Receivers Play Offense

I like football. It’s fun to watch and to play. On the offensive side of things, the people who have opportunity to touch the football play what are called “skill positions.” These include the quarterback, running backs, and receivers. The defense works to disrupt the plans of the offense and prevent them from going down the field and scoring.

For sake of the current illustration, I want to focus on the receivers. They are at the mercy of the quarterback to pass them the ball, or they are reduced to blockers or decoys. But if the quarterback does throw them the ball, their job is to actually catch the ball and then run furiously for the end zone, eluding the defense as best they can along the way.

If feasting were a football game, we’d be those receivers…and receivers play offense. Their job of receiving a football is part of an offensive attack on the defense in the other uniforms. Our receiving blessings is an assault on the wicked ideologies and spiritual forces that surround us. We don’t generate the blessings any more than a football player throws a pass to himself. And the real magic happens once we catch it and run.

Every year, in anticipation of our Fundraising Feast, I am glad to work through the mental exercise of coming up with new reasons why feasting is so important to our culture here at Evangel Classical School. This year is no different.

This year, there are two particular reasons that come to the surface.

  1. We are still here.
  2. We don’t know where we’ll be tomorrow.

If you’re a Christian long enough, you’ll run into an interesting phenomenon, namely this: God sometimes removes the means that you need to do His will. Why would He do this? I believe it’s to foster dependence.

You’ve seen it before. A generous man goes bankrupt. A loving mother loses her child. A doting grandfather loses his mobility and energy. A Christian school outgrows its space to operate. When God closes the door, where does the faithful Christian turn? Like wide receivers, we turn to Him with open hands, because in all likelihood, a new blessing is on its way.

Although we have not been evicted by Reclamation Church, and although we are committed to getting creative and to keeping our doors open next year at Reclamation Church, the sort of growth we’ve been experiencing is not sustainable in our current location. The fact that we are open even now is only attributable to the grace of God. All over the country schools have been operated online this year, but God has allowed us to continue our work of enculturation in person. I’m not sure why He has allowed this, but I’m sure grateful.

God provides; we receive. It is an act of faith to celebrate the provision of God before His provision is visible. I want that sort of faith. And so I will not be waiting until we have all the answers to give Him thanks.

This means we do not need to wait for circumstances to get good for us to praise God. We trust Him, and operate in the faith that He is good, and He wills good for His people, whether or not we understand it. And if you think about it for a moment, that’s some kind of statement.

Beyond all this, feasting is fun. It’s sweet and rich to gather with God’s people and receive His good gifts (like friends, song, food, wine, steak and chocolate) as an act of assault on the powers of darkness and the thankless spirit of the age.

Really. What are they going to do when we eat each bite of steak and drink each sip of wine and enjoy the mirth of our table mates like all is gift? What are they going to do when God sits in the heavens and delights in His people’s grateful enjoyment His gifts to us? Even the kids get in on the action when they cheerfully bring delicious morsels to the table as God’s vehicles of blessing.

God has blessed us in tremendous ways this year at ECS, and we receive those blessings with gratefulness. I look forward to doing so with you at our Feast on May 14.

Risus est bellum.
Mr. Sarr

The Work of a Lifetime

Before most of our third graders were born, a small group of naive and ambitious parents and some their friends decided to start Evangel Classical School as a training ground for culture shapers. We wanted to forge worshipers with sharp skills, a robust worldview, a big work capacity, and a playful smirk. I say we were naive not because we were wrong or idealistic, but because we had only a vague idea what we were really getting into, how very valuable that enculturation would soon prove to be, let alone (at least for my part) how much fun we were about to have.

A veritable lifetime later (for those third graders, anyway), our status as a training ground is becoming more concrete and necessary.

More Than the Shell

Communicating the data related to math formulas and how suspension bridges work and writing an essay and reading a novel are all fine. Really. But all this data has a point, a telos to which it is directed and to where it is going. In order for education to occur, the telos must be included in the lesson. Modern education is all shell, no nut. To teach the what without the why or the how misses the point. Yet that’s the best our modern educational offerings are doing!

