Rockbridge Academy Blog
Abide in me, and I in you.
As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
John 15:4, 8
It’s official. School is underway. New friends, new teachers, and new things to learn. Back-to-School Night heralds the fall equinox. Shorter daylight hours and earlier bedtimes are now the rule of life. The devil-may-care pace of summer is a distant memory, giving way to a repeating regimen of alarm clocks, car-pools, task lists, packed lunches, homework, and that much welcomed head-on-pillow moment at the end of each day.
To be sure, the sober reality here at the close of September is that we’re not talking about just one day. This same rinse-and-repeat cycle lasts until the end of May. And while some of us thrive in the routine that comes after Labor Day, for others, well …not so much. More than one kindergartener riding home in the car from their first day of school has been known to say, “Well, kindergarten was fun, Mommy, but what are we doing tomorrow?”
Returning to the “dailies” of back-to-school life, however, has one spiritual benefit for both students and adults. It creates a perfect opportunity to test how well we are truly abiding in Christ. There’s nothing better than a well-oiled routine to tempt us into striving in our own strength. Before we know it, having let go of the Vine, our hearts dry out, and the fruits of our labor sour and shrivel.
This is true for students as well as adults. If you notice the next fifth grade Latin quiz becoming a source of inordinate anxiety, or a speech deadline for a teen is growing into a mountain too steep to climb, examine their vine. If the novel for Lit class has become a job rather than a joy, or you find that math homework has settled into a nightly wrestling match, take time to examine the root. Too easily, our yokes become uneasy and all burdens turn to fright.
All the while, Jesus bids us to abide in the Vine and recoup peace and flourishing. But what does “abiding in the vine” even mean? It is an abstract metaphor for adults, much less for children. How, in the tangle of it all, do we return to being disciples, students of Christ?
Calibrating our Speed
One way to stay connected to Christ in the day-to-day is to calibrate our speed. Think about it this way. Delicious fruit can only grow at the speed at which God designed. Tomatoes on a vine take 20-30 days to fully form from the blossom, then another 20-30 days to ripen. Barring weather and soil differences, that means seedlings planted in early May won’t have fruit ready to slice for your summertime cheeseburger from the grill until Fourth of July. God has hardwired the speed of ripening tomatoes on the vine. We should challenge our children and ourselves to think the same about any activity of our day if lived in the vine of Christ. If we want to abide with Jesus, we need to match His providential pace. The book of Galatians calls it, “keeping in step” with Him.
For example, remind your children that we typically do math homework every night because it takes time and repetition to master. God made it that way. Resolve to do math at His pace so that He can take part in the work with you. Ask yourself practically, do I pray with my child as they sit down to do math homework, and do we ask for the Lord to light the path? God wants to answer that prayer, and He is faithful to do it… even on nights when the math gets crunchy. Likewise, encourage a slow reader that such slowness is not necessarily abnormal. The ultimate goal, even for the bibliophiles among us, is to read carefully enough to enjoy the story as it reflects off what we know about God’s Word. Suddenly reading is an adventure.
In the same way, when art students sit down to draw at Rockbridge Academy, they are always reminded to move their eye carefully and, “draw what they see.” They are to observe what the Lord has created and allow brain and pencil to connect. Only then will line begin emulating reality on paper. Developing a capacity for keen observation like this is itself a lost art. I guarantee cultivating a pace for observation, even through sketching, will make them better scientists, better theologians, better problem solvers, not to mention better listeners in important conversations.
This does not mean, however, that God intends everything to be done at a horse-and-buggy pace. He makes different tasks to be done at different speeds. When racing for the ball on the soccer field, the athlete always determines to get there before the opponent. And the God who makes lightning flash and horses gallop is cheering them on. Similarly, when your seven-year-old empties the trash after dinner, remind him that Jesus, “set his face like flint” toward his task in Jerusalem, so likewise be intentional. Again, the point is not fast or slow, but that we are students of His pace.
Keeping in step with Christ and matching His pace, therefore, means the ability to shift gears. While any student will rush about to get ready for school in the morning, helping them learn the discipline of setting aside 5 minutes or more to get alone by themselves, open their Bible, and downshift to the speed Jesus set for humans to read with contemplation takes practice for emerging adults.
To say it simply, we begin to abide in Christ when we learn to do things at Godspeed (literally at God’s speed). Godspeed is an archaic blessing of farewell that comes from the Middle English phrase God spede you ("God prosper you"). It is a direct nod to the New Testament idea that a prosperous life is one lived in the Vine. When we match our speed to His, we become a student of Christ and find that the God of the Universe delights to run alongside us.
One of the best pictures of this is when our top varsity cross-country runner takes on the assignment of setting the pace for a novice at practice. In generous humility, the fastest runner on the team comes alongside the slowest and least trained, running slightly above the lagging runner’s pace, lending guidance, hope, and the will to finish. Instead of quitting, a novice runner will keep in step with a champion. Isn’t abiding in the Vine just that? As we trust Christ enough to match our pace to His, He promises to come alongside and patiently lead us to a faithful finish. And often, it’s there we find more fruit than we had ever imagined.
There have been many disparate streams flowing into my greater understanding of abiding in Christ with Godspeed, not the least of which is that this wonderful word has been the often-repeated blessing of our friend and colleague, Nathan Northup. For the almost two decades that Nathan walked the halls of Rockbridge Academy, he is most often remembered for uttering this blessing to colleague and student alike. In addition, personal rumination on John 15 over the summer has been a poignant source of understanding that the act of discipleship flows from the act of abiding, matching my pace to His. I commend John 15 to you for further study. Finally, there is also a great resource I recommend to our community. Godspeed: The Pace of Being Known is a wonderful Christian video documentary out there that is worth a look.
It’s going to be a great school year. Personally, I look forward to becoming a better student of Christ, and I pray the same for all of us.
It is the trip everyone looks forward to from kindergarten, the capstone of classical Christian education at Rockbridge Academy: Grand Tour. Grand Tour is a seventeen-day trek through some of the most historic places in Greece and Italy, where we spend nights in seven different hotels and a ferry, eat amazing food, and experience ruins, churches, museums, and breathtaking views. I'm grateful for the incredible experiences and learned valuable lessons along the way.
1. The priorities of man have not always been the same.
What a society creates says much about what they value. For instance, the Parthenon is a Greek temple in Athens whose construction began in 447 BC and is mostly still standing today. Clearly this temple was built to last. Many of the cathedrals, chapels, and basilicas we see in Italy are multiple centuries old and still in use today. We don’t have anything like that in the United States. In fact, we usually have the exact opposite. Our culture values efficiency, not longevity. We mass produce cookie-cutter houses in huge neighborhoods, get our coffee in cardboard cups without leaving our cars, and Amazon Prime just about everything. It is easy to forget that our priorities were not always the priorities of the past and still aren’t the priorities of people in other parts of the world. I went to restaurants where we ate dinner for three hours and saw buildings that are three times the age of our entire country. It was fascinating to step into another culture and experience their different values and priorities.
2. Man’s creations do not last forever.
Despite such an emphasis on longevity, it became abundantly clear that man’s creations do not last forever. Even with the impressive efforts of the ancient Greeks, there are extensive portions of the Parthenon missing and much of what we saw in Greece are now in ruins. The fact that any of these temples, villages, and buildings still exist in some capacity today is incredible. However, the ruined state of man’s labor serves as a humbling reminder of man’s limitations. The fallen pillars and marred stones stand in stark contrast to the giant mountains in Delphi, clear water on the Gulf of Corinth, and beautiful countryside in Assisi, all of which remain majestic and unscathed. This is God’s creation, utterly immovable and long lasting, and it is far greater than anything man could dream up himself.
3. All of man’s creation points to the ultimate Creator.
Although man’s creations are unimpressive beside God’s majestic work, we continue to create. It would be absurd to assume that anything man makes is entirely from his own volition and ideas. All that is in this world was inspired by God and is under His dominion. This being the case, everything we create points to the ultimate Creator. This fact was incredibly evident on Grand Tour. Greece’s many ruined temples are evidence of the emphasis placed on a supreme being, and the art and architecture of the Enlightenment is steeped in religion. One can not walk out of the Borghese Gallery without at least contemplating a higher power. The way Saint Peter’s Basilica constantly drew my eyes heavenward or the way Michelangelo's sculptures celebrated God’s greatest creation reminded me of the one whom we all will ultimately glorify. Creating is a gift unique to mankind, and it is a gift that magnifies the true Creator.
4. “All are from the dust, and to dust all return” (Ecclesiastes 3:20).
Possibly my favorite site we visited on Grand Tour was the Catacombs. The Catacombs of San Callisto is an ancient burial site in Rome where approximately five hundred thousand Christians were buried. We were able to descend into the Catacombs, walk through a few of many passageways, and see now empty graves and burial chambers which used to hold ordinary Christians as well as popes and martyrs. At one point along the way, I saw a glass case that held the disintegrated remains of a boy who had been buried in the Catacombs. What had once been a walking and talking human like me was reduced to powder, and all I could think of was that verse from Eccesiastes: “all are from dust, and to dust all return,” (Ecc 3:20). In Genesis 2, God created the first man out of dust from the ground and breathed life into him. It was a quieting experience to walk where my brothers and sisters in Christ had once laid their dead and remember that even the bodies of God’s people will one day return to the ground. However, it was also a joyful reminder of God’s grace and faithfulness that the dust of our bodies is not the end of our lives, but rather the beginning of our soul’s eternity with Him.
5. Beauty is essential.
If you go on Grand Tour and your jaw does not drop at least once a day, you are missing something. Beauty is everywhere, but it is incredibly evident on this trip. It was present in the Grecian countryside, in the main temple ruins, in the middle of the Adriatic sea, and in every painting, church, and sculpture. As we began to see these churches, I wondered about the morality of putting so much money and resources simply into making something beautiful. After all, Christians can worship God in a hole in the ground just as well as they can in the Sistine Chapel. However, the further along we got, the more convinced I was of the importance of beauty. I will not pretend to know the motives behind all of the beautiful churches, paintings, and sculptures we saw, but I can speak to the reaction they evoked. I and those around me were continually in awe. The beauty of these places created an environment that demanded reverence. Yet, for me, it was never toward the beautiful thing itself or the man who made it, it was always for a God who allows beauty such as this to exist. Man was created to marvel, and it seems that proper beauty evokes its siblings, goodness and truth, in such a manner that makes our God simply undeniable.
I could not be more grateful for the opportunity God has given me to go on this trip and learn these lessons along with many others. Grand Tour is a time to learn: learn about yourself, learn about your classmates, learn about God, and learn about His majestic creation. Grand Tour is truly unique, and its blessings are beyond words. I look forward to seeing what future Rockbridge students learn in Europe!
Olivia Reardon, ‘22, is attending Messiah University where she continues to pursue her passion for reading, writing, teaching, and dance. While she loves learning, quality time, and ice cream, she is particularly passionate about serving Christ in all that she does and says.
One year ago, Mr. Northup retired from teaching at Rockbridge Academy after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Mr. Northup greatly impacted my life so when I was given the opportunity to write about his life, I took it. This article is dedicated to Mr. Northup and his family for their 17 years of love and support of Rockbridge Academy.
I know many of us are wondering how he is handling the cancer, but more so why he, of all people, got cancer. Mr. Northup was one of the greatest Bible teachers I (and all of Rockbridge) could have asked for. He displayed his faith in every word and deed, and his love for his students and the subjects he taught was unmatched so, why did Mr. Northup get cancer? This question can be restated in this infamous question: why do bad things happen to good people?
That was my main question for Mr. Northup, and he answered it. Before I reveal exactly what he said, make sure to actively look for the providence of God in Mr. Northup’s life throughout the rest of this article.
Mr. Northup was born in Rhode Island and moved to California a year later. At eight years old in California, he dreamed of becoming a real-life Tarzan but he had two problems preventing him from becoming the rope-swinging monkey-man. For starters, he lived in California, and one cannot be Tarzan when climbable objects are limited to a “cactus and a palm tree in the backyard.” This problem was solved when he moved back to Rhode Island the same year where trees grew as commonly as the California cacti. His other problem was more serious: he needed a Jane, but where to find the perfect girl? He did not need to look far; across the street lived the future Mrs. Northup, Merry Dupre. Mr. Northup said that from a young age he knew he was going to marry her. If she made a great Jane, which she did, then she would make a great wife. Obviously, he convinced the girl across the street that he was worth keeping around as they have been married for 27 years and have had five children.
Mr. Northup’s youth in Rhode Island involved street fights and big older brothers. Our teacher was small for his age but hotheaded. He was known for roughhousing and the kids on his street beat him up multiple times. However, they stopped picking on him after Merry’s brother began looking out for him. Her brother was big and strong with a statement 70s hairstyle, a mohawk.
While Mr. Northup had his fair share of fighting, he also spent a good amount of time in church. He was brought to church as a child, but only began searching for God in his teenage years. He told me that, “Everyone at church had a testimony but I didn’t.” Mr. Northup decided to change that by becoming a rebel until he had a good story to tell.
Mrs. Northup said this time was short lived once they had their first child, Samuel, when he was 17 and a daughter, Nadia, at 18. With two children and little stability, Mr. Northup decided to start bringing the family to church, but he made a mistake and joined, as he called it, a “cult” instead. The church that the Northup family joined preached that one’s salvation depended upon their daily missionary work. One had to share the gospel every day to a random stranger to secure their own salvation. Mr. Northup realized that this teaching did not match his understanding of the Bible from his youth. The dissonance between his understanding of the Bible from childhood and what this church was preaching lit his heart afire for God and truth.
