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Of CHRIST and Core Values

September 09, 2021
By Roy Griffith, Headmaster

VISION and MISSION
Talk to any business guru, and you will encounter the terms vision, mission, and values. If vision is an institution’s overarching reason for being, mission describes the work they do to achieve this vision. Meanwhile, values (often called core values) are the collective beliefs and behaviors required of those who partake in the mission and subscribe to the vision. 

Is all this just pragmatic business banter? No. At its foundation, the vision-mission-values triad reflects the heart of God. If God himself had the vision to create a universe, set about a mission of redemption through His Son, while continually calling his people to live out the values of a kingdom, then we as a Christian school should emulate the pattern, both in form and content. 

What is the vision of Rockbridge Academy—the intent behind why we exist—in the first place? What role do we play in this little corner of God’s kingdom? Space does not allow us to print our multi-paragraph vision script (Click here to find Our Vision. It’s worth the longer read!), but if I were to unofficially summarize the Rockbridge vision in a statement, I’d simply say it this way:

OUR VISION:
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:

OUR MISSION
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

CHRIST AS CORE
First and foremost, we acknowledge that our identity as a school flows from one person, Jesus Christ. We joyfully submit ourselves to his Lordship.
We proclaim along with early 20th century Dutch statesman, Abraham Kuyper, “There is not one square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” 

If this truth does not permeate all of what we do as a school so that our students grow up in the humidity of God’s sovereignty, all is for naught. When we gathered through the summer as staff and board to assemble the core values of Rockbridge Academy, the centrality of Christ was the refrain, because He is the source from which the following five values flow: 

ENTHUSIASTICALLY CLASSICAL
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. 

PARENTAL PARTNERSHIP
We believe education is a command of God to parents, who actively partner with teachers to pursue Christian discipleship of their children’s heart, mind, soul, and strength.

We need look no further than Deuteronomy 6 in the Old Testament and Ephesians 6 in the New Testament to be reminded that it is the parent’s grand and humbling privilege to daily educate their child in the whole of life [paideia, Gr]. From academics to etiquette, tying shoes to reading to respecting mom, parents are entrusted with an 18-year (and further) discipleship program to grow up their children. Meanwhile, the school comes alongside to provide and reinforce what is needed through these years. Daily, parent and teacher shoulder together in this effort. Partnership is paramount.

MY LIFE FOR YOURS
We seek in every situation to empty ourselves with love for others, encouraging adults to mentor students and older students to mentor younger, with everyone learning to serve from union with Christ.

Contrary to our children’s universal aversion to emptying the dishwasher at home, we find that students love to serve. Young men and women long to be reminded of the masculine and feminine reality of the adults they are becoming. Boys love to demonstrate their muscles at work. Young ladies love to show their resilience and diligence. Entrusting both with sacrificial work in community answers that age old question they long for adults in their lives to answer for them. 
Do I have what it takes?  Absolutely, you have what it takes!
Do you see me?  Yes, beautifully done!

WORK FROM A PLACE OF REST
We find our value and identity in Christ, measuring success by faithfulness, thereby encouraging habits of rest for mind, body, and spirit that fit us for our best work.

School, like any other aspect of life, can be a place where we as individuals—staff, student, or parent—pursue our idols. Idols around success create unrest in our hearts and lead anywhere from anxiety to avoidance to burnout. Rest acknowledges our human limitations, glories in God’s sovereignty, and helps us recall the limitless blessings of Christ. We want to be a school that reinforces habits of rest so that we are continuously restored to pursue our best work.

RELATIONALLY REDEMPTIVE
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.

IN CONCLUSION
It is important to remember that core values are both instructive and aspirational. Core values unify us toward shared understanding and action, yet we acknowledge that even our best efforts to embody such ideals will fall short. Remember, though, that the author of vision, mission, and values is God himself. His sovereign intentions never lack for His abundant supply; therefore, we pray:

Dear Father, as we fully submit ourselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ, equip Rockbridge Academy to flourish as an enthusiastically classical community of learners dedicated to parental partnership, faithfully pursuing a relationally redemptive culture in which we work from a place of rest and serve under Christ’s banner of “my life for yours.”

Posted in School Culture

A 300-Year Vision

January 06, 2021
By Melanie Kaiss, Staff Member and PE Teacher

What do you have planned for 2321? Before you answer, make sure your mind hasn’t auto-corrected that number. The question is not, “What have you planned for the year 2021?”, but in fact, “What have you planned for the year 2321?”  The question casts a vision beyond paying off the mortgage, finally taking that trip you’ve been saving for—across the country or around the world, beyond cleaning out the attic (oh, yeah, you did that during COVID), or reading “War and Peace.”

