A Closer Look Inside Phillips Chapel

This school year I started a new habit: going to chapel on Thursdays. I know, a mistake, right? Our chapel services are Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Well, honestly, it did start out that way. I stumbled in on a Thursday morning thinking, “Where is everyone, it’s Friday?!” Once I realized my mistake, I sat alone in the vast silence and stillness of our beautiful Phillips Chapel.

Have you ever sat alone in this 600-seat, 9,500 square-foot place of worship? It is nothing short of awe-inspiring and majestic. The vast space overflows with sacredness that seems to soak into you. After that first day when I sat alone by mistake, I couldn’t help but return for more precious minutes alone in Phillips to start my day: to pray, be silent, or simply sit in awe of the view.

gpFkeewUQy8EFdXi1EbC0ZZJldazWWkI125YM47ofQYWhen filled with Canterbury’s 380 students (plus faculty, staff and parents) during a chapel service in which The Rev. Nathan Finnin’s sermons may or may not be referring to fart noises or getting slimed, “sacred space” may not always be the first words that pop into your head. Also,if we are being truthful, sometimes students file in and out of the chapel without a glance towards the beautiful stained glass windows that tell stories from the Bible and hold pieces of Canterbury’s history. Such is the reality of a busy school day.

Still, we all recognize what a special gift Phillips Chapel is to our community. Dedicated and consecrated on April 25, 2003, the chapel was designed to be the school’s keystone building and is the largest Episcopal place of worship in our region. I want to take you on an inside tour of this special place, so that everyone in Canterbury’s community might have the experience that I have had and come to more intimately know this beautiful chapel of ours.

A grand gift from the Phillips family

On June 1, 2001, The Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry, Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina at the time, led a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate Canterbury’s new chapel — a gift from grandparents Kermit and Monica Phillips, who pledged a seven-figure gift to initiate the project. 

Gothic style, designed to be flexible

What the Phillips began, designers and builders brought to life. Phillips Chapel’s Gothic-style includes a cruciform design: the floor plan is in the shape of a cross. As you enter the nave, the ceiling reaches 60 feet high, the tower 90 feet. While its immense size would lead one to call the building a “cathedral,” an Episcopal place of worship is called a cathedral only if a bishop presides there. Following in the cathedral tradition, the building was always designed to be flexible in its use. This is one reason our seating features cathedral chairs rather than fixed pews. While the primary use of the chapel is worship, other uses include school special events, community concerts, lecture series, or religious celebrations such as weddings — and the upcoming Canterbury School auction, the Bayou Bash. 

Unique beauty in the details

After taking in the Gothic pointed arches and high towers, notice the vivid colors and beauty of the stained glass windows designed and crafted by renowned French artisans, De Pirey International. Several aspects of these windows are unique to Phillips Chapel. All of the windows depict stories and figures from the Old Testament (west side of the chapel) and the New Testament (east side). Over the altar is an image of Jesus surrounded by children, which is unique, as most churches depict the Last Supper or the Crucifixion above the altar. Also above the altar are pictures of three chapels: Phillips Chapel, the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., and Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, England — to show Canterbury’s connection to the larger Christian and Anglican community. 

A major decision when planning the themes for each window was to reconcile the large top window with the smaller bottom window. The Windows Committee, which consisted of Head of School Chip Bristol, The Reverend Fred Warnecke, Jr. and The Reverend Wendy Billingsley, determined the big windows would be the “macro,” the theme of the bible, and the little window would represent the “micro,” or the illustrations of the larger theme above. The concept of windows above and below echoing each other is a special aspect of Phillips Chapel.

Also unique to Phillips’ windows is the that one of our Canterbury art teachers, Molly Stouten, had a hand in their fabrication. Molly was able to travel to France and apprentice under the De Pirey artisans. In fact, she worked alongside artists in the French studio in July 2004 to help create the tower windows donated by the Berry family.  Her days included painting, etching, cutting glass, glazing and assembling, and each step was done on a window that would be installed in Phillips Chapel.

Peering into Canterbury stories

A closer look into each window tells us a bit about Canterbury’s donors. Once the theme for each window was chosen and designed, donors were invited to personalize each window. Examples drawn into the designs include family dogs, favorite flowers, the Canterbury Cougar mascot, symbols of favorite hobbies, or drawings of family members.  In one window, a mother and father chose to add seven apples to represent their son’s seven consecutive years of perfect attendance at Canterbury. Another personalization is in the Last Supper window, where you will see a small child depicted on the left. This child is Rebecca Zopatti. Her mother, Kathy Zopatti, was Canterbury’s first lower school director.  Rebecca died before she was a year old, but her spirit lives on in this window, in her memorial garden in front of Fry Hall, and in heaven.

