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Remembering Tom Wenger, Jr.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Matthew 5:4

By Mr. Roy Griffith, Headmaster

I had originally written an article for the beginning of the school year about the concept of Godspeed, our school’s theme for this year about keeping in step with Christ and what it means to abide in Him as students, faculty, and families. However, after the bliss of the first week of school at Rockbridge Academy, we entered the second week and found that moving along with Godspeed sometimes means being stopped in our tracks. Only days ago, our community experienced a great loss with the sudden passing of Tom Wenger. The Wenger family lost a husband, father, son, and brother. Trinity Presbyterian Church lost their beloved founding pastor, and Rockbridge Academy lost a former teacher, one time board member, a Rockbridge parent, and a most beloved friend of so many. Simply put, our hearts are broken.

Christian communities, like local churches or schools, are wonderfully porous places where new people are constantly welcomed in, while beloved friends wistfully move away to other locales. Because some folks, like Tom, have such tremendous impact and the institution bears their fingerprints, even the newest among us share the loss, while friends far away mourn alongside us as if still in our midst. As the people of God, we all grieve together and yet hold out the hope of heaven to one another with tear-stained grins.

Tom Wenger has a rich Christian pedigree in our circles, the oldest of a large family led by his dad, Pastor Tom Wenger Sr. (Pasadena Evangelical Presbyterian Church), and his mom, Joanne, who has served in the Annapolis Area Christian School Music Department for time out of mind. A graduate of Annapolis Area Christian School, Tom attended Bible college in Pennsylvania and upon graduating, taught for one year in a classical Christian school near Lancaster, PA, before returning to Maryland. Being an upstanding Christian young man acquainted with classical education was a rarity at the time, so Tom was quickly recruited to teach the first 6th grade class at a fledgling Rockbridge Academy back in 1997.

When I was finally hired in mid-August of the same summer to teach fifth grade, I remember Tom introducing himself to me at the small faculty orientation with his characteristically raspy, full-throated chuckle, “You don’t know how glad I am they hired another guy! I was afraid it was going to be a full year of Tom and his sisters!” Thus began a long friendship. 

Tom helped shape our new upper school as those sixth graders went on to 7th and 8th grade. His pioneering 7th grade Bible class, Christ in the Old Testament, is still the foundation stone in the Rockbridge upper school Bible curriculum. Early alums carry with them the categories of the gospel Tom personally planted in their hearts and minds. Tom left Rockbridge after a few years to pursue seminary, making room for more beloved theologians on our upper school bench, but he returned as a pastor in the area, married Holly, and within a few years they were enrolling Jessi, Tommy, and then Emmy at Rockbridge Academy. 

Donned in friar’s garb and with beer stein in hand (filled with strong coffee, of course), Tom Wenger was Martin Luther’s doppelgänger in attitude and appearance, so he soon began reprising the role each year as “guest speaker” for our 8th grade Church History class. Luther on Trial, a reenactment of the Diet of Worms with Tom in the courtroom dock and 8th graders as the interrogators, has been a mainstay dialectical exercise in our Bible program for years.

In time, Tom was elected to a term on the Rockbridge board, serving a stint as chair and steadying the administration during some tumultuous times. It was the planting of Trinity Presbyterian Church that took his attention next, and as a lead pastor he shined. Tom Wenger could be a British Bulldog when it came to defending gospel doctrine, but he was more like the rescuing St. Bernard at the pulpit, offering the gospel up as a cordial to sin-weary hearts each week. My wife, Donna, and I loved to visit Trinity for Sunday service every so often, and her running comment was, “No one does a call to worship like Tom Wenger.” He invited his congregation back to the gospel each week as medicine for the desperate soul.

On Tuesday as word spread of Tom’s passing, someone shared a scripture I always found strange, but which suddenly struck me with a curious hope when I heard it: Ecclesiastes 7:4 claims that, “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.” Apparently, a reluctant detour into the habitation of sorrow is what the Lord has for all of us in this moment. May we draw the sweetest wisdom out of the days that lie ahead—and may He pace us through this season of grief at His speed, Godspeed.

History of Rockbridge Academy Chrysostom Winners

Each year, the Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS), holds a national speech competition called The Chrysostom Oratory Competition. This competition is open to all the member schools in the association of which there are hundreds. 