Well, if you don’t have a 300-year plan, the ACCS does. And you are already part of it. The ACCS is the Association of Classical Christian Schools. If your child attends Rockbridge Academy, or any other member school, then your family is part of a generational plan to change and redeem our culture, to restore Christian norms and standards that were once the hallmark of a flourishing society.

I got “on the plan” roughly 20 years ago when my husband and I first discovered classical Christian Education (CCE). When we joined the Rockbridge community in 2002, we heard often of this kind of very long-term thinking. At one school dinner, the story was told by way of illustration, of a group of oak trees planted at Oxford University for the specific purpose of providing new roofing beams in the dining hall centuries hence, when the trees maturity and the roof’s wear would dovetail in this ideal replacement plan. The story is considered myth by some, but even so, the illustration is no less impactful, especially for a community of believers whose God thinks and speaks in just such long terms. God promised to deliver his people out of Egypt after 400 years of slavery, and He sent his son, the savior of the world, into first-century Palestine after a 400 years of silent anticipation. For a God outside of time, centuries and generations take on a different meaning.

Former Rockbridge parent and board chair, Stu Caton, cast a similar vision of time before a group gathered at the Evergreen campus in October 2019 to celebrate the start of Rockbridge Academy’s 25th year. He told the group not to think of this 25th year, but of the 50th year and beyond; not of bringing their children to school, but of driving down Evergreen road to bring, or pickup, or see a history parade with, their grandchildren. Classical and Christian education is always about looking ahead, casting forward, looking to the horizon, expectantly “Look[ing] further up. . . further in” (C.S. Lewis) for the realization of God’s plan.

Which brings us back to the ACCS and your part of the plan. Consider your child[ren] generation one, if you will. Then look ahead two, or three generations. If you are convinced that your children are being uniquely educated to appreciate truth, goodness, and beauty; to think and speak clearly from a biblical worldview, all the while affirming the integration of all creation by God’s making, then you must thrill at the idea of being part of that legacy and seeing the legacy deepen and widen. And that’s why the ACCS exists—to see the growth of CCE and the kind of impact that will ultimately change our world.

If you haven’t visited the ACCS website recently, do it. Maybe you can already easily explain CCE. You did your research and ended up at Rockbridge following thoughtful and thorough decision-making. Even so, a visit to this website will give you renewed encouragement and stimulus about why you are here.

In practical terms, the ACCS is, “The primary public advocate for classical Christian education.” The organization offers, “a wide array of services that help build distinctive schools, [and]. . . provide accountability through accreditation.” In short, “The ACCS seeks to set an educational standard for a unified and directed approach to classical and Christian learning.”

But what makes classical Christian learning such a worthy pursuit? Read on to find out that progressives in the early 20th century set out to deliberately undermine our educational system and its classical Christian heritage. And the plan worked! Fast forward a hundred years and, “The ideas behind classical Christian schools are foreign to modern educators.” That’s because, “progressives worked to remove Christian ideas and purposes from the classroom.” But the ACCS affirms, and by extension, so do you, that CCE’s, “transformative power lies in one truth:  Christ is Lord of all.”

So, “What does that mean for how we live?  How we think about things?  What we value and what we love? In short, education is primarily about what we are trained to love, not just what we are taught to know. Put another way, education is about soul formation, not information. And this formation builds a culture.

To further promote culture-building among ACCS member schools, the ACCS sponsors several contests and awards, including the Blakely Prize in Fine Art and the Chrysostom Oratory Competition. Rockbridge Academy boasts five Blakely and seven Chrysostom winners among its alumni, going back to the inception of these competitions in 2015.  These students reflect not only the excellence of our teachers in instructing and cultivating an expression of truth, goodness, and beauty, but the students’ excellent ability to embrace and express these same virtues. The speeches and artwork are themselves are like redemptive cultural artifacts.

The ACCS does a host of other things, from training and certifying teachers, to cultivating relationships with like-minded businesses and higher educational institutions. They also host an annual conference called Repairing the Ruins, which our school participates in.  The organization tracks and promotes the success of students in member schools, and has developed The ACCS Initiative, an effort designed and being implemented to expand CCE nationally over the next decade. When you do visit the ACCS website, I encourage you to read through the tabs under “About ACCS” and “What We Do.” Your own vision will be refreshed, and you will be encouraged about the real potential for change that you are making possible, through your own child, and generations beyond.

Visit the website for ACCS here. 

Posted in School Culture

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