It gets worse. Increasingly even the what is being reimagined. Our culture has no authoritative, true, and clear answer for some pretty simple questions: What happened in 1619? What is a boy? What is truth? How much more ill-prepared are we to answer the follow-up questions: Why was the American Revolution fought? What is a boy for? Why does truth matter?

We’re training our students to be able to answer these simple questions, which makes Raggants surprisingly exceptional.

More Than Academicians

People who can answer these questions will stand out in our culture like the captain of the ship with his funny hat, special coat, and words worth listening to. They will have an idea of what’s just beyond the cultural horizon because they will have examined historical trends. They’ll know that once you’ve navigated A, B, and C, that D is likely around the corner.

Our students will have been trained to reason with the tools of Latin grammar and Logic. They will have read Paul’s letters and Lincoln’s letters, Marx’s Manifesto, Hitler’s struggle, and Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail for themselves. They will have sung fighty and jubilant psalms and recited the Apostle’s Creed hundreds of times, reminding themselves and the cosmos that the Maker of Heaven and Earth is doing all of this on purpose.

Every day our students play a cultural role at our school (and in your homes!). In this cultural greenhouse that we call Evangel Classical School, students are being formed and shaped by the conversations they have, the songs they sing, the relationships they cultivate, the books they read, the math problems they work out, the sentences they diagram, the teachers they imitate, the games they play, and more. The curriculum is like the chisel in the hand of the woodworker.

Our prayer is that – equipped with all this – they’ll be prepared to be citizens who shape the worldview of others for Christ’s sake, and we ought not be surprised when others look to them to lead.

More Than a School

So we’re more than a school. Ours is a project that is far more about shaping certain sorts of people than it is about their report cards or transcripts or strictly academic metrics. We are trying to train our students how to think, not what to think. We are trying to train them how to be certain sorts of people, not how to get good grades (to get into a good college, to get a good job, to make lots of money, etc.).

I’ll say it again. Grades are not themselves the point, though they are handy as we try to gauge and assess the academic aspect of our arrow-shaping. We’re training free men, not hirelings; we’re not merely training in the skill of getting good grades, but rather being certain sorts of persons, thinkers, worshipers.

And this is why you are so important in this process; if we were just a school, then parents would do well to get out of the way and let the professionals do their jobs. But we are trying to help you shape your people, and you have to be worshipers yourselves, faithful to your churches and your people, and working hard to shape your children in obedience to God. Only then can we operate properly as an extension of your church and your home as we help you in this ambitious but grace-saturated undertaking.

Risus est bellum.

U.H.

Office Visits

Evidently, God thinks the U.H. needs regular reminders about the gospel. I’m pretty sure I agree with Him, which is one reason why I’m grateful for disciplinary office visits from students.

It’s strange, I know, but it’s true. These visits are rarely enjoyable (although sometimes, I admit, they’re hilarious!), but I do not dread them, and I generally find my follow-up conversation with parents to be marked by gratitude and like-mindedness. But I think these office visits benefit me perhaps more than they benefit the students. Why is this? In these conversations, I get to rehearse the gospel. I get to speak truth to the a student on the other side of the office, as well as to my own heart.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones was described as having preached the gospel for four decades in the same place. As a young man, I thought that was strange. Why would an evangelistic message be necessary every week for decades? What would you say once the hearer actually got saved?

Now years later I realize that a study of the gospel offers profound insight into the nature of God and that it cements principles by which the faithful Christian must live.

Take a student who willfully sinned against his teacher in some outrageous fashion, say, blurting out repeatedly in his gleeful enthusiasm for Latin declensions without deigning to raise his hand. Scandalous, right? If he does this enough, he winds up talking it over with me. In my office, we’ll talk about the obvious stuff, like self-control, and what it’d be like if everyone blurted out all the time, and how enjoyable that would not be. But what else?

We also talk about the nature of sin, and how it destroys fellowship. That blurting out cannot now be undone, but it can be forgiven. And back in the classroom is a flawed and forgiven teacher who is eager to restore to fellowship and to class a flawed and repentant student. So the ticket back to class (for the student who is ready to do so) is an apology, replete with the profoundly-Christian request for forgiveness from the teacher (or any human object of the sin). And every time (no, really), the teacher is glad to welcome back the student to class.

