An Evening of Gratitude

This Saturday, Covenant Christian Academy celebrated “An Evening of Gratitude”, commemorating 20 years of God’s faithfulness. About 200 attendees gathered together at Messiah College, including Covenant’s faculty, staff, students, board, parents and supporters. The group enjoyed fellowship, good food, a silent auction, slideshows of years past, celebration of the school’s history, and speeches from the founding headmaster, a current Upper School student, an alumna, and the keynote speaker: Hon. Paul J. McNulty, President of Grove City College.

Dr. Sonju, Covenant’s head of school, set the tone for the evening, by welcoming everyone to enjoy a wonderful night of fellowship together in celebration of 20 years of God’s faithfulness at Covenant. Dr. Dean Curry, Dean of the Honors College at Messiah College, then offered a welcome on behalf of Messiah College since the event was hosted in the beautiful Martin Commons on Messiah’s campus. Dr. Curry praised Covenant graduates who have “enriched the academic and co-curricular culture of Messiah College in innumerable and meaningful ways”, including six Covenant alumni who currently attend there.

Following a delicious main course, Mr. Jesse Mauer led Covenant’s Chamber choir in blessing the audience through song. They sang a choral arrangement of the traditional hymn, “Abide with Me”, an evening hymn fitting for the occasion. Dr. Sonju pointed out that several of the choir singers were members of our Covenant Volleyball team who earlier that day had played in a state quarterfinals match. Since a classical education aims to form students in the fullness of their humanity, it is fitting to hear a choir made up of athletes and scholars.

Our first speaker was Covenant’s first headmaster, Dr. Christopher Perrin, who stole the show with hilarious stories from the early years, remarking that it was like “riding a tiger…we were taking chances everywhere…we were trying to learn as we moved along.” Classical education was something they were trying to recover and renew, providing an education to their children that they hadn’t received themselves. “Education” he said, “used to be the cultivation of a soul, on truth, goodness and beauty, by reading the great books, by means of the liberal arts, under the Lordship of Christ.” As Covenant developed as a school, “we were reading things about what education used to be and then trying to bring it to life at Covenant Christian Academy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.” Dr. Perrin also praised Covenant for its close community, warm and welcoming atmosphere and relational integrity; all of which it has maintained as a small school. He called upon those in attendance to strengthen the wobbly bridge back to classical education that he and the early founders of Covenant began slowly to forge.

Lucas Lanza (class of 2018) shared that his love and desire for fellowship is one of the greatest gifts being part of the Covenant community has given him. He sees fellowship as a time “when believers come together and share their walks with Christ, what they are grateful for, and their struggles.” He has been able to think about his life and faith with depth, in accordance with the Word.

Erin Burlew (class of 2010) shared her gratitude for the education she received at Covenant. Ms. Burlew shared that Covenant taught her to think and speak well which has served her well in her career as a CPA. She quipped that although her profession is not typically associated with eloquence and confidence, she argued that her Covenant education has given her confidence to argue her points with clients –a task that can require much courage when disagreeing with a senior financial executive on a particular point. She is also grateful for how her classical, Christian education has given her discernment to evaluate and choose a new church and community upon moving to Richmond.

Hon. Paul J. McNulty gave the keynote address, speaking from his own experiences as a Christian educator and from his personal walk with the Lord. He spoke in particular about what makes education truly transformative. President McNulty compared transformative education to the farm to table movement in the restaurant: how do we really know which is the real deal? Christians seeking a transformative education, McNulty said, should look to the truth of God’s word first. He quoted Romans 12:1-2, pointing out that, in order to be truly transformational, there must be holistic change, dedication to God, a non-conformity to the world, and a mind renewal. He reminds that “it’s more important than ever that through schools such as this…that we are training up young people to have discernment, to understand God’s word, and then to apply it faithfully in all circumstances.” We live between a period where God is transforming and a period where God will have transformed all, when we eat the richest “farm to table” food there is in His new kingdom. President McNulty concluded that “education serves the purpose of bringing [students] to that wonderful place where they are celebrating that fantastic, eternal fellowship with Christ.”

Mr. Michael Geer, proud parent of Covenant alumni and board member closed the night in prayer and an invitation to partner with Covenant. A generous donor has offered to match donations up to $75,000, creating a special opportunity for those wanting to partner with the work God is doing at Covenant. The school is very thankful to have been able to raise over $73,000 through this event. Reflecting on this outcome, Dr. Sonju remarked that “this is a record-breaking fund-raising night for our school. It is incredibly encouraging to know that so many people want to support our mission as we move into our third decade together.”


