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Unexpected Lessons on Grand Tour

April 25, 2024
By Jessica Wenger, Class of 2025

Grand Tour is a very unique experience that Rockbridge Academy students get to enjoy. On this academic trip, students spend two and a half weeks traveling to many parts of Greece and Italy such as Athens, Corinth, Rome, Sienna, and Florence. They get to actually see the places that they have learned about for so many years and understand the way the ancients thought through the physical things they left behind. True to the classical Christian method, though, the goal of Grand Tour is not merely to grow students intellectually, but to teach students to trust in God's redemptive work. God taught me many lessons through my experiences on Grand Tour. He did this through revealing my sin, showing me His abounding mercy, and exemplifying His greatness.

The first way that God worked in me on Grand Tour was through revealing my sin to me. Through this He gave me the opportunity to grow as one of His children. While on Grand Tour, we were in a new city almost every night, away from home, taking in large amounts of information, and constantly spending time with our classmates. While all these things were great blessings, they also opened the door for certain temptations. After conversations with some of my classmates, I found that many of us struggled with the sin of comparison. God made each of us uniquely and blessed each of us in different ways, but so often I found myself coveting the talents, relationships, and reputations of my peers. This is not the way that a child of God who has been blessed so much by Him should behave. 

God helped me to fight this temptation through journaling. Mr. Keehner required us to write one page of reflection on how we saw God at work each day. This process kept me from dwelling in my own thoughts and forced me to write them out and think about how I should respond in light of what Christ had done for me. I needed to rely on His sovereign will in order to learn contentment.

Another lesson that God taught me while I was on Grand Tour was how His mercy applies to my day-to-day life. While we were on the bus one morning, Mrs. Ball read to us Psalm 103:10, which says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” Now as a Christian, I already knew this, but I had not been living as if I knew it. I knew that God would not condemn me because Christ had been condemned for me, but I lived holding my breath, waiting for God to send temporal consequences for my sin, which would, no doubt, ruin my trip. One evening I realized, as I was looking out at the sun falling beneath the Adriatic Sea, that God had blessed me with yet another amazing day, yet I had fallen short of what He called me to time and time again. The verse that Mrs. Ball had read came back to me, and I was brought to tears by the abounding mercy of God. Each day He continued to delight in blessing me when what I really deserved was punishment.

The last way that God grew me on Grand Tour was through exemplifying His greatness. When I sat at the top of the mountain at Delphi and looked out over the sprawling mountain ranges, the misty olive groves below, and the wildflowers which grew out of the face of the rock, I realized how small everything in my life was in comparison to the greatness of God. It brought back words to my mind of a song that I had not sung since I was in elementary Sunday school. While the words of this song are so simple, I continued to meditate on the mysteries behind them for the rest of the trip.

Lord, You are more precious than silver;
Lord, You are more costly than gold;
Lord, You are more beautiful than diamonds,
And nothing I desire compares to You.

Lord, Your love is higher than the mountains;
Lord Your love is deeper than the seas;
Lord, Your love encompasses the nations,
And YET, You live right here inside of me.

It truly is amazing that a God so vast and great dwells in the souls of sinful mortals like us. He continues to sanctify us through His holy word and the experiences we have in our lives. He graciously reveals to us our sins, but readily showers us with mercy. His greatness is revealed to us through all His works, and I was truly blessed to have seen him at work in such a unique way on Grand Tour. 
 Jessi Wenger is a senior at Rockbridge Academy who has been a part of the school since she was in kindergarten. Her favorite areas of study are theology, literature, and philosophy. In her free time, she enjoys participating in performing arts, such as the Rockbridge musical and variety show, along with taking and teaching dance classes. She also enjoys writing poetry, cooking, reading, gardening, and making homemade soaps and candles.