The best view

Perhaps the best view of Phillips Chapel is from the perspective of standing outside looking in, as you gaze up above the main entrance double doors at the well known Rose Window. You see this symbol around campus, on Canterbury sweatshirts and when logging onto our website. Perhaps you think of of it when you hum the Byrds’ famous song: To Everything (Turn! Turn!Turn!) There is a Season.(Turn! Turn!Turn!)  Most importantly, the theme of the Rose window comes from Ecclesiastes, chapter three, and represents the circle of life

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Pausing to acknowledge the reverence and glory of the stained glass windows in Phillips Chapel is a form of worship itself.

The keystone building

Phillips Chapel was designed to be the keystone building of the Canterbury campus and is, indeed, the first building to capture attention when driving up to the campus. Often, I wonder about people’s first impressions of the chapel, so I asked our own Fr. Finnin. His reply:

“I was driving up N. Church Street to meet Burns Jones for the first time, and when I crossed Pisgah Church, I remember seeing the top of the chapel and thinking, ‘Surely that’s not it!’  It’s not what comes to mind when you think of a K-8 day school chapel. I was blown away not only by its beauty, but by what it represented: faith was literally and figuratively at the heart/center of the school.”

The 2016 Canterbury School Bayou Bash auction will be partly held in Phillips Chapel this year on Feb. 26th. While the announcement that the silent auction is to be held in the chapel may have surprised some at first, Father Finnin addressed concerns in a letter you may access here. We hope our Canterbury community will enthusiastically show support for the school by attending this year’s auction, and at the same time take advantage of the opportunity to experience the awe-inspiring glory of Phillips Chapel in a new way.

By Katie Huhu

Katie Hu is the parent of Brady (5th-Vogel), Maggie (3nd-McCollum) and Mason (PreK-Copeland). Her favorite part of Canterbury is the chapel and the teachers. She loves a quiet walk in the woods, yoga, and a tall glass of kale afterwards. 

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A Helpful Haiku Refresher

Hi Canterbury parents – and welcome back to another great school year! As we get up and going, the Parents Page writing team thought it would be helpful to re-post the Haiku piece Kelly McKee shared with you last year. Give it a read if you’d like a little refresher.

And remember — Canterbury staff is here to help ensure Haiku is a helpful, easy-to-use tool. Therefore, the school is hosting Haiku Training Classes to assist you. These classes will provide an introduction and/or refresher on the basic navigation of Haiku. Please bring a laptop and/or ipad in order to access your Haiku account.

The dates are below and also appear on the Middle School News Calendar. These will be repeat sessions, so you only need to attend one!

Thursday, August 27 at 6:00pm – Ketner Conference Room

Tuesday, September 1 at 8:00am – Haley Classroom

Tuesday, September 1 at 2:15pm – Haley Conference Room

Thursday, September 3 at 5:00pm – Ketner Conference Room

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Haiku might be new to most parents, but members of the Canterbury faculty have been working with the learning management system (LMS) for more than a year. When Dr. Susan Gebhard – Dr. G – joined the faculty in 2013, she saw the vision Dave Skeen, John Schoultz and other teachers had developed with the tablet program. What the program needed was an LMS.

If you have taken a college course in the last 10 years, you have probably used an LMS. The two most well known are Blackboard (not to be confused with Blackbaud) and Moodle. An LMS is a web-based system that does it all: student participation, track assessments, parent communication and more. Usually you would find an LMS only at the college level or maybe at a private high school.designed-for-k12

Dr. G, who had worked extensively in higher education, explains it this way. “Blackbaud is like the school office,” she says. “Just like the office, we go there to get schedules, contact information, calendar updates. It functions like a database. Haiku is the classroom. When we visit the classroom, we see students raising their hands, homework displayed on the Smartboard or whiteboard, and hear a teacher speaking to students.”

Dr. G stops the explanation here to relay a recent example. “Justin McCollum (3rd grade) was absent recently, and he recorded a message for the students on Haiku giving them the instructions for their activity of writing true stories.” Dr. G happened to be visiting Mr. McCollum’s class to work with students using iPads. This is just one example of the dynamic implementation of the system. “Mr. McCollum had not been instructed to use Haiku in this way, but it worked,” she says. “The students were totally attentive to his message and began their work right away.”

Canterbury’s teachers are not following a typical method for implementing an LMS. Last year, Nadav Avital (5th grade) used a different LMS for a trial period, and then tried Haiku, all the while sharing his experiences with others. Paul Kostak (middle school science) had worked with Haiku prior to joining the Canterbury faculty last year and shared his experiences with others. Rather than rounding up the faculty and issuing a directive to start using the new system, the implementation has taken an organic approach based on teacher interest.

