The Difference Between "Leaving" and "Going."

Sitting in the office Tuesday morning, just back from vacation, a visitor stopped in and asked with a bit of angst in their voice, “Did you hear the Gandys are leaving?” Of course I had received the news, but had a different perspective, I replied, “Yes, but I heard they were going, not leaving.”

Our choice of words can say more than we intend. Previous conversations with Mr. Gandy made it clear he and Alyssa would not be here for the next school year. However, I heard that he was going, responding to God’s call to seminary and pastoral ministry that had been on his heart for many years. It was clear they were not leaving from a negative experience. They were not leaving the school; they were going where God was sending; listening through prayer and discussion with trusted mentors to the still small voice of God to His plan for their lives.

Why do I share this difference of perspectives? Because all too often the way we state facts is more important than the facts themselves. The same fact - Gandys will not be with UCA next year – can be seen as “Oh No! How can they leave?” or “Praise God for His working in their lives and their willingness to respond to His call.” Yes, they have been a positive and important part of our lives over the past few years. But it would be naïve to think God intended them to remain in one place forever. For all of us life is a journey. When we remain faithfully connected to God in prayer and the Word we will eventually be sent to embark on His next call on our lives. People of God are never allowed to remain the same; faith is meant to grow, and life moves forward as God opens us to new experiences of learning and life.

Like the disciples, we too often want things of joy and comfort to remain the same despite God calling us to His newness each day. Time and again in Scripture we see a difference in the expectations of the disciples and Jesus. In John 13:33 – 14:4 Jesus reminds his disciples that he too will be leaving, going on before them, to prepare a place in His Father’s house. In the Transfiguration experience (Mark 9:2-8) Peter, James, and John wanted to build shelters and make the experience last, but were reminded that all mountaintop experiences are not permanent. God moves us, shapes us, and transforms us, moving us to where He wants us, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Paul impacted many communities, people and congregations as he journeyed with God’s leading from location to location. If he had stayed in only one town, think how God’s wish to touch lives throughout the known world would have been short-circuited, if even temporarily.

How do we see transitions of life – from a human wish to keep good things stable (or stagnant), or as a life journey that God is leading through the many transitions? I read that most people can expect to have at least ten places of employment in their lifetime; quite unlike my parents’ generation that often would work for one employer for their entire life. If anything is sure the past century it is the reality of change, at a pace that seems faster than previous generations. The only assurance that is unchanging is God’s presence, protection, love, and faithfulness. Ours is to listen to His call, discern what He is doing in our lives, and respond obediently to His direction and Word – no matter where he sends us.

That is the difference between going and leaving. God’s promise is that when one goes forward in response to Him, He will always provide a way for all involved to move forward in His care. That is why when hearing of God’s call on the Gandys’ future, I could only respond in thankfulness for the past years of walking together, and celebrate how God is making His will clear for them. We will miss them, and we will be sustained by a thankfulness for the journey on which they are living for Him.

One other thought to consider: from what I know of UCA’s past, many of the UCA family are now in missions or ministry throughout the world. The Gandys are part of a growing family of those in Christian service. Our school truly has had a Kingdom role, and I am not talking about the Northeast Kingdom. The school has molded in many ways leaders of the Church. How can we not rejoice as people respond and grow in faithfulness? After all, that is why we exist – to grow faithful disciples.

Rev. J. Loring Carpenter, Interim Head of School

UCA: Priceless Preparation For Life and Eternity

In the last eighteen months I have periodically taken the time to review publications from various sources about the life and values, and significant investment people make, in Christian schools. I was familiar as a parent, as my children attended a Christian school for three years,-the best three years of their education, from my perspective. I’m not merely trying to be persuasive by saying that. Compared to the local schools they attended, some considered tops in their region, the attitude of life, the Godly perspective on relationships, and the affirming care made an impact on their hearts and minds that lasted for many years.