Mr. Northup was hungry and curious to know God’s word, so he sought out the youth pastor from the church he grew up in and began a mentoring relationship with him. To make ends meet he worked as a mechanic until he pursued seminary at age 20. He brazenly decided to attend Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. At first, the college rejected him but that did not stop our teacher. He caught a flight from Rhode Island to Chicago to meet the admissions board face to face. He told them, “I am going to come, but how do I do this?” Seeing the passion of this young teacher changed the hearts of the board. Mr. Northup’s grades were not great, and he was behind in the necessary schooling, but his heart was ready to tackle any obstacle presented to him. The college offered him a deal: he would take night classes until he was ready for full admission into regular daytime classes. Eventually, Mr. Northup worked his way up to those daytime classes and even earned a full ride. During this time, he moved his family out to Chicago and received free housing from a nearby church in exchange for his cleaning services. His living costs were low, so he only had to provide food for his family. Thankfully, the window washing business was booming and he received a job cleaning windows for around $100 an hour.
Here, Mr. and Mrs. Northup had their third child, Josiah. After finishing college with a wife and three kids, he moved back to Rhode Island, desiring to impact children’s lives. He first thought about working at summer camps, but a week or two was too short to create a lasting impact. He then considered becoming a pastor, which he did for three years, but he still wasn’t achieving his goal of teaching children. He decided to change careers once more and become a teacher.
The first and only school Mr. Northup taught at was Rockbridge Academy. When deciding where to teach, Mr. Northup and his wife asked the question, “Who do we want our kids to be?” They came upon this one, strange way of teaching called classical Christian Education. They fell in love with the idea of teaching children with a focus on the liberal arts but centered around Christ. Mr. Northup told me concerning classical Christian Education, “This is the way Christians ought to be training their kids.” The Northups found a classical Christian school called Rockbridge Academy which they thought embodied the classical Christian spirit and teaching they desired for their kids. Mr. Northup applied to work here and hit it off with the school board, landing the job for a Bible teacher. He served at Rockbridge for a total of 17 years and during this time, had two more children, Luke and Emma. I asked him which Bible class he enjoyed teaching the most and he answered, “Christ in the Old Testament . . . We get to explore the question ‘where specifically is Christ?’”
Sadly, as we all know, Mr. Northup has left Rockbridge and pursued treatment for his cancer. He said that in these hard times, his wife, Merry Northup, has been his continuous rock and constant companion, a true helper. He is also very grateful for the time he can now spend with his immediate family and his three grandsons. God’s providence, which has shown itself time and time again, is clearly woven throughout Mr. Northup’s life. God has provided in countless ways from protection in his youth to free housing in college and ultimately a job at Rockbridge Academy. To end this story, I want to provide you with Mr. Northup’s answer to the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” He said, “This sounds cheap, but I don't think that people are good; I think that God alone is good and He's gracious. I don't expect that I should get things because I'm good or because I'm not. He is. That's one part. The rest is grace. He's been gracious to me with everything from my family to provision. I don't expect that I should be taken care of. Everything is grace. I am grateful for the provision of my family. I can't do anything more than simply be grateful. I don't know if that's the right way to think about it, but that's what I think.”
Hannah Bates is currently in 11th grade and a member of the Rockbridge Review (student-run school newspaper) editorial team.
“Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.” If you’ve been around Classical Christian Education for more than a minute, you’ve probably noticed that we love to say these words. These three transcendentals, lauded by the philosophers of classical antiquity and rightly located by theologians in the very nature and being of God, are an apt rallying cry for the work of classical Christian education.
Still, some of us may have a more ready apology for truth and goodness than we do for beauty. We point to God’s Word as the source of truth and acknowledge Him as the One who defines all the reality of the cosmos. “All truth is God’s truth,” we rightly say. We recognize how God reveals Himself as we happily pillage the best sources of knowledge from across the ages. Likewise, we acknowledge that goodness is in and of God, both in terms of morality and blessing. The Greeks conceptualized “good” as that which fulfills its own purpose, and we find in our Creator one whose perfect purpose is actively revealed to us in His character and His work of redemption. Just as with truth, we recognize God wants us to know and explore His goodness; in fact, we cling, like David, to the comfort that “surely goodness and mercy” will pursue us all the days of our lives.
But what of beauty? Do we defend and cleave to beauty with a similar conviction? Do we remember that this third member of the triumvirate is also located in God and that He uses beauty in His pursuit of us? After all, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” rolls so easily off the tongue, and experience tells us that there is variety and gradation in people’s aesthetic preferences. Since there’s no accounting for taste, don’t we hit a dead-end with beauty?
Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar commented on this tendency to quietly sideline considerations of beauty when he said:
Beauty is the last thing which the thinking intellect dares to approach, since only it dances as an uncontained splendor around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another. Beauty … without which the ancient world refused to understand itself, [is] a word which both imperceptibly and yet unmistakably has bid farewell to our new world.
Even many Christians, Balthasar says, have functionally jettisoned beauty from the realm of the essential. He gives a somber warning about the consequence of this devaluing:
We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it. Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance.
We can be grateful that there is a conscious intention at Rockbridge Academy—and in the broader classical Christian education movement—to guard against the easy “disposal” of beauty about which von Balthazar soberly warns. “Truth, Goodness, and Beauty” isn’t just a catchy slogan. It’s a shorthand reminder of a Trinitarian truth: we are made in the Imago Dei, with intellectual, moral, and aesthetic sensibilities and desires. Thus, in the classroom, asking “What is Beautiful?” is just as worthwhile as asking “What is True?” and “What is Good?”.
Classical Christian education allows breathing room for such discussions. On the one hand, our “classical” bent reminds us that, in the tradition of the best thinkers from across the ages, pursuing a better understanding of beauty helps us explore what it means to be fully human. On the other hand, our unapologetically “Christian” emphasis reminds us that the answers we seek are ultimately found outside ourselves. While God created us with individually nuanced tastes and pleasures, He is our ultimate reference for what is beautiful. Embracing this juxtaposition of imminence and transcendence in the beautiful, good, and true (and valuing their inescapable connection to one another) is a part of the very good work—the “courage and decision”—going on at Rockbridge Academy, by the grace of God.
Embracing this juxtaposition of imminence and transcendence in the beautiful, good, and true (and valuing their inescapable connection to one another) is a part of the very good work—the “courage and decision”—going on at Rockbridge Academy, by the grace of God.
Heidi Stevens taught art and humanities courses for twenty years and now serves on the Rockbridge Academy Board of Directors. She and her husband, Rick, have two grown daughters, both Rockbridge graduates.
When I graduated from Rockbridge Academy in 2012, I had no idea how much my education would help me advance in the professional world. Now, 10 years on, I serve as chief of policy for the best governor in the country, Kristi Noem in South Dakota, and it is clear to me how much my education uniquely prepared me for this job.
For starters, since graduation I have spent my time working in and around the political world, and that means public speaking. In school, I struggled immensely with public speaking and got very nervous every time I had to speak. But in almost every class, my teachers found opportunities for all of us to practice, and slowly but surely—over the course of many years—I started to become comfortable speaking to groups and even developed tips and tricks to make my speeches effective.
I struggled immensely with public speaking and got very nervous every time I had to speak. But in almost every class, my teachers found opportunities for all of us to practice, and slowly but surely—over the course of many years—I started to become comfortable speaking to groups and even developed tips and tricks to make my speeches effective.
Today, I frequently testify in front of legislative committees, provide policy updates at state cabinet meetings, and speak on behalf of the Governor to legislators, lobbyists, and local leaders. I entered my career with a level of public speaking ability that I could never have imagined when I started high school, and I am thankful on a regular basis for this unique component of classical education.
Secondly, my education honed my writing abilities, teaching me to write concisely and make my points clear and easy to understand. My teachers insisted that we create an outline before we started writing to make sure our arguments were well-structured and supported. To this day, I still outline my thoughts before putting pen to paper. Now, I write memos about complicated subjects in a way that is easy to understand. I draft testimony, letters to elected officials in Washington, and even emails that make my ask or argument clear.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, my classical education made it possible for me to both develop—and advance—a clear and consistent worldview. Through our philosophy, logic, and rhetoric classes, we learned the different ways of looking at the world and the assumptions that are built into any perspective. During our senior year, we took a class on current events that allowed us to start applying these ideas to what was actually happening in the world. This gave me a huge head start in understanding not just what was going on, but why it was happening—and the philosophical foundation behind different proposed solutions.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, my classical education made it possible for me to both develop—and advance—a clear and consistent worldview. Through our philosophy, logic, and rhetoric classes, we learned the different ways of looking at the world and the assumptions that are built into any perspective.
In South Dakota, state government consists of 20 different agencies that cover areas like agriculture, education, finance, healthcare, and public safety. Part of my job is to ensure that everyone is rowing in the same direction. There’s no way I can be an expert in all of these different fields … but my classical education has helped me develop and articulate clear, consistent principles that I can apply in a range of situations. This helps me ask the right questions and provide the right guidance to make sure we’re leading a government that respects the rights of the people and gets out of the way as much as possible.
I am thankful every day for the opportunity to wake up and do the job I’m doing. And I know without a doubt that I would not have had this opportunity without the skills my education taught me.
Rachel Wallen Oglesby serves as Chief of Policy in the South Dakota Governor’s Office and is a member of the Governor’s executive team. She oversees the implementation of the governor’s agenda across all policy areas and state government agencies. She grew up in Maryland, graduated from Rockbridge Academy and Wake Forest University, and holds a master’s in public policy from George Mason University. This article was published in the winter 2023 issue of The Classical Difference magazine.
On my last morning at Rockbridge Academy, my classmates and I all came together for one last joint homeroom. Miss Scheie passed out the hymn books one more time and aptly chose for us to sing “Be Thou My Vision.” Suddenly I found myself close to tears, surrounded by classmates and friends, all lifting our voices up as one body praising our Lord and asking for His guidance in this next chapter of our lives. The rest of the day I walked the halls humming that tune, the words repeating in my head over and over. This day is representative of many I have had in the past at Rockbridge. The prominence of singing at Rockbridge Academy demonstrates its importance for instilling truth and fostering unity.
The prominence of singing at Rockbridge Academy demonstrates its importance for instilling truth and fostering unity.
Singing is not scarce at Rockbridge Academy. From staff prayer to joint homeroom to Monday morning assemblies, the words of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” the Doxology, and other hymns float through the halls. Singing is a prominent technique in the grammar school, and you won’t make it through a Rockbridge event without singing or being sung to. We even spent a whole Apologetics class putting the Beatitudes to the tune of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me.” This is primarily due to the fact that singing helps with memory. Our grammar students can name all the states or rattle off grammar rules because they learned a song for it. However, singing as a tool for memory has more uses than just to memorize facts.
One day in my junior year, I was at an early morning FCA Bible Study and we were talking about singing. One senior made the point that what we sing stays in our heads and permeates our thoughts. Everybody has had some song stuck in their head that they just can't seem to get rid of. Well, it doesn’t have to be an annoying pop song that permeates your thoughts. I experienced the positive end of singing on the last day of my senior year after singing “Be Thou My Vision.” Instead of the chorus to Justin Bieber’s “Baby”, my mind was whirling with words praising God and reminding me to focus on Christ. By singing hymns frequently, Rockbridge was filling our heads with beautiful Gospel truths that would permeate our thoughts throughout the day, week, and even year.
As well as instilling truth, singing as a body creates unity with your fellow singers. When we sing as one body, we are lifting up our individual voices to become one voice proclaiming one truth. The old and young, the mature in faith and new Christians, those in mourning and those rejoicing: when we sing we demonstrate that we are one body. That is what brought me close to tears in my last homeroom: despite differences and even disagreements I may have with my classmates, we are still able to come together, shoulder to shoulder, and proclaim Jesus’ name.
…when we sing we demonstrate that we are one body…despite differences and even disagreements I may have with my classmates, we are still able to come together, shoulder to shoulder, and proclaim Jesus’ name.
On Grand Tour, my class had several opportunities to sing together. One opportunity was in the Tomb of Agamemnon at Mycenae. The egg-shape of the tomb gave it great acoustics, so we stood in the middle and sang the Doxology. The whole site went quiet as we sang. Tourists stopped moving and guides stopped talking. Many of these people didn’t even speak our language, yet they were silenced and stilled. Whether it was out of awe or reverence or simple respect I don’t know, but to me it demonstrated the power of song. It was evident not through our words, but through our unity as a group lifting up our voices that we were honoring something bigger. Indeed, we were praising the God of our universe.
You do not have to be a good singer for singing to impact you. I would be the first to admit I lack singing abilities—I can’t even read sheet music. Thankfully, that is not required to sing with your community and praise our God. The next time you find yourself singing in church or at Rockbridge, close your eyes and listen. Hear the ten, twenty, thirty, or a hundred people around you singing the same song, worshiping the same God. This is the body of Christ. I hope you continue to sing often and sing loud, praising the name of your Lord and Savior. I would like to leave you with the words I was left with at the closing of my time at Rockbridge:
True Light of heaven, when vict’ry is won
may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.
from Be Thou My Vision
Olivia Reardon, ‘22, attends Messiah University where she continues to pursue her passion for teaching, writing, and dance. She loves reading, spending time with friends, and eating ice cream.
“Remember that you are first and foremost a soldier in Christ’s army…"
Nathan Davenport (2020), Marine Corps
The Rockbridge Academy Veterans Day Ceremony, first held in 2008, arose from a desire to encourage the student body, offer a warm welcome to our neighbors, and honor veterans and active service members in the school and community. The ceremony has changed slightly over the years, but the highlights remain the same: an address by an honored military guest, speeches by student winners of the VFW Patriot's Pen and Voice of Democracy competitions, music from the Rockbridge choir, and a time for students to meet and thank veterans personally. The ceremony was warmly received from the start, and with the exception of 2020, it has been a cherished Rockbridge tradition ever since.
