Unprecedented Firefighting

Well hello there, everyone. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been relaxing furiously the last couple of days, just looking for stuff to think about and ways to fill your time.

I’m kidding.

This has been a time of unprecedented firefighting (as in, putting them out) the last couple of days. And sometimes you try to douse the flames with baking soda…only to find out you accidentally grabbed the magnesium powder. (I mean, they look similar, right?)

To be sure, in making decisions the last several days, we have been trying to apply at once both wisdom and faith. We wish to trust what God has said and not freak out with the masses who refuse to honor the God of the Virus. (Most of us would rather not share an ER waiting area with a consistent Darwinist.) But of course, as much as depends on us, and because we want to love our neighbors, we’d like to exercise discretion at the same time.

To be sure, these are strange and difficult circumstances. Some of you feel that more than others. Maybe you’re trying to administer school-at-home to three grammar-aged Raggants. Maybe you have a salon that has been closed for a time. Maybe you own a small business that operated on a thin margin, and that cannot sustain two weeks of low sales…let alone six or eight weeks. Believe me, as one who recently has gotten to make some weighty decisions that will rather practically affect many people I care about, I get it. It do.

But let me take this moment to offer a few words of encouragement.

This is a great time to apply our worldview. Last week I got to talk about this situation with my students, and it was a rich conversation. One of the things that came up was an important principle: Just because someone is telling you to do something who otherwise has no authority to order you around doesn’t mean he’s wrong. I may not appreciate Governor Inslee’s methods or worldview, but I don’t think he’s necessarily going after churches or Christian schools in the present moment. At present, in the interest of loving our older neighbors or those with compromised immune systems, we’re dying the death of convenience while also doing what the governor said to do. (Even since last week, this has gotten trickier, as I’m not sure when groups of more than 50 will be able to meet without legal repercussions, but I digress.) This is a time where conscience and the Word will allow us to submit, even if it’s costly to do so.

While I’m not suggesting that it is happening right now, we do know that it is in times of panic that tyrants emerge with greater power that they don’t relinquish. The older ECS students should be able to share with you some examples from history, because we’ve read about them. So when crises come, we should be alert, trust God, and those with whom we’ve chosen to lock arms.

Your foxhole buddies would jump on a grenade for you. On Monday I spent about four hours on conference calls with ECS teachers and administration. While reflecting on that time of brainstorming, strategizing, and paring our lessons to the “essentials” (a term we used a lot yesterday), I had to remark, “What a group to go to war with.” I am so, so thankful for our teachers. As we were asking them to do more work, and then to cut back out some of their planned assignments as we try to love you all, there was not a single grumble nor complaint at all by any teacher. None. That’s who I want in the trenches with me. They trust me, I trust them, and you can too.

But it’s not a blind trust. We are here to serve you, so make sure you’re asking the questions you need to, and don’t be afraid to push back if necessary. We are not trying to get out of our jobs, but we are trying help you do yours well even when we can’t meet at school.

This is part of the reason why cultivating fellowship is worthwhile: we’re also cultivating loyalty mutually. In a school community of sixty-ish families, there has been some anxiety and nervousness, but nobody is freaking out (at least not to me), and the general vibe has been very Risus est bellum. People are fighting to laugh when it’s not funny, because doing so reminds us that we win, and above all…

God is still on the throne. None of this is catching Him by surprise. We believe right down to the marrow of our bones that God is sovereign over every molecule, soul, thunderclap and coronavirus. Not only is He sovereign, He’s also good, and He has loved us enough to initiate a relationship with us. We are not impervious to sin or its practical consequences (He has used plagues and enemies to chastise His people plenty of times), but this is only because He loves us and because He is holy. I look at that as just about the worst-case scenario here. If the worst thing that can happen is for God to chastise His children, then we’re in pretty good shape…even if we all get sick.

So rest your bodies, maintain sensible social distance, don’t lose heart and laugh…not because this is funny, but because it will help to orient your Godward focus.

—U.H.

ECS School Closure Information

Greetings, Raggant families.

As you’ve probably heard by now, we have decided to cancel school-at-school at least for the next two weeks. We will reassess after Spring Break and be in communication with you all with any updates. I wanted to offer some insight into how we arrived at this decision.