Conference Champs!

Covenant’s varsity volleyball team made history this weekend by winning the school’s first ever CCAC League Championship in volleyball, defeating Conestoga Christian School in Lancaster on Saturday! The championship comes after a stunning regular season in which the Falcons went undefeated in league play, losing only one match to the much larger Trinity High School. The team now moves on to district playoffs, facing off as the number one seed against eighth seeded Millersburg High School on Tuesday. A win Tuesday and Thursday will move them on to States. Covenant’s team is seeded fifth in the state in PIAA class A.

2017 CCAC Champion Covenant Falcons (L to R Felicity Bailey, Anna Elder, Maya Bock, Maddy Enders, Alyssa Martin, Lindsey Keener, Addison Neff, Rachel McCollum, and Sarah Miller)

The team is coached by Mark Spoonhour and assistant Natalie Martin and led by captains Lindsey Keener and Felicity Bailey. Players (and parents) remember that it was only 4 short years ago that they had not yet ever won a single match! This season, along with their championship victory, each match the girls have played has been won in only 3 games – 3 out of 5 wins a match – making them undefeated not only in each league match, but each game they have played!

Covenant’s athletic director, Erin Hoover, was “very thankful and impressed by the number of people who came all the way out to Lancaster” to support the girls. She said it “felt like a home game” with a “good cheering section that was loud and large.” Head of School David Sonju echoed the thought, saying “There was a real energy in the stands! It was a great night for Covenant athletics!”

Celebrating another won point!

Rachel McCollum stretches for a shot.

Coach Spoonhour was especially proud of “how the girls stepped up to the challenge and…made plays all night long.” He gave special honor to Felicity Bailey for 30 good serves in the Saturday match without error. Coach Spoonhour also credited Lindsey Keener with another all-around great performance with 5 aces, 13 kills and 16 digs. Maddy Enders contributed 2 aces, 19 assists, 12 digs and 2 blocks and Alyssa Martin had a solid defensive game with 12 digs, 1 block and 4 kills.

Lindsey Keener serving during the regular season.

The Girls Volleyball League Champions banner is hanging proud in Covenant’s main lobby and a “Good Luck, Volleyball!” sign seconds the message downstairs. The Covenant family is cheering on these girls as they battle their way to states! In the words of Coach Spoonhour, on behalf of the Covenant girls: “it’s a tough week, but it could be filled with a lot of excitement as well!”

Come out to cheer the girls on Tuesday evening at the Camp Hill Sports Center at 7:30 p.m. Go Falcons!

– Thank you to Alexia Gerber for compiling and writing this post.

Look Forward to the Fruit

September is an exciting time for us each year. There is a bustle in the air as our teachers make lesson plans and set up classrooms for the new year. It is wonderful to have our students here again!

We have adopted a theme this year of  joy on the journey. This text from Colossians chapter one expresses well the prayer we have for our students for this school year:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 

We pray that our students will each feel the Lord’s pleasure this year. In that spirit, I wanted to suggest a few ways to help bring joy to your journey at Covenant this year.

1. Pray with other parents

When I think of our mission and how it is embodied in the growth and education of each individual student, I am humbled. How could we possibly be up to the task set before us to teach students to love to learn? Or to help them see and submit to the Lordship of Christ in every sphere of life? Or to shape their minds with a distinctly Christian view of the world? We need your prayers!

Did you know that there is a prayer team that meets together almost every Thursday morning from 8:00 to 9:00 to pray for our students and teachers? Please contact our prayer team coordinator, Dana Kenny, if you would like to join.

2. Talk frequently with your teachers and dean

We are so blessed with the faculty we have here at Covenant. Our teachers love Jesus, love your child, and are committed to helping your child grow and mature this year, both in what they learn in their classes, but also in the habits, skills, and virtues they acquire. As one who once hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, I know that any long journey worth taking will involve some missteps and stumbles along the way. I encourage you to keep in close contact with your teacher – we want to see each child joyfully reach the summit at Covenant this year.