A Rockbridge Academy senior has won first or second prize in the ACCS national oratory competition in 8 out of 13 years, since the competition started in 2009.

From the Classical Difference website: Chrysostom means “golden mouthed” in Greek. John Chrysostom (St. John in the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican churches) began his life in 349 in Antioch and died on his way to exile in 407. He was most notably Archbishop of Constantinople. So effective was his speech that he could contain city-wide riots and influence the highest levels of royalty. But it also got him exiled by those his rhetoric offended. In his initial exile, his letters continued to stir the hearts of those who heard them, so he was banished to the farthest extremities of the empire in an attempt to make hearing him impossible. Chrysostom spoke the truth with uncompromising beauty, and the power of his words continues to affect the world today.

From the kindergarten family tree to the final senior thesis, we aim for this vision for our students: to graduate compassionate 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.  Thanks be to God for committed teachers and parents and our hardworking students who by grace are prepared to stand before any audience regardless of their trade or profession. 

Be sure to come out to our Senior Thesis Presentations each spring. This year, topics vary from art to alternative energy sources to prison reform.

Rockbridge ACCS Chrysostom winners: 

2021—Christopher Crane, 2nd Prize: If You're Not Dying Laughing, You're Just Dying: Humor’s Role in Sanctification

2020—Benjamin Ault, 1st Prize: A United Kingdom in a Racially Divided World

2017—Abby Wallen, 2nd Prize: Knowing Infinity: The Case for Poetic Knowledge

2015—Rachel Cooley, 1st Prize: More than a Machine: Rejecting the Mechanistic Cosmology

2014—Alexa Cripe, 1st Prize: Let Us Entertain You! How the Entertainment Culture is Affecting Evangelical Worship in America

2012—Daniel Dawson, 2nd Prize:  The Cloaked Craving: Ambition Conceived, Converted, and Commanded

2010—Anna Kitchin, 1st Prize: They Used to Dance: A Scriptural Look at the Environmental Movement

2009—Anna Hollidge, 1st Prize: Though I Surrender My Body to Be Burned, but Have Not Love: The Vanity and Inconsistency of Existential Service

Ringing the Bell on Signing Day

By Nathan Daly, Class of 2019

While visiting Rockbridge one January day in 2020, I was startled by a strange noise.  My first thought was the USS Enterprise's intercom whistle from Star Trek.  I wasn't far wrong.  It was the end-of-period bell. You see, during my time as a student at Rockbridge long, long ago, we never had bells to indicate change of classes.

Much has changed at Rockbridge since I graduated in 2019, most of it revolving around our new Evergreen campus.  I had heard rumors about it when I was a senior about to graduate. I didn't think much of it.  I would be gone.  I would never really benefit from the new campus.  And, as a cross-country runner, I was opposed on principle to any plan that involved selling my beloved, hilly Belvior, our former property.

Then my younger siblings came home from Evergreen tours with stories of water fountains, lockers, and multiple bathrooms.  It was a Promised Land.  I began to be convinced that, even without Belvoir, the new campus would be a blessing to Rockbridge.

One day in January, in the middle of Apologetics class my senior year, I heard another bell.  It was a cowbell, rung by Mr. Griffith.  Walking the halls and ringing the bell, Mr. Griffith shouted the news: The papers were signed, and Rockbridge now officially owned the Evergreen campus!  God had brought us at last to our Promised Land.

Thanks to our homeroom teacher then, Mr. Scroggins, that memorable day became even more so.  Mr. Scroggins told us to go out and celebrate with Mr. Griffith.  Dr. Seufert didn't object.  So, we walked into the hallway, unsure what to do.  We raised a half-hearted cheer.  Then another, louder and more confident.  Soon we were parading up and down the hall with Mr. Griffith, clapping, cheering, and stomping like mad.

We disrupted all the classes.  Had any other teachers shared Mr. Scroggins' festive spirit, the day would have ended in chaos.  But for all that, Signing Day, was one of the happiest days of my senior year.

A few weeks later, I suggested to Mr. Griffith that he make an annual tradition of celebrating Signing Day. Just like the feasts and monuments of the Israelites, the bells of Signing Day, ringing through the halls at Evergreen year after year, could stand as a reminder of God's faithfulness to us. 

