‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.’ – Matthew 7:24-25
Below is the homily offered by Chaplain Brandon Peete
at the Consecration and Dedication of the Berkeley Chapel on April 15, 2023.
In the Gospel of Matthew just offered, Jesus speaks of a wise man who built his house on rock. In doing so, his dwelling withstood rain, floods, and wind. He goes on to contrast this approach with the foolish man who built his house on sand. Of course, that house did not make it through the turmoil. A firm foundation will yield staying power, especially when it matters the most.
We here at Berkeley have surely followed the way of the wise, as it concerns this house of prayer for all people, the Berkeley Chapel. Our house is built on rock. And, I’m not talking about the concrete slab that is beneath us (though from an engineering standpoint, I hear that’s pretty important too).
Our rocks, many of you, committed alumni, generous donors, a dynamic Board of Trustees, supportive parents, a visionary headmaster, innovative leadership team, and truly invested faculty and staff. With God’s help, these rocks all contributed to make this dream a reality.
But, dare I say, the most important rocks that laid the foundation for The Berkeley Chapel were courageous and faithful students, especially those who dared to gather us in morning prayer, well before this concrete slab was laid.
That date was January 15, 2021. Thirteen Upper Division students offered Scripture, prayers, and song in the center of McCleary Mound. One of the seniors shared vulnerable words of reflection on the recent death of her father. Which inspired a junior to offer words on her walk with God the next week. Shortly thereafter, Alaina Babb, Class of 23, began guiding our weekly music, lending her talents of guitar, and then voice, and then even piano, to help us lift our voices in praise.
In doing so, dozens of other student musicians have been empowered to follow her lead, standing before their peers, into a microphone, displaying the sort of bravery I was way too insecure to embrace as a teenager. Courage that will stand up to any amount of rain or wind.
The weeks passed, and we migrated to Aye Arboretum for morning prayer. As our spiritual muscles grew, we began offering MidWeek prayer, a weekly service led by Middle Division students, then Holy Communion, another UD offering on Tuesdays, and we most recently launched Lower Division Morning Prayer on Fridays.
All the while, our Berkeley family, many of those rocks mentioned before, began to see the clear and obvious need demonstrated by the courage and faithfulness of our students, and gave generously to make this house of prayer a new home for sacred gatherings.
This Consecration marks the 130th time since January of 2021 we have come together for a service of prayer. In this school year alone, 145 different students have led us in these weekly services.
I get choked up even thinking about the many ways God has been seen and heard through their witness. They are the cornerstones of our foundation. They are what will keep this building standing, come wind or rain.
I was chatting with Alaina just the other day about the first song she offered back then, Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” Which at this point seems prophetic, as if God were giving us a divine blueprint. The rocks were being laid. And now, this house of prayer is here to stay, for generations to come. Amen.
Founded in 1960, Berkeley is an independent, Episcopal, college-preparatory day school located in Tampa, FL, for boys and girls in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12. Approximately 1,400 students gather here from the greater Tampa Bay area to form ONE Berkeley.