In his well known book, Culture Making, Andy Crouch voices an important question about what Christians may or may not be known for outside of their own faith communities.
“Why aren’t we known as creators?” he asks. “People who dare to think and do something that has never been thought or done before; something that makes the world more welcoming and thrilling and beautiful?”
Crouch’s description of what it means to be a creator came to mind a few times as I reviewed the stories from this 2014/2015 school year on the OACS website. Many of the articles that my colleague Carla and I wrote these past ten months focused on principals, teachers and students whose good work left the world a little more welcoming, a little more beautiful—and yes, sometimes even a little more thrilling. They were examples of students trying to turn their communities into more vibrant, delightful and hospitable places to live.
Scroll through our news archive and you’ll find an article about Halton Hills Christian School restoring a forested woodlot behind their soccer field and turning it into an outdoor classroom for their school and their surrounding neighbourhood. You’ll also find a piece about Sarnia Christian School putting together a proposal to build a community ice rink on their school property, and a piece about Orillia Christian School hosting a Special Olympics sports tournament, where children with intellectual disabilities were invited to kick, run and be themselves in a supportive and joyful environment.
I think it’s essential and good to celebrate these accomplishments!
And yet, those working in Christian education know that no fundraising campaign, inspiring classroom activity, or dynamic project can offer a tidy answer to the messy reality of living in an imperfect and often very troubling world.
To use an extreme example, consider Tony Woodlief’s blog entry about the horrific shooting in a Charleston church this month, which took the lives of nine people. As he reflects on the tragedy, Woodlief asks a question that many adults working in education may wonder too:
“What can we tell our children about this world we have made for them?”
I’m glad that I happened to stumble across Woodlief’s blog, because I wonder how often Christian educators and principals, in particular, find themselves returning to variations of that question—in moments of creativity, excitement, hope and despair.
Perhaps, they’ll find the answer that Woodlief attempts to put forward both comforting and challenging.
“I tell them what little I know to do, in the face of evil,” he says. “It’s simpler and harder than sophisticated adults want to hear. It has no grand quality. It’s not ambitious, it’s not scalable, you can’t get a grant for it, you can’t run it out of a federal agency. All I know to do, children, is what we’ve been told since grace rained down on hard-hearted man: love your neighbor as yourself. Love him until he sees the light, or until he cannot stand the sight of you. Love him with no purpose beyond loving him. Love him where he is, love him in spite of him, love him unto death, as you have been loved.”
As a writer for the OACS news service, I’m grateful that I got to celebrate instances where school communities took “love your neighbour as yourself” as words to live by, and sought to do that very thing through their actions, in creative and tangible ways— inside their classrooms and out in their own cities and towns.
Take Dunville Christian School, for example, where students designed wristbands to raise money for a couple in their community involved in a a terrible car accident. Or students at Timothy Christian School, who set aside a day to support Bopoma Villages, a small charity that works alongside local leaders to provide clean water to communities in rural Zimbabwe. Or consider grade one students at Beacon Christian School, who worked hard around the house to raise enough money to purchase 22,933 nails for Habitat for Humanity. Recently, students at Community Christian School in Metcalfe sought to raise funds in a similar fashion, with the aim of furnishing a classroom for a school in Africa.
As I gleaned details about these news stories, I found out that these expressions of love often felt natural and enjoyable for both the students and teachers involved.
But showing love to others, whether that be as a class, or on your own, can be a difficult task, too. And so, I’m reminded that educators in Christian schools are in a special position—that is, they have the unique opportunity to shape the character formation of their students by inviting them to love as they have been loved by Christ—in ways that are both creative and energizing and in ways that are challenging, or may come at a great cost. Sometimes it’s a mixture of all four.
I hope that educators will take the rest they need to continue that good work again next year. I hope that students feel encouraged by leaders in Christian education to respond to Crouch’s call to “make the world a little more welcoming and thrilling and beautiful” and are inspired by Woodlief’s invitation to “love as you have been loved”. I have no doubt that there will be more stories to share and learn from as they do!
Thank you for your phone calls, emails, photos, and face to face conversations this year. They made for another great season of writing for the OACS news service.