Thursday, August 27, 2015

Senior Class Chooses School Verse

The Senior Class gathered at Camp Tekoa to choose the annual school verse
This year we have launched a new tradition at Trinity.  The senior class has come together to choose the Scripture verse that will guide the entire school through the year.

In the past, the Headmaster and a few other leaders were involved in the selection of the school verse, but we got this idea from another school and I am delighted to report that I've just come back from Camp Tekoa in Hendersonville, NC, where I spent last night working with the students to guide them to select this year's verse.

The students worked through a carefully designed process that gave a voice to every one of the forty seniors, and in the end they came together around one verse that they think (and I agree!) captures the Gospel message, reflects Trinity's mission in a clear way, and is relevant to Trinity today.  They began their work in their four advisories and then came together as a whole class to discuss, debate, share, pray, and then choose.  I'm very pleased with what they have done.

It was gratifying to see them engage earnestly on the project, and I look forward to their leadership through the year.

The class will announce their choice to the rest of the school on Monday, August 31, at the Opening Chapel (8:40 am).

The verse will hang in a prominent place in the Gold Gym this year, and then it will take its proper place among the hall of fame of previous verses hanging in the Blue Gym.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Letter from Birmingham Jail Panel with Faculty

Today the faculty and staff gathered at Trinity for our opening meeting.  We always focus on some key issues for the year, and today we hunkered down on the issue of diversity.

The entire faculty had read Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail for our faculty summer read.  It seemed like a wise choice at the end of a long year that started with Ferguson and just kept going.  And then came Charleston.

We invited a moderator and three panelists to help us "read" King's classic text anew.  (I spent a few minutes with the faculty explicating the "classic" nature of King's letter, unpacking its thickness, adaptability, and publicness.  See our Expanded Mission Statement--it has all three in abundance.)

Melvin Rosales, from Nicaragua, spoke passionately about the relevance of King's letter to the Hispanic community.  He did a powerful rewrite of King's eloquent prose in his own voice, with his own story embedded.  No one who heard him could walk away and think that racism is dead and gone and that issues of injustice are things of the past.

David Molpus, a friend from way back, former National Public Radio correspondent, spoke powerfully of his father's courageous stance as a white Baptist minister in Mississippi in the 1950s and 1960s.  He lost his job for standing up against segregation.  "I like to think that my Dad was one of the rare exceptions King talked about," said David.

Sharon Laisure also spoke on the panel.  She has experience in organizational development and human resource management with more than 30 years of executive level experience primarily in local government management.  Sharon spoke about her own story and then presented Trinity with several challenges and opportunities, ranging from hiring and recruitment practices to diversity dinners to pursuing relationships with people who are different.

Perrianne Davis, Trinity alumna parent and former board member, moderated the panel.

Perrianne knows Trinity well.  She offered an important perspective that surprised me.  Reading King's letter was hard for me this summer.  Good, but hard.  I easily imagined myself as one of the white moderates that King was challenging, and I wondered how he would challenge me today.  (My remarks to the faculty and staff arose from this posture--I talked about repentance, about Paul's story of his encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road).  Perrianne reminded us all that though we have a long way to go, Trinity has taken clear and strong action on this issue.  Our Diversity Policy is unique and uncompromising.  Today's panel shows our willingness to dive into these issues (there were some clear moments of discomfort, which is a good sign).  As she talked, I could imagine Trinity, with all of our challenges (why not more families of color by now?) as a sort of headlight (to grab one of King's powerful metaphors), trying to shine into the fogginess that we all find ourselves in.  We have so far to go, but several people commented on the distance we have come.

It's good to give thanks for that here at the beginning of a year when we intend to keep working this, stretching our institution to be more welcoming, learning to be the kind of place that supports families of color who choose Trinity for their children.  I think it was a morning well spent, and I am very grateful to our Diversity Coordinator, Adrienne Davis, who coordinated this and to our panelists who gave us so much time.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Stone Kenneth Bodnar

May I tell you about my grandson?