Rockbridge has always had close ties to those in the military. Currently, more than 40 families in the Rockbridge community have active or retired service members. Several staff have a military background or military spouses, and because of our proximity to the Naval Academy, Ft. Meade, and other defense employers, the school has always drawn families with military affiliations. These service members work in a wide range of fields—naval aviation, cryptologic warfare, music. Many have served for decades all over the country and world, often in extremely challenging conditions.
But our ties go even deeper, to the values reflected beautifully in the lives of our veterans and service members—values we share as a school.
One of those values is “My Life for Yours”: the desire to love others freely and sacrificially, just as Christ came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This is something we long to see reflected in the hallways and classrooms of Rockbridge. Kim Williams, who served in the Air Force and Reserves for 23 years and taught at Rockbridge for 11 (ending in 2022), says this verse from Mark was especially meaningful during her time in the military. Just as Jesus came in the flesh to love and sacrifice for His people, a military leader had to be willing to invest in and sacrifice for those she led. Rockbridge service members describe separation from their families and church communities, physical deprivation and danger, and the grave responsibility of protecting life and freedom as some of those sacrifices. For such we are deeply grateful.
Another is acknowledging “Christ as Core”—the reality that all things are integrated under the lordship of Christ, and that in every circumstance, He is working out His sovereign plan for creation. This truth is woven into every subject at Rockbridge and is also a key truth for Christians in the military, especially as they are called to uncertain and sometimes chaotic situations. Rockbridge father Lance Nickerson, Program Manager with the US Army Counterintelligence Command, has served as an active duty member and civilian for over two decades. He says that God’s sovereignty was one of the primary spiritual lessons he gained from his time in the service: no circumstance was accidental, and nothing was beyond God’s control. Army Major Andre Slonopas drew from Ecclesiastes 3:11 as he witnessed the turmoil of Afghanistan: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Those who serve in the military often experience firsthand the fallenness of our world. Yet as followers of Christ, they trust that He is always at work, redeeming it for His good purposes.
Our alumni are one more link between Rockbridge and the military, and one of the school’s most meaningful reasons for honoring those who serve. Rockbridge graduates have pursued careers in the army, navy, air force, and marines; attended military academies, sought ROTC scholarships, enlisted, and supported military spouses. Today they are cyber security specialists, naval officers, aviators, and students pursuing advanced degrees in service of their country.
Many testify to the ways Rockbridge both inspired and equipped them to serve. Several were influenced by the military leaders they met on staff and among the families at Rockbridge—men and women of integrity and courage. Some found that the academic standards, constant practice in public speaking, and leadership opportunities on the athletic field prepared them well for the rigors of officer training.
Perhaps most importantly, many graduates believe Rockbridge gave them a firm foundation as followers of Christ. “Rockbridge gave me access to the deep wells of Christian truth that would sustain me during difficult times,” writes Navy Lieutenant Daniel Dawson (2012), currently studying at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Private First Class Nathan Davenport (2020), training with the Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune, says Rockbridge taught him to “think critically” and encouraged him to “examine every aspect of life in the light of Scripture and live it to the glory of God”—even when the environment is challenging physically and spiritually.
Rockbridge Academy hopes to continue supporting our military by coming alongside military families, listening to their stories, and equipping future graduates to stand firm in Christ and serve to His glory. We look forward to honoring you this November 11. To those who serve and have served our country, thank you.
Monica Ault serves as the Upper School Administrative Assistant at Rockbridge Academy and has been a Rockbridge parent for 20 years.
The following is adapted from a speech delivered by Heidi Stevens on September 29, 2022, at the Rockbridge Academy Library Grand Opening.
Long before Rockbridge Academy opened its doors in 1995—with three teachers and just shy of two dozen students—a small group of families gathered to dream and plan what a school like this could be. The founding families met together, read together, and prayed together, talking about building a place where our children could thrive and grow, where they could learn in an environment committed to academic excellence that encouraged them to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
We loved our own children, of course, and dreamed of how a school like Rockbridge could come alongside and complement what God called us to as parents: training the children He’d given us to love their Creator with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
We also spent a lot of time talking about how what we were building should be built on a firm foundation that reached beyond our own generation. We spoke of cultivating a “500-year vision” for a place that would serve the parents of our community in educating our children’s children, and their children, and the children for generations beyond, if God would graciously bless and prosper the work.
In addition to talking about those things, you might be surprised to learn how that group of men and women regularly prayed for YOU. They prayed for you, and for your children, even as they went about the arduous work of building a school for their children.
Of course, we who were part of that younger Rockbridge Academy prayed fervently for our own children. But we knew that it was the next generation—and all the generations to come, long after we were gone - that would prove whether our work had been built on the right foundation or on shifting sand. Consider the communion of saints—across time—who prayed for YOU, the Rockbridge parents of the future! You were prayed for: that you would be found faithful in seeking to raise your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
There were so many other things prayed for, But one thing—of particular significance for this night—was the prayer that the future students at this school would be lovers of the Word … and lovers of words.
● Words! The means by which God chose to reveal Himself to His people, even before His incarnation as the Living Word.
● Words! The amazing vehicle of language through which so much of our learning happens.
● Words! The mysteriously powerful, beautiful medium through which we can bless or curse, bring healing or hurt, speak life or death.
● Words! The avenue of our understanding, the tool through which we read and speak truth, and the stuff of which stories are spun to captivate, delight, and lead.
And so, we dreamed of a library: of the smell of books and the lure of comfortable chairs; of a repository of the most wonderous stories and the greatest ideas of mankind; and of a gathering of the collected knowledge of God’s good Creation that has yet only begun to plumb the depths of its extravagant complexity.
We envisioned our children, and the many children to come, being enamored by tales of adventure that would whet their appetites for the real adventure of reigning and ruling as dearly loved sons and daughters of our Eternal Father King.
We smiled to think of our students being brought up on tales of bravery and valor, of justice and love, and all the other noble things that the truest and best stories are both made up of and point to.
We longed for our children to recognize the great Story behind all good stories: the story of a King who is making all things right again and restoring his original pattern of what’s Beautiful, Good, and True.
I was listening to an interview the other day with Carolyn Weber, whose memoir, Surprised By Oxford, is currently being made into a motion picture. Dr. Weber has been on the faculty of prestigious colleges across the United States and Canada, and she was the first female dean of St. Peter’s College, Oxford. She recently moved to middle Tennessee to begin teaching at New College Franklin, a small college that teaches the seven liberal arts—the trivium and the quadrivium—from a Christian perspective.
Knowing her vast experience but recognizing that many of the students she now teaches would likely have been classically educated, the interviewer asked Dr. Weber if she saw much difference between those young men and women and others from more traditional school backgrounds. Her answer struck me. She said that the classically educated students, for the most part, could “think in the dark” in a way that many of her past students couldn’t.
“They know how to think in the dark. They can think unplugged,” she said. “They don’t need Google and they don’t need gadgets.”
That description struck me, because it’s what we hope for in our students, isn’t it? We want them to be able to engage with what they read, regardless of genre, on its own terms. We want them to be able to open a book without opening their computers. To be able to dive in without needing the “light” of predigested information that will tell them what to think before they’ve even begun.
Will this library create that sort of student by itself? Will a library ensure that we have students who can “think in the dark”? No. But it’s evidence that we believe that sort of student will routinely inhabit these halls.
We want our students, who’ve been trained to read in such a way, to have this place to come and experience the riches you see around you. To be lovers of words who come here to be with—to pursue—ideas made incarnate on these printed pages. May they do so, reminded of that more excellent Word and truer Incarnation who came to be with—to pursue—us.
Heidi Stevens taught art and humanities courses for twenty years and now serves on the Rockbridge Academy Board of Directors. She and her husband, Rick, have two grown daughters, both Rockbridge graduates.
Here at Rockbridge Academy, we highly value service towards others as every human is made in the image of God and loved and valued by Him. As a result, Rockbridge students are continually immersed in service activities, and the summer is no exception. Our students served kids in VBS (vacation Bible school), ran Christian summer camps, helped at medical clinics in Guatemala, taught English in Mexico, and everything in between. From local churches to out-of-state camps to overseas missions, our students have been busy serving God’s people. Here are what a few students have to say about their experience.
Sarah Daly, Class of 2021, served as a camp counselor at Summer’s Best Two Weeks in Pennsylvania. She said, “Working at camp has taught me a lot about how God works despite and even through my weakness. I’ve been confronted with my inability to change campers' hearts and I’ve been forced to trust that He is working while the campers are here and after they leave. It’s hard to spend two weeks loving and ministering to campers and then send them back to sometimes very spiritually dry homes, but I’ve been forced to trust God to bear fruit in their lives. He is faithful and good.”
Working out of state has allowed Sarah to interact with people she doesn’t normally. Sarah said, “I’ve been really encouraged to work with a staff of around 100 college students who come from many different backgrounds but all are united by their love for the Lord. Hearing everyone’s unique testimony had reminded me that God is continually preparing a people for Himself.”
Bailey Lamar, Class of 2024, traveled to a school in Mexico to assist with VBS and English training for high school students. He said, “My missions work showed me how important prayer is for a community. We were teaching English at a school in Mexico and got a chance to hear how the school was founded. A missionary went all around Mexico looking for land to start a Christian school. He found the land he knew would be perfect, and began asking the owner to sell it to him. The owner told him no. For a year he asked, and the owner refused each time. Finally he prayed, telling God that he would ask one last time and praying that this time the owner would say yes. He did. Hearing this story amazed me, because I saw God can use one man's prayers to bring many to Christ.
Being in a different country, Bailey was immersed in a different culture where he met people different from himself. He said, “Working with other teenagers in Mexico really showed me how Christians can be hospitable; they were the nicest people I have ever met. They would always ask us questions and be interested in what we said, and they would always joyfully include us even if it meant they had to speak their second language or carry us in their soccer games. Their hospitality is something I hope all Christians can imitate.”
This past summer after her 11th grade year, Eden Logan, had the opportunity to go to Uganda and lead a children's Bible study camp, help with home visits, and generally spread God's gospel and love. She said, “I have never been more heartbroken and joyful than when in Uganda. I witnessed a ministry that takes despairing, diseased kids and gives them hope and life–both physically and through Christ. The joy I saw there, despite such poverty, inspired me more than ever to work overseas as a medical missionary, and I pray that God will lead me back there!”
Eden also was presented with the opportunity to meet and learn from people very different from her. She said, “I saw a farmer, so poor his house was literally crumbling, worshiping God from the depths of his soul. I realized, even though I could barely understand his words, the Holy Spirit had connected us in our love for the Lord. God’s people are more united than I had ever realized, even across boundaries of language, oceans, and culture.”
God’s people are everywhere, which means you can serve wherever you are. These students have blessed people around the world, some just walking out the front door while others stepping onto an airplane. No matter how different a culture or a people may seem, we all have at least one thing in common: we are all made in the image of God. And, between Christians, there is an unmistakable bond that transcends language and culture. We all serve the same living God and one day we will stand before Him as one people proclaiming His name with one voice. I am thankful for all that our community does to serve and I hope the examples of these students can remind us that all kinds of service is needed and every action done to further God’s kingdom is infinitely valuable.
We all know about Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. But Athens, Corinth, Florence, Rome, and Siena? Well, they’re just old cities. Right? When Rockbridge Academy introduced its very own house system this year, a buzz shot through the school. “Which house are you in?” “Go Rome!” “Wait . . . is our mascot supposed to be a ram or a goat?” House cheers and special hand signals began springing up in a matter of hours. To many, the new house system was a surprise, and many students, teachers, and parents alike still have questions. Read below to discover the who, what, why, and how of the new Rockbridge House System.
What is the House System? In September 2021, Rockbridge Academy introduced its new house system. Upper school students (7th-12th) and teachers were sorted into one of five houses: Athens, Corinth, Florence, Rome, Sienna. Siblings are assigned to the same house. In future years, students will receive their house assignment at the beginning of seventh grade.
Why did Rockbridge create a House System? The houses are intended to create smaller communities within the student body. They also serve as groupings for grammar school mentoring, school service assignments, intramural sports, and other school competitions. Upper school principal Mandy Ball shared her vision for the house system: “I want the house system to be about looking out for the interests of others, not choosing to just be with the people it's comfortable to be with, and finding fellowship with people throughout all the grades, even the grammar school. We want faculty to work regularly with students, who work with younger students. It's mentoring and relationships from the top down.”
So . . . Harry Potter? While the idea of “houses” does remind us of Harry Potter, there is no intentional connection to the four houses in the book series. Rockbridge’s five houses were not intended to have personalities or characterizations, but, of course, some houses have already started to claim unique identities.
How did the House Names get picked? The five houses—Athens, Corinth, Florence, Rome, and Siena—were named after stops on the Grand Tour, Rockbridge’s capstone field trip to Greece and Italy for rising seniors.
How about the mascots? The house mascots and colors were inspired by different contradas in Siena. Athens is the eagle (blue/yellow), Corinth is the dolphin (blue/white), Florence is the dragon (gray/pink), Rome is the wolf (black/white), and Siena is the ram (red/gold). As Rockbridge students learn in fourth grade, the city of Siena divided itself into districts during the Middle Ages to create military companies. Each contrada has its own flag, mascot, church, and tight-knit community. To this day, the contradas dress up in their respective colors and compete at the Palio, Italy’s most famous horse race.