3. Equip Yourselves

The classical path is not a wide thoroughfare, it’s not intended to be easy, but it leads to such a good place. You need to strengthen yourself for the journey. In addition to praying with other parents, and keeping good communication with teachers, it’s also helpful to learn more about classical education and why we do the things we do. There are some great resources to help parents and students better understand what we’re about. Here are a few:

  • Classical Me, Classical Thee: Squander Not Thine Education by Rebekah Merkle This is a terrific new book to students written by a former classical Christian student. The classical Christian movement has done a pretty good job of explaining what we’re doing to parents, but we haven’t always done a great job explaining it to our students themselves. This book would be great for 6th grade and up.
  • BaseCampLive podcasts. These free 20 minute podcasts are a terrific way for parents to learn more about classical education. Subscribe with iTunes or RSS. I look forward to the new one every week.
  • Classical Refreshment – We will be hosting a series of morning coffees this fall to encourage parents on their journey at Covenant. Come and join fellow parents for coffee and discussion about classical Christian education. Please RSVP with to attend.
    • September 21: “Joy on the Journey: Hints from the Head of School”
    • November 2: “Help! School Makes My Child Anxious.”
    • December 7: “Top Tips from Parents Who’ve Gone Before”

4. Look Forward to the Fruit

One piece of advice I consistently give to families is to always look forward to the fruit. Of course there are going to be challenges along the way. We are trying to lead students toward maturity not indulgence. Toward wisdom and discernment and self-control and joy. We are teaching them to be worthy possessors of freedom!  When a struggle or difficulty comes, I urge you to remember where the road leads, and the fruit that awaits you at the end of that journey.

As I consider the kind of person each graduate is on his or her way to becoming, I am encouraged. They have spent years being shaped in their affections to love and value good and beautiful things. Their minds have been sharpened by an attention to logic so that they are not easily “blown here and there by every wind of teaching” that comes along. (Eph 4:14). They can speak and write persuasively so that they can be a voice for truth in our world.

One way to get a foretaste of that fruit is to come out and enjoy our community events throughout the year. Our Poetry festival, Christmas Concert, Spring Concert, Art reception, Senior Thesis, and Graduation, to name a few. Come, taste and see the fruit that awaits your child as he or she journeys toward graduation.

John Henry Newman, a profound thinker from another era, once described how a liberal arts education can form a person in extraordinary ways. Such a person’s mind, he writes,

is almost prophetic from its knowledge of history; it is almost heart-searching from its knowledge of human nature; it has almost supernatural charity from its freedom from littleness and prejudice; it has almost the repose of faith, because nothing can startle it; it has almost the beauty and harmony of heavenly contemplation, so intimate it is with the eternal order of things and the music of the sphere. (Newman, The Idea of a University, 105).

Only by God’s grace do we have any hope of approaching the vision that Newman describes. But by His grace, I pray we will see glimpses of such fruit growing in our students this year at Covenant.

David Sonju
Head of School


A Reflection on Classical Christian Education
By John Hayward

Convictions, according to Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, are not beliefs that you hold but beliefs that hold you. Convictions give steady direction and governance to choices. They function like default settings for life. Being a disciple of Jesus and seeking to see his Lordship in all of life lead to certain convictions that must govern a life of faithfulness. Jesus’ life and teachings show us that a life of submission to these convictions is the true life of freedom. In a later article I will reflect specifically on how my education formed those ultimate convictions in me but here I want to point to convictions in two areas that have meaningfully shaped my life: authority and ideas.

Authority is not a popular concept and it’s not hard to understand why. Authority implies power and power can be and frequently is abused. It is however an inescapable reality. Parents, employers, pastors and government officials will be a part of each of our lives. My experience at a classical Christian school was a blessing because I was instructed by teaching and example in a Christian vision of authority. Essentially this consisted of two aspects which became my convictions. First, I was told and expected to respect authority because it has been put into my life by God. Second, I was taught and expected to keep authority accountable to God’s standards. This one-two combo punch of convictions about authority has humbled and protected me in my life.

In the first part of Anna Karrenina, Tolstoy introduces us to a character partly with this line, “he liked his newspaper, as he liked a cigar after dinner, for the slight haze it produced in his head.”[1] This captures the approach to ideas that is repugnant (like the smell of a bad cigar) to me because of the convictions my education gave me. Ideas matter. They lead to life or death. They glorify or profane the LORD. Therefore engaging in ideas (like gears engage a bicycle chain) personally is an act of Christian service. We need to promulgate good ideas that are good for people and fight bad ideas that are bad for people. Tinkering with ideas in detached pondering will tend to make us like Jude’s opponents “waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted.” (Jude 12, ESV) I was taught to have this conviction because I tasted the opposite. I tasted meaningful education through lessons that had, as C. S. Lewis would say, “Blood and sap in it. The trees of Knowledge and Life growing together.”

