Watch for articles about classical Christian education, from the philosophical to the practical. We will include reflections on Scripture, poetry, philosophy, literature, summaries of relevant books and films, articles, podcasts, and “best practice” tips from fellow travelers on this journey toward lives well lived.
Formation is at the heart of classical Christian education. This is no small task. As James K.A. Smith observes in You Are What You Love, we are daily being formed by participation, often unintentional, in ubiquitous secular liturgies. Many of those liturgies are making the work of educators and parents more difficult. We believe classical Christian classrooms and homes can and should be spaces for intentional and powerful counter liturgies and formation. We encourage you to listen to Restless Devices: Christian Formation in a Digital World, a Calvin University January Series talk by Felicia Wu Song. Join us as we practice liturgies designed to form us, not for “permanent connectivity” through devices, but rather for permanent communion through Christ.
We welcome Mrs. Tellinghuisen back to the CCE Corner. This reflection for Epiphany was written last year for her church, Fifth Reformed, where she serves as a liturgical consultant and writer.
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is not just a festive song about some extravagant (yet impractical) gift giving. They are days of the true Christmas season: the liturgical season of Christmastide, which brings us to Epiphany (January 6, by the calendar, with Epiphany Sunday celebrated on the 6th or the Sunday following it), and the beginning of Ordinary Time, the period before Lent.
Epiphany commemorates the visit of the Magi and the manifestation of the Light of the World to all those in the world. (The word comes from a Greek word meaning manifestation or appearance.) The kings are individual characters, uniquely situated in time and history, but they are representative of the Gentiles and the truth that salvation through Jesus is available to all. The Gift came to us all because God loves us all.
Read the rest of the meditation as featured in the Reformed Worship blog.
In C.S. Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy, a terrifying chase by lions ends with two horses and two children barely escaping across a narrow inlet of the sea. As the four gather their wits, Bree, a talking Narnian horse, lays out the plan: “And now that we’ve got the water between us and those dreadful animals, what about you two humans taking off our saddles and our all having a rest and hearing one another’s stories.” Bree asks one of the humans to speak first, and the narrator tells us: “Aravis immediately began, sitting quite still and using a rather different tone and style from her usual one. For in Calormen, story-telling (whether the stories are true or made up) is a thing you’re taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay writing. The difference is that people want to hear the stories, whereas I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays.”*
It’s a humorous comparison of genres but one that might make those of us in classical education a little defensive. A philosopher by training, I feel the need to explain, “Well, joking aside, Lewis actually thought essays were important and interesting too…” We shouldn’t be quick to set aside Lewis’s primary point though: stories are powerful. They grab our attention, engage the imagination, arouse emotions, direct passions, shape beliefs. In short, they form us. While it is important to train students in logic and analytical reading and writing, we have to admit that stories are important too—probably more important. As Jennifer Holberg writes in Nourishing Narratives: The Power of Story to Shape our Faith, “[N]o matter what one’s childhood—even if one was not or is not really much of a reader—we are all profoundly story-shaped people. We live in a world that, for better or worse, most often seems to process through narrative, not facts.”** Trinitas is a school built on stories—on God’s story, and on the myriad stories that point us to Him.
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Mrs. Tellinghuisen returns to the CCE Corner to share about last week’s chapel guests, her seminary program, and the importance of hiding God’s word in our hearts.
There’s a delicate balance to be found between the task of learning and the joy of learning. These two things are not mutually exclusive, but they don’t always overlap. Sometimes the learning process is hard and doesn’t leave us feeling joyful. We may, even in moments of frustration and impatience, have a sense of satisfaction that we are growing in knowledge (hopefully wisdom too). But we might not call that joy.
This is food for thought in a classical school that has high standards and lofty expectations. We ask a lot of our students. (Case in point, how many middle schoolers do you know who study Greek?) Each day at Trinitas is full, for our curriculum is full. And each day, a certain amount of work needs to happen. Facts must be taught. Concepts must be applied. Assessments must be given. There are learning tasks that must happen in a classroom. Of course, how that happens makes all the difference. The goal of teaching is transformation, but we all know that knowledge alone can’t transform hearts.
The challenge for a Christian classical school is even greater. We have Bible classes. We have Bible memorization assignments that, yes, are graded work. But even if we know that memorization is important and good for our kids (good for adults too), we may wonder—Is this assignment being presented as a joy as well as a task? Is it being received as a joy and not just a task?