What are blogs for, if not for that?

After two days of head fakes, he finally decided to emerge into this wonderful, sin-soaked world, where he has reminded us all what a wonder it is just to be.  

Mother, father, and child are all well.  Praise God!

July 29, 2015, 6:21pm
7 lbs, 9.5 oz
20.5 in long

Nick & Jenny Bodnar

Jenny and Stone
Nick, Jenny, and Stone

Proud Pops
Gram (aka Des) and Stone

Uncle Teddy

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Traveling Seredipities

I am in the middle of a trip to Ireland and England with Desiree and her sister.  We completed our time in Ireland and have just arrived in Cambridge.

We visited the usual sites: the Guinness Storehouse, Kilmainam Gaol, Trinity College Librry and the Book of Kells.  None of these disappointed, as we had planned on taking them in.

Trinity College Library with Desiree and Daiquiri

Des Goes to Kilmainam Gaol

How about a pint?

But there is something about the unexpected find on a trip, the happy serendipity that feels a little less touristy and authentic and personal.  So far I have had three.

On our first day in Dublin, we walked past a sign that read "Chester Beatty Library."  Later that day, after Des and her sister had gone to the hotel, I walked to find the place with such a name and asked, "Are the Chester Beatty biblical papyrii here."  Indeed they were.

The Chester Beatty Library

In the early part of the last century, several papyrii of biblical texts were published from a private collection by a mining mogul named Chester Beatty.  One is a rather complete collection of Paul's letters from the second century--an amazingly early date.  Pick up any Commentary on the Greek of Paul's letters you will hear the writer reference P46, the Chester Beatty papyrii. From it we have an early witness to the integrity of the biblical record and also a fairly good picture of the emerging biblical canon as far as Paul's letters go. Another papyrus fragment, P66, contains very early, second century record of John's Gospel (Chapter 19). Only a few fragmented lines, but corroborated by later texts this find is like discovering the steering mechanism of a BMW in an aboriginal dig--the rest of these car existed somewhere, and one wonders how it got where it did and when.  Anyway, I got to stare at the papyrii for a good half hour before they closed down the place.

One page of P46, containing much of the Pauline epistles.  This page is from 2 Corinthians 11.
The next day, Des and I got to visit an exhibit on Yeats at the National Library.  I wouldn't have known about this if our hotel hadn't been right around the corner.  We ran in one afternoon late, sure that it would be closed.  But they stayed open until 8 and is was free!  Lots of fascinating stuff, including several documentary style videos in rooms that had been appropriately appointed with Yeats paraphernalia.  One highlight was an area with 360 degree screens, with the poems themselves displayed on one screen and flanking screens showing interpretive images, as the likes of Sinead O'Connor and Seamus Heaney read the poems aloud.  Yeats himself read "The Lake Isle of Innisfree."

The latest serendipity was not an intellectual one, but touched another part of my life.  We arrived in the resort town of Killarney and went to the bike shop to rent bikes to ride around the park the next day.  Turns out there is a charity ride around the Ring of Kerry on the first Saturday of July each year. They were expecting 11,000 riders this year!  Derry at O'Sullivan's rented me a road bike and I did my own Ring of Kerry ride, all 180 km of it, on Friday, the day before the ride.  It was spectacular, with stunning views, quaint towns, stiff winds, challenging climbs, and lots of sheep.  And you could even say, technically, that it was the first to finish.  I bought a shirt to commemorate the occasion.

Renting a bike in Killarney

An early morning scene along the Ring of Kerry

Stunning View along the coast

The route was marked clearly with these mile signs along the way, all 180 km

Stopped in towns like this along the way for water and food.

Bought a shirt at the end

Now for Cambridge and Oxford, where our adventures are planned out more carefully.

