Good morning! Welcome to this beautiful Sanctuary at National Presbyterian Church, and welcome to the 2022-23 school year. It is wonderful to be together to usher in a new year, the 54th in NPS history—and to gather like this for an Opening Ceremony for the first time since 2019, a joyful return to a cherished NPS tradition.
I hope that you had a terrific summer, and I also hope you know how excited we are to begin the school year. I want to extend a special welcome to those new to NPS – students, parents, faculty, and staff. And to all of those present, we are happy and grateful to have you with us at NPS.
Thank you, Reverend Sutton, for the Opening prayer. Our last Opening Ceremony in this Sanctuary happened to be Reverend Sutton’s first official day as NPS Chaplain. Now he is in his 4th year—and 21st as a Pastor—so he is an old pro and an NPS veteran.
We begin the year by ringing the opening bell at the start of this service and we end it by ringing the same bell at graduation. Thank you to our bell-ringer, Izzy, for starting us off in style. Between today, September 6th, and graduation on June 7th, when we will next hear that bell, so much will occur at NPS—and we can’t wait to see and experience all of it.
Last Monday, we began a week of faculty and staff meetings with a service in nearby Chapel of the Presidents. At that Chapel, we read a Scripture from the Book of Philippians, Chapter 4, Verses 8 and 9, which reads:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
When I hear a call to think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy, my mind travels to this school. Specifically, I think about the people at NPS, young and old, and I also think about the school’s unifying principles, which guide us and help to remind us “this is who we are” and “this is the school and community we aspire to be.”
There are three foundational NPS guidelines and beliefs which stand out:
First, while the Scripture does not use the phrase Core Values, these values are really the essence of the passage. As many of you know, NPS has five Core Values—Love, Respect, Responsibility, Honesty, and Safety—and our new students quickly learn how central they are at NPS. They set the tone and form a strong foundation here, one on which we all stand. Some of the Core Values echo teachings in the Bible. For example, the Core Value of the Month for September is Love. In the Book of Matthew, we learn about the two greatest commandments, both of which are centered on love. The first is a love of God, and the second a love of others, to love your neighbor as yourself. The Core Values are shared values at NPS, and individually and collectively, we try hard to—as the Scripture says— “practice these things,” always aiming to be our best selves.
Second, like the Core Values, which it references, the NPS Diversity Statement serves as an essential precept at the school. It states, “National Presbyterian School is committed to being a community of inclusion that respects the uniqueness and dignity of each individual in a manner consistent with the School’s Core Values. We believe such inclusivity is an ongoing process that enriches our school community and prepares our children for a global, multicultural world.” The NPS Strategic Plan reinforces the Diversity Statement by emphasizing the school goal of “fostering an environment where each child and member of our community feels welcomed, valued, and supported.” As is stressed in the diversity statement, at NPS we strive to be a place where all members of the school feel a strong sense of belonging.
Finally, a third and final NPS principle that exemplifies what is true, honorable, just, and commendable is the NPS Mission. At National Presbyterian School, we focus on the foundational decade of childhood to launch lives of purpose and compassion. Our mission statement speaks to our commitment to the growth and development of children and ever-important decade of childhood. At the heart of our mission are the remarkable teachers at this school, who, with their dedication, care, and expertise, serve as the catalysts for launching those lives of purpose and compassion.
Our Core Values, Diversity Statement, and Mission are guideposts for all of us – they represent everyone affiliated with the school. And what an opportunity we have this year, with a return of NPS traditions and events—such as this one—to connect, and to renew and reaffirm our shared values and guiding principles. In the words of St. Benedict, “Always we begin again,” and this fall we begin again with excitement, and with the ability to build upon the legacy of community which has long been a hallmark of this great school. I look forward to being a part of that NPS journey with all of you this year. Amen.