Father Michael Lapsley: A Man of Integrity


Annie Denten of Studio M Photography

Father Michael Lapsley spoke to eighth through twelfth grade students about life choices while sharing some of his own, on October 27, 2022.

“All of us in this earthly life will both be wounded by the things that have happened to us, and we will cause wounds to others,” said Anglican priest and social justice activist Father Michael Lapsley in his chapel talk to Bishop’s upper school and eighth grade students October 27, 2022. “So the question is not, ‘Can we avoid woundedness?’” he continued. “Woundedness is part of the human journey. The question is, ‘How do we respond?’” 

Father Michael is known as an overcomer and opposer of the South African Apartheid government’s violence. The regime sent him a letter bomb in 1990, according to a documentary by Loyola Productions Munich. He visited The Bishop’s School the week of October 26-28, 2022 and spoke to upper and middle school students about life choices. Father Michael’s “commitment to embodying God’s life-giving and liberating love for all people,” as The Reverend Ms. Nicole Simopoulos-Pigato put it, resonated with the Bishop’s community.

The Reverend Simopoulos expressed, “While I’ve wanted to introduce Father Michael to Bishop’s for a few years now, it seemed fitting to invite him to campus this year as we turn our focus to our core value of integrity.” In inviting him to the School, The Reverend hoped that the Bishop’s community would walk away from Father Michael’s chapel talk knowing what “potential a life can hold when one responds to a greater calling, to a greater good, from a greater power.” 

Laird Murfey (‘28) and his family hosted Father Michael, Philani Dlamini (colleague of Father Michael and Institute for Healing of Memories workshop facilitator), and The Reverend Simopoulos for dinner after Father Michael’s chapel talk to sixth and seventh grade students. Laird wanted to talk with Father Michael and ask him questions. “I wondered how he saw God in all of his stories and the stuff that happened to him,” Laird said. 

Laird also pointed out that God’s giving Father Michael the “ability and strength to forgive,” as well as “how he turned his disability into something positive and didn’t give up, even though all the adversity he went through,” resonated with him. 

Mr. David Thompson, director of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) program at Bishop’s, only had five minutes of one-on-one time with Father Michael. However, these five minutes revealed to Mr. Thompson Father Michael’s genuine love for people: “He was just so curious about me…I think that there are some folks, the time that you spend with them they care so much to know about other people,” said Mr. Thompson. “He was just so invested in who I was as a person, and every person that I have spoken to that had some time with him said the same. He just cares to know the stories of those in the room.”

Mr. Thompson also stressed the power of “speaking to students with regard to the choices they have to fight against systems from which they benefit,” that lesson being manifested in Father Michael’s retelling of his experiences opposing Apartheid. 

Science teacher Dr. Pamela Reynolds traveled to South Africa ten years after the fall of the Apartheid government, and she recalled that the country was still plagued with division. Her experience of this time prompted her to speak with some of her students about Father Michael’s chapel talk: “I don’t think we recognize how monumental that change was and how many lives were lost, but also how many lives were dedicated to making that change happen,” she said about the fall of Apartheid.

Additionally, Brooke Cluster (‘23) found that Father Michael’s encouragement, “let’s choose life,” influenced her as a leader of the Step Up Club during its Cure Cancer Week, which followed Father Michael’s visit to campus. “I was able to deeply connect [with] and put what he had to say into action,” she said. Brooke recalled that her “favorite take-home message” of Father Michael’s chapel talk “was how we all have the choice on how we view things. He chose to continue to learn and grow from [his] experience, even forgive. He turned it into an opportunity to inspire.”

Seth Pintar (‘24) also focused on Father Michael’s emphasis on choice when recounting what he saw as the biggest take home messages of Father Michael’s chapel talk: to “do the right thing,” and that, despite his struggles, Father Michael didn’t give up, but had the attitude of, “What can I do? What’s next?”

Father Michael Lapsley, now a recipient of the Bishop’s medal, serves as a role model to Bishop’s students and faculty alike through his demonstration of courage, love, and integrity in the face of hardship. Present or not on the Bishop’s School’s campus, Father Michael is forever present in our hearts.