The data so far seems to demonstrate that where this disease has emerged, it has been curbed rather effectively via “shut down,” namely, keeping our distance from one another. In reality, very few in our school are susceptible to dangerous or long-term effects; almost all are very healthy, and many also get some variety of the flu every year. But we commonly are in contact with older folks or folks with compromised immune systems who may be more vulnerable. So while we do not share the general alarm that is characterizing the news and social media, we also know it won’t hurt us to help do our part to minimize the spread of the virus, even if doing so is inconvenient.

We thought about continuing to meet, and making a statement in the process (namely, that we don’t need the state’s permission to operate, and neither will we comply with their demands that we shut down). But we also figured that in this case, the costs of such a statement outweighed the benefits, especially when the health of our community may potentially be threatened. The statement we can make is a way to love our neighbors. So we believe that the reasonable decision under these circumstances was to close for a while.

We were helped in our decision by Governor Inslee’s announced closure of all K-12 public and private schools. Though we’re technically a co-op, we believed that it was in keeping with the spirit of this ban that we should at least close for three weeks, after which time we should know a lot more (in other words, the virus ought to have run its course in any of those presently affected by who are nonsymptomatic, we’ll have an idea as to how aggressive measures are working, etc.). We also want to be ready to return to school if the threat has passed by then, though the stated ban is through April 24.

When I made the announcement to the students this afternoon, there were a few smiles and cheers, but the overwhelming majority of the students (and teachers!) were sad and disappointed. Some cried. I think this says a lot about our school community. It says that between the Bible songs, Logic lessons, and blacktop recesses, something is getting through.

Our meeting together gives us opportunity to realize our mission. As our mission statement reminds us, classical education is one of the tools we use in our work of enculturation. Granted, this is not impossible if we have a season of school-at-home, but it is harder. So is cultivating the fellowship in our school community that we value so much.

As I’m fond of saying, traditional education is about the transfer of information; classical education is about the transfer of culture. Information is easy to transfer remotely; culture is not. So we’d much rather be meeting at school like we normally do.

Some may wonder if we are in a position to offer a discount or refund for days that students are not in class. As strange as it seems, having students stay at home saves us almost no money. The teachers will continue to work remotely, we will continue to pay rent and insurance, and (with the exception of a few consumable supplies like Expo markers, bandaids, and toner) our operating costs will remain the same. If we were saving any money by this decision, we’d be glad to pass that along to you. Sadly, that is not the case.

But now, having made the decsion, what is next?

Starting next week (Monday March 16), we’ll be employing a modified, school-at-home model. Of course, our families are veterans at this, since we do it every week. The teachers have been asked to think of reasonable homework volume and complexity, so as to make the best out of this situation. Please check Sycamore daily for updates, due dates, assignments and special instructions.

Your child’s teachers will still be available to you, just as they are normally on Mondays. So feel free to reach out to them, and they’ll be glad to help you.

We have also canceled the Raggant Fiction Festival, but we have an eye on March 20, 2021!

As always, if you have any questions, we are happy to help.

Risus est bellum!

Jonathan (for the ECS Board)

The Fruitfulness of Fellowship

In the fall of 2012 when we opened Evangel Classical School, the founding families were all friends. We’re all still friends today, in fact. We had a common aim to educate our children in the classical model, but all of the hard work and the memory-making were sweetened by love for one another. This may sound sentimental or idyllic; I assure you it is not. Those who were there for the Granite Falls drought (we had a Honey Bucket because the toilets couldn’t flush), the subsequent deluge (and accompanying flood of the basement where we met), the moments plucking gravel from bloody knees or the witnessing of the circle-of-farm-animal-life could tell you that our beginnings were uncommon, unprofessional, hard, and grace-saturated.

And thanks to the people, I would change none of it.

Memorable as they were, it was not the circumstances that made our beginnings pleasant; it was the people. And it was the grace of God that made the situation hilarious. We were not so naive as to find our beginnings ideal. We broke nearly all the rules for starting a school (I’d love to tell you about our first K-6 Science test or our discipline policy before the name-check-check system….), but convinced of the sovereign goodness of God, we laughed along the way.

