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Mourning with Those Who Mourn

June 09, 2020
By Roy Griffith

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,

Roy Griffith

Posted in School Culture