Is that not a fantastic picture of what God does with us? The teachers and I will tell the students as much. Just as sin hinders fellowship with God, so it hinders fellowship amongst humans. That can only really be fixed with forgiveness, which must be sought and given. God does it with us; we should do it with one another.

I’ll often tell the students that this is how the Christian life works, and that they’d better get used to it, because they’ll be sinning against people (and they’ll be sinned against!) for the rest of their lives…though hopefully with decreasing frequency as they become more complete in Christ.

When you’re the sinner, pray for the Spirit’s conviction of sin; confess your sin before you’re confronted, own it, repent, and ask for forgiveness.

When you’re sinned against, remember how patient God is with you; love fellowship; be ready to forgive and restore your brother to full fellowship when he repents.

And enjoy the sweet fellowship and the picture of what God does for us.

Risus est bellum!

-U.H.

Plans for the Fall at ECS

I’m sure that many of you have wondered about our plans for the fall in the event that restrictions on schools would prevent us from operating as normal. This is a very good question. We have been grateful for the flexibility and sacrifice of the parents, the work of the teachers, and the resiliency of the students in this time when the school building has been closed. But if there is anything we can do about it, we will not be repeating the springtime experience of guided homeschooling when school begins in September.

A distinctive of Evangel Classical School is our commitment to community. This informs our enrollment decisions, Matins, recess, field trips, conflict resolution, feasting, and more. In order to build the culture we wish to see here in North Snohomish County, the next generation of worshipers and culture shapers must be committed to fellowship and love, and that is hard to cultivate in a Zoom meeting (though we sure have tried). God only knows what the fall will hold, but rest assured: we will only start school in the fall as we have finished it this year if we have no other choice.

Additionally, I want to express again our commitment to love and serve you all, the families comprising our school community. You’re our people and the idea of leaving you to fend for yourselves academically was not even an option for the Board in our deliberations last evening. We are not considering closing the school. It may sound a bit cheesy, but we are building something, and this season has provided something of a setback, but not the doom of the school.

With that said, here are our preferred options (in descending order) for the fall. Of course they all have their pros and cons, and I’m glad to go into those if you’d like, but for now I’ll list and explain them briefly. Here goes:

Option A: Reclamation Church. We would be at Reclamation Church just as we were at the start of last year, with restrictions lifted and schools opened up by the state. We would be delighted to return to normal. But if that is not an option, then…

Option B: Multiple campuses. Between the main building and the Table Building at Reclamation Church as well as one other site, we have considered dividing our student body as needed across town in order to maintain a normal school schedule and keep fewer than 50 bodies in any one building.

Option C: Alternating days by classes. This would involve allowing some grades and classes to attend on certain days (e.g., Tuesdays and Thursdays) while the remainder met on the alternating days (e.g., Wednesdays and Fridays). This would keep our numbers down in the building and optimize spacing for the students.

Option D: Alternating days by families. This is similar to Option C, but families (rather than classes) would be able to stay together.

Option E: Guided homeschool (as with Q4 of this year). If all else fails, we would have a guided homeschool option again for as long as necessary. I’m confident that we could make some modifications to make it better than it was in the spring. Nevertheless this is our last option (at the moment).

A host of factors (some of which are out of our control) will inform and drive the Board’s decision as the fall approaches, but I promise to keep you apprised as details develop.

I know that it may see like lip service or just the polite thing to say right now, but I sincerely mean this: I am grateful for our school community. I have been impressed and humbled by how supportive our people have been, evidencing that you are committed to the mission of the school through thick and thin.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the graduation on Sunday. If you have any questions, please let me know.

Risus est bellum!
Jonathan

A Time to Scale the Cliff

It has now been nearly two months since we had school at school, and each day brings a new surprise of some sort. I spent a good deal of time trying to decide what I would write, and I could think of nothing novel (another word that’s thrown around a lot these days). I think that part of the reason for this is because this is more of a season of application than it is a season of instruction.

There are times to learn about how to scale a cliff under enemy fire, and times to apply that learning. There are times to learn that God is sovereign, and there are times to apply (or rest in) that knowledge. There are times to learn that God installs fallen men as political leaders…men who are prone to grasp for power and to make mistakes…and that it is the duty of faithful Christians to respectfully obey as far as we can. I happen to believe that right now is a time to apply that particular lesson.