As for the people element, I am better positioned now to know it for what it was. And the truly remarkable thing is that it has only gotten better. I’m not kidding. When you are around your people, 116 is better than 14. And while there is a lot to be said about this, my particular suggestion at the moment is this:

Never underestimate the fruitfulness of fellowship.

In the few years of ECS’s existence, we have not agreed on everything. We have sinned against each other (adults and students alike). We have occasionally disappointed each other and have spent time giving and receiving correction. But beneath it all has been a common love for Christ, a common Spirit indwelling us all, and the inescapable reality that the Spirit is not at odds with Himself, so Christians (in whom that Spirit dwells) ought to enjoy harmonious fellowship…even if we disagree. And preserving our fellowship is important!

The students have found security in knowing that the teachers are in fellowship. They see the teachers laughing together and loving each other and genuinely liking each other.

At some point, each of our teachers has asked for forgiveness from his students. When a student visits my office, his readmission to the fellowship of class comes after he seeks the forgiveness of those whom he has wronged. This preservation of fellowship is not only good training for life, it’s essential for our relational health now.

As a teaching staff, we pursue fellowship with each other. Whenever we can, we eat meals together. We pray for the students together. We have philosophical conversations reminding ourselves of why we are doing what we’re doing. We share successes and failures. We spar. Some even cry (usually the ladies). But this is not just a delight, it’s intentional. We cultivate this because it’s not just good for us, it’s good for our students.

This applies obviously to the relationship of parents; when Mom and Dad are okay, the world is okay. It’s really good for the kids when the parents are cultivating their own oneness.

A church staff that is godly and unified will have a people who flourish securely.

A city council that is likeminded and altruistic will bless the citizenry.

Two second grade moms in the school parking lot chatting through first period brings some administrators anxiety; it brings me encouragement.

The examples are many, but the point is simple. Fellowship is not just hard work, and it’s not just fun; it’s fruitful. It brings about good fruit in plenty of predictable and surprising ways.

I truly love and enjoy all of the people with whom I labor at ECS. I’m grateful to God for how He has blessed me with them. I’m also glad for all the families who have joined our school community.

There’s no mistaking that the people are what makes ECS special. It’s not our model of education, our facility, our snappy uniforms or impressive test scores. It’s the people. Our people are the ones who laugh when they want to cry; our people are the ones who sing loudly in the hallways; our people are the ones who stick around after school to play and chat when they’ve been here all day; our people are the ones who are glad to see each other every day. As best we can, our job is to cultivate this, but at the end of the day, it’s a grace from the Lord that we gratefully receive.

May God continue to show His favor to us in these ways, and may we strive to preserve fruitful fellowship.

Risus est bellum.

Jonathan

Why I Love Information Night

As Information Night approaches, I am reminded of how important this event actually is. I would love for all of our people to be as excited about it as I am, but I understand if you wonder why we ask all the current ECS families to attend…especially if you’ve already decided to send your kids to the school.

In terms of evening requirements, we try to keep the ECS calendar fairly light. The families of ECS are usually rather involved in their churches and communities; we have plenty to do without additional calendar items. So we make our requests for Raggant families’ time minimal: we have a couple of concerts, the Fundraising Feast and the Information Night. None of these are added flippantly, and we try to give plenty of advance notice so you can plan accordingly. But then we plan and expect for every family to attend, because these events are really important.

You may be thinking, “The concerts I can understand; they’re performances, after all. But the Info Night and the Feast? Why must we attend those?”

That is a fantastic question, and the answer is simple: enculturation.

It’s true that much of what we are attempting to do as a school has to do with academics. But more than this, our aim is cultural. You don’t need to spend much time around ECS to learn that we value fellowship and people. My favorite times of the day are Matins and after school, when our people gather in harmonious enthusiasm, marked by smiles and grace, not earbuds and hoodies.

This is rather countercultural in a time when “teacher accountability” has more to do with test scores than personal character. “Student safety” means protecting kids from their judgmental parents (so we’ll give them condoms at school). “Diversity and inclusion” mean that we must tolerate and celebrate the worldview of anyone…except the intolerant. “Multiculturalism” means you must increasingly disdain and apologize for where (and who) you came from. We’re cheerfully aiming to combat these trends at ECS.