Little did I know when I suggested the bell ringing tradition of Signing Day, that the school came with a bell tower and bell! I heard that this tradition was instilled on January 14, 2022, three years after the papers were signed with the ringing of the bell tower bell. I hope that this tradition, which started with the great class of 2019, continues and that Rockbridge will continue to remember God's provision in years past and rely on His promises for years to come.

Nathan Daly (class of 2019) is studying computer science at Johns Hopkins University. 

Homecoming 2021

By Monica Ault, Photo credit John Daly

Homecoming 2021: a milestone in Rockbridge Academy history.  Our very first as One Rockbridge, it was a celebration of God’s abundant faithfulness since the school’s founding in 1995.  Families, alumni, and friends joined us on October 8 to commemorate, dedicate, give thanks, and—as the invitations said—“Come see our new home!”

Weeklong festivities made the most of having the grammar and upper schools together.  Starting on Monday, students from all grades collected canned items for two local church food pantries.  Grammar classes competed by homeroom, while upper school students competed by “house”—inter-grade teams named after Greek and Roman cities (Siena, Rome, Athens, Florence, and Corinth).  The houses are a new tradition at Rockbridge Academy, inaugurated this year to foster mentoring and unity as we seek to live as One Rockbridge.

On “Crazy Socks and Banners” Wednesday, upper school students swapped uniform socks for socks in their house colors, then teamed up by house to decorate banners for Friday’s pep rally. On Thursday, house teams faced off in the first rounds of the tug-of-war competition, pulling mightily to earn a slot in Friday’s final rounds.  House mascots led the students in wild cheering.

Friday, Homecoming Day itself, was a rich time of celebration.  It highlighted the blessings of our beautiful facility and the unity of our community.

The day began with hospitality and service.  In the bell tower, staff and administrators welcomed friends and family for coffee and tours of the building.  In the dining hall, the Class of 2022 gathered, counted, and packed up and delivered more than 2,000 donated cans of food.  Seniors then returned to paint beautiful banners for each of the varsity teams and the alumni, which were hung at the stadium for homecoming games that night.

At mid-day, students from all grades gathered on the fields for the last, thrilling rounds of tug-of-war—including a bonus round with staff members!  Meanwhile, on the other side of campus, administrators were hosting a quiet ribbon-cutting ceremony with representatives from the House of Delegates, County Council, and Chamber of Commerce.  They had come to dedicate our newly-united campus and beautifully refurbished outdoor space, Scots Court. 

An all-campus pep rally capped off the school day.  As athletes were called forward, grammar and upper school students drummed on buckets, shook pom-poms, and cheered their support.  Captains entertained the crowd with some friendly cup-game rivalry.  Winners of the food drive and tug of war competitions were announced—the house of Athens and Mrs. Duvall’s 4th grade homeroom for the food drive, the house of Rome for the tug of war. The students were thrilled to be with their classmates and housemates, with friends and siblings from other grades, with teachers.  And they were eager for the homecoming games still ahead.

Those long-anticipated homecoming games began just a few hours later, under the lights at Old Mill High School’s turf field.  Despite a last-minute schedule conflict that forced the game to start late and on an alternate field, the girls kept their composure and good spirits to beat Chesapeake Science Point decisively, 6-0.  The boys’ game against FCA, fast-paced and well-played, ended in a 1-1 tie.   Between games, varsity cross country runners—who would compete in a meet against FCA the next day—led grammar students in footraces on the track. 

Many alumni had “come home” for the event, and they received a warm welcome.  Some had graduated decades before: Josh Davis (2004), husband of math teacher Monica Davis, was a member one of Rockbridge Academy’s earliest graduating classes.  Corey Sentz (2011), assistant coach for our middle school girls’ soccer team, organized the ten-year reunion featured in a recent Benedictio.  A few alumni came with young children in tow, while newer graduates traveled from local and distant colleges.  Even the highly popular barbecue truck at the games featured a beloved alumni connection: owner Chris Fitch is the father of recent graduates Ben (2019), Alysa (2020), and Sean (2021). 

