As I reflect back on 2017, there are a number of things that have stood out …
Last year gave the OACS community many stories of excellence, innovation and community. Check them out again at http://www.oacs.org/oacs-news-service/news_stories. There were also the great stories shared in edCommons groups and community gatherings of God’s faithfulness and answers to prayers. The increase in enrolment in OACS member schools by 5% is a testimony of His continued faithfulness. Christian day school education is as important today as it has been in previous years and the flame of Christian education continues to shine brightly.
It also had a number of significant celebrations. As Canadians, we spent much of the year acknowledging 150 years of confederation. In November at our OACS annual general meeting, we celebrated 65 years of serving Christian education in Eastern Canada. Less significant for the nation and our member schools (but meaningful for me) is the fact that I turned 60 and have found myself looking at life a little differently.
Those anniversaries pale, however, in comparison with the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Largely unnoticed publicly and overshadowed by many political events, both here and south of the border, this event which changed the complexion of Europe and ultimately Christianity throughout the world, did not go unnoticed. Thanks to religious writers and researchers, we were reminded of the effect of the reforming work of Martin Luther and many other contemporary reformers.
As we enter 2018, there is a lingering challenge which plays repeatedly in my mind, even my very soul. Michael Laffin, in his article in the 2017 Winter edition of Comment magazine (a Cardus publication) wrote that “For Luther, the Word of God is the fundamental reality from which everything else follows. And this includes tangible, material reality.” Looking ahead, I believe that 2018 may challenge the depth of our commitment to that statement and understanding of its imperative.
We already are aware of government legislation and court rulings that will affect us as Christians, either directly or indirectly. Sometime in the new year, the Supreme Court of Canada is expected to rule on the Trinity Western case. In December 2017, it was quietly released that some of the requirements for federal grants for summer jobs funding will be problematic for many faith based communities: https://www.cccc.org/news_blogs/barry/2017/12/19/summer-jobs-program-further-evidence-of-the-government-of-canadas-ideological-approach-toward-religious-charities.
Yet there are also a number of exciting things that will continue to bring new possibilities. At the local school level, we look forward to the innovation in school programs. Signs of enrolment growth continue as parents search out education alternatives that are in harmony with their worldview. And, leadership initiatives have begun that will serve a new generation of schools.
Organizationally, we continue to plan for the new organization to serve our school communities while at the same time work to change or dissolve our current organizations. This process is both exciting with promise, and daunting with its unknowns.
I don’t put much stock in fortune telling so I won’t venture to predict how these opportunities and challenges will find their way into our lives in 2018 but permit me to share some thoughts and suggestions.
- I know without a doubt that 2018 will find God faithful. I know, because He has been from the beginning and because His Word proclaims it. There is a Hebrew word used often by the Old Testament prophets: HESED. This word is used in times of difficulty or change to assure the people of God of His steadfast lovingkindness. I know that in these times of challenge and change that we will experience HESED.
- God’s Word lives today and just as is in the days of the reformation, it is the fundamental reality from which everything else follows. It is increasingly apparent that there are forces at work—cultural voices—which do not recognize the relevance of the Word of God. Regardless of that, we live in the belief that our foundational reality is God’s Word and it will prevail. I urge you to stand firm in that belief. Test everything you do against Scriptures to know that you are doing is true and right (Acts 17:11).
- Knowing these things, we can move forward with confidence into 2018. Trust in God’s faithfulness, undergirded with His Word, to be your springboard to action. I am convinced that what we do in our schools on a day to day basis is as relevant today as it has been since our schools were founded, and that our calling in Christian education as strong as ever before.
May our Heavenly Father, our Faithful Saviour, and the Holy Spirit empower each of us with all we need as we serve Him into 2018.