As mentioned in part I, the classical Christian tradition teaches us that friendship with God is humankind’s highest good and that cultivating this friendship requires a life of prayer. How then should we pray? Together and alone. Through the words of others and in our own. We have a God who created and sustains the universe and yet also hears each of our prayers. How blessed are we when in our solitude and without concern for the form of our words we offer our adoration and thanks, make our confessions, plead our requests, and express our emotions. We find our model for this intimate individual and spontaneous form of prayer in scripture. The Psalmists poured out their hearts to God. And we know from his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane that our Lord poured out his. But private prayers are not the only soil in which friendship with God grows.
In his book Prayer, George Buttrick draws attention to the act of praying together, saying that it “should be stressed in a generation which easily neglects and discredits public worship. For a man to argue, ‘I do not go to church: I pray alone,’ is no wiser than if he should say, ‘I have no use for symphonies: I believe only in solo music’” (35).* To this I would add that praying through the words of others might also need to be stressed in a generation which admires the “authentic” and disparages the rote.
Like all of Jesus’ parables, his stories of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) and a person who repeatedly knocks on a friend’s door at midnight (Luke 11:5-13) contain a “hidden” meaning. I am reluctant, even with the help of commentaries, to try to interpret this deeper meaning about prayer and the relationship of asking, seeking, and knocking to receiving, finding, and opening. I have too many questions about prayer in general (and am also shy about the possibility of committing heresy): Do our prayers somehow change God’s mind? But isn’t God unchangeable and impassible? Do our prayers merely change us? Do they simply give us a better “perspective,” cultivate psychological equilibrium, build our character? Does the timing of our prayers matter for a God who is outside of time? (I once attended a philosophy colloquium on the topic: “Praying for Things to Have Happened.”) While I have a desire to know the answers to such questions and can appreciate the subtle debates, I know that mystery will continue to veil much of prayer. It is part of the Christian tradition, however, not to let mystery be an impediment to action. At some point, we may need to be satisfied with the classic Sunday school answer: “Jesus.” Jesus prayed. Jesus told his followers to pray. And, in these parables, the message close to the surface is that we are to do so persistently.
In his classic book on prayer, Presbyterian minister George Buttrick writes that on the issue of prayer, “as always [Jesus’] deed and word are an indivisible flame” (35).* In less eloquent expression: Jesus “walked the walk.” Jesus prayed in solitude and with friends, he prayed in routine days and in crisis, he prayed at his baptism and in the desert, he left the crowds to pray and he prayed before choosing his disciples, he prayed on the Mount of Transfiguration and he prayed after the feeding of the five thousand, he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and he prayed on the cross, he prayed, “until prayer became the climate of his days. The saints said that ‘to work is to pray,’ and they believed profoundly that ‘to pray is to work.’ Jesus said in the language of deeds that ‘to live is to pray,’ and that to pray is to live’” (36). If Jesus prayed, shouldn’t that be good enough reason for us to do the same?
A successful school year starts in the summer! Now is the time to work together on habits for mind, body, and soul. You might want to print a copy of our updated Healthy Habits and hang it on your fridge.
Join us for food for the soul! We plan to discuss Jennifer Holberg’s Nourishing Narratives: The Power of Story to Shape Our Faith. Please contact Mrs. Poortenga for more information. Some of you attended Professor Holberg’s wonderful talk in March, which was drawn primarily from two chapters of the book.
Note: The book will be released on Amazon on July 25. Baker Book House on East Paris currently has copies in stock. Call to reserve a copy. It is also available now on the IVPress website. Some new/like new copies can be found on eBay.
… when there’s a brainstorm! For all the dreamers, schemers, planners, and storytellers; the artisans, handicrafters, tinkerers, and designers; and of course the engineers, architects, cultivators, and curators: we invite you share your creations at Maker Faire 2023.
What is a Maker Faire? It is a showcase of both individual and group projects, featuring innovation and experimentation across the spectrum of science, engineering, art, performance, and craft.
How do I participate? Consider a skill you have or would like to have. Then, consider how you might grow that skill and ultimately showcase it in our Maker Faire next November.
Participation is free. Our Trinitas Maker Faire will feature student, alumni, and hopefully even parent exhibits, as well as hands on activities that invite students (and adults) to make something during the event.
If you would like to participate or have questions, please contact Mrs. Hultink.