How do intramural sports work? The five houses compete in different intramural sport tournaments throughout the year. Although intramurals were delayed in the fall because of COVID, athletic director Timothy Stewart shared that his plan for the intramural sports rotation is flag football (Sept-Oct), kickball (Nov-Dec), volleyball (Jan-Feb), dodgeball (Mar-Apr), and ultimate frisbee (Apr-May). At the end of each sport’s season, the two houses with the best record compete in a championship match to be the tournament’s winner.
What’s the point of intramural sports? Mr. Stewart hopes that there will be a high participation rate in intramural sports among the student body. These games are opportunities for people who don’t want to commit to playing in a sports team but would like to participate in a lower-stakes competition.
Will this create division among the students? Of course, intramural sports are intended to create an aspect of fun, healthy competition between the houses. Most of the games are self-called, meaning that there is no referee and students must work out any disputes among themselves. This is a great opportunity for students to show leadership and good sportsmanship. Mr. Stewart shared, “I want the students to care about winning, but it’s not more important than just enjoying the sport and making sure everyone is having a good time. We’re doing this to build the overall culture of the school. The students will have to sacrifice some of the allure of winning for those things.”
Are there prizes? Nope. Mr. Stewart explained, “Right now there’s no prize; it’s just glory. If you won kickball, well, then you won kickball.”
What might the House System look like in the future? Mrs. Ball hinted that she is hoping to incorporate other non-athletic competitions between the houses and encourage more mentoring between the upper and lower school students in the future. Once the impacts of COVID and adjusting to a new building have mostly passed, the possibilities are almost endless. In the end, Mrs. Ball hopes that the house system will become a hallmark of fun and fellowship within the school: “It can be a really cool part of our school culture.”
Three Ways Rockbridge Changed My Life—A Graduate's Reflection
I was doing just fine until we started to sing, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”
I’d walked up the aisle. Received my diploma. Moved my tassel from right to left. So far so good, I thought, remembering all the times I’d cried during the last week of school.
Then, we began to sing.
I felt my voice shake. My throat burned, and tears blurred my eyes as I wobbled along with everyone else:
I remembered the fear I felt when I learned we were moving. I remembered leaning over the couch, watching my parents confirm my enrollment in a classical Christian school. I remembered climbing from the car on the first day of 10th grade, plaid skirt starched, bucks not yet broken in, heart hoping, hoping I’d finally fit in somewhere. Now, here I stood, graduating three years later, with “Rockbridge Academy” etched on my diploma.
Suddenly, I couldn’t sing anymore. The words wouldn’t come. Tears trickled down my face as I mouthed the words:
Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Looking back over my life, I see God’s faithfulness at work: from 7 military moves, 5 schools in 5 years, and now, college. But nowhere was God’s faithfulness more evident than during my time at Rockbridge Academy.
I first came to Rockbridge as a 10th grader (forever the “New Kid” in my class). Up until then, I’d been homeschooled and public schooled, but never private schooled. Even from day one, something was distinctively different about the Rockbridge community. The people I met, classes I took, and faith I gained all had one thing in common: they displayed God’s faithfulness.
Community: The transition from public school to private school can often be intimidating, especially when you’re going from a 525-person class to a 29-person class. When I learned I’d be attending a small school, fear spiraled through my mind: Everyone will already have friends. No one will want to get to know me.
But almost as soon as I stepped foot in Maryland, my future friends invited me to dinner. They knew my name before I knew theirs. From that moment on, I felt God’s faithfulness at work, in both big and small things. Rather than leaving me to myself, my classmates took time to help me understand the mysterious ways of Rockbridge Academy. They explained the purpose of graded discussions, how to distinguish between “the Rock” and “the Big House,” and most importantly of all… Captain’s Cup. Never before had I felt so welcome at a new school.
But I not only found a community; I found friends to rival Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings, friends who would no doubt carry me on their shoulders up a volcano to destroy the Ring. They’re the kind of friends who hug you spontaneously in the hallway. The kind of friends who comfort you in the bathroom after you bawl your way through a Bible speech. The kind of friends who read your messy story and rave to you about their favorite characters. The kind of friends who display sacrificial, radical love day after day. Like David and Jonathan, our souls are knit together by more than common interest. Our souls are knit together in Christ. For a girl who’s always had a hard time making and keeping her friends, the friends I made at Rockbridge Academy absolutely changed my life. God’s faithfulness worked through my friendships, drawing me closer to the ultimate Friend, who died that I might live, who calls me beloved.
Education: Beauty, truth, and goodness are central to a Rockbridge Academy education. As students learn, God himself is beauty, truth, and goodness. Therefore, learning only truly makes sense through a Biblical lens. When we squint at subjects through the world’s binoculars, images seem blurry. But when we look at life through the lens of Christianity, those same images become clear.
For example, my public school biology class presented Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory as fact, never introducing other options. But at Rockbridge, biology examined both sides of the debate. We exposed fundamental weaknesses in evolutionary theory, while still considering valid pieces of the argument.
Two years later, in Great Ideas II, we discussed Social Darwinism, the philosophical outworking of evolutionary theory. If man is no more than a monkey and only the fittest survive, then why not kill others if it benefits you? We explored events such as the Holocaust, in which Nazi philosophy viewed other imago-dei humans as sub-human and unfit to live. Even today, evolutionists are rightly outraged by this tragedy. But logically, in an atheistic evolutionary worldview, good and evil are relative. There are no absolute moral standards, because there is no God to set the standard. Therefore, without God, we can’t truly say that what the Nazis did was wrong.
Meanwhile, in Literature of Modernity, we read The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Ivan Karamazov, one of the book’s central characters, is an atheist struggling to make sense of suffering. He doesn’t understand why a good God would allow children to suffer, and therefore refuses to accept Christianity. But when he tries to make sense of suffering in his atheistic worldview, he can’t. “Everything is lawful” without God. There is no ultimate justice. Instead, the suffering of children is meaningless, right and wrong are flimsy human constructs, and Ivan is left with a horrible headache and a conflicted heart.
These ideas all came together in Apologetics. We concluded that God alone is the basis for morality, and good is good because God is good. We then wondered why a good God would allow for suffering, and explored this question through readings and speeches. Ultimately, everything returned to God and His Word -- the basis for all knowledge.
Rather than separating different disciplines, my Rockbridge education trained me to draw connections between subjects. Furthermore, I learned how to share my knowledge with others. Through graded discussions, oral exams, and the thesis process, I learned to clearly and persuasively communicate truth. These skills are invaluable and will benefit me for the rest of my life.
But my Rockbridge education prepared me for more than a career. My Rockbridge education prepared my heart and mind to seek truth, beauty, and goodness, wherever they are found. And as I seek them, I feel my heart warm to God. He and he alone is the source of truth, beauty, and goodness.
Strengthen Faith: Three years ago, my faith was faltering. 9th grade was often a battlefield. I spent my mornings slouching in my seat, listening to my teachers hurtle grenades at Christianity, questions I couldn’t answer. Then, I spent my afternoons slouching over my phone, immersed in the trenches of an online community as I fought to fill that lonely void in my heart. So the summer I moved to Rockbridge, questions swam in my mind.
What if everything I’m fighting for is a lie? What if Christianity isn’t true, and God doesn’t exist, and I’m just a speck in a meaningless universe?
My faithful God knew what I needed. He carried me off the battlefield and brought me to Rockbridge Academy, where I strengthened my faith along fellow soldiers. Before Rockbridge, I had a heart faith, but not a head faith. I believed God was real, but I didn’t know why. Now, I have a basis for my beliefs. My armor is stronger and my faith is greater.
Some might consider Rockbridge to be a “bubble.” We’re constantly around other Christians, and therefore have limited experience of what we’re up against. Rather than huddle behind our defenses, we should be exposed to the “real world” out there. This concern is valid, and on one level, true. Yes, we’re called to be in the world and not of it. Yes, living in a bubble can leave you disillusioned and unprepared. But soldiers need rigorous training before they step onto the battlefield. A Rockbridge education strengthens our defenses so we’re ready to take on the enemy’s lies.
What’s more, we’re trained and taught by veterans, incredible teachers who are fighting the good fight. Our teachers not only love their students and their subjects. They love the Lord. Teachers: I speak for myself and my fellow students when I say we look up to you. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “He has an amazing testimony,” “I love the way she prays,” and “I want to be just like them.”
Conclusion: By now, this article has almost reached the length of my senior thesis. If I had time and space for everything I wanted to say, it might be longer than my novel. How do you conclude a special chapter in your life? The only way I can: by looking ahead.
As I’ve painted classrooms at our Evergreen campus this past summer, I’ve thought of the students coming after me: students who will sit in these classrooms and learn what I learned. They’ll form lasting community. They’ll solve complex math problems, read great literature, and discuss ancient ideas. But most importantly of all, they’ll hear the Gospel, day after day, week after week, month after month, and cling to their all-satisfying Savior. They’ll experience God’s faithfulness to them in Christ.
Like the students who have gone before, and those who will come after, I leave Rockbridge with more than a diploma. I leave with a community, education, and strengthened faith that will carry me through the rest of my life. I leave in love with Jesus Christ: His perfect life, His substitutionary sacrifice, and His faithfulness to an undeserving girl like me.
About the Author: Chloe L. DuBois (‘21) is a military brat, aspiring author, and daughter of the King on a quest to further His kingdom through her words. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her knocking on wardrobes, hoarding notebooks, and dreaming of forests far away. She is attending Wheaton College this fall as an English writing and literature major.
At Rockbridge we confess together that the primary purpose of life is to glorify God. In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul instructs the believers: “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” As a Rockbridge athlete, the goal remains the same, we strive to glorify the Lord through our sport! As we aim for this high objective we will look, act, talk, and think differently than the world. People will notice. In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul writes about Christians being the aroma of Christ:
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
Rockbridge athletes have a different aroma because of their commitment to the team, because of the unity among teammates and coaches and because their identity is found in Christ. Imagine another team driving onto the Rockbridge campus and crinkling their noses as they sniff a few times asking one another, “Do you smell that?’ ‘What is that?’ ‘It’s different!’ ‘It smells like...Jesus!” As a result, fellow Christians will be encouraged by our conduct while non-believers will be repulsed, frightened, or confused. This opens the opportunity to share “the hope that is in you . . . with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
The Rockbridge athlete will start to smell different because he is fully invested in his team. Commitment is a virtue that is severely lacking in society. People are afraid to commit; many can only half-heartedly commit, or commit only to back out later. The Rockbridge athlete is expected to fully commit to her team for the entire season. That means buying into the coach’s program. Athletes should not question the coaches every time something goes wrong. Athletes should complete the season whether it is fun or not, victorious or not, going as planned or not.
My college wrestling coach said he measured his success as a coach by how many of his former wrestlers were committed to their wives and avoided divorce. At the beginning of each wrestler’s college career, my coach lays out the expectations and asks the wrestler to verbally agree to devote himself to the team for the next 4 years. This method has taught his teams many valuable lessons. Commitment does not change based on feelings; life will be difficult and it requires sacrifice but it is worth it! “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up,” as Paul said to the Galatians (6:9). Commitment should not be taken up lightly, but once a person commits, he should stick to it. In one of his parables, Jesus said:
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’ (Luke 14:28-30).
The Rockbridge athlete will wear the fragrance of Christ by uniting with their teammates and coaches. This is where personal glory quickly fades in importance because the overall success of the team is more satisfying.
The Rockbridge athlete will wear the fragrance of Christ by uniting with their teammates and coaches. This is where personal glory quickly fades in importance because the overall success of the team is more satisfying. Every member of a team has a role to play and every role is vital. In this way, our teams should also help athletes prepare to be good and faithful church members. Paul compares the church to a human body, and we can use that same metaphor for a sports team. Paul writes, “there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Corinthians 12:20-22). The lead scorer, the backup player, and the manager are all working to make the team successful and through their efforts bring glory to God.
Paul continues this metaphor in verse 26, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” I was blessed to witness that verse lived out as a member of my college wrestling team. First is an example of suffering together. In my sophomore year, two of my teammates, Matt and Mike, were both among the top wrestlers in the nation, but they were in the same weight class. That meant that only one could be the starter and wrestle for our team in the conference championships. In wrestling, the starters are decided by a wrestle-off, a match between the teammates where the winner gets the starting position. Matt and Mike had wrestled each other before and they had each beaten each other at different times. I was in the room for the wrestle-off, and it was a tight, well-fought match. Mike was able to pull out a narrow victory. He had just earned his starting spot, but there was no celebration. The room was silent and downcast as everyone on the team--maybe most of all Mike--was hurting along with Matt, his teammate, whose season and hopes of becoming an All-American were now over. A united team suffers together.
We also rejoiced together. During my senior year, I was one of two wrestlers on the team that qualified for the national tournament. In college wrestling, there are ten starting spots and we had about thirty guys total on the team. There were a lot of good wrestlers on the team. A handful of my teammates had even beaten me in matches before, but now their season was over, and I was where they wanted to be. I never felt any tinge of jealousy or resentment from my teammates but instead overwhelming support and pride. There was a large caravan that all traveled from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin to attend the national tournament and cheer us on like crazy, so much so that wrestlers from other teams commented on how loud and enthusiastic our cheering section was. A united team rejoices together.
A Rockbridge athlete will surely have the aroma of Christ when she knows, believes, and trusts that her identity is in the person and work of Christ. This allows the athlete to stop worrying about winning and losing. Rockbridge athletes are able to stay calm when the referee makes a bad call or the other team is not playing fair, and to not fall into despair from a season-ending injury. None of those situations change our value because who we are in Christ is secure no matter what. Galatians 2:20 tells us our identity: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
A Rockbridge athlete will surely have the aroma of Christ when she knows, believes, and trusts that her identity is in the person and work of Christ. This allows the athlete to stop worrying about winning and losing.