Godspeed and Resurrection

April 10, 2024
By Roy Griffith, Headmaster

While all that borrows life from thee is ever in thy care, and everywhere that Man can be, thou God art present there.
I Sing the Almighty Power of God—Isaac Watts

In the opening week of school, we spread the word that the unifying theme for the year at Rockbridge Academy would be the simple salutation, Godspeed. In an essay about Godspeed written in early September, I challenged our community to ask God how to abide in Christ in the individual moments of life, to take each step under His lordship, and so to literally do life at God’s speed. Because He has seemingly hardwired a certain pace for most activities of daily life, we should find ourselves slowing down (or speeding up) to intentionally keep in step with His lordship over each task of our day.

From the setting aside of schole weeks throughout the year in upper school with extended time for meditation and discovery, to the weekly focus on theological truth in grammar school during Monday Morning Catechism, or even in our personal goals, like the challenge I made to myself to slow down enough to learn every child’s name by the end of October, Godspeed has been about a joyful and intentional stewardship of the minutes and hours granted us. As a result, I see the community of Rockbridge Academy loving God more worshipfully and loving neighbor more intentionally.

From the Moment to the Momentary
But alas, no sooner had the September leaves started changing, than the Lord began impressing on us an even more profound lesson of Godspeed. Having been around this community for many years, I can attest that there has never been a season so unspeakably tender, so poignantly Providential, and yet so exceedingly painful for Rockbridge families as the valley of tears we have experienced in recent months. Rockbridge Academy has had more dads inexplicably pass away than one can count on one hand. This has been as grueling as it has been mindboggling. Yet one thing we do know is that if Godspeed is about the reality of abiding in Christ’s lordship each moment, nothing reveals a sense of that lordship like the tragedies that show us how momentary this life can be.

In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis famously stated that, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Humbly, I would posit that our Father has been shouting love messages to us through this succession of recent calamities. Contrary to adding insult to injury, these multiplied losses within the Rockbridge community have somehow served to amplify the LORD’s love for His people …to a cosmic proportion. On one hand, such a deluge of events causes us to fall on our faces and cry out in holy disbelief, “The Lord Almighty! He reigns!” Yet at the same time, witnessing over and over the redemptive stories brought out at each funeral, seeing the fruit of the Gospel being celebrated, and repeatedly witnessing the people of God close ranks around hurting families in service, mourning, and generosity only confirms beyond doubt that we are held firmly by a loving Father.

Not One Drop Wasted 
Years ago, when my own dad, a very healthy sixty-year-old, died unexpectedly in his sleep, God met me through the book of Ecclesiastes and did battle with my throbbing disbelief. The words on the page did not remove the aching pain that ebbed and flowed in my heart, but relentless truth from God’s word galvanized an internal assurance that Christ has forever removed the sting of death. Regardless of whether we want to acknowledge it or not… Love wins. Joy conquers. Jesus reigns. In the same way, raw, unadulterated, industrial grade assurance is being poured out on our community through these tragedies, assurance that Jesus Christ rules over all. May the year of 2023-24 serve as a lasting witness to our children.

As we celebrated Easter, both mourning and celebrating over recent events, we are forced to the bold precipice of the resurrection and have to admit that it could not be with caprice or coldness that the Father offered up his own Son to death on a cross. Likewise, in the months ahead, we can be confident that our loving Father will not waste one drop of this year’s agony in His plans to bring the abiding good of His redemption to this community. 

Godspeed. He is Risen!

Posted in Worship

Classical Christian Science: Competency Plus Virtue

March 07, 2024
By Robyn Kennedy, Upper School Science Teacher

"Science is the search for the truth.” 
– Linus Pauling, founder of Quantum Chemistry & Molecular Biology

Imagine a medical student memorizing cardiovascular system pathology for his licensing exam. Picture a pilot polishing up her landing skills in an aircraft simulator. Think of a teenage boy playing a car-racing video game.  When does the medical student learn compassion for his patients? How does the pilot train for the courage that gives her a steady hand? Which game module teaches the adolescent driver good judgment? All three scenarios present a person who has trained for hours, weeks, or even years honing the skills necessary for their vocation; yet all three are missing elements essential to their roles. In contrast, a classical Christian education seeks to develop the whole person from competency to relationship to virtue. At Rockbridge, science classes are no exception.