Although later in life some experiences with Christians caused "speed bumps" in the faith of my children (now grown), much of their lives still reflect a foundation of Godly values similar to those I tried to instill. Having teachers who taught and modeled what I as a parent spoke reinforced important principles that later in life they still remember and are now teaching to their children. Oh how I wish we had a Christian school in the other towns in which we lived so they could have experienced their entire school life in Christian education. In the coming weeks I want to share some of the important nuggets and articles that I have reviewed to provide you talking points in sharing UCA with your neighbors and friends. You have heard me say often that word-of-mouth is the best way to market UCA. You have your own stories to tell. I hope by sharing this information you will also have information that can help you respond when your conversations are met with: “Why do you think it is worth the extra cost?” I want you to have ways to “make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you. (I Pet 3:15)” Paul may be speaking about faith in Christ, but it is also a reminder that we are called to share the treasure we have found in His community at UCA.

Brian Simmons, current President of ACSI, offers this insight: “There was a day in this country when the Bible provided the foundation for public school curriculum, but those days are over…Today all public schools, including all charter schools, are secular schools that have pushed God out and replaced the Word of God with the philosophies of men.” Depending on your faith perspective, Brian has an interesting perspective on the value of Christian schools. You may not resonate fully with his heavenly thoughts, but they are at least worth a ponder. Regardless of where you are in your walk with God, I suggest that providing your children with a school that reinforces Godly values and prepares them for a living faith in the world around them is, as the Master Card advertisement says, “priceless.” As young people are increasingly bombarded with pressures to conform to lifestyles that do not include God in the equation of life, a UCA education not only prepares them for life, but also for eternity.

More than ever, it is worth the investment in the future of our children. Rather than asking if we can afford it, perhaps the better question is – can we afford not to invest in it? Please, take a few moments to read the article by Brian Simmons attached below.

Rev. J. Loring Carpenter, Interim Head of School

When is Choice Not Really a Choice? Thoughts on National School Choice Week

The following has been sent to area newspapers to share some thoughts about National School Choice Week. Parents of UCA students make significant sacrifice for the sake of their children. Perhaps this can begin discussion that brings support to them in an equitable way.  
 
When Is Choice Not Really a Choice?  

When is school choice not really a choice? This week editorials and letters applaud educational choice in Vermont. However, in a state that celebrates freedom and independence why do we eliminate choice, in its fullest definition, for families desiring an education for their children that is consistent with their values? Anti-religious families insist they have a right to education without religious overtones, yet families wishing education with a foundation of religious values are discriminated against unless they can afford the extra expense of tuition. What reasons allow this limited definition of choice to continue?  

Is it due to a concern our children get the best education? Recently Rob Roper wrote in the Orleans County Record how vital a private school education was for his unique needs. His was not an indictment of educators or public schools, but testimony to the varying learning needs of many. Religious schools as an alternative choice is another way of meeting the unique needs of a large segment of our society who are religious.  

Is it because Christian schools are considered exclusive fortresses? United Christian Academy hosts students from other nations, religions, and a large percentage not involved in a church. UCA’s foundation is Christian, its culture expects behavior consistent with Christian values, yet the school does not mandate a specific religion to attend or graduate. More about this another time.      

UCA is also not exclusively for those with funds to attend. Over 50% receive financial aid. School founders sought to establish an educational alternative allowing for Christian values in support of families seeking an environment of academic excellence, Biblical values, and Christian unity. UCA is committed to find a way to educate all who choose this alternative. The school regularly seeks individual and church contributions to help fund needed financial assistance for families.   Is restricting choice due to a concern over educational quality? Most Christian schools, UCA included, have outstanding graduation results. Students are accepted at the finest secondary institutions in the country. One recent alumna on a return visit shared that she was so prepared that she was considering working on three degrees in her four years. Religion may be the foundation of UCA values, but academic excellence is valued as highly. Hard work, family encouragement, and teachers who lovingly refuse to allow students to fail, have resulted in the last two graduating classes being offered an average of $100,000 per student in scholarship offers, a record to celebrate.  

Is limiting choice due to a false belief that religious values are not compatible with educational excellence? Do we forget that most higher educational institutions, even Ivy League schools, were founded as religious institutions? Christianity has been at the forefront of education in every nation including ours, offering a loving, uplifting, encouraging environment for students to grow and mature in mind and soul. Christians have always viewed education as a way to improve a person’s life and society as a whole.  