The alumni came for many reasons, but mostly for relationships. “I was blessed as a student to have teachers, parents, and friends invest in me not only as a student, but as a person,” said Corey. “It has been a joy to see many of those relationships continue since graduation.”  

Corey remembers some of the earliest years at Rockbridge Academy, and she’s excited about the opportunities that One Rockbridge will bring in future years: even closer relationships between dialectic, grammar, and rhetoric students and staff, community support for athletics and other programs, and deep relationships that will last far beyond graduation. 

Homecoming 2021 provided a precious opportunity to look back at our history as well as ahead to our future.  “Our heart’s desire,” wrote Headmaster Roy Griffith, “Is that this new campus become a place that every Rockbridge family—past, present, and future—can call home.”  This homecoming was a celebration of “what God has done, what He is doing, and the faithfulness he brings to our future as we seek to follow Him.”  Great is His faithfulness!

Monica Ault is our upper school administrative assistant.

The class of 2021 made final decisions to the following colleges: 

Auburn University, The Catholic University of America, Covenant College, East Carolina University, Emory University, George Washington University, Grove City College, Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, Purdue University, Regent University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Liberty University, Made Institute, UMBC, U.S. Naval Academy, University of Maryland College Park, University of Tennessee, Washington University, Wheaton College.

The 27 members of the class of 2021 garnered $4,588,872.00 in scholarship offers. Congratulations. Thanks be to God. 

An Historic First Day as ONE ROCKBRIDGE

By Sonmin Crane, Communications Manager

Established in 1995 as one of the first classical Christian schools in the country, Rockbridge Academy is a K-12 school serving the Annapolis, Baltimore, and DC areas. After renting space for 26 years, we finally have a home of our own as Indian Creek School lower school moved completely out of their former Crownsville location this past summer. We immediately set to work with painting, updating, fixing the roof, and undertaking a huge move-in that resulted in an historic first day of school as the entire Rockbridge K-12 student body (along with many parents) gathered on the field for a first ever school-wide convocation on Tuesday, September 7, 2021.

At the outdoor convocation, Headmaster Roy Griffith reiterated that “the most important of the core values to which Rockbridge Academy adheres is a Christ-centered view over all things.” The parents and students sang Be Thou My Vision and then walked into their very own school building. With over 70 churches represented at the school, this most important core value units all the families.

By God’s grace through the many years, Rockbridge Academy continued to thrive despite not having a facility of our own. The class of 2021 seniors comprised of 27 students were accepted to many top-tier schools including Cornell, Vanderbilt, the United States Naval Academy (with 3 students accepted), Johns Hopkins, Emory, Rensselaer, and more—in the middle of a pandemic. All this with no building of our own, clearly proving that a school does not thrive on a facility alone, but rather by faithfulness and a methodology that clearly works. Now that the school has fields, science and art labs, a dining hall, gym, playgrounds, and plenty of space, the potential for growth is even greater. Pray with us:

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.”

Click here for more on our core values. 

Of Christ and Core Values

By Roy Griffith, Headmaster

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!” Abraham Kuyper

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.

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!

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.

Jesus Is Better...Forever!

I have been asked to write a final word as my date of retirement nears. It was easy to decide, really. I came to Rockbridge 20 years ago with knowledge of this truth, “Jesus is the most excellent way.” I longed for a school that would help me to teach that truth to my children. I believed that Rockbridge was such a place, and I pray it remains that kind of place for generations to come. We are all longing for the best for our kids, aren’t we? But do we really know what the best is? The writer of the Book of Hebrews mentions at least 13 times that Jesus is better, superior, or more excellent. Why does he say this with such passion and repetition? Because he was keenly aware that his audience was being wooed away from that truth to embrace something less.

Is our time any different? Some may ask why I state the obvious. “Everybody at Rockbridge Academy already knows that Jesus is better, Denise, even your kindergartners. Why waste your last words on what is clear and apparent to all?” I would assert that everyone might know it, but few of us believe it, including myself. The writer of Hebrews clearly believed that any of us could fall away from that truth. He reminds us that our disordered loves, our fallen nature, our chaotic, messy souls continuously search for other gods to worship. What is so sneaky about it is that most often these rivals for our hearts are good things.

