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  • Reverend James Squire

Senior Wardens at EA



 

For those of you who aren’t aware of the Office of Senior Warden of the Vestry at the Episcopal Academy, the Vestry works with me to plan and execute chapel services which occur multiple times during the week. They meet regularly during the week on their own time and are highly regarded by the Upper School faculty and students who vote for them. The Senior Warden is elected from the Vestry to be the leader of the leaders. The Vestry’s job was to give me and the other Vestry members feedback on concerns of the community that should be addressed as the student spiritual leaders of the school. I once did a count of the number of services they planned. It was between 75 and a 100 depending on the year, a lot of work on their time usually during their lunch. The services were in the context of morning prayer in the Episcopal Church.

 

So many stories about the group and not enough space in this blog to tell them. I always had the Vestry say something about what the Vestry meant to them before the election. There were years when there were four openings and twenty-four people running because it was real leadership training. I always saw my role as Chaplain as being a resource for the group like a coach. It is the players who play the game. It is the coach who stays out of their way except when things get too hot to handle. It is then that I intervened and took the heat away from them as coaches do today. I also called “time outs” during the meetings to provide direction.

 

The holy spirit always had students voted on to the Vestry that represented the student body. I did have situations where the faculty didn’t agree with the vote. I stuck by the choices of the students. Outside evaluators over the years identified the work of the Vestry as one of the most important parts of the school. I had one student who was voted onto the Vestry in 10th grade. He was one of the most popular students in the school and an All-Inter-Ac athlete. He grew into the position. He later told me before he graduated that despite all of his accolades he received, being on the Vestry was the one that meant the most to him as it stretched him to grow as a spiritual leader. I would later in life bless his marriage.

 

We covered some of the most sensitive topics that you can imagine in addresses given by faculty, students, and guest speakers. One faculty member who was a close friend asked to speak in chapel about his illness. He did and died a week later. Did certain addresses get me in trouble as the spiritual leader of the whole school. Yes! But I always tried to bring a spectrum of issues and beliefs to students that they couldn’t get anywhere else. It reached a point where, believe it or not, the students couldn’t wait to get to chapel. It was their people up there leading!

 

Today I recalled another aspect of any community’s life that has a diverse population. People think in categories. You are not a judge. You are a Trump or Biden judge.

Your political identity takes over your personal identity no matter what you are doing.

 

Today I was watching the end of the afternoon session of CNN where the camera was focused on a faculty member who was going nose to nose with the COO of Columbia University. No students or faculty were permitted to enter the Main Campus. Cas stood there and indicated he could not go in. I would hate to think what would happen if the faculty member who was out of control was permitted entrance. I thought to myself that the representative from Columbia looked like my former Senior Warden at Episcopal. It not only looked like Cas Holloway. It was Cas Holloway. I have seen him stare down others as Senior Warden. I have included his bio at the end.

 

Cas told me a funny story of when he and another former Senior Warden, Tim Tompkins were both working for Rudy Giuliani, then America’s mayor. They worked across the hall from one another as part of his staff. When they met with Giuliani in meetings he would always say, “Now I wasn’t a Senior Warden, but I am the Mayor.” Small world! EA is everywhere! Tim went to Yale.

 

It came back to me like it was yesterday. I had a call from Cas at about 4 in the afternoon He was working on behalf of Senator Lieberman’s, recently deceased, plan to be President. Cas was part of making the way for Lieberman to speak in areas. He was in the middle of things. Cas said, “Rev, I am in trouble. I can’t find a venue for Lieberman to speak. I am on his campaign staff. Can we use the chapel? It’s important to me. I will move the altar and do anything else.” I told him “yes” and that I would have security present.

 

I knew what was going to come after Lieberman spoke. This is something that Cas knows now. People don’t think about people as people with their own opinions. They are categories and right now political categories. That didn’t start now, but it has gotten much worse in a divided nation.

 

Later that night I started to get the calls. You allowed a Democrat candidate speak in chapel? “It wasn’t planned! I needed to support a student’s request without naming the student.” Would you do the same thing for a Republican. I said, “Yes!” They provided me with a person who was a Republican Senator. I asked him to speak on character. He was a no show on four occasions to speak in chapel.  They Vestry and I cancelled him at that point as they plan well ahead of the chapel services.

 

The calls and visits that I received after Lieberman left were threatening and angry.

 

Ultimately, it was my decision. In working class culture there is a story about the “junkyard dog.” It’s that dog in a junkyard that is chained to a post. People give the dog a wide berth. But they get too comfortable with their abuse. They pass it, spit on it, kick it, and keep on walking, but when they least expect it, the dog will catch them and bite hard. It is so much a part of my upbringing. That is the part of me that I must push down. My response however was to just look them in the eye and say nothing. I think that knew what was coming. They didn’t k now what to say! That is the only way that I could defuse the situation.

 

Central Message: A leader never throws a student under the bus nor does a coach do that to a player. See Cas’ terrific contributions to many institutions. His family and I are very proud of him.

 

 

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