Do we believe those wishing education with a religious foundation is inconsistent with our nation’s founders? My understanding of history is that most founders were people of faith, even if having a variety of religious styles. Plymouth Colony and Providence Plantation were founded around issues of religious freedom, seeking a place to exercise religious choice freely.  

First amendment writers intended to ensure all people freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. Yet schools now prevent families the choice to have their children educated in a school that allows religious discussion without bearing the hardship of the extra cost of tuition. They are forced to pay the same taxes as everyone without receiving education that meets their needs. Instead, the choice for educating and instilling values for their children, their exercise of freedom of religion, is made for them; they must attend schools refusing to allow religious discussion or find the funds to attend a religious school.    

Rep. Scott Beck recently wrote that “school choice is good for Vermont.” Yet for nearly a third of our state families there is really no choice in the truest sense. They could choose a school with a religious foundation, but are refused this option unless they find extra funds. A tuition voucher without restrictions is the only way any state can boast of school choice. If Vermont values independence and freedom, does it really mean freedom for all except religious? Let’s end religious restrictions for Vermont and have true school choice. Do it for the benefit of every family’s right to choose an education in line with their family values, and model the intent of our nation’s founders. Our society will be better for it. What we have now is really not school choice.  
 
Rev. J. Loring Carpenter, Interim Head of School

Different Year, Same Faith

Another year is behind us. The New Year is before us. Part of me wants to get involved in the usual vowing to live differently, make resolutions, and take the “new" part of New Year literally. Yet I wonder why we think we need to change? After all, God has gifted us with unique abilities and temperaments. If we really want change it can only be seated in our heart as we are willing to yield our thoughts and actions to God. We are not being asked to make ourselves change, but in yielding we will inevitably be changed.  

That’s the essence of Paul’s thoughts in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: “The old has gone, the new is here! When we look and yield (trust and obey) change is not the result of self-will, but rather the natural outcome of a heart of love – as a child wanting to please the parent. The change Paul points to is not a change brought on by religion, but arises instead out of a growing relationship in which we become increasingly aware of a God reveled in Jesus Christ. It is change not because we have to, but because we want to reflect the love we have received in all areas of our lives.  

Mr. Gandy opened our Chapel asking Upper School students to close their eyes and reflect on last year at this time. He asked them to identify any changes they have noticed since then in different aspects of their lives. WE are not the same today as we were yesterday, and when focused on Christ, each new day can become an adventure of faith and awe at how God is present.  

Each of us has a decision to make, regardless of whether we make New Year’s resolutions. Since change is assured, will we approach it as a way for us to do what we want? Or to seek what God wants? Will we adapt to changes imposed by others, or listen to the still small voice of God as he calls us to Christ-likeness?    

As we at UCA enter a New Year, we know there will be many changes on the horizon. May we all be attentive to God’s hand in our journey of faith. May we, know in the most difficult times God has not abandoned us. May we in the times of joy and good times, base our joy not in what we have done but in how God has blessed, guided and shaped us to walk in His way. May our year be one of praise and thankfulness for the blessings of God, and through this praise may we be able to reflect a year from now and say, “My, how God has changed us in so many ways.” 
 
Rev. J. Loring Carpenter, Interim Head of School

Spreading the Word, Continuing the Movement

During last winter’s re-enrollment period I was reminding you that word-of-mouth referrals were more important than public advertising campaigns to help grow UCA. An effort called GO-90 was launched, offering tuition discounts as a way of encouraging you to invite friends and neighbors to visit UCA or consider enrolling. The hope was an increase to 90 students. Though hopeful, I was also aware this asked for something slightly against the instincts of New Englanders. We tend to be reserved, to shy away from initiating conversation, and mostly keep our opinions to ourselves. Evangelism efforts that usually result in rapid growth in other areas of the nation tend to have limited results in our region.  
 
