Christ is in our midst!
Welcome to St. Athanasius Academy! Even though the weather still feels like summer, the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year is right around the corner. This fall brings exciting opportunities for our students and faculty! This year we move to our new Learning Management System (LMS), LearnDash, and we are offering numerous exciting classes across all grades (K-12), and all subjects, including our Core Curriculum, our Theology Courses, and our Liberal Arts Electives. All of us at SAA are excited to see your children this year. We anticipate an exciting year of learning and community!
Alongside this letter, you will receive a letter from SAA’s Administrator, Kh. Kelleylynn Barberg, with vital information for the upcoming year. It will provide you with dates for all our Parent and Student Orientation Zoom meetings, Orientation Week, etc. For this letter, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share three pastoral reflections to help us set a proper tone for the upcoming school year. I ask your forgiveness in advance!
This academic year, let us remember that educating our children properly and naturally flows out of our personal life in the Church and our engagement with the salvation of the world.
Educating with an Orthodox ethos is not adding an Orthodox veneer to secular learning. It is drawing the life of the Church right up from the foundation of our own experience and sacramentally throughout everything we contemplate as educators and students. Most especially, the acceptance of the unique belovedness in God of each of our children brings an overflow of love to our own hearts that naturally wants to address their formation. In a way, it is a fearful task.
Thankfully, we are called to embark on this journey together!
No child is exempt from the invitation to fully manifest the love of Christ. No adult is exempt from that responsibility. Whether we are parents, caregivers, teachers, clergy, or friends, our experience and contemplation of the world as illumined by the light of Christ send us to our children to share with them our stories and understanding of the world and build with them a knowledge of love. We can educate as people who belong to the Body of Christ. We are sent out to teach, to inspire, and to offer hope–not as the exercise of our unique skill, not to construct walls, but as the expression of our faith that all we have comes from Him Who brings us together in His Christ.
Our life itself is the greatest gift we can give our children this school year.
That’s something we constantly forget. When we think about educating our children, what comes immediately to mind are our unique teaching talents (or shortcomings): those subjects or worldviews we can especially offer (or fear we cannot offer). ‘What can I teach? What do they need to learn? How will we help them succeed in the world?’ we ask. However, when focusing on these (not unimportant) questions, we tend to forget that our real gift is not so much what we can teach or impart, but who we are. The real question is not ‘What can we teach our children?’ but ‘Who can we be for our children?’
I am writing this to you from my dining room, with all my children about me. It is too rainy to send them outside. Even as I presume to write to you about ‘the education of our children’, their presence disrupts my train of thought (I had to stop to make them lunch). They are teaching me a lesson. Their presence challenges me to live in the present. They want me to be with them here and now, and they find it hard to understand that I might have other things to do or to think about. Because to them, I am not a principal; I am Daddy.
After all my experience with pastoral care, it is the great healing power of children that is most mysterious. I marvel at their ability to be fully present to me. Their uninhibited expression of affection (and other emotions) and their willingness to receive it pull me directly into the moment and invite me to celebrate life where it is to be found.
It is easy to make schooling our children about time to study, to write essays, and to prepare for classes. And it is so often intermixed with full- or part-time jobs and side-gigs, or crying babies, or runny noses! But I encourage all of us to let it also mean time to play, time to engage in the moment, time to engage and cherish each other. Let their education be a gift to all of us. Let us be fully present to our children.
Importantly, Let their education serve them, and not let them serve our parental hopes. After all, it is a delusion to think we are educating our children for the future. We are educating them for this moment. And this one. And this one.
Let this school year be above all things, a sanctified period wherein we and our children are telling each other about love and life in ways no book was ever able to do. Let us use books, and homework, and classes. Let us also remember that only when we enter with children into their life will we be able to invite them into ours. Only then will we deserve to have them listen to us. Perhaps then, most if not all the days of our school year will be rich and rewarding for each of us. If we have been called in any way to the education of children, it is because God obviously wants us to walk into His Kingdom with a little child on each hand.
May God bless you and keep you! May He show the light of His countenance upon you and be merciful unto you! May He grant you a blessed school year!
Fr. Matthew Snowden