According to Dr. G, Haiku would like Canterbury to be a case study for the pilot program because this teacher-to-teacher sharing model is unique to our school. And it has been effective.

Just to be clear–Google Docs and Google Drive have not gone away at Canterbury. Dr. G explains it like this, “Google Drive is the binder; Google Docs is the paper and pencil – still very important tools for students’ daily use.”

“Our use of Haiku will evolve,” Dr. G says. Teachers will assess needs, look for solutions or features on the LMS, and enrich student learning. “Haiku extends Canterbury’s mission of educating the whole child.”

After talking to Dr. G, I wanted to know how I could use Haiku more as a parent. “Be fearless in clicking!” she advised. “You cannot break Haiku!” If you are someone who feels uncomfortable with that method, John Schoultz or Dr. G would be happy to answer questions and walk you through the system.

 “Haiku extends Canterbury’s mission of educating the whole child.”

by Canterbury parent Kelly McKee

mckeeKelly McKee is a freelance writer and community volunteer. She has three daughters and a very high golf handicap (these two facts are not unrelated).

Got Purpose? Getting to know Father Nathan Finnin.

My neighbor has a bumper sticker that reads, “Got Purpose?” My eyes are immediately drawn to it every time she drives by our house. Depending on my mood that day, I find it either inspiring or haunting.

These days, these questions seem to be popular ones: What is your purpose? What is your sacred calling? Why did God put me here?

I usually count on Oprah Winfrey’s magazine to address this question at least a few times a year with a nice, easy quiz: Answer these three questions to find your purpose! (One always seems to be: “What would you do if given 3 months to live?” which would get me to an extended vacation in Hawaii, not necessarily closer to my purpose.)

Recently, I took a class called “Call: Co-Creation and the Commitment to Sacred Service” at the Servant Leadership School of Greensboro. We wrestled with the question, “What is your call?” And I really wrestled. My uncertainty led me to spend some time with Father Nathan Finnin, Canterbury’s Chaplain and teacher of Spiritual Development and Theology since 2010.

I wondered to myself, how can this guy walk around campus constantly emitting joy and laughter? No matter what the weather

Father Finnin gives an 8th grader a high-five after her sermon.

Father Finnin gives an 8th grader a high-five after her sermon.

in carpool line, he looks happy to be there, jumping into random cars to surprise kids, high fiving all the young siblings peeking out windows. He is someone who seems not only completely comfortable in his own skin, but sparkling with happiness on any given day. Perhaps it is his new baby boy, Beckett. Or maybe it’s the pants: bright orange, Carolina blue, red and green Christmas pants. But I thought, surely, his nature is due to something deeper. So I sat down to ask him.

INTERVIEW WITH FATHER NATHAN FINNIN

Do you think you are living your purpose?

Yes, but my ability to say that is contingent upon me not feeling like I have a narrow specific purpose. My purpose is to be useful and to help other people on their spiritual journey through life. The idea of having one purpose makes it really easy to play “the grass is greener” game. Anytime something gets too hard or challenging you tell yourself, “Well, then, this isn’t my purpose.” I liked parish ministry, but I love school ministry. I would like to be at Canterbury School for a long time.

How do you think someone knows if they are living their purpose? What does that feel like?

Being at ease. I think one of indicators that I am living my purpose is that I am not seeking it out. I am not wrestling with the question, “Am I?” and there is a lack of tension around, “Am I doing the right job?” I don’t sit up at night wondering if I should have gone to law school or thinking twice about what I do everyday. I am committed to this place. I believe what we do here is important and worth doing.

Is this too big a topic for our kids?

No! We talk about it! One of the great things we have done at Canterbury is bring Anne-Barton Carter on staff. She is teaching the Servant Leadership class. I think what she would say is that our purpose is connected to everybody else’s purpose. Our purpose cannot be understood in a vacuum. To understand our purpose, we have to develop characteristics of empathy and a sense of community and relationships with our neighbor.

People can be distracted by a false belief that our life is somehow our own. Your life belongs to other people. The narrative changes when you convince someone that you belong to God. You are part of a community and we are connected to each other by our stories.

The Gospel is a narrative of abundance, but the world teaches us about scarcity, as if there is not enough and we need to compete. If you believe that story, you feel you need to fight to get what you need. We compete because we don’t trust God.

What are some barriers to finding purpose?