Yet launch it we did. And though few took advantage of the enrollment discount, there seems still to be a slow movement in the UCA family to more readily express thankfulness for the experience of attending UCA and the ministry offered through the wonderful faculty. It seems the UCA community has decided not to remain silent, but instead tell their story – your story. In addition, school leaders are striving to find ways to reach out to the community and become a valuable part of the Northeast Kingdom. Initiatives such as the Block Party, Community Service, and attending or participating in community organizations as partners are attempts to enrich the life of the Newport area. Community outreach is as important as the willingness of UCA families to share the joy of learning at the school with their neighbors and friends.  
 
Last spring UCA participated in Dabble Days, and heard from some of the leaders of the sponsoring group how thankful they were that we showed up. Our Golf Tournament provided for a new group of golfers to experience the joyful atmosphere of our UCA community. Though we may not have reached the 90 student level, we did have an increase in enrollment. More important, we are hearing of UCA folks, especially some of our new families, sharing with neighbors phrases like, “You ought to check out UCA, we are thrilled with the experience our child is having.” Slowly UCA is moving out from the shadows, not being content to be the best kept secret in the region.  
 
I am reminded of Paul’s word in Rom 10:14-15: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?”  Silence can be golden, but when we share a new-found treasure the mere telling of the joyous story can enrich our lives as well as others. Prayer for God’s provision and sharing the story are as important to the future of this school as they are to enlarging the Kingdom of God! 
 
Think how important Andrew was in changing the life of his brother Peter; because of his willingness to share his experience with someone (Jesus) a church was built! (“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church (Matt. 16:18).” We read in John 1:40-42 that “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter or Rock). Sharing a joyful word led to a future leader integral in the early church’s formation. 
 
This fall there are more attempts to tell the story, reach out to our community, and encourage others to become part of God’s family at UCA. Informally we have received calls from neighbors inquiring. An invitation to share an Open House with the NEK Chamber of Commerce is coming Dec.6 (5:00 PM), inviting area businesses to see the school. Our first Fall Vendor Fair this past October opened the school doors to hundreds for the first time.  
 
Most exciting is the new opportunity for our Upper School Concert to become a community event. We are returning to our founding roots, holding the concert at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Newport. The beautiful sanctuary, amazing acoustics, and larger venue will allow the entire region to join us. What would happen if we filled the largest church in our area with Christians and others who enjoy the music of Christmas from our community to hear the Christmas story in a new way? Of course that will require all of us to invite the entire community. NOTE THE DATE CHANGE – Tuesday, December 20 at 7:00 PM. 
 
Good things continue at UCA. God is doing amazing things every day, bringing His ministry at UCA forward in unity and as a Christian witness. Without a doubt I enter this Thanksgiving season with grateful praise! 
 
Rev. J. Loring Carpenter, Interim Head of School
 

#GivingTuesday is coming!

The holidays are coming fast. Christmas advertisements have already begun, and the commercial moguls of our culture are priming us to purchase gifts and gadgets that we must acquire before supplies are gone. During the next few months our lives will seem to revolve around getting and giving gifts, leaving us little time in our frenetic pace of activities and shopping sprees to model the gratitude and generosity which were the original hallmarks of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  
 
Some people focus their lives on Black Friday Sales rather than on family during Thanksgiving. Subtly, a time of giving thanks has morphed into a preparation for getting items on sale. I’ve seen people leave family gatherings early just to stand in line for the midnight sale opening.  
 
After a weekend of rest, advertisers then prepare us for Cyber Monday. We browse the internet to see what new gadget we can purchase for people we expect are planning to give us similar items for Christmas.  Santa parades bringing gifts are the focus, not the One who offers the eternal gift.   
 
Through the season of a purchasing frenzy, what if we decided to take a few moments to give even a small percentage of our spending to others who could receive enormous benefit from our kindness, and from whom we won’t likely receive anything in return? That is true generosity. What if we took the weekend after Thanksgiving to reflect on the amazing gift of love and life offered by a gracious God, and ask for His wisdom to live generously as disciples? What if we shared thoughts of thankfulness on our Facebook pages, and then sent them to the entire UCA family, and ultimately to our entire friend network, so that all might be encouraged by the ways God is at work in our lives?   
 