Not only do these evening functions give us a handful of additional opportunities to be with our people, they go a long way to determining who will be included among our people. But for the moment, as it’s just around the corner, I want to zoom in on Information Night and offer three reasons why we ask all the school families to be there.

First, our students are our best promotion. Being around a group of happy, respectful, and intelligent (often witty) young people is a rare pleasure in our culture, and I get to do it every day when I’m with your students. Some are more outgoing than others, to be sure, but generally speaking our students enjoy school, have good relationships with their teachers, laugh every day, engage adults in conversation, love to sing, and aren’t ashamed to be seen in public wearing their uniforms. We have worked to cultivate all of this without manufacturing any of it, but in the end it’s work that the Lord must do or it will not continue. And we wish to not take any of it for granted.

When we have a chance to roll these students out before prospective families (as we will at Information Night), it’s an impressive presentation…and when it comes to the best parts of this presentation, we can take no credit. God’s grace is at ECS, and we want others to see that and want in.

Second, our current families are the best voices for life in the trenches. I’m very aware of many areas where we need to grow and get better as a school, and it is often the case that when you all are speaking to your friends about the school, you share the good and the bad. So when those friends of yours make it as far as my office in the inquiry process, I do not need to warn them about the growing pains, shortcomings, challenges and deficiencies of ECS…because you’ve told them already, and they came anyway!

You all are the best people to speak to prospective families about how our weaknesses affect you as a family. You’re also able to speak about transitions from your previous schooling experiences, how your child has benefited (or not), and how your family has benefited (or not) from your time at ECS. I would expect that families would take my words with a grain of salt. After all, I have to say nice things about the school, right? We teachers may be ones to speak to In loco parentis or Risus est bellum, but you are all able to speak to what it looks like on the ground, and how it affects your families.

Last, review is always in order. As Samuel Johnson asserted, “People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.” Every year at Information Night I’m reminded why I would choose ECS for my kids in a heartbeat even if I didn’t work there. In a different setting, I may say that I rededicate myself to ECS year by year as a parent at Information Night…but I digress.

When I see the work the students are doing, when I hear them sing, when I see that they are excited to be there, and when I listen to Sean speak about our philosophy and classical Christian education, I’m deeply grateful for the work of God at ECS, and that my children get to be a part of it.

What’s more, I need that regular reminder that the work of educating my kids is my responsibility, and I’ve locked arms with faithful teachers and families that are flavoring the cultural waters in which my children are immersed. These teachers represent me very well when I’m not there, and together we can do a much better job of educating my children than Sonja and I could do by ourselves.

So for these (and some other) reasons, Information Night is one of my favorite nights of the year. Tell some friends whom you know would be a good fit for the school and bring them along.

See you there.

Risus est bellum!

Jonathan

Speaking the Same Language

Without question, the best advertisement for our school has been our people. Word-of-mouth marketing has been fantastic for us; when families tell other folks about the school, they will often include the good and* the bad, so by the time inquiring families get to my office, they usually have a good idea what they’d be getting into. Almost every single ECS family is here at the recommendation of another current ECS family, and I like it that way.

At the end of this month, we’ll have our annual Information Night, which means this is a great time to tell others about ECS. By now, the school families ought to have received some invitations to hand out at church or elsewhere to those whom you think may be interested in ECS. As you’re thinking of who you could bless with such an invitation (HA!), I wanted to offer a few reminders as to who the ideal candidate for enrollment would be.

Evangel Classical School would be classified as a discipleship school (sometimes called a covenant school). This means that ours is a school for churched families. The alternative would be what is sometimes called an evangelistic* school. Both models have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Evangelistic schools obviously appeal to a much broader demographic than discipleship schools. Unchurched families can send their kids to evangelistic schools and be reasonably confident that their children will receive a good, moral, private education; the class sizes will probably be smaller than at the public school down the street; there’s a good chance someone will be giving their kids some exposure to the Bible that they may or may not be getting at home, which is good, if you’re into that sort of thing.

A potential drawback is that evangelistic schools often include families who do not share the worldview of the school. The school and home – while enjoying a degree of partnership – may occasionally undermine one another. Imagine the confusion when a sixth grade teacher informs a student that fornication is sin, but the student lives with his dad and his dad’s girlfriend. What is now the student’s standard for conduct? What he’s learning at school, or what he’s seeing at home?

