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