Speaking of Facebook – have you visited the UCA Facebook page lately? You can access it by clicking on the link on the bottom of the front page of www.ucaeducation.org or if you want pictures galore, go to the Instagarm link next to it. I’m personally not a social media guru, but from what I hear, the news of UCA can spread quickly by us “liking” or “friending” the UCA page, and letting others know about it.  
 
As UCA grows technologically we are trying to involve more and more people in our social media network. It is our way of being “in the world,” but in a way that we are not “of the world,” seeking to be the light of Christ on social media. In John 17:18 Jesus prays, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” He was regularly involved in activities of life while reflecting a Godly attitude and behavior that was unique. We want our presence on social media sites to give witness to a community of faith that is a light to the world, reflecting God’s love in all ways. 
 
Five years ago a movement of giving began called #Giving Tuesday. It was promoted as “a day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.” UCA is part of the #Giving Tuesday effort, in hopes of expanding our network of ministry partners in prayer and support.  
 
The official promotion of #Giving Tuesday says, “Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Created by the team at the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at the 92nd Street Y—a cultural center in New York City that, since 1874, has been bringing people together around the values of service and giving back—#GivingTuesday connects diverse groups of individuals, communities and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving. A team of influencers and founding partners joined forces, collaborating across sectors, offering expertise and working tirelessly, to launch #GivingTuesday and have continued to shape, grow and strengthen the movement. Today it has spread to 71 nations, raising millions from social media to support nonprofit organizations.” 
 
Using email, Facebook, and Instagram, UCA wants to get the conversation started, sharing how God is at work in the mission of the school and encouraging others to become part of the UCA community. We have some Good News to share in Christ, and we have wonderful news to share about the growth and education of our students. During the coming weeks we will begin to share the stories and ideas on Facebook. On #Giving Tuesday we will offer an alternative to the commercial events of Black Friday and Cyber Monday by encouraging hundreds to “like” UCA.   
 
Watch for these stories, and help us launch #Giving Tuesday, UCA style. In fact, send us your stories, your thoughts, your words of thanks regarding what God is doing in your lives through the ministry of UCA.  
 
In anticipation of God’s future,

Rev. Carpenter, Interim Head of School

Have You Checked Your Calendar Lately? | Making Time With God a Priority

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12) 
 
Fall seems so filled with activity for most of us that we find little time for reflection, listening to one another, or for prayer. I remember one minister saying to me, “I have so much to do, I don’t have time for prayer.” I wondered how effective he could be in pressure situations, or how he could reflect God with those he leads. The great John Wesley said that the more he had to accomplish the more he knew he must spend time in prayer.  
 
Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, so is your heart.” I wonder if the same can be said about our calendars. We schedule and plan ourselves to the point that the people and things we say are most dear to us are left hanging, unless we place them on a calendar. We idle away time in front of any number of screens.  
 
All of us have the same number of days each month, into which we must fit sleeping, eating and some life essential things. Then we have to add work. The remaining 50% of our days is "discretionary" and is where the real decisions are made. For those who say God is at the center of their lives, what does the calendar tell us? As a pastor and father, that challenge was made by a speaker I heard. Following the assessment, I realized that what my children saw in time allotment was far different from what I said was a priority. That realization opened up an ongoing assessment of my time as well as the financial assessment I took regularly. It continues to this day. I can tell you approximately  how many hours are spent with God, with family, in work, and of course relaxing.  
 
Only as we regularly reflect on what we have done, can we adjust our lives towards what God wants of us. Change only comes when we see a need for change. Without this assessment, I too easily drift, and before we know it, unimportant activities take over our lives, squeezing out life-giving experiences. In most cases, entertainment will overcome devotional times for most people. Spending time alone with God is less enticing than watching a play or event. Yet the event soon disappears, but time with God is a cumulative experience.  
 
