“I had great habits at home, that I thought were leading me to perfection,” Wayne Stender continued, explaining how his Christian home equipped him well. He went on to point out how technology distracted him. The practices didn’t make him perfect, but in remembering them he was given purpose. The presentation was a strong follow-up on the school theme, and set the stage for a reset for the student body.
Stender diagrammed a Bible study that reset his thinking. The whiteboard on the stage in the chapel had scribbles that walked students through the first designing acts of God. Then Stender turned the tables, pointing to God’s design for pleasure that is based in his character and how humankind makes pleasure a self-seeking god.
To close chapel Stender connected the rhythm of God’s designed order with what he called the “5 L’s”. Love, Longing, Loyalty, Labor, and Liturgy were written in a small box on the whiteboard. They functioned as anchor concepts for students in reference to the 2 Peter 1:4 portion of the school’s theme, practice makes purpose. The passage speaks to the precious promises of Christ that keep humankind from being corrupted by the evil desires of the world.
In chapel on Monday the student body engaged a study orchestrated by Stender and chapel coordinator Ryan Garvin. The two created an intro video that was played in each classroom before the start of the chapel period. When the bell rang and students left their second period classes for the Chapel they walked past the large wooden doors and down the front steps to the Hillcrest front lawn. There they dispersed under the sound of chirping birds. The lawn was quiet as students reached into backpacks and pulled out a Bible, a pen, and a packet they received in their second period class.
The first page of the packet read, “We want to give you a chance to take responsibility for your development both spiritually and emotionally. Please do this exercise with a heart of growing, knowing that your teachers, staff, and RAs are all praying for you as you look to grow during your time here.” Students moved to the first question in the packet that had them imagine what a person following them for a day would say the student loves. Students were asked to write down the things they want to love, the thoughts they want to have in their intimate and quiet times of thought and processing life. They were then asked what their action plan was to generate new loves during their time at Hillcrest. The packet was a four-week checkup on their Hillcrest experience. It called them to remember why they came to the Castle in the first place.
Students wrote notes and looked into the distance. The hum of machinery drowned out the sound of birds chirping and cicadas calling in the summer breeze. The packet walked students through a guided tour of their loves, longings, loyalties, labors, and liturgies. For thirty minutes the students reset their Hillcrest experience in the shadow of the steeple where God has impacted Hillcrest students’ lives for eternal significance for eighty years.
When the bell rang marking the end of the chapel period students popped up. Some huddled to pray with friends. Others packed their bags and started on their way to the school. The packet encouraged students to share what they learned with adults. A group of students stopped in Stender and Mr. Garvin’s respective offices to thank them for the time. One spoke of sharing what she wrote with her father. Another said she wanted to talk with Principal Isaac because she’s grown to carry a new respect for him in his Understanding the Times course.
Hillcrest embarks on week five of the school year this week. Students are finding mentors and friends that are urging them to grow in their faith walk during their time at Hillcrest. The two-part chapel series was an opportunity for students to respond to the calls to faith they’ve heard over the past four weeks. There will be many more resets for students throughout the coming weeks, but one thing was reiterated in the video that rings true as students work to build practices that form purpose in their faith. “You can never break it,” Stender said in the video played during second hour before the personal reflection time on Monday. “God’s character is offered to us by the blood of Jesus Christ. Even in our brokenness and sin we can live in his character.” Stender’s words were a Gospel highlight that points to Christ doing the work in offering us relationship. Students are building habits today to make that relationship more purposeful for a world that desperately needs reminding of the love, character, and nature of Jesus Christ.