Discipleship schools appeal to a much narrower demographic: churched families. A family who sends their child to a discipleship school can be reasonably confident that the school and the family are speaking the same moral language. And when they aren’t, the Bible (which is an authority common to them both) should serve as the arbiter between them.

A potential drawback to discipleship schools is that some really fantastic kids who would thrive in our schools are not good candidates to come, because we cannot support their parents – the very thing we exist to do.

With that as our context, and as we gear up for our Information Night, I offer a few requests:

  • Think about families who would be an excellent addition to our school community. These would be churched families whom we can support well as they obey God’s commands in their child-rearing. Then go ahead and invite them!
  • Pray for the Information Night, that we’d be able to showcase the school well in a very limited presentation.
  • Pray too that God would provide for us a place to put our new families, as we are quickly running out of space at Reclamation Church.

Thank you in advance for the crucial part you play in expanding the reach of Evangel Classical School.

Risus est bellum!

Jonathan

An Open Letter to the Gnomes

My dear Gnomes of District 93,

As you haunt the halls of Evangel Classical School, you no doubt witness much that disturbs you. I understand your annoyance. Each giggle of any pigtailed grammar girl represents a small blow to your tranquil and pathetic existence. Each act of charity on the part of one student toward another means you’re going to have to deal with still more happy sounds later on. You cannot abide laughter, you loathe happy conversation, and above all, you abominate the singing that sometimes wanes, but never dies at ECS. I get it. If I were you, I’d be grumpy, too.

But I have news for you. And to be frank, I’m glad to be the one bringing it to you. You ready?

WE’RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE.

In fact, we are only getting warmed up. We have entered a time of the year when the singing and mirth crescendo to decibel-levels to make a tarmac at SeaTac blush. It’s Christmastime, and we have even more reasons than usual to laugh, sing, and feast.

I don’t expect that you will understand, so let me explain the cause of our celebration.

Long ago, in the very early days of our kind, our first parents sinned, violating the perfect standard of the holy Creator God. Our parents and their progeny were forever estranged from Him unless and until we could be given the righteousness of Another. But there were no suitable substitutes. Wishing to demonstrate His grace and mercy, God purposed to rescue us from the consequences of our sin by providing a suitable substitute in the form of His only begotten Son.

At Christmastime, we celebrate this Son’s entering our world as a man, providing a suitable substitute for sinful men. But He also retained his divine nature as well, so His sacrifice could be applied to more than one man.

Our Creator sent His only Son into the world as a tiny baby who would soon bear the sins of the world. This would restore the fellowship with our Creator that had been broken since the sin of our first parents. When the Son grew up He died on a Cross as a sinless substitute for us. Sin and death suffered a death-blow of their own at the Cross, but it all started when the Son of God came to Earth as a baby. Obviously, this is a big deal, and it’s why we are exceptionally noisy at this time of year.

God gave His Son; we give gifts to each other.

Angels sang announcing the Advent of the Son of God; we also sing in marvel at the Incarnation and in triumph over sin and death.

Earth received her King at the first Christmas; we receive lots and lots of good gifts from God with gratefulness and purpose at this time of year…so we feast.

Gnomes of District 93, I implore you to gird up your beards and join us. It’s way more fun than what you’ve been doing. But if you cannot, then you may want to make plans to haunt some other places…for a few weeks, at least.

On behalf of your friendly neighbors, I wish you MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Jonathan Sarr
The Unruly Headmaster (U.H., for short)

Ours Is the Business of Whetting Appetites

Ideally, when their training is complete here at ECS, we’ll be able to tell the Raggants, “Go! Read, watch, sing, and pursue whatever you want.” And we’ll be able to do so knowing that they’ve developed appetites and loves that evidence maturity, discernment, and love for God and His people.

In his essay “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis suggested the following:

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

As you’re probably aware, he goes on to explain that spiritual pursuits and satisfaction satisfy far more deeply than world pleasures. After all, we’re spiritual creatures. But there’s a broader principle in view here, as I see it.

