A Letter From Russ Gregg, Head of School

Dear Hope Academy Friends,

If you are reading this letter, you are a beloved member of the Hope Academy community. And whether you are a parent, a staff member, a student, volunteer, or a financial partner   in this pivotal moment in the life of our city, we are all in need of the healing power of God.

The last few weeks have been devastating, and I have grieved with the families of our city. My heart has been torn apart by the murder of George Floyd by officers sworn to protect and serve him. I will never forget watching George’s anguished plea for his life under the officer’s knee, and his repeated cry, “I can’t breathe.”

Most of all, I mourn my own sins of prejudice and racism, and my own contributions to George Floyd’s death. I lament my complicity of silence over previous unjust violence towards my neighbors of color, and my misplaced hope that things were improving. As Dr. King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

As I’ve sat with our families in the ruins and grieved with them, and prayed and protested for life with them, I am determined to do four things:

    1. I’m Determined to Look.
      I’ve forced myself to watch the horrific 8 minutes and 46 seconds recording of George Floyd’s death, and I am devastated by the defacing of the image of God in a fellow human being. I have visited the 38th memorial site to look upon the pain and anguish of my brothers and sisters.
    2. I’m Determined to Listen.
      Scripture commands us to be slow to speak and quick to listen. I have listened to my fellow African-American spiritual leaders pour out the pain in their hearts over this tragedy. I’ve heard their anger over the silence and indifference of their white brothers. I’ve listened to our parents question the safety of their children. I’ve heard their cries for justice, and pleas for change. I’ve heard the dignifying request of a black man in our city: “I simply want to be able to walk outside my home and not be afraid that I’m going to be attacked by police or die.”
    3. I am Determined to Lament.
      Scripture calls us to mourn with those who mourn. I am on guard against the temptation to move on from this uncomfortable feeling too quickly. The Lord accused the false prophets, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace” (Jer. 8:11). Lament and grief are uncomfortable. Self-examination is painful. It takes time for lament to do its righteous work in the heart.
    4. I am Determined to Lead.
      I believe this is a pivotal moment in my life. In many ways, this is the moment of a lifetime. And what I must do in this defining moment is lead with grace, humility and courage.

Why is this a pivotal moment in the life of Hope Academy?

    1. Only those holding to the creation narrative will be able to see and treasure the image of God stamped on every human being. Seeing one another as highly evolved and sophisticated bags of chemicals will be woefully insufficient to change the prejudice of our hearts. What has outraged our city is the defacing of the image of God in the murder of George Floyd. We who are believers in the creation story must lead the way in hallowing the image of God in all people.
    2. Only those holding to the hope of forgiveness in Christ will also be able to lead in the confession and repentance that is necessary for true reconciliation. Repentance is our true hope. Sin will not win if we repent of it. Ultimately, justice and righteousness will triumph under the redemptive leadership of the Messiah through his followers.
    3. The followers of Jesus have the blood bought hope of reconciliation and the unifying Spirit of God within each of us. Jesus’ death has made us into one new humanity. We are, therefore, Christ’s ambassadors and are compelled to live as agents of biblical reconciliation.
    4. Our mission at Hope Academy is primarily a formational work—a work of forming youth into the character of Christ. We are preparing the next generation of future leaders for just such a time as this. And we, the ones training our students, must continually be re-formed into his image.

How will Hope Academy lead in these days?

    1. We will lead in repentance. We will examine our hearts regularly for the stain of prejudice and arrogance and the love of the approval of men.
    2. We will lead in practicing humility. We will spend more time listening to one aother so that we will not be held captive to the lie of a single story.
    3. We will lead in inviting more Christ-centered, culturally diverse voices into our planning and leadership work.
    4. We will lead by applying the Scriptures faithfully in doing the courageous, kingdom-building work of cultural harmony.
    5. We will lead in taking more risks. Our school is a laboratory of reconciliation and hope. We will experiment, sometimes fail, and then we will try and try and try again to live out the hope arising from the love of God and the reconciling work of Christ.
    6. We will lead by continuing the difficult and necessary work of closing the achievement gap for children of color—whatever the cost. Educational inequity in our city is biblical injustice and grieves the heart of our Lord.
    7. Most importantly, we will lead in demonstrating the forgiveness of Christ. Forgiveness will be the foundation of all the work we will do together to rebuild our community.

As one of our Hope Academy Board Members, Dr. Donna Harris recently said, “We cannot distance ourselves from the battle. Our Christian identity does not provide immunity from the layers of race-related trauma, institutionalized racism, and its effects. Our work is not done! We cannot be silent as silence often signals consent. We must courageously call out our own prejudice, arrogance, and pride, take them to the feet of Jesus, then work diligently toward harmony and peace in the space we own.”

A week ago, our teachers prayed a blessing from our Vision Statement over every one of our Hope Academy graduates. It is a vision that has served us well for 20 years. Over each of them we prayed: “Hope Academy has covenanted with your family to prepare you as a kingdom citizen. Now is your time to work for justice, economic opportunity, racial harmony, hope for the family, and joy in the community. And remember, Jesus came to serve and not be served.”

Now, more than ever, I call on the entire Hope Academy community to let Hope arise!

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BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US

By Kevin Farmer

When I think back on my elementary years, one event that brings back both fond and disappointing memories is Valentine’s Day.

I attended a small, Catholic, school in Philadelphia, PA, and every year there seemed to be a competition around who would receive the most Valentines.

As you can imagine, this created a host of problems. The popular kids got showered in candy and cards, while quieter kids with less friends only received a few. It appeared as though Valentine’s cards were reserved for those with the most “friend value.”

This behavior created a divide in our class. Those with the most cards saw themselves as super loved and important. They were the chosen ones. Those with less, felt unappreciated and somehow less special than their peers.

Sadly, these same thoughts are still prevalent today. Many students (and even adults) believe that their personal value is achieved by receiving gifts or affirmation from others.

But…

The good news is we can be set free from this way of thinking! We are each uniquely loved and valued by God. We don’t have to wait for a Valentine’s Card to know that God loves us – He does so generously and has since the beginning of time.

In fact, God loved us so much, He didn’t allow our sinfulness to keep us from being united with Him. In the book of Romans chapter 5, verse 8 we read these words;

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

So, what’s our response? Our response is to love God with everything that we have! Our response is do what God instructs us to do. Our response is to love others in the same way that God loves us.

So, help your children know that there is a love that is greater than any Valentine’s Day card! Help them to know that God loves them, that He values them and that they’re not alone. And then partner with them to extend that love to family, friends, and even to strangers.

Because that’s exactly what God did for us.

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