So God reminds us in Psalm 90:12 to number, monitor, assess, and guide our days in such a way that we grow in faith and wisdom, letting our calendar reflect our faith. Michelle Van Loon recently wrote, “When we pray this we are not asking for a tidier organizational system. Wisdom is not a clever squishing of time, to fit daily Bible reading into our schedule, or to have better attendance at worship. The chosen people (Israel) discovered, more than three millennia ago, that when God called them to number their days, it wasn’t about rearranging their calendars, but about reorienting their lives – heart, soul, mind, and strength – as they followed him like pilgrims through time.”  
 
Assessing my time over the years was not to see if I could cram more things into it, but to help me devote more time to those things that truly mattered and built wisdom and character. No TV, computer games, videos, or other kinds of entertainment, as wonderful as these can be, is able to give life like time with God and His people. Perhaps we should periodically, as a person, as a family, take time to assess.  
 
The last verses of Psalm 90 make more sense. “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.” And when God establishes His work in our lives, life is truly abundant, and the things we crave become less important. Starting your day with God offers a refreshing framework for each moment. Have you checked your calendar lately?  
 
Rev. C, Interim Head of School

Update on HOS Search | What is UCA to you?

Interviews for the search for a new HOS have begun. As we move through the process of discerning God’s choice for leading this school a few things are important to note.  

  • UCA is God’s school, an extension of His Church in the NEK.  
  • The Board and school leadership believe deeply that God is already preparing someone to lead this important ministry forward. The process and listening cannot be rushed as listening to God’s leading takes time.  
  • Having an Interim HOS has allowed the time needed to identify God’s leader in the next few months. They may not formally begin until completing any commitment made in their current position. But I am committed to ensuring a smooth transition.
  • The search for a new HOS will only be successful if built on a foundation of prayer. Individuals and churches are asked to keep this on their list of prayer concerns.  
  • We have a Search Team who represent a broad variety of our UCA community – faculty, board, pastors, and parents. 

 
We have five very capable and qualified candidates to interview, all of whom have the experience. Interviews will provide a chance for us to more deeply understand their ability and listen to their heart. The search process is as much seeking a heart and mission match, as the candidate’s ability to fit into our unique variety of Christians and region, as it is their technical education ability.  
 
After only one interview, a question asked by the candidate about the mission and culture of UCA caused us to reflect about how this school is special. It is a question that challenges all of us – “what makes UCA a Christian school?” Sometimes we take this for granted. However, when we are asked to give a clear, concise answer, it takes some thought. I remember the elders in a congregation I served years ago being asked a similar question. One of the elders responded, “We’ve always been Christian.” I’m not sure that was adequate for the questioner. 
 
The UCA theme scripture this year calls us to consider how we might answer the question, “What makes UCA Christian?” It is similar to being asked individually, “Why do you call yourself a Christian?” Such a query forces us to first consider our own belief, our behaviors in light of the Gospel, and share our answer in a way that is meaningful, clear, and can be seen as value in their eyes.  

"In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (give an answer; a logical defense; to explain; tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are  -some other translations) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15).  
 
Have you given thought to why UCA is valuable to you, your family, the community? I’d love to hear your thoughts. What makes UCA Christian? What behaviors, results, evidences can we give those not familiar with UCA that make sense to others?  
I keep a running list of comments by students and parents alike. They are invaluable to me as I share with others the ministry of UCA. Your thoughts are far more important than my perceptions – it is your children we serve. What are your thoughts about UCA, its ability to be a living witness, a light house of God’s grace and love? Please email me your responses. Even if you see ways you think we should be Christian but somehow fall short of the mark. Your perceptions are important. Putting your response to these questions in an email will make it easier the next time someone asks you similar questions; so give it a try.  
 
What makes UCA unique, valuable, Christian? I want to hear from you!  
 
 
Rev C, Interim Head of School

 

Be Ready to Speak Up and Tell Anyone Who Asks

Our theme scripture verse this year is 1Peter 3:15. “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (ESV)

Eugene Peterson paraphrases it in the Message: “Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.”

