Happy Thanksgiving!

 
 
Dear Choir School family and friends,  
 
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because of the rare space it provides to pause, reflect, and give thanks for the blessings all of us enjoy—including those that are hard to see as we go about our daily lives. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing for the holiday this year, I wanted to take a moment to share some of the things I have been most thankful for during 2020, and to thank all of you for your ongoing support of the Saint Thomas Choir School. 
 
Above all this year, I have been thankful for the teamwork, resilience, and strong sense of community at the Choir School. Now, two weeks into our school’s Quarter 2 period of distance learning, I feel that I have witnessed a series of miracles worked by all members of the Saint Thomas community: our parents, who have strengthened their partnership with the school despite staying outside the building; our faculty and staff members, who have successfully reinvented school three times over the last eight months, giving generously of themselves in the service of the choristers; and, most of all, our students, who have adapted to every curveball thrown their way with unwavering joy and grace, providing light for us all in the darkness of this pandemic. All of these achievements have only been possible through the generosity and ongoing support of the Saint Thomas Church, our donors, and our alumni: thank you for contributing your good wishes, time, talent, and treasure to our special school. Our planning carries forward for 2021 as all of us work, with a shared dedication and faith, to keep the boys growing as students, musicians, friends, and most of all as citizens of our world despite the challenges facing us. Even as we mourn the loss of some of our yearly traditions, particularly around the holidays, we celebrate our triumphs and our joys.  
 
One of the highest points of this year was the school’s incredibly successful six weeks spent in residence at Incarnation Center. During our second-to-last week at Incarnation, one of our wonderful gap students, Augie Segger (STCS Class of 2015), preached a sermon at our Sunday Eucharist service that captured the interplay between the ephemeral and the permanent which all of us at Incarnation Center felt. In it, Augie called for us to revel in the grace we had experienced by living and singing together during this brief moment of normalcy and community amidst the general chaos and disconnection in the world around us. He exhorted us to take advantage of every moment we had left in that beautiful place, to make the most of the special community we had formed there, and to carry it with us beyond the confines of Incarnation Center. In Augie’s words, all of us returned to the world as evangelists, becoming “agents of goodness” in a world so desperately in need of them. 
 
Even after saying goodbye on our final day at Incarnation and beginning a period of time spent physically apart from one another, all of us feel confident that the sense of community we built through our time living, playing, eating, walking, learning, and singing together has helped carry us forward and will continue to allow us to overcome the challenges facing our school in this year unlike any other. Autumn returns each year, after all, despite the long winter and blazing summers in between. This Thanksgiving time of harvest and transformation is a seasonal reminder that better things are on their way, and of our ability to persevere, despite the fear and uncertainty surrounding us now. As Gerard Manley Hopkins puts it in his poem “God’s Grandeur”: 
 
And for all this, nature is never spent; 
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; 
And though the last lights off the black West went 
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs — 
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent 
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. 
 
Thank you for your support of all of the amazing experiences the Saint Thomas Choir School provides for its students, and for being a part of our wonderful community. We look, with faith and hope, towards a bright future that we know is waiting for us, just over the horizon. 
 
Sincerely,  
Amy Francisco  
 

Excerpt of Sermon by Augie Segger ‘15
on Oct. 18, 2020 at Incarnation Center

 
After five weeks of learning, playing, singing, and living together at Incarnation, we will soon rejoin the world of masks, social distancing, and Zoom. Although five weeks seems like a short time, we’ve all had a chance to realize just how precious it is to live together in a community. For me personally, I’ve felt something these past five weeks that I haven’t felt for six years: a living, breathing spirit of intense friendship that can only be found here at Saint Thomas. 
 
It’s not the small class sizes, the family-style meals, the Friday nights, or the dorm life that makes this community so special: it’s what you’re all doing right now. You can’t sing like a soloist when you’re in a choir; you have to be a team player. A good choir does just as much listening as they do singing. Of course, you don’t need me to stand here and lecture you on how to sing together; you already know that. But perhaps it’s worth reminding ourselves how powerful the act of communal singing is, because when we do it so often, we can sometimes take it for granted. 
 
One of the most powerful aspects of music is that we all relate to it in different ways. When we sing, we take our own feelings and attitudes toward the music and share them with each other. 
 
Those of you who are younger and newer are sitting next to those who are older and more experienced: that’s not an accident. There’s an unspoken connection between us all that helps us realize that we’re part of an ongoing mission that’s much larger than ourselves. When we sing together, there’s messiness, there’s imperfection—but amidst all of that, there’s friendship. There’s a spirit of immense grace that comes from our communal singing. It’s that same spirit that I’ve been feeling these past five weeks, and it’s that same spirit that lives within each of us every single day. 
 
Today the Episcopal Church celebrates the feast of Saint Luke. In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers us release from whatever holds us captive and freedom from whatever oppresses us. He is promising us new life in him. This “Spirit of the Lord” is the same spirit that resides in Luke as he spreads the good news of the Gospel. 
 
It’s natural for us to feel the captivity, blindness, and oppression that our Gospel mentions. From one of the most disturbing elections in American history mere weeks away to an ongoing global pandemic to racial injustices embedded in our national system, our world is exhausted, confused, angry, lacerated, grieving—the list goes on and on. 
 
And yet, here we are in our little utopia in the middle-of-nowhere Connecticut, trying to find some sense of “normal” amidst the world’s chaos. That spirit of grace that comes from our singing is the same “Spirit” that Jesus mentions in the Gospel—this Spirit is God, or whatever God means to each of us. You are all, in a way, evangelists. Together, we have a sacred obligation to spread the good news of the grace, compassion, and infinite love of God to a world that so desperately needs to hear it. And with that, we also have a duty to reform ourselves: in the Chorister’s Prayer we ask that “what we sing with our lips we show forth in our lives”—we must take what we sing and become agents of goodness in the world. 
 
We can’t get tired. We can’t become afraid. We can’t get complacent. We have a lot of work to do. Keep singing. Keep building community. Keep being evangelists.