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.

Evening of Gratitude: A Parent’s Retrospective

I think we’d all agree that parenting is not for the faint of heart. As we journey, we seek trusted partners along the way – grandparents, neighbors, Sunday School teachers, baseball coaches, or dear friends who can also model good and gracious living for our kids when we aren’t around.  As followers of Jesus, we want our children to learn not just what to think, but how to think. We want our children to learn and to love learning – and we trust they will come to appreciate the wonder of what is good, true, and beautiful.

On Saturday, November 12, Covenant faculty, students, parents, alumni, and friends came together to thank God for the many blessings bestowed on our learning community over the past years. The annual Evening of Gratitude banquet was just that – an evening focused on celebrating the unique Covenant experience. Held in the stunning Martin Commons at Messiah College, every detail came together to paint an altogether impressive, yet humbling, portrait of what makes Covenant a rare gem among private faith-based schools.

Among the evening’s many highlights:

Outstanding music: The Link & Creason families offered a string prelude featuring their 1st and 3rd grade students. The Chamber Choir closed with a stirring benediction of The Lord Bless You & Keep You.

Stirring testimonials: Alumnus Danny Haas (’14) and three current Covenant students spoke with poise about how their student experience is far from average. Each one acknowledged the grace of God in his or her life; placing as much emphasis on character and integrity as academic excellence. The Weaver family and their 6th and 2nd grade students stood together and affirmed the way in which Covenant is helping them raise global citizens, children who are both academically prepared and easily inspired to be kind.

A warm spirit of fellowship: Nearly 200 guests enjoyed lively conversation around a delicious meal. Where else might you find parents and teachers sharing a meal, strengthening bonds, discovering new connections, and joining together in giving thanks for our learning community?

A bold invitation: In his warm welcome, Dr. Dean Curry, Director of the Messiah College Honors Program, encouraged attendees with this thought: “Please send more of your Covenant students to Messiah College – not only are they some of our finest students, they know that their Christian faith is  a world-engaging faith & a world-transforming faith – it’s not a world-renouncing faith.”

A renewed call to leadership:  Guest speaker Dr. Peter Lillback of Westminster Theological Society underscored the importance of investing in an education that matters. His outstanding address on Christian and classical leadership virtues resonates with the mission of Covenant Christian Academy to train up the next generation of thoughtful, principled servant leaders.

Few things are more touching than watching your children’s past, current, and future teachers gather together and sing Non Nobis, Domine, a short Latin hymn of Thanksgiving that translates to “Not unto us, O, Lord, but to Thy name give glory.” Many schools have capable faculty. Many schools have intensive academic expectations. Many schools have positive test scores and nice facilities. But I would posit that few schools have the remarkable blend of deep faith, excellence, rigor, and joyful camaraderie that I have observed at Covenant Christian Academy.

Many generous donors and sponsors came together to make The Evening of Gratitude a success. If you’ve not yet considered making a gift, of any size, to support Covenant’s mission, please give the opportunity some careful thought. Our world needs Covenant graduates more than ever…as Dr. Lillback noted, the word character derives from the Greek word “charakter” meaning an engraved mark or imprint on the soul. Character is quite literally the impression of a life that never leaves until that life has been expended or worn out. As a Covenant parent, I pray that my children will fully embrace the way of Jesus and develop the kind of intellect and character that will make a difference for eternity. And I remain grateful each day to be able to provide this all-encompassing educational experience for them.

– A grateful Grammar School mom

David Sonju with Mike Bunn on Global Mission Engagement

Q: What is JAARS?
A: JAARS is Jungle Aviation and Radio Service. It’s basically just the technical branch of Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Q: How do you help students catch a vision for missions when there’s the world outside telling them that “losing your life” is a pretty unattractive position?
A:Well I think first of all, of course, if your students and the families that they come from are well read in the Bible, they hopefully will get a different message than that. But I know as a child growing up, my parents would read to us the stories of missionaries every night. So we would read a book about, ya know, one missionary, Nate Saint, or somebody from India. So we’d hear these stories and get inspired by them, of all the things that God was doing around the world. That was one way we became interested. And then my parents and our church also made it a point to take us when they could to places, whether that was downtown with street people or to Mexico to work with villages down in Mexico. That was another way they instilled in us a vision. And then my family personally encouraged all of us boys to take one year between high school and college and do mission work and see something else. It’s not about me. Go out there, learn more about God, get close to God, but also serve Him for a year, and then go to school.