There are many points of comparison within the Book of Hebrews to demonstrate that our hearts will only be well-ordered if we truly believe Jesus to be better, and all of these things are good. Jesus is compared to all past prophets who speak to us as mediators. He is compared to Moses and Joshua, and he is better. Jesus is compared to the angels who are sent as ministering spirits to us while he is the Conquering King to whom alone we owe worship. Jesus is compared to all past priests from the line of Aaron who all die, but He lives above eternally to intercede for us. Jesus is a better hope and the guarantor of a better covenant. He is a better sacrifice. Because of his blood, Jesus prepares a better place for us, a heavenly one. He is the better temple eternal in the heavens. All these Old Testament people, places, and things are good, but incomplete. They are preparatory, all pointing to the great truth that “Jesus is better…forever!”

So we are not so different from first generation Christians it would seem. Like our brothers and sisters of the past, we are still needing to hear that our hearts are easily drawn away to idols that are good but steal from us what is best. C.S. Lewis states in The Weight of Glory, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” A similar idea to that is a child wanting to stay at South of the Border rather than traveling on to Disney World. They are too easily pleased with the pleasure of the moment to make the further leg of the trip.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” c.s. lewis

In all times, our hearts have easily misled us. We are encouraged on every side today to look inside ourselves to find truth and define the world with our own internal feelings. We need this reminder from the writer of Hebrews, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2. We need to run together with the church of Christ throughout all time. We need the body of Christ, his church, to preach the truth to us and our children. We need to encourage one another here at Rockbridge Academy in times of difficulty and delight that there is only One who is best. We need Jesus to save us from ourselves and transform us. We must have his help to order our lawless, tangled, topsy-turvy hearts so we never lose our first love. We all grow weary. We all lose heart. So my last words to you are, “Standfast, Scots. Jesus is better…forever!”

Denise Hollidge currently serves as our grammar school principal and will be retiring spring of 2021 after 20 years of service at Rockbridge Academy. She is married to Steve Hollidge and has 4 Rockbridge Academy graduates: John ('07), Anna ('09), Mary ('13), and Daniel ('15). 


Dare Greatly!

By Roy Griffith, Headmaster

Back in my teen years, I attended a week-long summer camp where one of the defining moments was trekking into the woods with boys in my cabin to complete a ropes course high up in the trees. It quickly became apparent as we harnessed up with carabiners to the safety line that this innocent web of ropes would be the separator of men from boys.

I noticed amongst us three reactions. After getting ten feet in the air, one of my friends absolutely refused to go any further. Despite pleas from the group to push onward, survival instincts in this boys brain stubbornly refused to let his body move further. Meanwhile, the majority were like me, petrified but too proud to give up, inching along timidly with wobbly tread until finishing with the final spine-tingling free-fall swing at the end. However, one dare-devil in our group was somehow transformed when he forced himself to take one bold leap into thin air, leaving his body dangling like a spider from a thread. Having demonstrated to his brain that the safety system held fast, this happy individual began moving along the course with abandon, laughing, leaping, and encouraging his faint-hearted friends to, “just trust the rope!”

Rockbridge Academy students are not immune to fear. Increasingly, our children are vulnerable to a tide of doubt, whether it soaks in by swimming the uncertainty of the greater culture’s currents or whether it laps upon their desks as a wave of temptation to measure their worth against their classmates’. Like the frightened boys high in the ropes at camp, the human heart would rather believe lies and half-truths than trust the assuring tether of God’s provision in redemption.

Meanwhile, the writer of Hebrews throws us a line. Painting a wonderful picture of spiritual reality, he says in chapter 6 that we, “… have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf …”  Picture if you will, as you walk through life’s daily challenges, shaky and unsure, being harnessed to a tethering cable anchored to the most secure place in the universe. There, behind the curtain of the temple, enthroned upon the mercy seat, the pre-figured Christ reigns as our anchor, with the anchor-line securely held in one nail scarred hand, and all the planets being deftly spun in the other.

