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The Episcopal School in North Philadelphia

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On Monday, September 14, 2015, St. James School kicked off Year 5 with its annual opening doors ceremony.

Teachers and staff gathered at 6:45am to review the plans for the day, students arrived for breakfast, followed by morning prayer and instructions for the day. After their homeroom meeting, students made their way to the front yard of the School House where they were greeted by family members and many other guests.

Trumpets led the prelude and the peeling of the bells from the Church of St. James the Less marked the beginning of the ceremony. Co-Founder and Board President Father Sean Mullen led the opening prayer, and Head of School David Kasievich followed by sharing his own words of wisdom for new and current students. Kasievich showcased some of the new additions to the school and asked students to think about their responsibilities as St. James student.

Following the school’s tradition, new students received their blazer, the single-most visible element of the school’s uniform. Uniforms were distributed by Opening Doors Ambassadors, special guests representing the diversity of people, partnerships, churches, volunteers and donors that make up the St. James School community.

Ambassadors included:

  • Dr. Audrey Evans, St. James School Co-Founder
  • Bishop Edward Lee, Assisting Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania
  • Rose Cooper, President, RAH Civic Association
  • The Rev. Marek Zabriskie, Rector, St. Thomas Church, Whitemarsh
  • Sr. Rosemary Herron, President, Mercy Vocational High School
  • Craig Williams, St. James School Parent
  • The Rev. Richard Morgan, Rector, Church of the Good Samaritan, Paoli
  • Isabelle Benton, St. James supporter and advocate
  • Dawn Swope-Kreiser, Assistant Branch Manager, National Penn
  • Jessica Barlow, Director of Admissions, John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School
  • The Rev. Frank Allen, Rector, St. David’s Church, Wayne
  • Robert White, St. James Volunteer
  • Bobbie Bayton, Mentor
  • Randall Jefferson, Advisory Board Member
  • Andrew Kelly, Admissions Counselor, Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School
  • The Rev. Martini Shaw, Rector, African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, Overbrook
  • Debbie Hutton Marcee, Assistant Director of Admissions, William Penn Charter School
  • Joyce Rehorst, Advisory Board Member

The ceremony also included the blessing of an icon of Absalom Jones, one of the foremost leaders among persons of African descent during the post-revolution period. Absalom Jones was the first African American Episcopal priest to be ordained and founded the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas (Overbrook). Father Martini Shaw, Rector of St. Thomas Episcopal and successor of Absalom Jones, joined Father Sean Mullen and the school’s Chaplain, Mother Lorna Williams, in blessing the icon.

The ceremony ended with a welcome and thoughts from Father Mullen, and a musical reflection by Frank Mitchell of Opera Philadelphia, who sang “Witness,” an African American spiritual that has been near and dear to his heart since he was a child. Mitchell reminded students of the importance of spirituals in the life of the black community and how spirituals were what provided solace and support to slaves and those traveling on the Underground Railroad. The ceremony ended with Assisting Bishop of the Diocese of PA Edward Lee,  giving a final blessing and Principal Laura Dimery leading the students in their student pledge and the pledge of allegiance.