Let’s fast forward twenty years, when all the current Raggants are grown and gone, with families of their own, and having a bunch of children of their own roaming the halls of ECS. Imagine if those grown Raggants sing psalms for fun (and for fight); imagine if they mow their lawns and coach soccer and run the corner drug store and vote and worship in their churches and train their kids to ride a bike in the driveway like culture shapers. How awesome would it be to have grownup Raggants reading and rereading The City of God or The Canterbury Tales or Macbeth or Beowulf or That Hideous Strength because they love them, not because they’re assigned? This will only come about if they have the right appetites.

Only when we have the right appetites will we have the right pursuits…at least with any consistency. If our students properly love the Word, they’ll read it; if our students properly love their neighbors, they’ll serve them; if our students properly love their spouses, they’ll be faithful in heart and body; if our students properly love the Beautiful, they’ll pursue the True and the Good.

I say all this because (per our Mission Statement) classical education and sacrificial labors are tools that we use to “commend the works of the Lord to another generation.” Classical education is not the end. As cheesy as it may sound, this is but the beginning of a life of worship and living so as to shape culture. That’s why we care about whetting in our students the right appetites.

—The U.H.

Clarity in Morally-Confusing Times

As I get opportunity to interact with a host of schools these days, I am impressed at how much trouble we can get in when we adhere to traditional Christian teaching and morality. I don’t want that to be the case for Evangel Classical School and our community. (Sadly, that was not the case in recent months at Kings.) I wish to be crystal clear, for the record: We love the Bible, we are training the Raggants to submit to it, and we embrace what we are convinced to be the clear and traditional teachings about marriage and human sexuality. God’s intended plan for marriage is to be between one man and one woman for life. Sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful, and when Christians engage in such behavior we act like unbelievers and it betrays our status as new creations in Christ. God created male and female (Genesis 1:27); this is not socially constructed, and it is not fluid.

I realize that’s a doozy of a first paragraph, and not what you’re accustomed to reading from me, but I assure you, it’s because I love ECS, our community, our mission, and our opportunity to shape young minds and form tomorrow’s culture-shapers. If that is going to happen, we cannot compromise where God has been clear, though many in the pale of the Church are doing that very thing today.

And sometimes it causes me to wonder.

What would the Church fathers argue to be “of first importance” if they were drafting a creed today?

To be sure, these are morally-confusing times, and Christians are doing little to introduce clarity to the confusion. It comes as little surprise that – in the spirit of Romans 1 – even professing Christians are inventing new ways to muddy the waters of Orthodoxy. We have a whole new list of lines between the false and the true today.

In its ongoing effort to suppress the truth in unrighteousness, our culture is spending the spiritual capital our fathers left us like entitled teenagers with a besetting addiction and old money…and the Church is not far behind. We’ve invented our own morality, traded in our freedom for shackles, and crafted diabolical knots for the consciences of our neighbors.

And where has that gotten us?

We murder our infants in the womb and call it “freedom.”

We normalize what God abominates and call it “love.”

We jettison the culture of our parents and call it “education.”

But I return to my original question. If the Church fathers were drawing lines in the sand today, would they insist on Sola Fide? The inerrancy of Scripture? Would they articulate afresh that a marriage is between a man and a woman? I wonder.

At ECS, our aim is to equip “another generation [to] carry and advance Christ-honoring culture.” This necessarily includes spending time studying the Bible, the Great Books of the West, and equipping students to think logically and speak clearly and winsomely. Along the way, we see some recurring lessons.

First, we see that the key to human flourishing is obedience to God’s commands. For instance, take my comments above on marriage. When we love and encourage marriage between one man and one woman for life, which is God’s intended arrangement, we find ourselves in strangely rare company…and our kids flourish in security and think that this sort of thing (i.e., a husband and a wife together in happy matrimony) is normal. Of course we live in a Genesis 3 world, and we’ve all been affected by divorce (including many in our own ECS community and the Sarr family tree), but I’ve never met a person who argued that divorce was consistent with God’s obvious design.

Or consider human sexuality. Two men can claim to enjoy romantic love for each other, but that’s not a sign of God’s blessing, and it is not fruitful as the marriage bed is intended to be.

