Thursday, September 26, 2013

Finding Spirituality


When I came to Latham in 2004, it appeared to me that an effort to meet students’ needs was being made in all areas except the spiritual component.  I learned that there is often an issue with having enough staff to take students out into the community for Sunday morning services. Also, some students who would like to attend may not be able to go off campus at the time of the service. 

In an attempt to meet the spiritual need, we sent an invitation to several congregations in the area but only one pastor responded and his involvement was limited. Some months later, we invited a lay minister from a local Episcopal church to conduct a Taize service on our campus.  Taize services are mainly sung, and are repetitious and meditative.  The service is held in the evening and generally has a calming effect on our students.   These services have continued and are ongoing.

At around the same time, I attended a meeting of the Nauset Interfaith Association to tell them of our needs at Latham and got a good reception.  Soon after that, our executive director gave me the name of someone to contact from a local Roman Catholic parish. We met with her priest and the ladies’ guild and composed a liturgy. They led a couple of services a year so by this time, we were holding approximately four nondenominational services on campus each year. 

At the recommendation of another lay pastor who visited from the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Orleans, I returned to the Nauset Interfaith Association earlier this year. Once again, several congregational leaders responded favorably.  This time, the seeds that were planted bore fruit.  We now have Unitarian, Christian and Jewish congregations involved in a regular rotation providing monthly services on Tuesday evenings in our school library. We also take students to Sunday services whenever possible.

These services provide a variety of experiences of the Holy for our students and are open to all on a voluntary basis.  These informal, ecumenical services provide opportunities for our students to sing, dance, and play instruments. They are also places where they can share their experiences of joy and of sorrow and to ask and discuss difficult theological questions.

Our students can experience the prayerful, meditative Taize by the Church of the Holy Spirit to the rousing finale that concludes the service given by Our Lady of the Cape during which our students dance the Irish jig with Fr. John.  At a service led by the Am HaYam Cape Cod Havurah, some of our Christian and secular students experienced the beliefs and practices of the Jewish Faith for the first time. Different types of worship have been offered by the Unitarian Universalist congregations of Provincetown and Brewster.  Our latest service was held on Tuesday, September 24th by the United Methodist Church of Chatham, led by Rev. Nancy Bischoff, also a member of the Latham Board of Directors.  Rev. Bischoff led “camp church” outdoors around a campfire attended by more than 20 students and accompanying staff. Her energy, humor and enthusiasm were contagious and appreciated by the attendees. Her inventive sing-alongs were accompanied by a volunteer guitarist, leaving the kids wanting more. While it was a hard ”act” to follow, monthly services will continue and have all been scheduled with other ministry groups through the end of 2013. 

Submitted by:
Brooke Eaton-Skea
Latham School Clinician



“The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it” 
 ~Henri J.M. Nouwen

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