The culture in which we live insinuates, cajoles and finally screams that boundaries are inherently oppressive. Convictions require commitments and commitments lead to less freedom, the logic goes. The destructive floods of foolishness around us point to the contrary. Everyone prefers the Susquehanna keeps to its boundaries. Fire is only productive, fun and a blessing when it is under tight control. The boundary lines of my life have been laid in pleasant places thanks to the convictions formed in me through my education.

“Oh, magnify the LORD with me,

and let us exalt his name together!”

 Psalm 34:3 (ESV)


[1] Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

It is not Casual to be Human

A Reflection on Classical Education
By John Hayward

Over the course of my first trimester here at Covenant I had the opportunity at several gatherings with parents to share some personal reflections on how I have been blessed by my classical Christian education. Those reflections are the foundation for this new series of blogs. My goal in these blogs is to testify to how the Lord has blessed me through receiving the kind of education that we are seeking to give to the students at Covenant and to declare with the Psalmist, “You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.” Psalm 40:5

The one orienting theme of all of the other blessings that I want to share over the next three blogs is that my teachers always had goals for me beyond what they could see and measure. They did not merely want me to pass a class, progress to the next grade, graduate, succeed at college and become an excellent employee. All of those things take work and are true accomplishments but I am blessed that my teachers always kept a different person in view than the student in front of them.

My teachers were working towards shaping who I would be ten years after college. They were concerned with what kind of citizen, church member, father and husband I would be. By aiming for a man beyond the boy they could see my teachers demonstrated their dependence on God. This is key because their desire to equip me to be an engaged citizen and church member and a faithful and loving father and husband was always shaped by their understanding that I had an eternal goal. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis from The Weight of Glory my teachers knew that they had no ordinary students; there were no mere mortals in their classrooms. It is not a casual thing to be human.

Despite the loud voices for quick and quantifiable results, my teachers held to a course determined by the desire to, as Paul says in Colossians 1:27-28 “make known… the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”

I am grateful for the opportunity to invite you to “magnify the Lord with me” (Ps. 34:3) as I reflect on what God has done in my life in my education. I pray that it orients each of us to pray for our students. May they be similarly blessed by the education at Covenant and may we all join Paul in saying in Colossians 1:29 “For this [presenting people mature in Christ] I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

Forum et Agora – May 23, 2017

Forum et Agora

Forum et Agora… an open-air public address in the style of the ancient Roman Suasoria, where a novice student of Rhetoric would deliver an argument acting as an advisor to a famous historical or legendary figure. At Covenant, we have adapted this method of training to involve an eighth grade student speaking as a famous historical figure to a group.

A beginner’s level rhetoric class -especially in the Dialectic School- is a challenge met by dedicating a pattern of learning to an end goal: a culminating event. Culminating events in this way give the student a motivation, and in the case of the Forum et Agora the motivation is a visible, reachable, rewarding, public end.

The public-communal nature of Classical education dictates that the student is not alone. Not only is she part of a family, and part of a tradition, and part of the Church, but she also partakes in a school community where her gifts will be honed and her voice will be heard. Modern education makes learning a private thing, quantified by numbers and personal achievement. At Covenant, achievement is a public phenomenon. To succeed publicly in the presence of the community -in that moment- forms the student and community together in a kind of seal. We become evidence of a promise.

The Forum et Agora does take work. Eighth grade students study the elements of Rhetoric… that course of study that identifies and categorizes the best practices of language with regards to persuasion. They drill and practice and repeat schemes and tropes and topics of invention and the panoply of terms many of which we don’t naturally believe exist. We play games with them. The eighth grader analyzes famous speeches with them. He constructs a framework of terms by which he applies content to form his own speech. He discovers content though choosing a thesis from this question: What is it that sets the Greek mind apart from the Roman mind or vice versa? He chooses a famous Greek or Roman. He researches a historical context or event to speak about. He practices his speech before his peers.

It is in this process of discovery of Rhetoric that the eighth grader begins to apply lessons of Elocution and Memory and Delivery. Written out, it all reads as a complex study of intertwining technical jargon and sequence, and it is that, yet Rhetoric is simultaneously artful and personal and delightful and intuitive. The Forum et Agora event provides a platform for your student to be heard and celebrated. Come watch her sway her crowd just as she intended.