But the soldier who is scaling that cliff while an enemy is sawing at his rope from above may need reminding of his training as the bullets whiz by his head. It’s true: times of application are also times when review is in order.

At the risk of preaching to the choir, I want to review the very basics of sphere sovereignty. I suppose some of you are very familiar with this concept, while others have never heard of it. But it is a formula for human flourishing that has been the hallmark of healthy Western culture…and it’s something that we teach at ECS.

In brief, sphere sovereignty recognizes the proper autonomy and mutual dependency of the various spheres of authority. In his very helpful book, Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper talks about a bunch of spheres that ought to operate with a degree of independence from one another (including the spheres of Art, Education, Politics, Science, and the Church).

I’d encourage you to read the book, or buy and watch this video series, or sit in the next time Omnibus V is talking about the stalemate between Henry II and Thomas Becket (I’m still not sure who won…). I think sphere sovereignty is a really great thing…and so does God…or else He would have blurred the lines of authority. We see evidence of this all over Scripture; consider two quick examples.

First, while laying aside judgmentalism, Christians are actually to judge other Christians in order to keep the Church pure; the Church has a degree of authority to decide who belongs in the her pale and who does not (see Mt. 7:1-2, 18:15-20, 1 Cor. 5:12). Christians are not called to judge unbelievers (that authority belongs to Christ).

Second Christians are not called to be the boss of civil authorities, even though we are to try to influence them with the gospel. (See the example of Paul in Acts 25-26; cf. Rom. 13:1-7, 1 Pet. 2:13-25.)

We could go on, but Scripture is not silent on sphere sovereignty; rather, it teaches it.

But what does this look like on the ground?

When the Church looks after her own, a society flourishes. It’s supposed to look like this. Christians gather en masse on Sunday morning and assault the gates of Hell with our worship (have you ever heard the Raggants sing Psalm 94?). We consciously behold Christ for a couple of hours, becoming more like Him in the process, and we are taught from God’s Word. Great. Then we leave…different. We go out into our communities as faithful, informed ambassadors of Christ in the other spheres and we do a good job, because we’re constantly being shaped and grown into more Christlike people by our worship. The Church’s job is (among other things) to train up people to go operate in the various spheres.

But notice that the Church’s job is NOT to tell the other spheres how to operate. She can make suggestions and recommendations and offer advice, but the Church’s job is not to try to run or operate the different spheres. And if a pastor tries to tell a mayor how much sales tax is biblically allowable, the mayor ought to ignore him.

But this cuts both ways, and you can probably see where I’m going with this. Just as the Church has no authority to try to operate the government, likewise, the government has no authority to direct or operate the Church…or to tell her how or when to operate or not.

Now, it must be acknowledged that common sense is no threat to sphere sovereignty. If your younger brother tells you that it’s raining outside, you don’t leave the umbrella behind just because he has no authority over you. If the State (informed by smart doctors) recommends that folks at church keep six feet apart because a particular virus can leap five feet, we don’t dismiss the State out of hand because they have no authority in the sphere of the Church.

But that is a very different thing from ordering the Church not to meet at all. The exchange of recommendations, advice, and ideas between the spheres is wise, healthy, and good; ordering other spheres around is not.

So what about school? Sadly, in the current situation, we do need the governor’s permission to assemble as a school. And unlike the Church, the school is not its own sphere, and the school does not have explicitly enumerated rights in the First Amendment. (I like to think that peaceable assembly is a matter of perspective. Ha.) So the case to meet as a school in disobedience of the governor’s order is difficult to justify on constitutional or biblical grounds, let alone how we would be received by our neighbors (and all of that is if Reclamation Church would even allow us to do so). Nevertheless, we hold out hope that somehow we’ll be able to assemble at school before the end of the semester.

ECS is not a church, but we do comprise churched families who are trying to make sense of all of this input, and ours is the ongoing and relentless job of training our kids to process the current cultural madness and to respond accordingly. I hope this little primer on sphere sovereignty helps to that end.

And let us never forget: RISUS EST BELLUM!

Jonathan

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