Q: Was there a particular missionary or story that you heard as a young person that particularly grabbed your attention?
A:Well, there were a lot—Hudson Taylor for me was incredible. Reading the stories of some of the early missionaries like him who left family, went by ship . . . some of these guys would pack their coffins full of their belongings knowing that they were gonna die where they were going.

Q: Over the years, how many students—because of presentations like this—at least put the idea of missions or missionary service on their list of possibilities?
A: I’ve been overseas the past 25 years or so. And here in the states, when I come home to the states, I visit my Christian college where I went to school and I speak with a lot of the guys there about serving God overseas as an option other than the airlines or anything else. And a lot of them are very interested in that. I’ve kept up with a number of them through their 4, 5 years of college life and seen them end up on the mission field, maybe a dozen, maybe more. But the reality is taht kids get called into missions at a much, much younger age. So I mean your kids are out there at the helicopter—those 5-year-olds—they’re the ones who will get called.

Q: What advice would you give to your young, school age self, about looking ahead at life and all its possibilities?
A. Well, I would look for any opportunity I can to help other people read the Bible and what it says about reaching the lost—Jesus in the New Testament. It opens up their young or my young mind to things other than myself. I mean we grew up with everything we needed. Once you’re overseas and you see the reality and hear the stories of the reality of the third world . . . reading about it’s one thing, seeing it is another. So having an opportunity to see it, not every 5-year-old or gradeschooler can see that, but a high schooler can. So take that opportunity.

Q: How can we be praying for your ministry in the year ahead?
A: JAARS is, of course I told you, it’s a technical side. So we end up needing a lot of people who are not your stereotypical missionary. Ya know it’s not typically the preacher. It’s not necessarily even the Bible translator. I come from a mission originally Youth With Mission, YWAM. You know I was doing evangelism and work all around the world.

Note: Mike Bunn, JAARS Instructor, and Mike Mower, Director of Missions at the Airport, a former airplane pilot who served in the Philippines, recently landed one of their helicopters on Covenant’s campus to introduce students to their global missionary outreach. JAARS exists to make Bible translation and language development possible, especially in the most remote and difficult places on earth. We do that by enabling locally-appropriate and sustainable solutions in transportation, technology, media, and training. Learn more at

Ravi Jain visits Covenant

‘You don’t need to make math interesting – it’s already more interesting than we can handle!’ – Paul Lockhart, A Mathematician’s Lament

Covenant enjoyed a visit from Ravi Jain, co-author of The Liberal Arts Tradition, on Friday, 9/23. Ravi led a mathematics workshop for our faculty in the morning followed by a talk to our upper schoolers in the afternoon about how learning science flows from wonder and leads to worship.

Over the last decade, Jain and his colleagues at the Geneva School in Orlando, FL have sought to recover an approach to teaching math and science that more fully embodies the classical tradition. Science should be taught in a way that corresponds to the native curiosity of students, giving students eyes to observe the beauty, complexity, and harmony of the created world. Placing scientific discoveries in their historical context so that students experience the pathos of scientific discovery will lead students to a greater appreciation for the marvelous achievements of science.

With regard to math, Jain drew our attention critics such as Morris Kline and Paul Lockhart who contend that modern methods of math instruction serve to dull the creativity of students. In his Mathematician’s Lament, Paul Lockhart, says that “mathematics is the music of reason. To do mathematics is to engage in an act of discovery and conjecture, intuition and inspiration . . . to be frustrated as an artist; to be awed and overwhelmed by an almost painful beauty…” Unfortunately, “this rich and fascinating adventure of the imagination has been reduced to a sterile set of ‘facts’ to be memorized and procedures to be followed.” Jain recognizes the importance of technique, but agrees with Lockhart that the key is to teach technique in the context of discovery. “Give your students a good problem, let them struggle and get frustrated. See what they come up with . Wait until they are dying for an idea, then give them some technique. But not too much.”