Embracing this truth as an athlete was such a relief to me. No matter what happened during a competition, the Lord still looked upon me as his adopted and loved son. God doesn’t think of you less when you lose and does not think of you more when you win. My response was to give my best effort and to praise God for the opportunity. I am not saying that Rockbridge athletes should not care about the results of a competition. The Bible encourages the pursuit of excellence. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24). I am saying that as Christians, we are not defined by the results of a competition. Feel free to work as hard as you can, take risks, and go for gold. You will fail at times but it won’t break you. It just provides an opening to give God more glory.
This distinction of being in union with Christ takes precedence over any other identifying factor. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) This line of thought can be extended to our Rockbridge teams. There is neither varsity nor middle school, neither soccer nor cross country, neither athletes nor spectators, for Rockbridge is one in Christ Jesus.
When Rockbridge athletes are committed, unified, and secure in their identity they will bring glory to the God who gave them the ability to play their sport. We will know we are achieving that goal when the aroma of Christ starts to permeate the campus. Students, parents, and coaches should all be able to smell that a Rockbridge athlete is around, and not only because they have not showered yet.
Tim Stewart is our new Athletics Coordinator and Discover Summer Director. Tim works with athletic teams and coaches, scheduling and coordinating all practices and games as well as overseeing our athletic program. He graduated from Messiah College with a BA Health and Exercise Science.
VISION and MISSION
Talk to any business guru, and you will encounter the terms vision, mission, and values. If vision is an institution’s overarching reason for being, mission describes the work they do to achieve this vision. Meanwhile, values (often called core values) are the collective beliefs and behaviors required of those who partake in the mission and subscribe to the vision.
Is all this just pragmatic business banter? No. At its foundation, the vision-mission-values triad reflects the heart of God. If God himself had the vision to create a universe, set about a mission of redemption through His Son, while continually calling his people to live out the values of a kingdom, then we as a Christian school should emulate the pattern, both in form and content.
What is the vision of Rockbridge Academy—the intent behind why we exist—in the first place? What role do we play in this little corner of God’s kingdom? Space does not allow us to print our multi-paragraph vision script (Click here to find Our Vision. It’s worth the longer read!), but if I were to unofficially summarize the Rockbridge vision in a statement, I’d simply say it this way:
Rockbridge Academy exists to be a transformative learning community, graduating young men and women as thinking, compassionate, and intentional disciples of Jesus Christ.
Meanwhile, Rockbridge Academy’s mission statement brings greater focus to how we go about realizing this vision. If you look on our homepage, you’ll see a condensed version of our overall plan of action, stated more fully here:
To partner with parents in a distinctively classical and unwaveringly Christian education for their children, encouraging the pursuit of goodness, truth, and beauty in all of life.
Thus, confident in our vision to graduate thinking Christians, and having our mission set before us to do this through classical Christian methodology, we gird our loins in anticipation for the first school year unified on the Evergreen Campus as One Rockbridge. So far so good.
Nevertheless, just like Nehemiah surveying the walls of Jerusalem, tracing his way from tower-gate to tower-gate before proclaiming his intent to reset their foundations, it is worth tracing our way back through Rockbridge history to enumerate the core values that make us who we are. Faithful Jews surveying the wall that defined and laid claim to Jerusalem reflect the importance of rehearsing the distinctives that define our school. As a community then, we lock arms to proclaim to ourselves and to a watching world what it means to be part of Rockbridge Academy.
“There is not one square inch in the whole domain
of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all,
does not cry, Mine!”
CHRIST AS CORE
First and foremost, we acknowledge that our identity as a school flows from one person, Jesus Christ. We joyfully submit ourselves to his Lordship. We proclaim along with early 20th century Dutch statesman, Abraham Kuyper, “There is not one square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
If this truth does not permeate all of what we do as a school so that our students grow up in the humidity of God’s sovereignty, all is for naught. When we gathered through the summer as staff and board to assemble the core values of Rockbridge Academy, the centrality of Christ was the refrain, because He is the source from which the following five values flow:
We joyfully mine the content and pedagogy of a tradition that edifies our humanity in its celebration of truth, goodness, and beauty, while equipping us to see the integration of all things under the lordship of Christ.
You see, the best way we’ve found to raise up thinking disciples of Jesus is to leverage classical education because it not only frees our children to think through the tools of learning (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric), it also captivates their hearts with truth, goodness, and beauty, and uniquely proclaims the unity of all subjects. All of this allows us to point students to the fact that all of life coheres under the Lordship of Christ.
We believe education is a command of God to parents, who actively partner with teachers to pursue Christian discipleship of their children’s heart, mind, soul, and strength.
We need look no further than Deuteronomy 6 in the Old Testament and Ephesians 6 in the New Testament to be reminded that it is the parent’s grand and humbling privilege to daily educate their child in the whole of life [paideia, Gr]. From academics to etiquette, tying shoes to reading to respecting mom, parents are entrusted with an 18-year (and further) discipleship program to grow up their children. Meanwhile, the school comes alongside to provide and reinforce what is needed through these years. Daily, parent and teacher shoulder together in this effort. Partnership is paramount.
MY LIFE FOR YOURS
We seek in every situation to empty ourselves with love for others, encouraging adults to mentor students and older students to mentor younger, with everyone learning to serve from union with Christ.
Contrary to our children’s universal aversion to emptying the dishwasher at home, we find that students love to serve. Young men and women long to be reminded of the masculine and feminine reality of the adults they are becoming. Boys love to demonstrate their muscles at work. Young ladies love to show their resilience and diligence. Entrusting both with sacrificial work in community answers that age old question they long for adults in their lives to answer for them.
Do I have what it takes? Absolutely, you have what it takes!
Do you see me? Yes, beautifully done!
WORK FROM A PLACE OF REST
We find our value and identity in Christ, measuring success by faithfulness, thereby encouraging habits of rest for mind, body, and spirit that fit us for our best work.
School, like any other aspect of life, can be a place where we as individuals—staff, student, or parent—pursue our idols. Idols around success create unrest in our hearts and lead anywhere from anxiety to avoidance to burnout. Rest acknowledges our human limitations, glories in God’s sovereignty, and helps us recall the limitless blessings of Christ. We want to be a school that reinforces habits of rest so that we are continuously restored to pursue our best work.
We prioritize love for one another by pursuing peace at the source of conflict, remembering that biblical peacemaking starts with self-examination, and that relationships are redeemable through the gospel of Christ.
Since its inception, Rockbridge Academy has put a high premium on the strong fellowship required in the learning environment, whether inside or outside of the classroom. The relationships between staff, students, and parents have opportunity to reflect the fellowship of the Trinity either beautifully or poorly. Sin is the reality that infects us all, yet the gospel is the greater reality that redeems even the most desperate breaches in relationships. Peacemaking can be hard work, but biblical peacemaking is essential to reflecting Christ as a community.
It is important to remember that core values are both instructive and aspirational. Core values unify us toward shared understanding and action, yet we acknowledge that even our best efforts to embody such ideals will fall short. Remember, though, that the author of vision, mission, and values is God himself. His sovereign intentions never lack for His abundant supply; therefore, we pray:
Dear Father, as we fully submit ourselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ, equip Rockbridge Academy to flourish as an enthusiastically classical community of learners dedicated to parental partnership, faithfully pursuing a relationally redemptive culture in which we work from a place of rest and serve under Christ’s banner of “my life for yours.”
If you have ever been backstage during a drama production you know that there is a lot more that goes on than what the audience sees. The stage, lighting, makeup, and costume crews are all working tirelessly behind the scenes. But just because these people aren’t center stage doesn’t mean they aren’t vital to creating the magic that happens. The administration and support staff at Rockbridge Academy are like the stage crew at a drama: absolutely necessarily but hardly ever seen. The central office ladies, Shannon Reich, Heather Reardon, Tina Thompson, and Tammy Rhodes are a few staff members that truly exemplify what it means to serve from behind the scenes. Without the hard work of our dedicated staff, Rockbridge Academy would not be able to function the way it does today.
Have you ever stopped to wonder how the stapler that saved your preparedness grade got into your homeroom? Or, where new books and sports equipment come from? Shannon Reich is the operations coordinator at Rockbridge Academy. According to Mrs. Reich, she handles “the purchasing and provides administrative support for facilities-related items and on-campus events.” She also does central office administrative work, fulfills all of the behind the scenes needs of Discover Summer, and checks on the school building after-hours and on the weekends. Mrs. Reich is a sweet lady who is not afraid to do hard work in order to serve those around her. Mrs. Reich does so much for Rockbridge, and she points to Jesus as the perfect example of how to serve others. She articulated that by using our gifts “in service towards others, Christians may also have access to unique opportunities that bring others to Christ.” Not only does Mrs. Reich employ her gifts to physically serve Rockbridge, she uses them to glorify God and bring others closer to Him.
If you have ever been through the Evergreen car line or received an Essentials email, you are familiar with Rockbridge’s Assistant to the Headmaster. But when she is not at the front desk or doing car line, Heather Reardon handles a multitude of other tasks. A few of what Mrs. Reardon tackles regularly includes handling hospitality events, assisting Roy Griffith and the Board, managing the hiring and interview process, and sending the Essentials and Headmaster Messages. It is difficult to pin down all that she does because Mrs. Reardon serves so many people on a daily basis in various ways. She says, “I want to serve them so that their life is easier and so that they can attend to the work that they need to attend to.” Mrs. Reardon relates that Rockbridge’s unique environment makes serving a blessing: “I think that it is really special that I have the opportunity to serve at Rockbridge Academy because I think it’s an incredible place where kids are learning about the Lord. So, to serve them, even to serve the kids in the front office, is just a privilege.”
“I think that it is really special that I have the opportunity to serve at Rockbridge Academy because I think it’s an incredible place where kids are learning about the Lord. So, to serve them, even to serve the kids in the front office, is just a privilege.”
As bookkeeper, Tina Thompson holds a job that is very much behind the scenes but nonetheless important. Dedicated to her work, Mrs. Thompson spends countless hours maintaining donation databases and the FACTS financial database, processing income checks and payroll, acting as a resource for employees with expense and payment concerns, and much more. Mrs. Thompson said, “as the tiny wheel in the back of the bus, I don't get a lot of fanfare but I am okay with that. It is just nice to know that the contributions God allows me to make are valued.” Although Mrs. Thompson is quiet and not often seen by students, she serves the Rockbridge community in many important ways. Mrs. Thompson said, “I am a steward of God's gifts and graces in my life, blessings that I believe God enriched and enabled me with for the purpose of serving.” She, like the other staff, desires to use God’s gifts to serve those around her.
Believe it or not, all the technology used to make learning happen, especially virtually, does not work by magic. Tammy Rhodes, Rockbridge’s IT Coordinator and Registrar, handles technology at the Evergreen campus, which includes troubleshooting, setting up, and purchasing technology, and communicating with vendors such as Verizon and Comcast. There is no pressure to be tech savvy when Mrs. Rhodes is around, she is always willing to lend a hand, whether that be fixing a teacher’s stubborn laptop or assisting remote students. As well as maintaining our technology, Mrs. Rhodes handles duties as registrar such as enrollment processes, transferring student records, distributing report cards, updating the school website, and much more. Mrs. Rhodes says, “It's not only important that I help/serve others but that I do it in a way that pleases the Lord and promotes His glory so that I may hear Him say those wonderful words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’” (Matthew 25:21) Mrs. Rhodes humbly serves the Rockbridge community to glorify God.
Mark 10:43-45 states “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The staff members at Rockbridge Academy strive to live out Christ’s perfect example of how to serve others. Undoubtedly, Mrs. Reich, Mrs. Reardon, Mrs. Thompson, and Mrs. Rhodes are all essential to Rockbridge’s success in and out of the classroom. However, they are not the only ones that keep this school up and running; each administrative, support, and faculty staff member works hard to make Rockbridge Academy a wonderful place to learn. Whether these staff members are center stage ready to take a bow or happy staying behind the curtain, they are all vital to Rockbridge’s success. So, the next time you see a Rockbridge staff member, say, “Thank you.” They are a critical part of what makes Rockbridge Academy so special.
Olivia Reardon, ‘22, loves to write and can usually be found reading a good book. She is part of a dance company and enjoys spending time with friends and eating ice cream.