Lack of willingness to listen to people. One of the greatest things about the discernment process is that you cannot just decide to become a priest. In the Episcopal Church community, you can only become a priest after conversations with other people in your community — people who say, “Yes, you have the gifts to become a priest.” For me that was so freeing because it made the decision not mine. Because I really did not want to become a priest! I was a regular college junior, 22. The idea of Seminary

Father Finnin, wife Kaitlin and son Beckett

Father Finnin, wife Kaitlin and son Beckett

literally popped into my head one day when I was shaving. No burning bush, no voice from the clouds. I was thinking, “I wonder if I can get into Seminary?” I had just started going back to church and I thought to myself, “That’s absurd.” But the thought kept coming back. Then one day I mentioned it to my campus ministry priest. He said that if it keeps coming up, you should at least check it out. I wanted him to give me permission NOT to do this. After several conversations, I realized if I didn’t at least check it out I’d always wonder. And there was nothing else I felt that way about.

I was terrified of waking up at 40, wondering if I should have gone to Seminary. I promised myself I would go through the discernment process hoping they would tell me, “No, this isn’t for you.” At each step along the way, through conversations with the committees, teachers, the bishop, they all said, “I think you have something to offer.”

The deal I made with myself and God is: I’ll continue to do this as long as the people around tell me this is right.

How do you talk to Canterbury kids about purpose and what’s important in life?

With the added challenge and strategy in this age group, we need to back up and begin with a conversation about the difference between what God values and what the world values. Christianity should be our first identity. A beloved child of God.   My self worth is not tied up in what other people think of me.

One of the biggest things I would want to tell kids is that happiness is not something we can afford to wait on. Happiness is a choice. A popular saying is: You can’t think your way into right action, but you can act your way into right thinking. You can’t just sit around and come up with a great notion of fulfillment or of goodness; you have to go out and start doing things that are good. That will make you happy and fulfilled.

“People can be distracted by a false belief that our life is somehow our own. Your life belongs to other people.” Father Nathan Finnin

While I still felt conflicted as to my own sacred calling, I felt huge comfort and gratitude after Father Finnin confirmed that our Canterbury children are being taught steps to bring them closer to answering these tough questions for themselves. The values of empathy and solidarity are ones brought into daily moments in every class at Canterbury.

As a parent, I am hoping to find some quiet and still moments this Lent to pause and reflect on these same values and questions. Perhaps I’ll steal a moment in the beautiful and sacred Phillips Chapel, or a walk through the nature trail. If anyone is willing to listen, come find me!

By Katie Huhu

Katie Hu is the parent of Brady (4th-Hoover), Maggie (2nd-McIlwain) and Mason (2025). Her favorite part of Canterbury is the chapel and the teachers. She loves a quiet walk in the woods, yoga, and a tall glass of kale afterwards. 

First Grade Fun with Felisha Holton

Mrs. Holton loves working with the first graders at Canterbury.

Mrs. Holton loves working with the 1st graders at Canterbury.

Remember the clapping game, Miss Mary Mack?

“Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack

All dressed in black, black, black, 

With silver buttons, buttons, buttons

All down her back, back, back!”

It continues on and on, and the first grade girls at Canterbury have become masters, thanks to Mrs. Felisha Holton!

Felisha is the 1st grade assistant to Mrs. Lynn Armstrong. She has recently earned the new name, Mrs. HoltonMack because she taught the 1st graders how to play the singing game. She said the day the girls gave her the name, she was actually wearing a black coat and black pants!

Felisha was born in a small, rural town in Robeson County. She attended The University of North Carolina at Greensboro after high school, and received a double bachelor’s degree in African American Studies and English, with secondary teaching licensure. She taught English for three years in the Robeson County school district. Felisha married her husband, Michael, and they relocated to Greensboro.

Felisha, who started working at Canterbury in this year, says her experience has been absolutely amazing.

Felisha Holton - First Grade Assistant

Felisha Holton – 1st Grade Assistant

“I continue to glean from Mrs. Armstrong’s experience and wisdom,” she says. “I have gained a great deal of knowledge from her.”

Felisha’s favorite part of being a teacher assistant is the “curiosity, imagination, and creativity of the first graders.” She enjoys reading the children’s daily journal entries and “watching the wheels turn as they put their ideas on paper.”

She is very serious about educating children and building their solid foundation, but also loves to have fun. Playing with children is very important to her, and she enjoys getting down on their level, especially during playtime.

“Teaching is not merely a passion or a gift,” she says. “It is a calling.”

When Felisha is not working with the children, she can be found singing, journaling, couponing, grocery shopping, organizing or cleaning.

Welcome to Canterbury, “Mrs. HoltonMack!”

“Teaching is not merely a passion or a gift; it is a calling.”

by Joanna Kirkland

Joanna Kirkland is a Canterbury parent to Elliott (4th-Wesney) aunnamed-4nd Campbell (1st-Armstrong) and wife to Scott. Joanna recently moved from High Point to Greensboro and loves being close to school to take advantage of more volunteer opportunities at Canterbury.