By teaching in this way, Ravi and his colleagues have seen more and more students become lovers of math, seeing it not just as a series of techniques or a body of content, but as an exciting path of discovery and awe. At Covenant, we want to awaken desire for beauty and truth in the hearts and minds of our students (and ourselves!) Learning math is a wonderful avenue for this cultivation of our humanity because mathematics is built on the beauty, symmetry, and harmony of the world God made. In all of this, classical Christian education is seeking to attend to the humanity of our students. As Stratford Caldecott wrote in his wonderful essay, Beauty for Truth’s Sake, the best way to teach students is “by first awakening the poetic imagination.” After all, we are educating image bearers of a loving and majestic God, students who are naturally curious and who seek answers that satisfy their soul rather than simply the “right answer” for the test so they can “move on” to the next subject

We are excited to continue a conversation with Ravi Jain this year as we seek to refine our teaching methods to more and more lead students to a love for learning to the glory of God.

The unTED Talk

Covenant is excited to have Dr. Dru Johnson from The King’s College speak to our community on Tuesday, October 4th at 7 PM. Dr. Johnson earned a Ph.D. from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, writing a thesis on biblical epistemology. Prior to serving as an Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at King’s, Dr. Johnson  studied and taught analytic philosophy at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. He has earned an M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary and an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Missouri.

Dr. Johnson has served as a Templeton Senior Research Fellow at The Herzl Institute in Jerusalem, Israel and serves as the co-chair for the Hebrew Bible and Philosophy program unit in the Society for Biblical Literature.  Dr. Johnson also teaches occasionally as a visiting professor at Covenant Theological Seminary and more frequently in Western Kenya in a school for rural pastors. He formerly served seven years in the U.S. Air Force, including five years involved in counter-narcotics operations in the Amazon basin of Columbia. He is ordained in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and he and his wife have four children.

His publications include:

  • Biblical Knowing: A Scriptural Epistemology of Error (2013)
  • Scripture’s Knowing: A Companion to Biblical Epistemology (2015)
  • Genesis 1-11. Transformative Word Commentary Series (2016)
  • Knowledge By Ritual: A Biblical Prolegomenon to Sacramental Theology (2016)

Drawing on his research in philosophy and theology, Dr. Johnson will be speaking about the kind of learning that leads to transformative growth and wisdom. Here is a description of his talk:

“The unTED Talk: How well-crafted speeches don’t necessarily teach us anything”

A college quite literally refers to a group of colleagues. Scientists have figured this out. The scientific enterprise only works when colleagues work in community to better understand the realities that they study. Learning, for scientists, necessarily happens as a form of apprenticeship within a community, where a young scientist begins as a novice and trains to contribute to the group’s understanding. 

TED Talks, on the other hand, propose another model of learning: a profound and eloquent insight delivered in a polished and brief speech. These wildly popular talks focus on the expert in the room sharing what he or she has learned with everyone else. However, what do we learn in such an environment? The danger is both in the setup and delivery. A polished speech can leave us thinking we’ve understood something profound, but we only feel that way because we understood how the parts of the talk worked together toward a common rhetorical goal. TED Talks are famous for this and that “polished speech model” is even being mocked within the TED Talk community.

Thousands of years ago, the Hebrew Bible and New Testament spelled out a unique view of expertise formation. Under the biblical model, young folk do not learn by well-crafted talks—though eloquent oratory often engages us as learners. Wisdom attains by entering a community of learners, submitting to their authority, and embodying instruction in order to see the world differently than could ever happen otherwise. Thus, discernment is transformational, forever changing the way we see that which we study. 

This talk challenges the “do what you love” idea of careerism by looking at these two forms of learning: the lure of listening to excellent rhetorical construction without transformation as opposed to submitting to a community that seeks to foster wisdom amongst colleagues. I pose that the “do what you love” model of career planningso prevalent today—should be replaced with a better question: What community should I belong to and how will being a colleague transform my understanding?