“Unity is the great need of the hour.” [King, 1955]
As we commemorate the life and work of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his call for unity rings clamorously with as fierce urgency today as it did when he spoke these words. Recent events affirm the chasmal divisions and prejudices that extend beyond and seemingly overshadow racial lines. At the core of all that separates and threatens to tear us apart is sin, and only in Christ Jesus do we find the cure for our malady and all that ails us.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” [1 John 1:7:9]
Dr. King poured out his life in the struggle against racial injustice and all its implications, rooted in the belief that all humans possess intrinsic value because we are all created in His image. “The imago Dei is not a quality possessed by man; it is a condition in which man lives… established and maintained by the Creator… which constitutes him as him-whom-God-loves.” (Piper, 1971) It was on the basis of this “condition” that King vehemently appealed for the equal treatment of all people. “There are no gradations in the image of God. We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man.” (King, 1965) Further, our inherent value is unchanged by any or all attributes that comprise who we are, including and especially sin.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” [Ephesians 2:8-10]
Without denying the gospel’s power to save from the punishment of sin, King submitted that a robust teaching and application of the gospel must also address the presence and power of sin wherever it exists. In other words, salvation is preeminent, and sin expressed in all its forms, such as injustice, are serious implications as a result. In Galatians 2, Paul rebukes Cephas and opposes Peter for drawing back in their fellowship with Gentiles and forcing them to live like Jews vis-à-vis dietary restrictions and circumcision requirements – making ethnic and racial identification a requirement for them to become children of God. While racism is not the prevalent theme in his admonishment, the division between Jew and Gentile (the origins of which were rooted in racism and ethnic prejudice) and the inclusion of the latter by the former was a central concern for Paul because it simply did not square with the gospel. Rather than replace our ethnicity, the gospel redeems it and gathers us as brothers and sisters in Christ into one family. In no other place do we see this unity (to which we are called) more prominently. Freedom and unity are inextricably woven within—that Christ died to set us free and unite us in and to Him. The gospel removes the barrier between God and us through Christ. It also removes the barriers that exist among His people:
“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the hostility, which is the Law composed of commandments expressed in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two one new person, in this way establishing peace; and that He might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the hostility.” [Ephesians 2:14-16]
As Bryan Loritts writes, “The gospel is both vertical and horizontal. Truth must be firmly buttressed in God; without this, we are but a stone’s throw away from doctrinal error and spiritual malpractice. [But] in almost every letter, Paul begins with orthodoxy and concludes with orthopraxy, with doctrine and then duty, and much of the orthopraxy has to do with the horizontal accoutrements of the cross—how we relate to one another. The Bible knows nothing of a vertical reconciliation that is not evident in horizontal reconciliation with others.” (2018)
Charles Spurgeon expounds this point further: “Churches are not made that men of ready speech may stand up on Sundays and talk, and so win daily bread from their admirers. No, there is another end and aim for this. These places of worship are not built that you may sit comfortably and hear something that shall make you pass away your Sundays with pleasure. A church which does not exist to do good in the slums, and dens, and kennels of the city, is a church that has no reason to justify its longer existing. A church that does not exist to reclaim heathenism, to fight with evil, to destroy error, to put down falsehood, a church that does not exist to take the side of the poor, to denounce injustice and to hold up righteousness, is a church that has no right to be. Not for yourself, O church, do you exist, any more than Christ existed for Himself.” (1869)
So, what are we to make of all this? There is much work for us, the bridegroom of Christ, to carry out, and “we must not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” [Galatians 6:9]. I urge you to 1) bear each other’s burdens [Galatians 6:2], 2) listen to others’ stories that extend beyond your reality in order to understand rather than respond and 3) give yourself to concerns that are perhaps foreign to your experience. There exists as much hope as travail. I leave you with some of Dr. King’s words during his 1964 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:
“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. ‘And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.’ I still believe that we shall overcome!”
Johanna Smith is a member of the extended Rockbridge Academy community and wife of Stan Smith, appointed Rockbridge board member.
King, Dr. Rev. M. (1955). ‘Montgomery Bus Boycott Speech’, MIA Mass Meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church, 5 December. Available at: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/mia-mass-meeting-holt-street-baptist-church (Accessed: 3 January 2021).
King, Dr. Rev. M. (1964). ‘Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech’, Oslo, Norway, 10 December. Available at: https://www.lwvhcnc.org/PDFs/43708MLK_Speeches.pdf (Accessed: 3 January 2021).
King, Dr. Rev. M. (1965). ‘The American Dream Speech’, Ebenezer Baptist Church, 4 July. Available at: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/mia-mass-meeting-holt-street-baptist-church (Accessed: 3 January 2021).
Loritts, B. (2018). Insider Outsider: My Journey as a Stranger in White Evangelicalism and My Hope for Us All. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Piper, J. (1971). ‘The Image of God: An Approach from Biblical and Systematic Theology’, Desiring God, 1 March. Available at: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-image-of-god (Accessed: 3 January 2021).
Spurgeon, C. (1869). ‘The First Cry from the Cross’, The Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching at Midwestern Seminary, 24 October. Available at: https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-first-cry-from-the-cross/#flipbook/ (Accessed: 3 January 2021).
What do you have planned for 2321? Before you answer, make sure your mind hasn’t auto-corrected that number. The question is not, “What have you planned for the year 2021?”, but in fact, “What have you planned for the year 2321?” The question casts a vision beyond paying off the mortgage, finally taking that trip you’ve been saving for—across the country or around the world, beyond cleaning out the attic (oh, yeah, you did that during COVID), or reading “War and Peace.”
Well, if you don’t have a 300-year plan, the ACCS does. And you are already part of it. The ACCS is the Association of Classical Christian Schools. If your child attends Rockbridge Academy, or any other member school, then your family is part of a generational plan to change and redeem our culture, to restore Christian norms and standards that were once the hallmark of a flourishing society.
I got “on the plan” roughly 20 years ago when my husband and I first discovered classical Christian Education (CCE). When we joined the Rockbridge community in 2002, we heard often of this kind of very long-term thinking. At one school dinner, the story was told by way of illustration, of a group of oak trees planted at Oxford University for the specific purpose of providing new roofing beams in the dining hall centuries hence, when the trees maturity and the roof’s wear would dovetail in this ideal replacement plan. The story is considered myth by some, but even so, the illustration is no less impactful, especially for a community of believers whose God thinks and speaks in just such long terms. God promised to deliver his people out of Egypt after 400 years of slavery, and He sent his son, the savior of the world, into first-century Palestine after a 400 years of silent anticipation. For a God outside of time, centuries and generations take on a different meaning.
Former Rockbridge parent and board chair, Stu Caton, cast a similar vision of time before a group gathered at the Evergreen campus in October 2019 to celebrate the start of Rockbridge Academy’s 25th year. He told the group not to think of this 25th year, but of the 50th year and beyond; not of bringing their children to school, but of driving down Evergreen road to bring, or pickup, or see a history parade with, their grandchildren. Classical and Christian education is always about looking ahead, casting forward, looking to the horizon, expectantly “Look[ing] further up. . . further in” (C.S. Lewis) for the realization of God’s plan.
Which brings us back to the ACCS and your part of the plan. Consider your child[ren] generation one, if you will. Then look ahead two, or three generations. If you are convinced that your children are being uniquely educated to appreciate truth, goodness, and beauty; to think and speak clearly from a biblical worldview, all the while affirming the integration of all creation by God’s making, then you must thrill at the idea of being part of that legacy and seeing the legacy deepen and widen. And that’s why the ACCS exists—to see the growth of CCE and the kind of impact that will ultimately change our world.
If you haven’t visited the ACCS website recently, do it. Maybe you can already easily explain CCE. You did your research and ended up at Rockbridge following thoughtful and thorough decision-making. Even so, a visit to this website will give you renewed encouragement and stimulus about why you are here.
In practical terms, the ACCS is, “The primary public advocate for classical Christian education.” The organization offers, “a wide array of services that help build distinctive schools, [and]. . . provide accountability through accreditation.” In short, “The ACCS seeks to set an educational standard for a unified and directed approach to classical and Christian learning.”
But what makes classical Christian learning such a worthy pursuit? Read on to find out that progressives in the early 20th century set out to deliberately undermine our educational system and its classical Christian heritage. And the plan worked! Fast forward a hundred years and, “The ideas behind classical Christian schools are foreign to modern educators.” That’s because, “progressives worked to remove Christian ideas and purposes from the classroom.” But the ACCS affirms, and by extension, so do you, that CCE’s, “transformative power lies in one truth: Christ is Lord of all.”
So, “What does that mean for how we live? How we think about things? What we value and what we love? In short, education is primarily about what we are trained to love, not just what we are taught to know. Put another way, education is about soul formation, not information. And this formation builds a culture.
To further promote culture-building among ACCS member schools, the ACCS sponsors several contests and awards, including the Blakely Prize in Fine Art and the Chrysostom Oratory Competition. Rockbridge Academy boasts five Blakely and seven Chrysostom winners among its alumni, going back to the inception of these competitions in 2015. These students reflect not only the excellence of our teachers in instructing and cultivating an expression of truth, goodness, and beauty, but the students’ excellent ability to embrace and express these same virtues. The speeches and artwork are themselves are like redemptive cultural artifacts.
The ACCS does a host of other things, from training and certifying teachers, to cultivating relationships with like-minded businesses and higher educational institutions. They also host an annual conference called Repairing the Ruins, which our school participates in. The organization tracks and promotes the success of students in member schools, and has developed The ACCS Initiative, an effort designed and being implemented to expand CCE nationally over the next decade. When you do visit the ACCS website, I encourage you to read through the tabs under “About ACCS” and “What We Do.” Your own vision will be refreshed, and you will be encouraged about the real potential for change that you are making possible, through your own child, and generations beyond.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
It is from these verses in the New Testament that our school motto comes: In captivitatem redigentes omnem intellectum in obsequium Christi. “Intellectum” is the Latin word translated in the ESV as “thought.” The Latin word also has the connotation of understanding, recognition, or sense. “Intellecti” are how we make sense of the world. We don’t always make sense of the world in well-fleshed out arguments and intellectual queries. Most often, our thoughts revolve around the happenings of our lives; our worries, excitements, milestones. The Rockbridge motto argues that these should be taken captive just as much as their well-formulated cousins.
The Paul of 2 Corinthians is no stranger to pervasive thoughts. I’m sure his worries often seemed all encompassing. Facing jail time and unfaithful churches, anxiety must have abounded. But these are the exact kind of thoughts that must be held captive, checked against the knowledge of God and shaped into obedience to Christ to find ultimate comfort and peace. God has promised faithfulness and love and such un-captivated thoughts deny those promises.
Starting a school year in the wake of the COVID pandemic ushers in a whole slate of new worries for many of us. Between distance learning and health concerns, we may be able to relate to Paul’s struggles and anxious thoughts better than we would’ve liked. However, even though we may continue to pick apart Plato, and see God’s fingerprints in calculus, if we do not redirect our worried and anxious thoughts to God’s truth and love, we will not wage spiritual warfare like Paul describes in the first verse. This process of taking our thoughts captive is a strategy on the spiritual battlefield. Doubts and fears can’t stand in our hearts when they are constantly compared to the standard of God.
This is often not as simple as merely recognizing worries and doubts for what they are. It requires us to consistently remind ourselves of the truth about God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. Meditating on God’s word must become a knee-jerk reaction to the trials we face. Belittling those trials is not a solution; the answer comes when we can recognize the true depth of our hardships and continue to remember that even the worst trials will never surpass God’s power and sovereignty. To deny suffering does not increase God’s glory. But He is glorified when we respond to our struggles by turning to His Word.
By taking captive our COVID-obsessed thoughts, we can compare them to the true Word. When they remind us to turn to the God who heals, we should root them fast in our hearts. When they wedge worry and doubt between ourselves and that healing God, we must learn to sacrifice them to our ultimate truth-giver.
Taking thoughts captive is a war-strategy the soldier Christian must learn to employ. The battlefield is their heart, and the prize is peace. As we shape our thoughts into obedience to Christ, we can strip our worries of their blinding control over us. If lofty opinions and strongholds don’t stand a chance, as Paul says, neither do our virus inspired thoughts.
This isn’t to deny the inherently worrying nature of the last six months. Trying to get a child’s education back on track after three months of impromptu homeschooling in the midst of a global pandemic is as good a reason as any to feel nervous. Not to mention the fears naturally built into a long-term state of emergency and the sickness and death surrounding us. But the Christian has the unique ability to persist against these kinds of thoughts during trial, because he can take them captive to a perfectly unchanging thing— the Word. As Christ is the Word incarnate, obedience to Him means accordance with the Word of God. That Word, that truth of God, doesn’t change no matter the number of new COVID cases or Paul’s prison sentence. If anything, the message of hope and faithfulness shines even more starkly against a dark and uncertain background. God asks us to bring our griefs, worries, and problems to Him, so He can solve them with His overflowing love and grace.
I think this is why 2 Corinthians 10:5 is the motto of Rockbridge Academy. The verse doesn’t only mean that the teachers and students pick apart academic conclusions from a Christian worldview, though that is critical. When crises mount against the community, peace will ultimately come when each of our most emotional and personal thoughts are also taken captive to the obedience of Christ. At root, this motto means that the administrators, teachers, staff, and students practice dedicating their worries, joys, fears, and opinions in submission to the unchanging truth of God’s Word, no matter the trial, even a pandemic.
Emily Marsh, '19, is excited to build the Rockbridge Blog to highlight the community that educated and guided her. She is now studying Economics at Hillsdale College, where she’s a captain of the sailing team and an editor of the Hillsdale Blog.
If you’re new at Rockbridge, you’re probably wondering what you should make of unfamiliar traditions, the infamous “graded discussion,” and those perfect students in plaid uniforms? Well, when we were transfer students, our questions were your questions. But as we’ve learned, Rockbridge Academy isn’t as scary as it might sound. Our school loves to welcome new students, no matter the grade. You might feel a little out of place at first, but don’t worry. Soon, you’ll feel like you’ve always been a Rockbridge student. Here are ten simple tips to help you get started.
1. Say Hi. Don’t be shy— say hi! Chances are, others will greet you right back. Introduce yourself to as many people as possible: Grammar students, teachers, and even upperclassmen! (We’d love to meet you!)
2. Meet a Future Classmate. At Rockbridge, new students are usually paired with another student in their grade. This Mentor guides you through your classes, explains Rockbridge traditions, and helps you feel included. Reach out to your Mentor and hang out before school begins. That way, you’ll already know someone on the first day! If you know another student from extracurricular clubs, sports, or church, talk to them as well.
3. Ask Questions. Both in and out of the classroom, someone might bring up a term, activity, or place you’ve never heard before. But don’t worry, no one expects you to know everything right from the start. There’s probably a classmate or teacher around who would be more than happy to explain it to you.
4. Don’t Be Afraid of the Teachers. Before you get to know them, the teachers might seem super intimidating— or maybe just super smart. Don’t forget: teachers were once students, too! They’re here to help you learn, and they want to see you succeed!