Written to a church facing persecution – verbally and physically – these words were meant to instruct and inspire compassionate and transparent lives lived in the power of the Gospel. Yes, we are called upon to act as living reflections of the grace and love of Christ in our lives. But we are also, as ambassadors for Christ, called to “give a reason” – to speak clearly – about why we love our enemies, support one another, and respect our differences with grace. Essentially we are to let the world know that we are not our own, but servants of the Living God who called us into being, and empowers us to even love the unlovable.

In my younger years I figured being a good person was adequate. After a while I realized there were plenty of good people whose motivation was quite different than a disciple’s. Though similar to Christ-followers on the outside, they often had other motives, from deception, to trying to peaceably get along with others. While I sought to model Christ, others sought to get ahead through kindness. Of course, I am unable to judge the difference; I don’t know what is on another’s heart. That’s the point. If we are to be reflections of Christ, if our desire is to fulfill our calling as disciples, we are to live and reveal lives so attractive that people are drawn to Him; and we must clarify our motivations.

Enjoying the unique blessings God has given us, basking personally in His grace without letting people know why actually does the Lord a disservice. Why was I more willing to talk about a Red Sox or Patriots win than about an answer to prayer or a blessing from the Lord? Why are so many Christians content with being undercover Christians? Why are we hesitant to tell friends about a special activity, an “extra mile” of care offered by a teacher, or share enthusiasm for the new things God unfolds each year at our school?

Do I take for granted what God has provided? Am I aware of the unique privilege it is to be at UCA, which is only in existence due to a variety of ways God has provided over the years? At Parent Orientation I mentioned that from a logical, business perspective, and given the economics of our region, there is no rational way this school could have survived for 20+ years. Our very existence is testimony to God’s provision through many dedicated people.

UCA continues to face increasing financial aid requests from families. Our financial aid budget these past years is essentially equal the school’s deficit. Overcoming this gap will require a number of people, churches, and individuals who believe in the importance of UCA for the families and community. They are led to support the leadership building, and character mentoring accomplished here, responding to God’s call to use His gifts for His purpose by making major financial contributions. Many of these people may not have children in the school, or they may be churches outside our region, yet they see the value of this mission and want to help students attend UCA. It is not easy in this area to find over $100,000 in financial aid! Yet it is essential. UCA is a gift from God of great worth that should not be kept silent; it is important enough to support as a mission.

Some have already made this commitment. I think of a recent bequest from a funding family, allowing us to improve in areas of sound and technology above and beyond the budget. The Petit family saw the value. Amelia Island Plantation Chapel in Florida saw the vision, believing this is a valuable mission and from outside the region support us. In many ways these are all answers to prayer, and a result of people telling the story of what God is doing in our midst.

It is important that we all participate in sharing God’s answered prayer through people and events at this school. Have we counted our blessings? Have we shared them with others?

Last week the newspaper published a supplement to the daily news highlighting “Outstanding Teachers” -- about – our outstanding and dedicated teachers! Out of 16 teachers highlighted in the county, three were from UCA! See the articles on the school bulletin board.

We can praise God for the invitation to The Bronze Ambassadors to represent Vermont at the Big E (the New England Exposition in Springfield, MA). What a joy to see this ministry have the opportunity to reflect the joy of Christian service through ringing on Sept. 24.

There is so much more to talk about. You can make you own list of blessings I’m sure.

On behalf of our UCA family, please know our hope is in Christ. Our joy is in service. For me, it is truly a privilege to serve here! No matter where I travel, I cannot say enough of what God is doing through this mission. This year, let us all “be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks” why God has blessed us so through this UCA community.

Rev C, Interim Head of School

Well Worth Every Cost

       As the past week involved numerous discussions about financial aid, budgets for the coming year, and some personal financial issues at home, it stands to reason that my mind is filled with thoughts about the many costs involved in life. In fact, though our tendency is to want free things, in fact even free things come with a cost. There is always a cost - to me or to others - - often hidden from view through overpricing items or taxing some to benefit others.

