Although EVG is an international agency, we’re proud of our headquarters in Greenville, SC, and we’re always eager to tell the stories in our own community. Stacy Dyer is a long-time EVG writer, and Christ Church Episcopal School is a long-time client. With families unsure and anxious about the upcoming school year, we want to highlight how CCES is currently helping their students and families with emotional and spiritual support and proactively planning for support during the school year. We’re so proud of our team and clients, and hope their story inspires you as it did us!
Since the pandemic began, “physical distancing” and “social distancing” have become household terms. Staying any number of feet apart has been a challenge for Christ Church Episcopal School, a school known for its tight-knit community.
“The pandemic has meant, starting March 13, finding ways to maintain and strengthen a sense of community even while we haven’t been able to be together in the ways we’ve been accustomed to,” said The Rev. Wallace Adams-Riley, Senior Chaplain at CCES.
Once the school went digital in the spring, Adams-Riley and the chaplains began producing Daily Devotions four days a week and a weekly Virtual Chapel. The offerings have provided emotional and mental support for students and all in the CCES community, even while they’re away from campus.
“One of us chaplains would put together each of the Daily Devotions and we’d collaborate on the Virtual Chapels, incorporating student elements like musical clips,” Adams-Riley said.
The Daily Devotions and the Virtual Chapels were composite videos made available via YouTube. The chaplains posted a new one every weekday through the end of the semester.
“We heard again and again from students and parents, as well as faculty and staff, about how important those offerings were to the community, in terms of encouraging them and helping them continue to have a sense of community,” Adams-Riley said.
The Daily Devotions and Virtual Chapels were just the beginning of the emotional and mental support those in the CCES community has received during this challenging time. The Chaplain’s Office has reached out and connected with students, parents, faculty and staff via Zoom, phone, text, and e-mail.
“Under normal circumstances, there would be plenty of that, minus Zoom, but the amount of all of those things has kicked way up,” Adams-Riley said. “Which has been a huge blessing.”
When students return to campus in August, the Chaplain’s Office will continue to host weekly chapel services in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. Before the pandemic, the chapel service schedule included four separate chapel services in the chapel per week: Primers & First Graders; Second through Fourth Grade; the Middle School; and Upper School.
“While those chapel services likely won’t fall at the same points of the week as they did pre-pandemic, we will return to having four separate chapel services, versus one single “virtual” chapel service,” Adams-Riley said.
During those services, the chaplains will have as many students present in the Chapel as social distancing and diocesan guidelines, which the CCES Bishop has been adjusting over time, will allow. All three chaplains and a rotating group of acolytes will be present in the Chapel for each service.
“We’ll bring as many other students and faculty into the Chapel as we can,” Adams-Riley said. The Chaplain’s Office will follow CDC guidelines for social distancing as well as diocesan guidelines.
The services will then be live-streamed to classrooms for the students and faculty who are not able to be in the Chapel.
“While this approach won’t get us back to our pre-pandemic experience of filling up the Chapel for worship and all being in there together, we are excited to be able once again to host our worship services from the Chapel,” Adams-Riley said.
“As I have often said to our students and faculty, while standing in their midst in the Chapel, those gatherings are the heart of the CCES community. I do believe being able to hold worship in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd again will indeed be encouraging for everyone.”
The CCES chaplains and counselors are working together on guidelines to ensure social, emotional, and spiritual support for students. Chaplains and counselors will continue to develop those plans throughout the summer.
Adams-Riley is looking forward to welcoming students back to school next month.
“We want to celebrate our return to school and celebrate the CCES community,” he said. “We also want to encourage our students. They have been through a lot (of course, the whole world is going through a lot), and we want to do all we can do to help them keep their chins up; we want to encourage them to make the most of a challenging and strange time; we want them to be honest about the difficulties and unsettling aspects of these times, while also holding onto gratitude and hope, compassion, generosity, and kindness.
“As they’ve heard me say more times than they can count: Let us remember, friends, life is short, and we do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. Be swift to love and make haste to be kind!
And God is with us.”
To view all chapels and devotionals, please visit the CCES site!