Consider a scientist who has completed all the necessary education to be a leader in her field. She is familiar with cutting-edge research, and she has the analytical skills to design and build solutions. But in which class did she learn to appreciate the complexity of real-world problems? What research did she do on the ethics of her specialty? How much training has she had on written and oral communication to experts and decision-makers in the broader world? Modern scientists are trained to be competent, but lack preparation in interpersonal skills and moral character.

Science knowledge has exploded in the last century. The reflex response in education has been to cram more technical skills into the science classroom. In contrast, a liberal arts education is larger than the mere transmission of technical information. Modern classical science aims to combine practical knowledge with transformation of the social and personal aspects of a student’s character. As a classical Christian school, Rockbridge Academy pursues this transformation in light of biblical truths which develop the student as a bearer of the imago Dei.

In the dialectic years, students cultivate disciplined mental habits through systematic training in logic and Latin. As they move into rhetoric science, the focus shifts to developing habits in both computational and analogical thinking. While memorization and repetition are important, we eschew any method that limits learning to regurgitation of facts and algorithms in order to pass a test.  Robust learning must be held in tension with contemplation, wonder, rest, and connection to the narrative of science, the story through which we see God’s incredible creation.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
– Philippians 2:3-4

The prevailing secular model for bright students seeking to make an impact on the world is a laser-like focus on areas of self-interest: grades, accolades, and individual accomplishments. As Rockbridge students build a foundation of scientific competency, we seek to create an environment which is truth-seeking for the benefit of the whole, not advantage-seeking for the benefit of the one. Rhetorical skills in speaking and writing are developed and used to teach and mentor others. Students are encouraged to ask questions about science and faith as they practice thinking deeply and putting difficult thoughts into words. They are led to see their developing abilities in the light of humility and stewardship: the humility of seeking truth rather than seeking rewards, and stewardship of the earth as we partner with God to be redeemers of culture and creation.

Foremost, our goal for the students at Rockbridge Academy is to guide their journey into full personhood. From the early days of grammar school until the final year of rhetoric, science students are encouraged to order their loves as they seek knowledge. We worship the Creator and have confidence in Him alone. We learn with boldness and purpose, not with fear of an unknown future. Our posture toward truth is one of awe as we see the Creator’s fingerprints on all of creation. We pray for students to leave these halls with every part of their education integrated into a whole, harmonious person: able to fulfill God’s call as stewards of creation, liberated in the freedom of Christ.


Robyn Kennedy has a degree in chemical engineering and a background in manufacturing and data acquisition systems. She teaches upper school science at Rockbridge Academy. Her husband is a retired Navy captain, and she and her family have served our country for many years at duty stations all over the world and around the country. She has four children and three of them are currently students at Rockbridge Academy.

The Roots of Rockbridge Academy

January 24, 2024
By Olivia Reardon, Class of 2022

Like most great things in this world, Rockbridge Academy was born out of a problem. In 1994, a few like-minded couples with children reaching school age began to ask the question, “How are we going to educate our kids?” These parents desired a Christ-centered education for their children, yet as they surveyed Maryland's education landscape, they found it severely lacking. Not willing to settle when it came to their children, and especially their children’s relationship with the Lord, these couples set out upon a journey that led to the founding of the school we know and love today. Out of prayerful consideration, dedicated work, and God’s faithfulness, Rockbridge Academy came to be.

Out of prayerful consideration, dedicated work, and God’s faithfulness, Rockbridge Academy came to be.

Rockbridge Academy was founded by Rob and Laura Tucker, Dave and Kim Hatcher, and Mark and Kathy Lease: six parents with strong faith and a clear mission. One of these founders and mother of two Rockbridge graduates, Laura Tucker, says she and the other parents “desired to have a Christ-centered education for [their children] and godly training that reflected their training at home.” Tucker imagined a situation in which the training her children received at home and at school flowed seamlessly together, all pointing toward Christ. Jana Trovato, a parent of five Rockbridge graduates who became a part of the Rockbridge family in its third year, explains that this would look like “subjects taught under the Word of God, from teachers and staff that love God, who loved what they taught, who were aiming to live faithfully to him and to encourage their students in their relationship to Christ.” Clearly, an education in which Christ is foremost was important to Rockbridge founders and early families.

