Educating the Whole Child, Part 2: Spirit
by: Jessica Raba ’98, Assistant Head of School | Principal
When I think of LuHi, it is impossible to consider it one-dimensionally. Instead, I see it through the lens of my myriad connections to this place: as a product of it (proud class of ‘98 alumnus!), as a school leader, and as a prospective parent (my daughters are currently in 1st and 4th grade). There are so many schools on Long Island, terrific ones at that, so why LuHi? In considering our mission – a Christ-centered, college-preparatory school that educates in body, mind, and spirit – I will take on a different piece of our mission in this series of blog posts aimed at exploring what sets LuHi apart. The first post focused on our academic program – specifically on the mind portion of our mission. Today, I focus on spirit.
This past Sunday marked the first Sunday in Advent. As I sought out inspiration for a school Advent calendar, which now is found in a main office window, I was struck by just how secular the concept of Advent has become. It was challenging to find anything that pointed to a Christian approach in the array of options found in the store or a quick Google search. To me, this spoke directly to the need for a school like LuHi.
While Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter are perhaps the first seasons of the church calendar that come to mind when one thinks of the Christian tradition, much of the year is considered “ordinary time”. I love that concept of ordinary time as opposed to those seasons of the church year that are unique in their celebratory or reflective nature. When I think about LuHi, in its position as a Christian school, I’m struck by just what sets us apart from public schools and other independent schools.
We love one another. Where we begin is just different, and it stems from our core value, Christian Love. We believe each student (and indeed, each community member!) is made in the image of God. From the approach to students in the classroom to the restorative nature of our response to students when they fall short of meeting expectations, each interaction comes from this shared understanding. As a school leader, colleague, and parent, this approach is so comforting and humane. It undergirds all we do at LuHi.
We learn about Christianity. Each student learns about Christianity, with a Lutheran lens, each year. From a focus on the Old Testament to the New Testament, to the journeys of the apostle Paul, to a zoom out to focus on World Religions in senior year, each Religion class provides a different view of Christianity, pulled together by a focus on who Jesus was and an understanding that each student is at a different point in his/her faith journey. In fact, by senior year, students are prepared to engage in personal reflection and develop a personal mission statement.
We serve others. As students learn more about Jesus and His example, they have opportunities to be His hands and feet in the world. Each Religion class plans and completes a service project each semester, and our Campus Ministry team puts on several school-wide projects each year, along with some projects by application. So far this year, we have had a successful book drive, a Thanksgiving Basket Drive, packed almost 200,000 meals for local food pantries through the return of our annual Meal Packing event, and look forward to a Christmas service project in the week before vacation. While we are not yet able to bring back an international mission trip, several juniors and seniors will travel to Houston in February to help with ongoing clean-up in response to recent hurricanes there. Our team continues to explore opportunities for students to both engage in service and learn more about the impact of their actions.
We worship together. This year, our school-year theme, Rooted to Grow, undergirds our worship experience each week. Selected by our current senior class at their year-end junior retreat, the theme is based on 1 John 4:17. While pandemic restrictions prevent us from gathering as a full school community, two classes gather each week in our Chapel to worship together in person, while the service is live streamed to all classrooms and to absent students and families. Our Applied Christianity class plans each service, where relevant messages are shared and our students lead the community in prayer. Each week, students lift up those in the community through “flower power” awards designated to those who have brightened the days of others through their actions.
We pray together. Beyond our weekly Chapel service, our campus ministry team sources prayer requests and brings those requests to our Applied Christianity class, who both pray for and write the prayers for our service each week. You may find classes outside of Religion engaging in prayer on any given day. As I’ve walked the building, I’ve run into groups of students praying together. Communication with God through prayer is part of the day to day at LuHi, and we close each day in prayer over the loudspeaker as well, a longstanding tradition at LuHi.
We support one another. Pastor Schoepflin, our Campus Pastor, is available to students regularly to support needs that can be addressed through pastoral care. This care extended to families, faculty, and staff, as we seek to care for one another.
We take time to be in community. While the ongoing pandemic has thrown a wrench in our regular plans, we have creatively continued to offer our traditional retreat experiences. These days allow our students and faculty to engage together outside of the classroom through a variety of activities and worship experiences designed to deepen relationships and strengthen our community. We are prayerfully planning to bring back some of our overnight retreats during the second half of the school year, as long as we can do so safely.
LuHi’s approach takes us out of the ordinary and allows our students, families, faculty and staff to uniquely celebrate, lift up, and care for one another. Our approach to faith development takes many forms, offering an entry point for students of all faith backgrounds. As we aim for an inquiry-based approach to academic learning, we seek this approach in faith development, finding a balance of the head, the heart, and the hands as we live out this part of our mission.
What’s to come?
Our team looks forward to continuing to bring back retreats and service opportunities that help round out the student experience at LuHi. As we seek to educate in multiple facets, LuHi will continue to provide spiritual development that balances the head, the heart, and the hands in our practices as we seek to be Jesus’s hands and feet in our world.
Stay tuned for part III in this blog series – focused on body – coming soon!