       Over 75% of those attending a congregation that was renting the building of a church I served in the inner city were below the poverty line. Yet these mission-focused Christians donated more each week for the ministry of their church than received by our larger group of wealthier suburban church members. The difference I learned was in cost assessment; either serve God or be religious for the least cost possible. Mind you this is not my judgment of them, but their spoken words at different times. My congregation relied on endowment for church operations while members, retired corporate executives, stretched themselves to give a few dollars weekly. An interesting note is that the renting congregation were joyous Christians amidst adversity, while the other congregation was often sullen and judgmental about others in need.

       I am thankful that UCA started using the FACTS system to assess financial aid needs. Based on the report, the Finance Committee makes hard decisions, balancing the expressed needs of UCA families and the FACTS aid suggestion. Reports are anonymous, identifying each family only by number in order of application. Each family is asked how much they felt they could afford to pay, and FACTS offers an impartial assessment for the committee to consider. The committee knows that it takes about $6,000 per student to cover only the salaries for our faculty and staff, not to mention the building and other costs. In essence, some aid is given to every family. The cost of an education which combines academics and character is never fully covered by tuition.

       Thus my surprise when periodically a middle income family is identified as able to pay at least a portion of the tuition by FACTS while the family suggests they are unable to pay any tuition, in essence requesting a free education. Is this realistic? Each gift of financial aid must come from other sources, donors who see the vision and value of UCA, or teachers willing to sacrifice for the sake of the child. Thus the importance of fundraising at UCA.

       I have generally found that if there is something that is highly valued, the cost is less likely to be a barrier. Things judged valuable will cost something, and people will make every effort to cover the cost! Think of the costs that have been associated with things that benefit us.

       Education – Many parents and families have given of themselves in time and funds to educate each of us; especially if we have been blessed with a college education. Freedom – Need I elaborate on the sacrifice of our Armed Forces, giving time away from families for long periods and even suffering death so we might enjoy the freedoms of living in the USA.

       Every Food and Commodity we enjoy – This s a subtle one. Did you know that every consumer product or the parts that make it travels by ship to our shores? And every ship is crewed by international seafarers who are paid low wages and are away from their families 9-12 months at a time; seldom seeing their children grow up to support their family. We are indebted to them though they are anonymous to most of the world.

       Life and Nurture – As we approach Mother’s Day we must not forget the cost of parenting that our mothers have given to enable us to enjoy life, to be fed, and to mature into adulthood. Salvation/Redemption – Can we ever forget the cost of God’s Son that we might know eternal forgiveness and hope? Certainly death on the cross was the ultimate cost offering life to all who believe in Christ.

       Perhaps the real issue is not about cost, but about priority. I remember a few homeless people dropping by my church office. Though unemployed, they had the latest electronic gadgets, ostentatious jewelry, while asking our church to give them food or funds. My method was to engage them in conversation trying to assess their life in areas from finances to God and focusing on long-term needs. I wanted them to evaluate decisions – never to tell them what they are to do, realizing every decision must be theirs, hopefully made prayerfully. Midway many would leave for the rest room, never to return; perhaps the cost of listening to me outweighed the need for food.

       God’s provision is assured to all who trust in Him. What cost is adequate for a child’s quality Bible-based education? What would make it a top priority for the remaining years of our children’s school if they were receiving God’s perspective on life, eternal hope and faith? Is there anything more important than the building of leadership qualities in our students? This is an expense that is only needed for a brief time in life, but enables them to have a future that only God can give.

       My dad often said, “Nothing is free. The trick is deciding what to pay for.” He had little to give financially, but spent most every non-work waking hour helping others and supporting the work of organizations that helped others, including his church. He and my mother understood the joy of serving Christ, of being satisfied with little, yet supporting my pursuit of education. And I am sure he would say today, with a smile, “It was well worth every cost.”

       Maybe it is time to change our thinking from considering costs to investing in our children’s future. I am thankful this was the perspective of my parents. Having seen the change in the lives of UCA students during this brief year, I am sure the investment made by families, faculty, and others will be blessed by God as they see young people grow to be mature leaders in our communities. After all, that is the investment we are all making at UCA.

-- Rev. J. Loring Carpenter, Interim Head of School