Clearly, an education in which Christ is foremost was important to Rockbridge founders and early families.

With this mission in mind, these parents began to prayerfully consider their options. Trovato cites Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson as a resource that greatly influenced the start of Rockbridge. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning provides a practical approach to the principles of classical education as outlined by Dorothy Sayers in her essay “The Lost Tools of Learning.” Trovato explains that Rockbridge is “classical in the sense of teaching all subjects via the Trivium: grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages, consistent with the ages of the children and their development stages, in giving the students tools of learning, a love for learning, for life-long learning.” These concepts come straight from Sayers’ essay. Additionally, classical education is focused on educating the students’ hearts and minds. Heidi Stevens, who began teaching at Rockbridge in 1997 and is now a board member, says that “the emphasis on human formation that runs through classical education's content-rich curriculum invites students to seek wisdom and virtue while maturing as whole and able people.” Here was the model of education that would both teach their children academics and nurture their character in submission to God. Now that these couples had their mission and their plan, all that was left to do was pray that if it be His will, God would provide the means to build a school.

Here was the model of education that would both teach their children academics and nurture their character in submission to God.

As one might imagine, starting a school from nothing and no money takes much time and hard work, and the path to establishing Rockbridge was far from straight. Nonetheless, God provided at every turn. Tucker explains that “in July before Rockbridge Academy opened, God provided three teachers with one as a Head of School, and they knew they were not promised a paycheck. Nonetheless, they were convinced that classical Christian education was crucial, and they desired to be a part of it.” One of these teachers was Jen Schingeck, who was convinced to join forces with these founders by reading Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning. In addition to teachers, the founders were searching for a building to house their school. Schingeck explains that the Baldwin Educational building was willing to rent the bottom room of their building to Rockbridge, but it needed renovations. So Rockbridge met at Riva Trace Baptist Church until the renovations were complete. Tucker says, “God provided everything just in time for the doors to open in September 1995. It was truly His work, and He made it clear by keeping the six founders on their knees until the last minute asking Him to provide.” Through the hard work of these founders and God’s faithful hand, Rockbridge Academy opened its doors in 1995 with 23 students K-4th grade.

Through the hard work of these founders and God’s faithful hand, Rockbridge Academy opened its doors in 1995 with 23 students K-4th grade.

Although this was a momentous occasion, it did not mark the end of difficulty and hard work. The first year proved exhausting for these teachers as they taught many subjects and grade levels and developed curriculum. And the teachers were not the only ones sacrificing time and energy for this school; it truly was a community endeavor. Tucker comments that “throughout the first year, [parents] volunteered to sweep the floors and clean the classrooms because they were grateful and delighted to watch their children learn in this classical Christian setting.” But in the midst of these hardships, God continued to provide. He provided people happy to serve their children and their community, the resources needed for the students to continue learning, monthly paychecks for the teachers, and enough students to keep the doors open. In fact, by the second year, God had tripled student attendance. And Rockbridge only continued to grow from there.

Now, 29 years later, it is easy to look back and see God’s faithfulness throughout the life of Rockbridge Academy. The Lord faithfully provided our own campus where over 400 students now learn and fellowship together. Trovato echoes the six founders' vision when she says, “From the beginning, the desire and vision was to build a school that would be for generations, not only for our children, but for our children's children; for generations to come.” Mr. and Mrs. Trovato are able to see the beginnings of this vision as they have a grandson currently in 3rd grade at Rockbridge. Additionally, the Lord continues to provide amazing faculty and staff who all desire to train up the next generation in submission to Christ, of which Jen Schingeck and her husband, Bob, are still a part. The Schingecks’ five children now attend Rockbridge, and Jen notes that “one of the sweetest most amazing things was realizing that in those years that I sacrificed my time and resources to the Lord by working at Rockbridge, the Lord’s plan was for my children to eventually benefit from that work.” God’s faithfulness is always at work, often in ways that we cannot even imagine.

