Working together to help children learn and grow in a complex world
Mar. 31, 2022
Working at Canterbury is a "dream job," Part 2
By Hunter Silides, Chaplain
I accepted this position the second former Head of School Phil Spears offered it to me under the late Founder’s Tree. I knew what I was signing up for. I knew that Canterbury would be imperfect just as I, myself, am imperfect. I also felt an undeniable pull to this place.
I had done all kinds of ministry with all kinds of people after leaving my first Episcopal school chaplaincy. I had pursued an advanced degree in secondary English and taught in public and private schools. I had seen it all. In a sense, my career in the church and in schools ever since 1998 had been a winding path back to school chaplaincy.
Coming to Canterbury was coming home for me; home to a city I had never seen; home to a school I didn’t know my way around. I attribute the sense of belonging I had here to something intangible. It is still with me, that strange feeling of belonging. I hope to inspire that same feeling of belonging in every one of my students. That, essentially, is my job here: To inspire a sense of belonging in faculty, in families, and in my 319 students.
Anyone who knows me knows that welcoming people in God’s name is an apt description of my dream job. It brings me particular joy to welcome new faculty and connect with established faculty in a manner that respects and upholds their spiritual journeys wherever they are on those journeys.
In parish churches I have no opportunity to connect regularly with professionals of non-Christian faiths or anyone who is not an Episcopalian. That is not the environment for me. Jesus was the opposite of a denominational purist. I am led by Him to reach out to all people in love. Everyone who drives onto this campus does so in answer to somebody’s prayers. We all come here with something to learn. I love to notice and name that ever-deepening understanding of one another. It is miraculous, and it is my job to notice and celebrate it. How is that not a dream come true?
The families who send their children to Canterbury every day are precious to me. I have raised four children with my husband of 25 years, and I know only too well that parenting, while an unspeakable blessing, is not always easy. Serving as a source of comfort and encouragement to Canterbury parents is a great honor for me, and one I consider a sacred trust. Canterbury families trust me to “come close to the mystery that is God” with their children. Without their confidence I would not be able to engage in the work that I find most life-giving in all the world.
“I know why you are the Chaplain…” an adorable preschooler told me last fall, “You are the Chaplain because you say ‘God.’” Yes. I say, “God.” It is the greatest honor of my life to do so. I love to pray with our smallest Cubs, to sing with our kindergarteners, to wonder with the lower schoolers, read scripture with the 5th and 6th graders, and to ask essential questions with our 7th and 8th graders. “Where does knowledge come from?” “Why do people say God exists?” Then I get to assist as each 8th grader finds their voice to preach a sermon before they graduate. Here God’s hand is most evident in my journey: that I should be given a love for spiritual formation, trained in teaching students to write, and then led to a place where every gift, skill, and vocation I have ever possessed can be used in the service of the God I have dedicated my life to serve.
Saying that being the Chaplain at Canterbury School is my dream job doesn’t mean I don’t get tired; I do. It doesn’t mean that I am never frustrated. I am, sometimes. It means that when I sit down and close my eyes, and try to dream up someplace I could be better used, a place I could use my skills better, be more fulfilled, have a greater impact in the world, I just can’t. I know I am already there. I open my eyes, and there is beautiful Phillips Chapel. Here are my students and their families. Beside me are my gifted colleagues. I am home. There is no place else I need to be. And that, surely, is a waking dream.
- Working at Canterbury is a "dream job," Part 1
- Working at Canterbury is a "dream job," Part 2
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