One pastor lends this simple insight: “Doubts come when personal experiences make what your mind knows unreal to your heart.” Whether you are a parent facing a difficult conversation at work, a student staring down a puzzling math problem for homework, an athlete replaying past failure on the field as you move to the goal, or a headmaster anxious whether COVID-19 will shut down school in the first week, our fears can drive any of us to “fight or flight” instead of into daring actions of faith. Like boys on the ropes occupied by the clawing sensation of gravity, we often find ourselves staring straight in the face of some familiar fear, and in that moment stubbornly refusing our, “…upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14)

One of the reasons classical Christian education mines the cave of western history is because – while quite imperfect – it is replete with gems of Christian character worth mining. One such character is Teddy Roosevelt, a president with an abiding faith in the Lord who seemed to eat fear for breakfast. Consider, for example, the time Roosevelt had a Secret Service agent lower him by the ankles over a cliff with a rope just to photograph a bird’s nest. Unable to be pulled back up, Roosevelt himself cut the rope, only to land thirty feet into water below. Found half-conscious and bruised on the riverbank, Roosevelt exclaimed with his huge toothy grin, “My, wasn't that just bully!"

It was a few years later in a speech at the Sorbonne in Paris that Roosevelt left us these stirring words about sparring with doubt and boxing with fear:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

I pray that we find ourselves laughing and leaping along the tenuous course of this year’s uncertainties. Despite the “dust and sweat and blood” of the challenge, may we always be confident in our anchor, Jesus Christ.  May Rockbridge Academy never be a place of cold and timid souls, but rather may the school year of 2023-2024 be a time of great enthusiasms and great devotions as together we take up the challenge to dare greatly in Christ.



Running for a Greater Purpose

by Olivia Reardon, Rockbridge journalism student

"Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

The Rockbridge Students for Life, a club consisting of 9th-12th graders, gathered on Saturday, September 21, 2019, to support the pro-life movement at The Annapolis Pregnancy Clinic Walk and Run for Life held at the Mid-Atlantic Community Church.  Not only did the Rockbridge Club raise $3,505, making it the third-place fundraising group, but Christopher Crane, a Rockbridge junior, won first place overall in the 5k race.

“Besides working together to raise funds, the RA Students for Life members are volunteering in many different ways at the event,” said Noelle McDowell, Rockbridge Students for Life founder and president.  “They are helping with set-up, running a bake-sale, providing face-painting, and running the toddler and kid's races.”  To raise funds, the Rockbridge students sent out emails asking people to donate online.  A crew of Rockbridge students showed up to the race early and assisted with many tasks including setting up tables and chairs and putting together a balloon arch.  A team of Rockbridge girls led by Lilia Bailey, 10th grade Rockbridge Student and 5k finisher, painted faces by the bouncy castle while Clara Atsinger, Rockbridge 9th grader, headed the group selling baked goods.

The proceeds from the 5k race go to the Pregnancy Clinic, which provides free medical services and education on abortion, as well as sharing the gospel with their clients.

According to Bailey, the course at Mid-Atlantic was much flatter and easier than the one they ran previously at Belvoir.  Even though Rockbridge could not provide Belvoir as the location for the Walk and Run for Life this year, the Rockbridge Community still significantly supported the cause.  Rockbridge Academy students, parents, and teachers alike were there to volunteer and run.

As explained by McDowell, Rockbridge Students for Life started in the Fall of 2018, but Students for Life of America is a national organization including over 1,200 student groups.

“I started the group because I really think this cause is important and I wanted a way for my peers and I to become more active in the pro-life cause,” said McDowell.

Besides the Walk and Run for Life, the Rockbridge Students for Life Club participates in events including the National March for Life, the MD March for Life, and the National SFLA conference.

Crane explained why these events, such as the Walk and Run for Life, are important.  “It gets the community involved and it kind of rallies everyone for the cause which helps get monetary support,” said Crane.  “It’s really encouraging and cool to see how many people are for pro-life.”

Atsinger related why she participates in these events. “I like to think that we are part of a change,” said Atsinger.

The Rockbridge Students for Life is just a small part of the pro-life movement, but taking part in events such as the Walk and Run for Life makes an impact.

“It’s a way to stand up, to show what you believe through physical actions,” said Bailey.

The Rockbridge Students for Life are making an effort to stand up for their pro-life beliefs through physical actions.  The Walk and Run for Life was just one of the events they participate in throughout the year in support of life.

Crane said it shows that “there is a next generation who will take up the torch of the ministry.”