Or what about politics? When we study history and the Bible, we can see what happens when Church and State blur their jurisdictional lines and try to do each other’s jobs. (Take the power struggle between Thomas Becket and Henry II. Juxtapose this with the the prophet Samuel and King Saul. What do you see?)

Through our study, our students see what happens when men dismiss what God has said and follow their own wisdom. God gives us just the sort of freedom, love, and education that we demand.

I realize that it’s becoming increasingly offensive to draw lines like the ones I’ve drawn here, but as many among us try to deny or redefine what God has said, we wish to be faithful to God’s Word and enjoy the variety of fruitfulness that comes of that faithfulness. Nor can we deny the results that we can see historically when men prefer their own wisdom to that of the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

The trendy thing in our culture today would be to label ECS as anti-gay (as happened with Kings) because we love biblical and traditional marriage, for instance. Not only is this lazy and inflammatory, it doesn’t go far enough. We believe that homosexuality is sinful. We also believe that pride is sinful. And adultery and gluttony, too. The list of things we’re against can fall safely under one big umbrella: sin. We want to be anti-sin…though we’re a community of sinners trying to kill that sin and live in fellowship with God and with one another.

Instead of thinking of our anti’s, it may be more helpful to think in terms of our pro’s: We are pro-obedience to God’s commands, pro-personal holiness, pro-relational harmony, pro-loving our neighbors sacrificially, and lots more! Beyond this, every day at ECS is more like a work party than it is like what I grew up thinking of when someone said “school.” So we are pro-partying.

We want our kids to be trained to love what God has said, to submit to it (even when they don’t feel like it) and then to be wildly blessed and happy as God rewards the faithfulness He effects in them. We want for them to be able to discern truth from error, see through the lies of the enemy, and to stand strong in their biblical convictions to love and honor Christ in their choices. Amazing blessings await the faithful, and we fiercely fight for this on behalf of every Raggant.

May God give us the conviction of the Church fathers to know where to draw lines with grace and wisdom, and the courage to remain on His side of those lines.

Risus est bellum.
—Mr. Sarr

Uniform Un-standard Deviations

‘Tis the season to make a hundred shopping decisions related to school uniforms. In the spirit of playful clarity, I’d like to share with you some helpful reading material. We have had the same Uniform Committee for eight years, answering the same questions for eight years, and they’ve normalized some responses for our benefit…and amusement. And though the responses to the supplied questions and objections are intended to be smarmy and playful, they are nonetheless accurate. So here ya go.

Uniform Un-standard Deviations

AKA Teacher’s Uniform Cheat Sheet Addressing Common Confusion, Questions and Offenses

Skirt Length

  • Length should be at the knee, not mid-thigh OR mid-calf. It is purposefully not a precise measurement as a kindness to those tall, skinny girls among us who are unable to conform to the policy length without purchasing a skirt eighteen sizes too big and wadding up the waist in a rubber band.

Pants

  • Boys need to be wearing a black belt. Even if they don’t like it.
  • Pants can’t be saggy or droopy. Even if you have the above-mentioned belt on.

Shoes

  • No high-tops.
  • Nope, for real, no high-tops.
  • No boots. Think of these as high-tops that had real ambition in their rebellion.
  • Dress and Event Uniform requires DRESS shoes. Everyone really does know what this means. I promise.

Tights

  • Tights need to have feet. No leggings or footless tights. This is because the girls have feet and we don’t want them feeling left out.

Dress and Event Uniform Confusion

  • There is literally only ONE difference between these uniform requirements:
    • Dress: NAVY tights or socks
    • Event: WHITE tights only

Freezing Children

  • No outerwear other than uniform jackets and sweaters are allowed in the school or classrooms. (That means no hats, too.)
  • Yep, not in the school at all. No, not even in the hallways. But yes, outside during recess is great.

Shirts

  • Everyone except for secondary girls must have their shirt tucked in at all times.
  • The tucking exception for secondary girls is to allow for modesty when it can be difficult. However, the look shouldn’t be sloppy and the shirt can’t be hanging out beneath any sweater or jacket worn on top of it.

Masculine Details

  • Hair should be clean, neat and modest in style and appearance. Be wise.
  • Hair needs to be off the ear and collar. Unless said boy has a very, very short neck.
  • No jewelry. Except a wedding ring would be okay. But hopefully none of the boys are married.