– Mr. David Kemper has taught Humanities in Covenant’s Upper School since the school’s founding in 1997. In addition to teaching rhetoric, history, and literature, Mr. Kemper also directs Covenant’s highly regarded theater productions.

The Class of 2017 to Present Theses

Covenant’s senior class of 2017 will be presenting their theses on Thursday, May 18th starting at 9:15am. In addition, select students will also be presenting at Messiah College at 7pm on May 22nd. We hope you will join us to celebrate our graduating seniors!  These presentations are the culmination of a year’s worth of research and hard work, but it all really began for most of them back in Kindergarten when they embarked on their educational adventure at Covenant.

9:15 – Raegan McClymont

9:50 – Sara Qiao

10:25 – 10:45 *20 min break*

10:45 – Brandyn MacKelvey

11:20 – Lexi Elder

12 – 1 LUNCH

1:05 – 1:40 – Sarah McLaughlin

1:40 – 2:20 – Sue Lee

Grammar School Showcase and Art Exhibit

Join us for an exciting showcase of the beauty and joy of classical Christian education. See how a lifelong love of learning is planted in the hearts of our Grammar School students, and how this then flourishes in the creativity and delight of our Upper School students. Discover how a classical Christian education can help students grow to love what is good and to seek what is right in the sight of the Lord.

We hope you’ll join us!  You can RSVP here.

12th Annual Covenant Classic Golf Tournament

2017 Covenant Classic Golf Tournament
We are pleased to host the 2017 Covenant Classic Golf Tournament at Dauphin Highlands Golf Course in Harrisburg on Monday, May 1st. From majestic views, wide open fairways, beautiful ponds and trees hosting a variety of wildlife and a ravine crossed by a rustic bridge—Dauphin Highlands provides a golfing experience that will keep you coming back.

We’d love to have you join us for golf. Come with your own foursome or join one! Don’t miss the early bird special!

We also have several opportunities to sponsor this event.

Click HERE to register or sponsor the event.

Follow: The Art of Disciplining Teens (and everyone else too)

by John Hayward, Upper School Dean

The message of Scripture is simple. Read the gospels and you will be especially surprised at how clear and straightforward Jesus’ message is. There is little spin or nuance to the basic message. We should seek to follow Jesus in this simplicity that is not simplistic. So, here you go. How to disciple teens (and everyone else too) in two steps: know the person and help them be known by scripture.

Step One: know the teen. Know the teen well enough that their lives affect you. Are you affected by what they face in their lives? Maybe this seems like an obvious question, children’s behavior, attitude and health affect how parents feel any given day. But there is an important distinction between being affected by them as they relate to our desires, fears, standards and expectations and being affected by them in empathy because we know them and have stopped to see the world through their eyes and feel what they must feel. This is what we must do to be faithful to the call in Romans 12:9 to let love be sincere. Part of that is knowing their experience of life so that we might “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” as it says in Romans 12:15.

Teens face a unique set of unavoidable challenges. The changes that they are going through in their bodies and position in society make them face adult decisions for the very first time. Another issue that they face is looking at themselves in the midst of all this change and asking “who am I?” Aggravating this issue is the great number of voices vying offering different competing answers to that question. Imagine the anxiety, anger, helplessness that attends having a crowd of people all talking to you at once trying to tell you something you desperately need to know. That’s what it can be like for a teen.

Step Two: Help the teen be known by Scripture. Step two is the most important. It takes skill to, as David Powlison says, fix the rivet between experience and Scripture. God gives us words to understand and to articulate our experience. Our goal should be to communicate Scripture so that a teen listens and says, “that’s it! That’s me; that’s what it’s like.” The difficulty of doing this wisely shows the importance of step one and why it comes first. Knowing the teen enables us to help them see their lives in light of God’s word. Another general rule to follow when helping teens be known by Scripture is that it has to sound good. If Scripture doesn’t sound good, we have to try again and repeat the steps.

These steps to disciplining teens are not easy. The best way to improve in them is to experience them. Are you aware of what’s going on in yourself, the passions and desires that drive you? When you see them do you turn to Scripture as a source of life and guidance? Have you experienced being known by Scripture and have it meet you right where you are weak and needed a good word from the Lord? If you are like me, the answer to these questions is too often “no.” As we grow in these areas, we will be more naturally patient and gracious as we disciple teens. Feel unqualified? Good. That is God’s grace, bringing you to the end of yourself. Let’s call out to Him and ask that He will open our eyes to our own struggles and weaknesses and make His word come alive so that we can be ministers of it to our teens.