by Kolby Atchison, Class Seven Teacher and Director of Athletics and Service/Leadership
One particularly intriguing element of Clapham School is its inclusion of service, not simply as a core value, but as an objective in its own right. Within the school’s vision statement you will find Clapham’s commitment to service explicitly stated: “Clapham School equips men and women to intentionally serve Christ by cultivating his truth, goodness, and beauty in the world.” For a classical school, it is not surprising or unusual to find the cultivation of truth, goodness, and beauty as a desired aim. But Clapham’s emphasis on service is unusual; it is not common for schools, classical or modern, to elevate service as a final application point the way Clapham does. In this blog, I will offer three reasons why service is vital for the flourishing of our school and the lives of our students.
First, service protects our students from the vices of pride and self-absorption. Clapham takes student formation very seriously. We stimulate the minds of our students using living ideas. We encourage our students to explore the world for themselves and choose various skills to master. We train our students to form good habits in order to develop the virtuous vigor to do what they ought. With this notable assortment of aims, it would be very easy for our students to develop unhealthy and even sinful perceptions of themselves as highly intelligent, skilled, and motivated human beings. Lifestyles and habitual acts of service will protect them from this vice. This is due to the fact that serving demands a certain degree of humility from the server, and humility, given by the Holy Spirit, is the surest antidote for pride. If humility does not play an active role in the heart of the individual during serving opportunities, there are only two possible outcomes: either the individual’s humility will grow, or the individual will simply stop serving. At Clapham, we are committed to seeing our students persevere through serving opportunities, grow in their humility, and withstand the lures of pride and self-absorption.
Second, service reveals the love of Christ to a world that desperately needs to be reacquainted with the gospel. It is news to no one that America today has a bad taste in its mouth regarding religion. Sadly, the prevalent accusation against the Church is that Christians do not practice what they preach. Simply put, Christians are hypocrites, in the minds of many. Regardless of whether the accusation is fully merited, the very presence of this stigma should prompt us to reevaluate how Christians interact with the world. What do we as Christians want to be known for? Along with our pronouncement that Jesus is Lord and that forgiveness of sins is possible through His death on the cross, my hope is that the Christian faith would be known for its loving, serving followers. I cannot help but wonder how many unbelievers would be receptive to the claims of the gospel if the message was accompanied by acts of service. What better way, then, to begin sowing seeds for this evangelistic way of life than to teach and model it for our students? Our school takes its name after a group of Christians who were dedicated to this very mission of proclaiming the gospel and serving various facets of society. Through promoting service amongst our students, our school can follow the example of the Clapham Saints and embrace their legacy as our own.
Third, service unites the various components of our school into one common mission. If you have spent any time at Clapham, you will have observed that there is a lot going on. Let me name a few things: math class, composer study, literature, P.E., etiquette class, the Shakespeare play, after-school sports. With such a striking variety, more than a few have cried out, “Where is the method for this madness?!” Or, more precisely articulated, “What brings these varying subjects, fields, and parts together into one unifying whole?” While there is more than one acceptable answer to this question, Clapham’s desire to mobilize students to serve Christ is one of the foremost. Clapham students are being taught to utilize the aforementioned subjects and activities to serve the Lord, each other, and the surrounding community. In this way, service brings the entire school together into a single yet dynamic learning atmosphere.
For these three reasons, I believe service is a vital aspect for the flourishing of our school and the lives of our students. Without service as an integral component, we may not complete the good works to which we believe we have been called. May God go before us, then, as we seek as a school to serve Christ by cultivating his truth, goodness, and beauty in the world.