STA Form I-II and NCS Grade 7-8 gathered in the Little Sanctuary this week for a chapel devoted to building community. Vestry members from both schools planned the liturgy, wrote prayers, performed music, selected readings, and offered chapel talks. “The only way we can build our community is by doing it ourselves,” advised STA vestry member John Slidell ’24 in his talk. “Instead of only hanging out with your friends or sitting on your phone, go talk to someone new.”
NCS vestry member Taylor ’24 encouraged students to have the strength to reach out to others: “The first and hardest step to building these connections is to free yourself from fear … Although being vulnerable is difficult, we must open up to form these true friendships. Not only should we free ourselves from this fear, but we must also help to free others. Letting people know we appreciate, respect and support them creates a safe environment to begin forming those genuine connections … Extending beyond our own comfort zones and making the effort to get to know one another is worth the risk of being vulnerable.”
Describing STA and NCS as “sibling schools,” STA vestry member Jack Hedges ’24 offered his strong bond with his sister as an example for how students could strengthen the Close community. Hedges argued: “My sister and I have the strongest relationship of anyone I know ... We understand each other’s problems and what frustrates one another. This allows us to help each other through whatever is bothering us. We compete with each other and encourage and force each other to be better. And … we fight. But we fight in a special way, that lets us still agree, and live with each other, and because of this our bond is strong and unbreakable.”
As part of the service, the students introduced themselves to new faces from across the Close. “Chances are you don’t know the person sitting next to you,” NCS vestry member Beatrix ’24 observed. “But, in a few moments, you will be asked to introduce yourself to the person seated next to you—helping to break the barrier between stranger and acquaintance. It may be uncomfortable at first, but the other person feels the exact same way. Today, you are just putting a name to a face. But, what you may not realize, is that sitting next to you, behind that name and face, is a complete person. This stranger may even become your friend one day.
To help easy any discomfort, the vestry members handed out a list of icebreaker questions, which quickly got the middle schoolers talking: “What is your favorite ice cream flavor?” “What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?” “If you were given $1 million, what is the first thing you would buy?” “What is one superpower you would like to have?” “What is your favorite emoji—and why?”
In their closing prayer, the vestry members prayed for the courage to reach out to new people and find ways to get to know their classmates better. “Help us to be the kind of friends we want to have,” they concluded.