank you, seniors, for escorting these young men across St. Christopher’s Road this morning, for sharing donuts and recess with them yesterday, and for serving as mentors and buddies to them in a variety of ways throughout this school year. These connections and relationships are part of what makes this community so special.
 
Seniors, I am going to repeat what I shared with all of you earlier this week in the 2010 Cafe—the eyes of this community are upon you. This is your year of leadership. This community will go as high and as far as you can lead us this year. We believe in you.
 
And to our senior and Kindergarten parents, I am delighted that so many of you are able to be with us this morning, to bear witness to the transformation that has occurred in your senior son and to anticipate the growth and adventure that awaits your Kindergarten boy.
 
I want to thank our chaplains, Reverend Ohmer, Reverend Sweeney, and Reverend Steadman, for helping to plan this worship service, and I am grateful to our students, Max, Matthew, and Miko, for their leadership and service this morning. Thanks, also, to Mr. Covington on piano, Mr. Jump and Mr. Dragone on audio and video, and to our excellent Communications and Maintenance teams for their support this morning.
 
I also want to thank and recognize two important leaders in the St. Christopher’s and broader Church Schools community. We are joined this morning by the Chair of our Board of Governors, Mr. Thomas Valentine, and the new President of Church Schools in the Diocese of Virginia, Mr. Henry Broaddus. Will you all please join me in welcoming and thanking Mr. Valentine and Mr. Broaddus?
 
We do not gather as an entire school community—over 1,200 students, faculty, and staff—very often; typically only at this opening service; later this fall at our Pep Rally before the Collegiate football game; and then at the end of the school year, as we commemorate Memorial Day and recognize those St. Christopher’s alumni who lost their lives in service to our country.
 
So, when we do come together in this way, it is special. We should pause and take good stock of this moment and offer our thanks for it. And that notion, Saints, of pausing, taking stock, and actively offering thanks, is what I want to share with you this morning.
 
First, let us acknowledge that we all have much for which to be thankful. Each of us is privileged, truly privileged, to teach and learn in a community that values honor and integrity above all, pursues excellence in all undertakings, and strives to create a sense of community for all of us and a sense of brotherhood for these young men.
 
Students, you are surrounded today and in all days by dedicated and talented teachers who have choices in how they spend their days and their very vocation—they could be doing other things right now and, if we are being truthful, they could make more money doing it. But they choose, they elect, to work with you, all boys, in support of your growth and of our mission to know, love, and celebrate each one of you.
 
And faculty and staff, how lucky are we? We get to work with the city of Richmond’s most interesting, ambitious, talented, and diverse group of young men. We are called to lift them up, to cheer them on, to challenge and enrich them in the most holistic manner possible. We care deeply about the kind of young men they are in Lower, Middle, and Upper School. But we care even more about the kind of men—husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, and citizens—that they will be in 10, 20, and 30 years. What a gift to shape and enjoy that journey with them.
 
In recent years psychologists and university researchers have begun to identify not only correlation, but even causation, between the simple act of expressing gratitude and one’s overall health and state of happiness. Put another way, simply acknowledging the good things in your life—in writing, in your head, or out loud to family and friends—can actually make you feel better, both physically and mentally.
 
Interestingly, the very word, gratitude, comes to us from Latin and helps form other words, including a most wonderful word, grace. As you have learned or soon will from our chaplains, the grace of God is given to us without merit or effort on our part—we simply receive it through our shared and inherent humanity.
 
Let us share in an inherent state of gratitude, of thankfulness, for the blessing of caring teachers, eager and promising students, supportive families, a broad and generous Saints community, and a setting on this campus that affords joy, beautify, and growth.
 
So, if my first charge to all of you this morning is to routinely express gratitude, here is my second charge.
 
Let us all practice what a New Orleans chaplain colleague of mine called, “radical hospitality.” Let us go out of our way, let us actively extend ourselves in grace and graciousness to make all people of this Saints community feel welcomed and loved. Let us strive for inclusion and belonging in the deepest sense of those words.
 
And let us begin that radical hospitality today by offering a special welcome to the 134 new students and 25 new employees who are joining us this school year. If you are a new student, family, or employee this school year, will you please raise your hand high up into the air so that we may give you a hearty and radically hospitable St. Christopher’s welcome?
 
In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus shares his two greatest teachings, his two greatest commandments. First, to love God with all heart, soul, and mind. Second, to love your neighbor as yourself. Put even more simply—Love God and love each other.
 
Saints, if we express our gratitude for our extreme good fortune, we demonstrate the existence of grace and our love of God. And if we can properly welcome each of these 134 new students and 25 new faculty and staff, if we can be radically hospitable to them and to every one of us, we are loving our neighbors as ourselves.
 
Give thanks, love God, and take good care of each other. We can do all of those things, together. This is going to be a glorious and grace-filled year at St. Christopher’s. Thank you for making it so. Amen
 
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