5. Learn About the Traditions. Captain’s Cup, Spirit Days, Variety Shows and Musicals. Rockbridge is a unique school and it has a lot of unique traditions as a result. Participating is a great way to meet other students, have fun, and become part of the community. Hopefully, we'll soon be able to pick back up on some of our events or perhaps we'll carve out some cool new socially distanced ones!
6. Get to Know the Classical Slang. If you didn’t attend a classical school before coming to Rockbridge, some of the terms we use might be new to you. Just pay attention to how these new words are implemented and don’t be afraid to ask a teacher or student if you are confused!
7. Take Advantage of Service Time Tutoring. On the doors of some Upper School classrooms, you’ll see brightly colored pieces of paper with “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on your next test!” blazing across the top. Take advantage of the free help from older students during service time.
8. Jump into the Graded Discussions. I know, I know, graded discussions sound intimidating. But at the end of the day, your teacher and classmates are there to help you. The best thing you can do is jump right into the discussion. You might not say all the right things—no one does—but once you’ve become part of the conversation you’ll find it much easier to participate.
9. Speeches Aren’t Scary! Speeches are important at Rockbridge, and they really aren’t as scary as they sound. Take a deep breath, present your piece, and ask for a teacher’s input afterwards. Your classmates have been presenting for years, and they still aren’t perfect! Learn to see speeches as a way to communicate, not as a daunting task that could make or break your grade. Plus, giving speeches in school will prepare you for job interviews, contests, and college!
10. Join in! One of the best ways to jump into the Rockbridge community is to join a sports team, club, or prayer group. Rockbridge also offers clubs ranging from Service Club to Poetry Club to Students for Life. These activities are all great ways to build friendships outside of the classroom, especially with students in other grades. Hopefully, regular activities will resume soon! We'll have to all be creative about finding more ways to connect!
Starting at a new school is daunting, but at Rockbridge Academy, current students make every effort to help you become part of the community. We strive to form relationships that go far beyond the classroom. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says that “two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.” At Rockbridge, you will be surrounded by people who want to lift you up. When you walk through those doors on the first day of school, you are not only entering a new school, but a new community that wants to guide you and help you flourish.
Chloe DuBois, '21, is a military brat, wannabe Narnian, and daughter of the King on a quest to further His kingdom through her stories. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her poring over poetry, hoarding notebooks, and daydreaming about forests far away.
Olivia Reardon, ‘22, loves to write and can usually be found reading a good book. She is part of a dance company and enjoys spending time with friends and eating ice cream.
I’ve spent the last four years at Rockbridge Academy. These four years have been more developmental for my mind, character, and personal relationship with Jesus Christ than all the other fourteen years. In this time, I’ve developed a deep love for everything that makes up Rockbridge. The fact that my time at Rockbridge is over has brought me a sadness I’ve felt for no other earthly institution. But I’m glad that leaving Rockbridge is so hard, because if it was easy, I wouldn’t have had such a strong tie to the school and it wouldn’t have been able to affect me in such momentous ways. Rockbridge and I were mentally, physically, and spiritually involved with each other, and I reaped mental, physical, and spiritual benefits.
I love soccer. I’ve been playing for the majority of my life and it’s something that I really enjoy. Running onto a soccer field with a ball at my feet signals my brain to forget the stress of my homework or job or life and take a bit of time to refresh and reset. I played all four years at Rockbridge and in 11th grade, I was part of the team that won the playoff championship. Winning the championship set high expectations for my Senior year and I hoped to bring home the title a second time.
However, that was not God’s plan for me. As Proverbs says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Prov. 16:9) I had certainly planned my way, but God decided that something else was better for me. On the afternoon of September 24, 2019, I tore my ACL during a regular season game. That may seem bad, but it was actually one of the better things that’s happened in my life. I can assure you that the only reason I can write those words is because of the overwhelming grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and His blessing of peace in the face of hardship.
I remember laying on the ground in a fair amount of pain looking up at the puffy white clouds surrounded by powder blue sky and saying, “Well… I guess I’m not going to be playing soccer for a long time.” But I was at peace. Not physical peace, (my body was revolting against my brain by way of my nerves) but spiritual peace. In a singular instant, all of my plans disappeared, like a ninja who throws down smoke pellets in a movie and vanishes. But the newly created hole was not filled with depression and pain (as I’m sure it could have been). It was filled with submission. When I arrived at the hospital, people were telling me that they were sorry for me and they knew that this was very hard for me and that they were sure I was disappointed. But my response, that I attribute to nothing but the Holy Spirit was: “No, it’s okay, if this is God’s plan for my life then so be it.” I was, by no strength of my own, in complete submission to God’s will.
And God sustained me throughout the entirety of my long recovery. He made every single physical aspect of my daily life harder and in doing so, brought me much closer to His abundant love, mercy, and grace. He personally affirmed the principle that I had begun to write my senior thesis on: Christian joy is uncircumstantial. On September 24, 2019, God gave me a merciful gift.
Now, you may be wondering what my personal testament has to do with Rockbridge Academy. There are two connections. The first is that God has used Rockbridge to grow my faith and prepare me for life and all that it contains. I’m not saying that every student at Rockbridge will automatically become a faithful follower of Jesus Christ (because that is ultimately decided by God alone), but if there’s a school that is most likely to holistically develop children into sons and daughters of the living God, that school is Rockbridge Academy.
The second connection between my testament of God’s grace and Rockbridge is that the Rockbridge community reflected to me the love of Jesus Christ. The impulsive reaction of love and support that I received from the entire Rockbridge community represents what kind of community it is. From the instant I went down on the field, to the day I graduated from physical therapy seven months later, Rockbridge people have shown me great love. Rockbridge people went with me to the emergency room, some in the ambulance with me and some speeding ahead to get there before me. Rockbridge people, including the school headmaster, Mr. Griffith, came to check on me during my brief stay in the emergency room. Before I even made it home, Rockbridge people flooded my phone with texts, telling me that they had heard what happened and that they were praying for me. I knew that I had an entire community loving me and praying for me. And all this at a second’s notice.
The people of Rockbridge make up a community that reflects the love of Jesus Christ to all of its members and the rest of the world, and I am grateful in a deep way that I cannot adequately express, that I was able to have a share in it.
Zachary Reardon, ‘20, is a child of God who enjoys playing soccer, doing math and physics, and talking to people about God. He will be attending Drexel University to major in Mechanical Engineering.
Photo credit: Elliott Crane (class of 2019)
Author: Emily Marsh, class of2019
Emily is excited to build the Rockbridge Blog to highlight the community that educated and guided her. She is now studying Economics at Hillsdale College, where she’s a captain of the sailing team and an editor of the Hillsdale Blog.
Summary: Every year, Rockbridge Academy released a summer book list for her students. This year, these lists seem more critical than ever.
Across the country, families’ summer plans have changed drastically this year. In the wake of canceled sleepaway camps and postponed vacations, summer reading will claim its place more than ever as a critical defense against the creeping summer malaise. The Great Books broaden horizons when travel isn’t an option and don’t require any social distancing. Our literature department has compiled a list of some such books for the student body to tackle this summer; here’s a sampling of them:
- Amelia Bedelia — Peggy Parish
- Corduroy — Don Freeman
- Curious George — H. A. Rey
- Frog and Toad are Friends — Arnold Lobel
- The Garden of Abdul Gasazi — Van Allsburg, Chris
- How the Leopard Got His Claws — Chinua Achebe
- Madeline — Ludwig Bemelmans
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins — Richard and Florence Atwater
- Pippi Longstocking — Astrid Lindgren
- Shiloh — Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
- The Story of Babar — Jean de Brunhoff
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit — Beatrix Potter
- Where the Wild Things Are — Maurice Sendak
- Anne of Green Gables — L. M. Montgomery
- Chronicles of Prydain — Lloyd Alexander
- The Chronicles of Narnia — C. S. Lewis
- D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths — Ingri and Edgar d’Aulaire
- Harriet the Spy — Lousie Fitshugh
- Hatchet — Gary Paulsen
- The Jungle Book — Rudyard Kipling
- Mary Poppings — Pamela I. Travers
- Matilda — Ronald Dahl
- Misty of Chincoteague — Marguerite Henry
- The Secret Garden — France Hodgson Burnett
- Swiss Family Robinson — Johann Wyss
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz — L. Frank Baum
- Tuck Everlasting — Natalie Babbitt
- King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table — Roger Lancelyn Green
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer — Mark Twain
- The Enchanted Castle — E. Nesbit
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn — Betty Smith
- A Wrinkle in Time, Series — Madeline L’Engle
- Alas, Babylon — Pat Frank
- Novels — Agatha Christie
- Hound of the Baskervilles — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- Ender’s Game — Orson Scott Card
- Little Women — Louisa May Alcott
- Profiles in Courage — John F. Kennedy
- Gaudy Night — Dorothy Sayers
- The Lord of the Flies — William Golding
- The Martian Chronicles — Ray Bradbury
- The Scarlet Pimpernel — Baroness Orczy
- To Kill a Mockingbird — Harper Lee
- Treasure Island — Robert L. Stevenson
- Amazing Grace — Eric Metaxas
- Fahrenheit 451 — Ray Bradbury
- Frankenstein — Mary Shelley
- My Early Life — Winston Churchill
- Raft — Stephen Baxter
- Robinson Crusoe — Daniel Defoe
- The Lord of the Rings, Trilogy — J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Three Musketeers — Alexander Dumas
- The Music of Pythagoras — Kitty Ferguson
- The Source — James A. Michener
- Complete Sherlock Holmes — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- How Should We Then Live? — Francis Schaeffer
- The Killer Angels — Michael Shaara
- Mere Christianity, Abolition of Man, Screwtape Letters — C. S. Lewis
- Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl — N. B. Wilson
- The Old Man and the Sea — Ernest Hemingway
- Things Fall Apart — Chinua Achebe
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin — Harriet Beecher Stowe
- The Chosen — Chaim Potok
- Isaac Newton — James Gleick
- Mathematics: Is God Silent? — James Nickel
- Autobiography — Benjamin Franklin
- Thee Confession, City of God — St. Augustine
- The Count of Monte Cristo — Alexandre Dumas
- East of Eden — John Steinbeck
- The Good Earth — Pearl S. Buck
- He Leadeth Me — Walter Ciszek
- Heart of Darkness — Joseph Conrad
- The Last of the Mohicans — James Fenimore Cooper
- North and South — Elizabeth Gaskell
- Anna Karenina, War and Peace — Leo Tolstoy
- Les Miserables — Victor Hugo
- Middlemarch — George Eliot
These books represent some of the Great Books, spanning many different eras of literature, that have shaped Western thought and informed much of its progress. Classical education depends on both looking around ourselves at contemporary works and on looking backwards to the great works that have come before. They may report ideas that deserve a meticulous perusal or describe a completely unfamiliar world, but above all else, they offer enchanting stories that have captivated many generations of learners and will continue to captivate readers.
Dear Rockbridge Families,
The past few months have been exceedingly challenging. The weight of a global pandemic, an economic crisis, and the re-imagining of “school” in an uncertain future felt heavy enough. But then we witnessed something weighty and tragic in a very different sense—the needless and unjust killing of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer. Such carelessness with life is unconscionable. But this tragic event—along with the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor as well as the video recording of Amy Cooper in Central Park —has raised the issue of racial injustice in ways that cannot be ignored, and the ensuing protests and riots have left our nation’s communities in turmoil.
As one of these communities, we find ourselves in a time of introspection, seeking how best to respond. First, Rockbridge Academy is embodied by the people, the relationships, and the work those people have chosen to do together. As a Christian institution, we know that Christ rules over each of his children, old and young alike, and right now his children are hurting, confused, and seeking answers.
Second, our common goal, expressed in Rockbridge Academy’s vision statement has everything to do with how our children will interact with and impact a tumultuous world. The first sentence of our portrait of a graduate is clear: “We aim to graduate young men and women who think clearly and listen carefully with discernment and understanding; who reason persuasively and articulate precisely; who are capable of evaluating their entire range of experience in the light of the Scriptures; and who do so with eagerness in joyful submission to God…”
Right now, our children are watching. If we fail in our example, we will fail in our goal. To the extent that we as a community are not compassionate, we compromise our values. If we are not thinking clearly or listening carefully before we seek to be persuasive and precise, we lose the vision. To the extent that we are not evaluating in the light of the Scriptures or submitting to their Author, neither will our children.
The compassion noted above requires humility, it requires the real sacrifice of listening and inquiring before speaking, and it requires that very tricky skill called empathy; mourning with those who mourn. As I mourn and process my own grief, it is difficult to imagine the depths of pain and sorrow endured by the mothers and fathers of black sons and daughters who have suffered injustice. Their grief, burdens, and anxieties did not begin with recent events; they’ve struggled with such things for decades, in ways I will likely never experience. What will bearing one another’s burdens look like for our community as a result of this reality? This is a question worth pondering together.
To those in our school community who parent African-American, bi-racial, or multicultural children, know that I am grieving with you. I will never fully comprehend what you feel right now, and I will fumble for the right words to say, but please know that you are dear to me—and to us. I have spoken with many minority families at Rockbridge Academy through the years and know that whether your ethnic background is African, Hispanic, Asian or otherwise, joining a school community that is predominantly white takes courage. Yet your choice for Rockbridge Academy creates the opportunity to celebrate the unity of Christ, profoundly enriching the impact of this education for everyone. We want and need you, and we want Rockbridge to become more and more the school that always feels like family to you.
Even in a community of earnest Christians such as ours, perspectives over “correct responses” to recent events vary greatly. Calls to action run the gamut. In such a confusing time, the unity we long for does not come through conformity to any one person or group’s standard. Rather, Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 4, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” to be, “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” May this be our goal as we pursue Christ together.
