When I arrived here at St. Paul’s three-and-a-half years ago and first met Carmelina Padovani, the Director of the Bethlehem School, I was immediately intrigued and inspired by the superlative professionalism, work ethic, passion, kindness, frugality, and attention-to-detail of the woman running our school. Over these past years I have only become increasingly more impressed by Carm’s whole approach to life, and especially to the School and to the families who choose to send their children here. She is such a generous giver of goodness, a bearer of sustained superior “good fruit.” She puts her whole self into her work (which is clearly also her God-given vocation).
Now, 42 months later, I cannot possibly count the number of times that people have told me about the amazing experience their kid(s) had at the Bethlehem School. One mom recently told me - with tears in her eyes - how Carm was her son’s very first teacher, and how Carm’s impact on his life has been a gift that’s kept on giving over the past 20+ years. Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “train up children in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.” This is what Carm has been doing 24/7 with every child who comes through our doors. We are called (implored) by God to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12) and to bear fruit worthy of repentance (Mt 3:8) with patient endurance (Luke 8:15) as we strive to live into the hopes and dreams of our Creator that we may all grow to live together in “unity, constancy, and peace” (BCP, 363) as one (John 17:1-26). We are called to be agents of God’s love and ambassadors of Christ’s peace. This has been the work of Carmelina and her outstanding team, and it is no wonder that we’ve had over twenty people on the waiting list each and every year for the past many years.
Since long before I arrived, Carm, the clergy and leadership of St. Paul’s, and the Bethlehem School Board have been trying to discern how best to meet the needs (the supply and demand) of the families who want to raise their children in the Bethlehem School. The ongoing #1 question has been: As we look ahead into the future, how many students can we reasonably offer placement for while still maintaining the highest possible quality of teaching and nurturance? The parallel concern has been that our school facility has been becoming increasingly more aged and limiting. And so, since my arrival, we have all been researching ideas and possibilities for improving, expanding, and modernizing our school. We’ve all agreed that it did not make sense to change the footprint of our building, but instead to reconfigure the existing space, and to update many things while doing so.
As momentum was building to improve our school facility we simultaneously entered into the celebratory excitement of our upcoming100th anniversary as a parish. Teams were formed to create festive and meaningful ways to mark the special occasion of our 100th year. In this process parishioners were invited to join a “Dream Team” to explore how we might strengthen and improve our sanctuary and church building for the next 100 years. This Dream Team (which included people from our Buildings and Grounds Committee) worked for eighteen months on potential modifications and improvements, including such essentials as a handicap accessible restroom, energy efficient changes, and maintenance related upgrades. Many people have been working very hard to make sure that St. Paul’s is ready to thrive for the next generations that will come after us.
Balancing “Dream Team” ideas with the realities of responsible financial affordability has been a constant sobering companion. Finally we have a plan and will embark upon this building project, both for the school and for the church, this summer. School ends on Friday, June 7th, and we will begin work on Monday, June 10th. We anticipate a 10-week construction period ending in mid-August with a two-week buffer before school starts.
Please come to our June 9th All Parish forum following the 10:00 service to hear more specifics and to ask any questions that you may have.