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Why Do We Sing?

December 08, 2022
By Olivia Reardon, Class of 2022

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.


Posted in School Culture

The Why Behind Grand Tour

September 21, 2022
By Jane Farr, Class of 2023

Ever since kindergarten, my fellow students and I looked forward to Grand Tour as the highlight of our Rockbridge Academy careers. From Latin and history classes to field trips to cultural feasts and soirée dinners, all of our education foreshadowed our class trip to Greece and Italy in the weeks following our junior year. When I try to explain Grand Tour to family or friends outside of this community, I usually refer to it as “a sort of senior trip.” The truth is, though, Grand Tour is not just your typical senior trip—a relaxing week at the beach or skiing in the mountains. Grand Tour enriches both our classical education and Christian relationships within each class.

First, Grand Tour is distinctly classical. We don’t visit England, Germany, Israel, or anywhere else directly involved in our national or religious history; we visit Greece and Italy. This confuses some people: isn’t our recent history more important and influential for us now in America? After all, they would say, Greece and Rome haven’t affected monumental worldwide events for thousands of years. Some of this is true, but, as a classical education emphasizes, what did happen way back when irreversibly shaped the entire western world. We see Greek and Roman culture in our government, art, architecture, language, sciences, philosophy—the list goes on and on. For hundreds of years, as Europe formed out of the chaos of the Dark Ages, leaders looked back to authors like Plato, Aristotle, and Vergil to see how a successful and prosperous country should run, and how its leaders should act.

This past summer, the school worked hard to make sure both the classes of 2022 and 2023 could experience the Grand Tour: 

Throughout our Rockbridge education, we study these authors, thinkers, and cultures, tracing their influence all the way to the modern era. Instead of only learning from our immediate past, we go back to creation, where everything began. We then move to Greece and Rome, where ideas and ideals were more developed. Lastly, we see how all these past events have impacted today, where we can make a difference. This is what separates classical Christian education from other models: an integration of God’s sovereign story into every class and all of history.

Second, Grand Tour is not only educational for the mind; it also fosters a precious brother-and-sisterhood between classmates and fellow believers. In fact, I saw the presence of Christ more strongly in our informal Bible study and hymn singing the Sunday we spent ferrying across the Adriatic Sea than in many luxurious cathedrals. Relationally, my whole class grew in leaps and bounds.

In May, before the end of school, the teachers told us to write out our “best selves” and our vision for our class’s “best self.” We then picked two accountability partners, who would encourage us to maintain those best versions throughout the trip. On our way to Delphi about a week into the trip, Mrs. Ball warned us that this was when most classes fell apart and started to get tired of each other’s company. Instead of succumbing to our tiredness and the temptation to do exactly that, we turned it into a joke: “Oh no, Drama at Delphi!” That evening, nothing had happened yet, and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. Still, Mrs. Ball and Mr. Keehner were not convinced and encouraged us to have “accountability sessions” with our partners in order to check on how we were doing so far. One talk led to another, and soon several of us were involved in deep conversations about our actions as individuals and as a class. We started to realize that we definitely weren’t as relational gracious as we had believed and identified some major problems with our thoughts and actions. We grew closer as we went through this sanctification process together.

That night, and successive rooftop, balcony, and garden discussions, made me more thankful than ever for a strong, supportive community of Christians who are still growing, just like me. On Grand Tour, we shared more of our hopes and struggles than we had ever been able to do before. In fact, I had the privilege of watching a dear classmate come to Christ on the trip; the new light shining from within her almost blinded me, it was so bright and evident. We hope and pray that these class experiences will enable us to better enjoy each other, lead the school, and praise our Savior for His goodness in this coming year.

Jane Farr, ’23, loves playing soccer and various intramural sports at Rockbridge as a break from studying. The rest of the time, she can usually be found reading, playing the flute, or making yummy food to share with family and friends.

Posted in Upper School
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