 “From the beginning, the desire and vision was to build a school that would be for generations, not only for our children, but for our children's children; for generations to come.” 

These founders’ vision, mission, and hard work as upheld by God’s faithfulness are the roots of Rockbridge Academy. Although the founders’ idea began as a little mustard seed, their tender care and God’s providence sent its roots down deep and branches high. As our branches continue to soar heavenward, as Rockbridge continues to minister to God’s people, it is my prayer that we never forget the roots that uphold us, for without them this school would never be. In the midst of the Lord’s abundant blessings, let us remain on our knees forever, thanking and praising God for His faithfulness.

 As our branches continue to soar heavenward, as Rockbridge continues to minister to God’s people, it is my prayer that we never forget the roots that uphold us, for without them this school would never be. In the midst of the Lord’s abundant blessings, let us remain on our knees forever, thanking and praising God for His faithfulness.


Olivia Reardon, class of 2022, currently attends Messiah University where she studies English, education, and dance. When she is not tutoring at the Writing Center or performing with Messiah's dance ensemble, she can be found reading, spending time with friends, and eating ice cream.

Posted in School Culture

On War Stories

November 29, 2023
By Nathan Northup, former dialectic Bible teacher

This article was written in March 2020 by Nathan Northup, Rockbridge Academy Bible teacher. He went to be with the Lord on November 2, 2023. His legacy will live on through the hundreds of people he loved, served, and counseled, both in his ministry to the church and in the Rockbridge community.

“Kick in the gates of hell! I’ll see you on the other side!” is the charge I imagine a great military commander bellowing out to his troops as they storm forward with swords raised high to take captive the great fortified city: Death. The Lord Jesus Christ said that the gates of Hades (death) will not prevail over His Church. As Christians, we know that we have been delivered from the dominion of sin and death and into the glorious kingdom of our Lord and thus enlisted as soldiers in the great battle, not against flesh and blood but against the principalities in the heavenly places.

In particular, here at Rockbridge Academy, our very motto is to TAKE EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE and make it obedient to Christ Jesus. The principle is clear throughout the Christian Scriptures that WORSHIP IS WARFARE when we consider all the oddly warlike language used to describe our journey. Every baptism, prayer, song, sermon, sharing in the body and blood of Christ, hearty joyful giving is an act of war. This war is waged with faith, hope, and love. We’ve been given weapons for offense and elements for defense. We desire that God destroy all of His and our enemies by capturing their hearts and adopting them into His family, enlisting them in His army, converting them to change their allegiances. We pray and preach and praise to this end. So then, when we gather as God’s New Covenant people for corporate worship, we have drawn our battle lines, and we go to war. All who are in this battle were once on the other side of the field and were graciously conquered by our triumphant King who leads us in His glorious procession.  

This is why, every Monday in the Dialectic Bible classes, I ask for war stories. These war stories are testimonies of what God was doing in their life during the battle in the previous Lord’s Day corporate worship. Most of the time, the students testify to the Word of God given by their pastors, but we also hear stories of baptisms, confirmations, first communions, missionary testimonies, and more. I will sometimes jest that very rarely, if ever, have I had someone come back from the battle and testify to what a great encounter they had with the only true and Triune God during the tithes and offering portion of the service.

When all is said and done, I desire for my students to see the hand of God working in their midst and to rejoice in what He is doing as He works through them to destroy evil in our lives and the world around us. When we head off to worship Christ our King, let us kick in the gates of Hell so that when we have overcome on that great Day, we can look back across the battlefield and raise our swords and glasses to the One who has overcome and trampled down death by death giving us His very life that we may conquer and live with Him!  