Feminine Details

  • Girls are allowed to have subtle feminine detailing on their shirts like modest ruffles or shaping. It is a glory for girl Raggants to look beautiful while still looking generally…uniform.
  • Jewelry should not be distracting in any way. Necklaces should be tucked into shirts. Earrings should be a single stud or post earring per ear.
  • Makeup should be natural and not over-done.
  • Here’s a short Q&A to sum up many of the discussions about the girls’ uniforms:
    • Q: But…how will my daughter look special enough to really stand out?
    • A: 😑

Okay, it’s me again (Jonathan). While these represent our most common uniform questions, “common” shouldn’t be confused with “frequent.” It’s not as though we have a community of uniform fussers. I’m grateful for a culture where the students generally don their uniforms with pride and joy. I’m grateful for the parental contributions to that culture. I’m also grateful that our Uniform Committee has reasons for the decisions they’ve made, and I hope you find this to be as worth reading as I did.

Risus est bellum.

-U.H.

A Culture of Singing

I am often impressed that our school is uncommon, and most of the evidence is of a cultural (rather than, say, a curricular) nature. High schoolers commonly hang out with kindergarteners; all sorts of quirky individuals fit well in our hodgepodge of personalities; clusters of chatting parents bring this administrator delight rather than angst. But one cultural ingredient that brings me particular encouragement is the singing.

If you walk the halls of ECS during an afternoon passing period, the odds are you’ll hear one of the cool kids singing. Strange, I know. If you go to one of our obligatory choir classes, you’ll see (and hear) students who are being challenged and stretched and who are having a great time doing it together. I suppose it should come as little surprise that the singing often carries on long after (and before!) the bell.

Recently (yesterday, as I write this), I got to be in Leavenworth (of all places) with 28 of our secondary Raggants where we had stopped for lunch on the return trip from the Trinity Evangel Church youth retreat. As we were readying to leave, the students congregated on the grassy hill in the town center. When I came to join them, one suggested that we should sing something. This suggestion was greeted with general enthusiasm. Next thing we knew, we had two dozen junior-high and high school-aged students belting out Psalm 94 (which shares a melody with the German national anthem, which is only fitting for a Bavarian village rendition) and Psalm 128 and Doxology in four-part harmony for all the tourists to hear, enjoy, or to resent.

Someone forgot to tell these students that Psalms are for church, that choir is for school, and that singing isn’t cool. Oops.

Yesterday’s episode reminded me again of how grateful I am for this part of our school’s culture…and for a number of reasons. I’ll offer three for now.

Readiness to sing is a hallmark of joyfulness. Generally speaking, folks with a song on their lips are in a good mood. God has given us much, so it is proper that we should be grateful and ready with our thanks and praise. Raggants sing a lot and they’re happy doing it.

Songs with substance are a fantastic cultural weapon. With Psalms and hymns, we combat the Devil’s lies and dour defeatism. Last summer, I was there when a smarmy knot of students stood near an altar to Jupiter inside the Vindolanda Roman Fort and sang (you guessed it!) Psalm 94. Risus est bellum! These same students sang an Isaac Watts’ hymn beside his grave and later sang “The Son of God Goes Forth To War” in a chapel frequented by Scottish Covenanters…many of whom were later martyred.

Each morning at Matins we give the students opportunity to get some good theology stuck in their heads before they head off to first period. The Apostle’s Creed is great, but “Crown Him with Many Crowns” is catchy. Singing loudly about the “Potentate of time, Creator of the rolling sphere, ineffably sublime” can have a powerfully orienting effect before parading off to Logic or Math class. Even better when you’re parading off to Walmart or the library.

Singing is countercultural. Sure, there are talented pop artists who can sing well, and many of them are today’s cultural idols. But generally speaking, if you want to make beautiful vocal music with your family or friends, you’re regarded as weird. And the more theologically substantive your song, the less you’ll fit in.

It turns out our students are immersed in a cultural context where singing Psalms is both cool and fun. That is grace. We sure couldn’t manufacture it. But I can’t help thinking that it pleases God, who is giving us the reason and the ability to sing. By His continued grace, may this only increase.

The U.H.