Jan. 15, 2016 The Church behind the School

Christ Church Day school is a private school that offers its students more than just academia. Founded almost sixty years ago, the school is one of the ministries of the long-serving Christ Episcopal Church, located next to the campus in the beautiful island community of Coronado. It’s that familial relationship between church and school that creates a sense of community and support for the school’s children and families, as well as sets the tone for the mission of the school: Creating lifelong learners while instilling a strong foundation of Christian ethics.

Christ Church of Coronado was originally established in 1888 as a St. Peter’s Mission, but it wasn’t until 1894 that they laid the cornerstone of the building. The church’s rich history is apparent the moment you set foot on the grounds—from its vast physical presence in the community to its striking, gothic-style outer architecture. Step inside and you’ll be greeted by a high ceiling supported by huge diagonal beams and flanked by intricately beautiful stained glass windows that arrived by ship in 1896 from the Horn of Africa, and the church calls “one of the great treasures of Christ Church.”

Children and their families are not required to be members of the church to attend the school; it’s the Episcopal belief to be accepting and welcoming to all. Not only does the church open its doors to the community for two Sunday Services a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays the entire collection of students from CCDS attend chapel. Students assemble in the church for a thirty-minute service led by Chaplain Charlette Preslar, an alumni of CCDS. There are readings, songs with the choir, a homily, and communion.

Tuesday chapel includes a Eucharist service in which the chaplain leads them in worship, and class chaplains bring forth prayers on behalf of their classmates On Thursdays, anyone who has had a birthday that week will receive a special birthday blessing along with the Happy Birthday song. After, students converge around the school’s flagpole for pledge of allegiance and announcements.

Chaplain Charlette also teaches a spiritual nurture class to every grade at the school. This once a week class lasts thirty minutes and incorporates relevant curriculum. The Chaplain’s presence is felt throughout the campus and is welcomed by the smiles of students who know her as both pastor and teacher. She also provides emotional and spiritual support for any student who needs it or is going through a traumatic life event.

The strong partnership CCDS has with the church shines brightest in the generous outreach of its service learning program. Through the leadership and guidance of the rector, Pastor Anne Bridgers, Christ Church serves its community in a multitude of ways.

At Christmas time, they run an Angel tree donation for needy kids who otherwise would be left without during the holidays. Parishioners of the Church as well as students from the school each have a collection and provide donations.

There’s also a food drive in January where church and school work together to gather items. One of the beneficiaries to this effort is St. Mark’s Food Pantry which the church helps fund. One of the most popular efforts is a pasta dinner where the admittance fee is to bring can goods to donate to the drive. The majority of the student body attends this event each year.

While serving the community is at the top of their service list, the church also has a day of service in which parishioners work on aesthetic improvements to the church and grounds. Fifth and sixth graders pitch in to help with such projects as weeding the garden and planting.

In January, the church has what they call “Day School Sunday” which has a similar goal as a traditional school’s open house. Students will be a part of the Sunday service so the parishioners can get a window into what the chapel service looks like during the week. Classroom doors are open and parishioners are invited to take a look inside. During the Sunday service, the chapel students will take a leadership role otherwise held by the adults, taking responsibilities like doing a reading or carrying candles. They also sing songs the students typically sing during chapel.

Though CCDS is considered one of the outreach ministries of the church, it’s actually more of a partnership and support is not a one way street. The Church supports all of the school events and parishioners look forward to attending many of its programs.

The school’s yearly events—a book fair, an art fair, and a gala and auction—are all heavily supported by the church. At the book fair church members look forward to buying books to support the school. During the art fair, student docents lead members of the parish through the fair as they talk about the art pieces. Items bid on and sold during the gala and auction earn funds for the school. And even with all this encouragement, there is also a student scholarship fund which the church donates to with money they make from the Thrift store they run.

The church behind the school, Christ Episcopal Church, is actually the church next to the school. Side by side these two institutions promote love with open arms and model acceptance and the Christian life of service.