When all is said and done, I desire for my students to see the hand of God working in their midst and to rejoice in what He is doing as He works through them to destroy evil in our lives and the world around us.

Posted in Worship

5 Lessons I Learned on Grand Tour

May 17, 2023
By Olivia Reardon, Class of 2022

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.


Posted in School Culture

Mr. Northup Points to God's Providence

May 11, 2023
By Hannah Bates, class of 2024

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. 

Posted in School Culture

Letting God Work Through Relational Ministry

November 17, 2022
By Sarah Williams, Class of 2020

Faithfulness over time works wonders in the heart of man. This past summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to experience this firsthand. I traveled to Budapest, Hungary for a month with the Navigators, a worldwide Christian organization.

I learned so much from this trip, but I learned something special—that Hungarians take friendship very seriously. Once you make friends with a Hungarian, you will be friends for life. Because of this cultural norm for friendship, ministry in Hungary is relational. This basically means forming relationships and building trust are a necessary part of sharing the gospel in Hungary.

One sweet example of spiritual conversations stemming from relational ministry happened when my team and I took a trip into the mountains of Slovenia with twenty-three Hungarian college aged students. In most of their minds, this was just a really cool summer camp opportunity. For my team, it was a gateway to relationships, trust, and spiritual conversations. One day, my group was sitting in a beautiful grassy field at the foot of a mountain. As we waited to begin hiking, we split into pairs to discuss the question, “What is trust?” I was paired with Martzi, a student in school studying psychology. He typed me as an extrovert five minutes after he met me. (Who would’ve thought Sarah Williams would be typed as an extrovert? I was proud of that!) I had talked to him a good bit before, so when it came to this question, we were able to jump right in. Martzi is not a believer, but he shared with me that he liked this community because they were different. He felt like he could trust us immediately. “You are all such good people,” he said. “My other friend groups aren’t like this.” As the conversation went on, I explained to him why I am able to trust at all. “Because I put my trust in Jesus,” I said, “I no longer need to lean on my own understanding. He fills my heart, and he is more than I could ever imagine or desire. When Jesus directs my path and I trust Him, He multiplies my ability to extend trust to others and be vulnerable.” Martzi nodded, and we continued talking about his experience in the Christian community. It was such a special conversation stemming from shared trust in one another.

Another example of a memorable conversation happened about a week before we left to return home. In Slovenia, I became friends with a girl named Anna (pronounced like Anna in Disney’s Frozen) who is a fairly new believer. We met on the first day of the camp and after a few days she came up to me and said, “I know we’ve been joking around a lot, but I would really love to be real friends and get to know each other better!” This was so encouraging to my heart. Trust had been built. From that day on, we spent lots of time together. We talked about many things, including the importance of having Christian friendship and community. A few days before I left Hungary, I asked her what she thought of our team coming into her community and then leaving after only a month. “It just seems strange to be here, make friends, and leave,” I said. She looked at me and said something I won’t ever forget. She said, “Just because someone is in your life for a short period of time does not mean that you can’t make a difference to them.” She continued, saying, “It’s like if the people in your life were beads on a necklace. Just like each bead makes some sort of change to your necklace, every person you meet makes some sort of change to you. Even if you only spend one week with someone, you have the ability to make an impact. The bead that represents you on their necklace will never be unthreaded. Therefore, every interaction you have with another person, for however long, is special and important.”  

Just because someone is in your life for a short period of time does not mean that you can’t make a difference to them.

I thought about what she said the whole way home. Every interaction I have is an opportunity: an opportunity to impact lives for Jesus. We know the good news of the gospel. In Christ, the joy of Jesus should pour out of us to everyone that we come in contact with. He can and will use us to be the bead in someone's life that makes a difference for the kingdom when we surrender everything to Him.

The best part about this is that you don’t have to travel halfway across the world to do relational ministry! Though I highly recommend that Rockbridge students consider short term missions work, it is first vital that we as Christians and as the Rockbridge community start by focusing on the way we interact with those we see every day. Faithfully showing Jesus to those around us is such a beautiful way to glorify God and enjoy Him. I urge you to think about the way you can share Jesus with those around you. Not just once, but faithfully. Not to build yourself up, but to humbly serve the Lord and build His kingdom.