The beauty of this unusually fair Maryland springtime stands juxtaposed to the volatile series of events going on around us. Perhaps the Lord has slowed us down and tethered us to home to get our attention, that we can be still enough to listen and behold both His beauty and His holiness. May the Lord redeem this homebound time as He teaches us to reflect, to pray, and to consider how our future together can reflect the love of Christ in new and more profound ways.
In Christ Alone,
When people learn my dad is in the military, one of their first questions is, “How often have you moved?”
This question immediately stops me, not only because I have count—now up to seven—but also because it brings to mind memories of every place I’ve lived. I can almost see my friends, my schools, and my homes—all left behind in places to which I’ll probably never return.
Whether or not you’ve moved, everyone experiences change—currently called “Covid-19.” Rather than moving, we’re forced to stay at home in isolation. I’ll be honest—change makes it easy to become bitter towards God. I can’t number the nights I’ve laid awake in a makeshift bed, sobbing into my pillow and wanting to say, “Why?”
God, why did I have to leave my friends? Why wasn’t I able to finish the school year? Why can’t I go on Grand Tour, graduate, present my thesis in person, attend an awards ceremony, tell my teachers “Thank You”....?
Every time we move, I wonder what plan God could possibly have for this trial. And yet, despite my ungratefulness, he proves his faithfulness again and again, growing me in ways I never could have expected.
Here are three things God reminds me of every move—and even when I’m isolated.
1. God Sustains Me
Some days you’re happy, healthy, and content, so you see no need to ask God for anything. When you remember to pray, it’s usually a request such as, “God, let me ace this test,” as the test is placed in front of you.
Often we treat God as a backup measure to ensure our lives will go smoothly. We’ll pray to him when it’s convenient, or when we need a little assurance to add to our confidence. In times like these, God has become our last resort, not our first thought.
But when I move, my security slips away. I’m in a new place, faced with new people and new surroundings. I can no longer find certainty in myself, because half the time, I’m not even certain I’m okay.
It’s at times like these I feel closest to God. I’m forced to plead with him in prayer and ask for his guidance. And every time, he answers me. He draws me to himself and gives me a sense of calm only he can provide.
Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.”
What trouble are you facing right now? Are you struggling to get along with your family? To keep up with online school? To rest in God’s sovereignty?
Maybe it’s time we turned to God as our refuge and strength. How will we see his faithfulness at work?
2. God Answers Prayer
As a family, we keep a prayer journal. When we move, many of our requests reoccur: prayer for a house, new schools, or a gospel-preaching church. And every single time, God answers our prayers, usually in ways we don’t expect.
When we moved to Washington, D.C., we prayed for a house and got a home four doors down from a good public school.
When we moved to Annapolis, we prayed for a school and one year later found ourselves here, at Rockbridge Academy.
When we moved to Virginia Beach, we prayed for a church and were enveloped by a welcoming, Gospel-preaching community of fellow homeschooling believers, some of whom we still stay in touch with years later.
Every time we move, we’re faced with uncertainty over these basic necessities. But God always answers, whether it’s days, weeks, or months later.
Colossians 4:2 reminds us to “continue steadfastly in prayer,” even when it seems God isn’t listening.
The prayer notebook has helped me immensely. It’s incredibly encouraging to reread prayers he’s answered in the past. If you’re struggling to recall God’s faithfulness in your life, maybe consider keeping one of your own. Write the date plus “Covid” and whatever you’re wrestling with. Maybe a year from now, you’ll realize he sustained you after all.
3. God Has a Plan
If you grew up attending Sunday School, you’re probably familiar with songs such as “God is so Good.” Back then, it was easy for me to sing those songs and fully believe every word. But when I moved, God seemed to be the opposite of good. Would a good God rip me away from my budding friendships? Would a good God send me to my 5th school in 5 years? Would a good God take away everything and leave me lonely? It just wasn’t fair.
Or was it? When life seems unfair, when we’re stuck in isolation, sometimes we forget to recognize God’s sovereign plan.
Jeremiah 29:11 was originally spoken to the Israelites, God’s chosen people, during their exile in Babylon. But as Christians, we should remember its implications for us.
It says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
God is not promising to make our lives easy and blessed—far from it. Instead, through trials and tribulations, he promises to sanctify us and conform us to Christ (Romans 8:29). He has a plan for each of our lives—including yours. God wrote your story before you were born—even before the world was created. Instead of resenting his power, you can find comfort in it, trusting that his sovereignty and faithfulness will sustain you through Covid-19.
God’s Faithfulness in Our Future
Because of Christ, we are God’s chosen people (1 Peter 2:9). He rescued us from the exile caused by our sin and will one day return us to his Father’s kingdom, where we will praise God’s name forever and ever. Ultimately, Earth is not our home—Heaven is. And if you are in Christ, you can say with the Psalmist:
“I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you... from the deadly pestilence” (Psalm 91: 2-3).
So next time you watch the latest news broadcast, remember God’s faithfulness. Remember that he alone is your sustainer, the one who hears your every prayer and holds your life in his hands. And though you might feel stuck at home, remember your eternal home, where you will reside with him forever.
Great is his faithfulness.
By Roy Griffith, Headmaster
"Formation of the soul–both mind and heart–not only makes us more human, it provides the ability to effectively discern and properly act on whatever data the world streams our way."
Few people recognize the name Claude Elwood Shannon. Born in Petoskey, Michigan in 1916, young Claude loved to tinker with mechanical and electrical things. He was known in the neighborhood for turning the barbed-wire fence that ran the half-mile between his house and his friend’s into a working telegraph, allowing the boys to send secret messages back and forth. Never mind flashing lanterns between bedroom windows like normal kids, Claude preferred his Morse code electrified, thank you very much.
As a teen, Claude worked as a messenger with Western Union (go figure!) but went on to earn dual bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics at the University of Michigan. Moving on to MIT for graduate school, it was Claude Shannon who first connected the 1’s and 0’s of Boolean algebra to the simple “on/off” of an electrical circuit.
Shannon’s adaptation of algebraic logic to circuits was the theory behind the workings of modern-day computers. And it was Claude’s master’s thesis of 1937 that most people credit as the inception of today’s digital revolution. This ability to distill thought into electrical circuits not only revolutionized industrial economy of Shannon’s day, it soon overshadowed it. The Industrial Age of mass production into which the baby-boom generation was born has given way to today’s Digital Age of mass information.
It’s scary to think about how much digital information is created in a day. Just consider how many cellphone pictures are snapped each moment throughout the world, not to mention all the texts, emails, video, coding, etc… and this all made accessible to anyone by the internet. The amount of data circulating in the world boggles the mind. A well-known technology periodical (a digital magazine, of course) estimates that by 2020 the total bytes of digital data flowing through all the world’s circuitry will equal the number of grains of sand on all the shores of the earth… multiplied by 57!
It is easy to shake our heads in disbelief at such a proliferation of information. We might long for simpler times when barbed-wire telegraphs were a novelty. It is certainly daunting to consider how to prepare your grandchildren to deal with all of this information constantly available from so many glowing screens. How can anyone process it all? How can anyone possibly keep up?
"There will always be more information. The higher priority is formation."
The short answer is that no one can keep up with it all; and we must battle the lie that we have to. We don’t need bigger “hard drives” in our head to hold more data. What we do need, and what Rockbridge Academy is seeking to impart to this next generation, is the ability to think. There will always be more information. The higher priority is formation. Formation of the soul–both mind and heart–not only makes us more human, it provides the ability to effectively discern and properly act on whatever data the world streams our way.
Education that is preoccupied with merely stuffing children’s heads with information while insisting on constant access to more and more data is a failed education. That is why today’s common tactic of giving each youngster a computer screen in the classroom is a failed strategy. Yes, our kids can access a fire hose of data on the internet, but who is teaching them to think? Who is modeling for them what is worthy of their affections? Certainly, information is an important part of education, but in many ways it is only grist for the mill of training the mind and the heart to think, to love, and, finally, to act. So how might this be done? We believe the answer can be found in classical Christian education and the Trivium (the grammar, logic, rhetoric stages of learning).
In the grammar years, students receiving a classical Christian education are taught how to fill their minds with rich information, honing the young child’s already innate ability to memorize, categorize, and admire what is true, good, and beautiful. Scripture, poetry, song, chant, scientific taxonomy, stories of history and literature, are worthy grist for little souls.
Meanwhile, budding adolescents become adept at argument. God has wired them this way. Therefore, by training them in logic and debate, these minds are formed to argue well, and students are capable of pulling apart the information coming at them from all sides to question the logical fallacies they see.
The rhetoric years capitalize on an older teen’s desire to make a difference, and so the high school student is taught to draw together all he has learned, thereby forming his opinions into a persuasive, compelling case. Rhetoric students learn to be wise and winsome, to appreciate others’ arguments, and to acknowledge that there is a Truth, a Goodness, and a Beauty by which all information can be weighed. Through it all, we challenge them to examine what they really love and consider whether those things are worthy of their affections.
"Education that is preoccupied with merely stuffing children’s heads with information while insisting on constant access to more and more data is a failed education."
Because it is concerned with formation, there is something timeless about such an education. Ironically, Claude Elwood Shannon’s ability to think (without a computer screen) birthed the current digital revolution we are enjoying. However, he was a product of a very different era, where minds were naturally trained by mining information slowly out of real books, where the natural beauty of the Michigan countryside was not eclipsed by screenshots, and where character was formed by hard circumstances forcing you to make the most out of what you had–even a barbed wire fence.
Don’t get me wrong, the Digital Age is a gift from God. The question is, how will we use it? Will we be satisfied to lazily download information into our children’s heads and call the job done, or will we insist on the thoughtful formation of their souls?
A Charge to Laugh Well and Laugh Often
“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.” Ecclesiastes 11:9
Pastor Unthank was asked to give the charge at the end-of-year Awards Assembly. Enjoy his exhortation to laugh.
Have you heard that ancient Chinese curse which parents would proclaim on only the most disobedient of their children? The parent, looking at their bad kid, would proclaim: “O, may you live in interesting times!” Turn on the news and you may be tempted to think that that curse has finally landed upon us—these are interesting times we live in, to say the least.
But I think it’s more encouraging to point out that for every child at Rockbridge Academy, there is the blessing of parents who in the midst of these interesting times were concerned enough, in sending their kids to a classical Christian school no less, to have their children grow and live and participate wisely in such a cursed world. This is the world we live in, a world that is East of Eden. Fallen. And it is groaning as it waits for Christ’s final, all-encompassing redemption. While we wait, we seek wisdom—wisdom for how to live in these interesting days.
We live in an age of atomic power, but also under the threat of nuclear proliferation. It is an age of globalized trade but also worldwide terrorism. We enjoy the freedom of instant communication but we’re also extremely individualized, more isolated, more distracted. We live in a time of liberty and free association but crumbling relationships and confused identities. Our economy seems to be doing fantastic, yet the very fabric of our society seems to be ripping at the center.
I don’t want you to be overly-burdened by the Goliath outside we call “the World”—that is far too serious a thing to be thinking about as we head into the summer; and, as Peter Kreeft puts it, life is already too serious enough to be taken too seriously. No, Psalm 2 tells us that God, who sits in the heavens laughs, and if we are to be heavenly minded at all I think we need to laugh right along with Him. If that’s true, and I think it is, then we ought to laugh often.
So, my first charge to all of you is to make sure you spend your summer laughing—it not only prepares your heart for glory, but laughter is often the sound wisdom makes in the midst of a fallen world. Consider Solomon’s charge in Ecclesiastes 11:9, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.” So, young men and women, obey God and go have fun this summer!
Of course, the very next verse says, you should know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. So, don’t get weird this summer. Just make sure you laugh and that you’re laughing at the right things. Your laughing should be good and beautiful and true laughter.
Hang out with your friends and tell good stories late into the night and laugh about it. Parents, chase your young kids around the house this summer and tickle them until the laughing hurts. Watch the funniest movies and laugh until your cry. Dads, this is your summer! Work hard and sharpen your dad jokes. They may not show it but, trust me, your kids are laughing on the inside.
Solomon tells us there is a time to weep and a time to laugh. And my prayer for you all is that this summer would be a sweet time filled with laughter. Good, godly laughter.
This is, again, just a small part of what it means to live as wise people in a fallen world. We can laugh because we know how this story ends—in the end God will wipe away every tear. Scripture does not say He will wipe away our laughter. No, we will keep on laughing with the God who created laughter.
When the Son of God became incarnate and Jesus began his ministry he was known as a Man of Sorrows; Isaiah tells us he was someone deeply acquainted with grief. And yet, he came eating and drinking, he was a friend to tax collectors and sinners and there is, to be sure, no greater incubator for laughter than the very human quality of friendship. The Pharisee’s must’ve hated Jesus’ laughter—it highlighted their own gloomy existence!
As followers of Christ—as the spiritual descendants of his redemptive work upon the cross—my charge for you is to walk boldly into these interesting times with a joyful heart, a heart that can still find time to laugh even in the ever increasing darkness that we call East of Eden. Consider Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who in the face of the greatest darkness the world would ever see—the crucifixion of the Son of God—He was able still to endure the cross and despise its shame. Why? Because of the joy that was set before him.
In Jesus Christ, our future is set—there is a glorious inheritance to be enjoyed, unending joy with Christ, laughing as we inevitably will be around the table and feast which Revelation calls the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
No matter how dark the world around us gets, no matter how interesting our era becomes, remember Christ and look forward to Christ and in him find true joy. Laugh well and laugh often!
 See Leon R. Kass, Leading A Worthy Life: Finding Meaning In Modern Times, (Encounter Books, New York,2017) p. 9.
 ibid, p. 9.