Phillips Exeter defines “religion” broadly, borrowing from its Latin roots. Religion is a “re-ligamenting,” a joining or re-joining of individuals to each other, or of the individual to his or her best self. The Religious Services Department is that portion of Phillips Exeter Academy whose responsibility is to celebrate and deepen the religious life of our community.
Our mission is to support the particular journeys of faith lived by members of our community; to awaken a sense of wonder, awe and reverence in our common walk; to encourage living the highest standards of care and responsibility in relationship to the earth and all its inhabitants, through service and reflection; and to celebrate, through varieties of worship, the connections of belief and shared journeys that strengthen our spirits.
Phillips Church, where we gather to worship and where most of our musical performances are held, is home for established religious groups and a gathering place for many other groups of Exonians, both adults and students. For most who are part of a particular religious tradition, their regular observances are held in the building. For those unaligned, or without belief in God, there are opportunities for worship and for spiritual practice that both spark the religious and spiritual imagination and provide substantive experiences and opportunities for reflection.
In answer to the challenge in the school’s Deed of Gift that the faculty should be committed to teach our students “. . . the great end and real business of living,” the Exeter Social Service Organization (ESSO) offers opportunities for action and reflection in a wide variety of settings in our immediate community and the larger areas of our concern. Through direct service, directed, activity-connected fund-raising and continual reflection upon our experiences, we hope to honor another aspect of our Deed of Gift, the motto, “non sibi” or “not for one’s self.”
The Reverend Robert H. Thompson (currently on leave), an ordained Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, directs the ministry. As Phelps Minister of Phillips Church, he oversees all offerings of the ministry, fills all traditional priestly functions when appropriate and is the faculty advisor for ESSO, the Exeter Social Service Organization. Generally speaking, he serves as Pastor of the school, regardless of an individual’s or group’s faith orientation.
Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath serves as Interim School Minister. She is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Rev. Heath has served in a variety of chaplaincy and parish ministry settings before coming to Exeter. She received her bachelor’s degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Psychology and Religious Studies before receiving a master’s degree from the Andover Newton Theological School. In addition to her Masters of Divinity, she earned a certificate in Pastoral Care and Counseling signifying excellence and special competency in that area of ministry. Rev. Heath’s pastoral work has focused on children, youth and survivors of sexual assault. Known to our community as Rev. Heidi, she serves as chaplain of the academy regardless of the faith of an individual or group. No matter who you are or where you are on your Exonian journey, you are warmly welcome at Phillips Church.
In support of the many ministries that are housed here, Alex Simpson is the staff assistant to religious services. Alex brings to our team a wide interfaith and campus ministry background. Rev. Heidi works alongside a number of others who make the broad religious and spiritual work we do at Phillips Exeter possible. Rabbi Jennifer Marx Asch serves as advisor to the Exeter Jewish Community. Ms. Khadijah Campbell serves as advisor to the Muslim Student Association. Ms. Lavinia (Vi) Richter serves as advisor to the Catholic Exonians. Matthew Daniell serves as teacher and advisor to our Buddhist Meditation Groups (for both students and adults). In addition to her work advising the Christian student groups, Rev. Heidi also serves as advisor to the Hindu Society, and a newly forming Secular Humanist group. Many folks from outside of the Phillips Exeter community also support the religious and spiritual life of our community throughout the year.