If any student is interested in learning more about short term missions or what the Navigators ministry looks like on a college campus, my email is Please feel free to reach out with any questions! I would love to have a conversation with you.

Sarah Williams, '20, is in her third year at Clemson University. She is studying psychology and business management and is planning on pursuing Biblical counseling. She is thankful for the Lord's providence in allowing her to have such beautiful communities both in Maryland and South Carolina.








Posted in Worship

Path to Full-Time Ministry

January 12, 2022
By Schuyler Kitchin, Alumnus Class of 2014

            This past semester, I began working with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as campus minister at Berklee College of Music in Boston. From when I accepted the job in March to ending this first semester of full-time ministry, I’ve been amazed how tailor-made this job is for me, a gift from God combining three of my deepest passions: music, college ministry, and Jesus.

            My passion for music has only grown in more recent years, but back when I was at Rockbridge, you could catch me in musicals, choir, and quartets (I even made it into the orchestra as a late-addition percussionist my senior year). Since then, my love for music has grown, both as a listener/appreciator and as a performer.

            My passion for college ministry developed right before I began seminary. I was working as a camp counselor at Summer’s Best 2 Weeks in PA, and in my final term, I was co-counseling a cabin of high school guys. During the day, we’d play sports, race boats, goof off in the mess hall, but then after lights out, my co-counselor and I would invite anyone who wanted prayer or to process life to come out on the porch to chat. A different camper accepted our invitation nearly every night, sharing the weight of social pressures, addictions, anxiety, and more. We would chat and pray, sharing the love of Jesus with each one. Right after that experience, I sensed that God was calling me to college ministry—who’s there on the porch when individuals like these head to college, where those pressures, questions, and fears will only grow? As I worked through my degree at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, I did some ministry with students at Gordon College and then interned with InterVarsity at Endicott College in Beverly, MA, for a year. I knew God was calling me to stay in Boston and that pastoral ministry was in the cards down the road, but college ministry was the call for now.

            My passion for Jesus was especially sparked in two classes at Rockbridge. In 7th grade Christ in the Old Testament class I was hooked by Mr. [Nathan] Northup’s vivid teachings on how the Bible was all connected with Jesus shining through all of it, as well as his fantastic illustrations and stories. In 11th grade New Testament class, we worked from Luke through Romans paragraph by paragraph; I didn’t even take notes, I just wanted to listen as we discussed the depths in the pages in front of us (and laughed at Mr. [Tim] Feeney’s jokes). Both of those classes contributed to a desire to dive deeper into Scripture that led me to an undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies and then to seminary. (As a cool bookend, my final work in seminary was presenting a message on Christ in the Old Testament to the Endicott InterVarsity chapter.)

            As much as I love the academic stuff, that is not what has kept me going. From high school onward, I’ve wrestled with doubts, mental health, fears. I have questioned my love for Jesus and his love for me plenty of times. I’ve experienced loss, ache, and silence. Yet even in all of this, Jesus has shown himself to be the Shepherd of my soul, even when he reveals himself as faithful Surgeon. This is what ultimately motivates me to be a minister at Berklee and wherever I am in the future. I’ve experienced Jesus alone as the light in the darkness and injustice of this world and as the healer of what is broken, lost, and wounded in myself and the world. And I want students to know his grace and easy yoke and to share it on their campus and in our city, bringing his light to the lost. The Holy Spirit has already been doing exciting and powerful work on Berklee's campus. It’s an honor to witness and be a part of it.

            If you’d be interested in hearing more about my ministry at Berklee and partnership opportunities (prayer/financial), please reach out to me at and/or follow my monthly newsletter at

Posted in Worship

The Aroma of Christ in Athletics

September 23, 2021
By Tim Stewart, Athletic Coordinator

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. 

Posted in School Culture

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