Some of the colleges at Cambridge:

 At Oxford we followed the trail of Lewis and Tolkien:

And Churchill--Blenheim Palace 

C.S. Lewis' home, the Kilns

Lewis' Study

Lewis' Grave site

The house where Tolkien wrote The Hobbit

Lewis' rooms in Magdalen College 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

By the Waters of Charleston We Sat Down and Wept

It's been a week now since nine people were brutally killed in an African American Episcopal Church in Charleston.

One should be careful in such times to say too much.  It is not for me to show up and opine or hold forth or add my outrage or prescriptions to the mix.  There is enough of that already, and I am loathe to play the part of Job's windy friends.

But one should be careful too, to say too little.  In his Letter from Birmingham Jail (which the Trinity faculty is reading together this summer), the Reverend King expressed his concern not only for the "actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people." 

So what can we say?  

Here is something:  Leroy Barber, Chair of the Board of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) and pastor of Imago Dei Community put together a OneChurchLiturgy.  I've copied it below and would recommend it to the Trinity community.  

It is a lament, a biblical form of hopeful but realistic complaint, a way of speaking to God and to ourselves that is honest yet faithful, hopeful but not naive.  Such prayers have a venerable heritage in the Psalms, in Lamentations, and in many of the prophets.    

Last Sunday, over a thousand churches used this liturgy to respond to this tragedy.  In this video, Reverend Barber speaks powerfully about the way churches have crossed racial and other lines to come together around this way of truthful prayer.

Perhaps you might want to pass this along to your pastors, in case they want to use in corporate worship.  If Trinity were in session now, I would call us together to pray this with the church universal.


We stand before you today, oh Lord
Hearts broken, eyes weeping, heads spinning
Our brothers and sisters have died
They gathered and prayed and then were no more
The prayer soaked walls of the church are spattered with blood
The enemy at the table turned on them in violence
While they were turning to you in prayer 
We stand with our sisters
We stand with our brothers
We stand with their families
We stand to bear their burden in Jesus’ name 
We cry out to you, oh Lord
Our hearts breaking, eyes weeping, heads spinning
The violence in our streets has come into your house
The hatred in our cities has crept into your sanctuary
The brokenness in our lives has broken into your temple
The dividing wall of hostility has crushed our brothers and sisters
We cry out to you, May your Kingdom come, may it be on earth as it is in heaven 
We cry out for our sisters
We cry out for our brothers
We cry out for their families
We cry out for peace in Jesus’ name
We pray to you today, oh Lord
Our hearts breaking, eyes weeping, souls stirring
We pray for our enemies, we pray for those who persecute us
We pray to the God of all Comfort to comfort our brothers and sisters in their mourning
We pray that you would bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes
We pray that you would give them the oil of joy instead of mourning
We pray that you would give them a garment of praise in place of a spirit of despair 
We pray for our sisters
We pray for our brothers
We pray for their families
We pray for their comfort in Jesus’ name 
We declare together, oh Lord
With hearts breaking, eyes weeping and souls stirring
We will continue to stand and cry and weep with our brothers and sisters
We will continue to make a place of peace for even the enemies at our table
We will continue to open our doors and our hearts to those who enter them
We will continue to seek to forgive as we have been forgiven
We will continue to love in Jesus’ name because you taught us that love conquers all 
We declare our love for you, our Sisters
We declare our love for you, our Brothers
We declare our love for you, their families
We declare our love as one body, one Lord, one faith, one baptism
We declare they do not grieve alone today 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Remember: The Class of 2015

The following address was delivered to the graduating class of 2015 on May 29, 2015, at Trinity School. The Headmaster begs forgiveness for citations and embedded quotations, which in a speech are not normally footnoted and are here reproduced as delivered.

Class of 2015, today we remember your hard work, ambition, devotion. We also remember how much you have been given by many.  It is fitting today for us to honor you; it is also fitting that you honor those who have made this possible, especially your parents.  I believe you have something for them.  [Students deliver letters and flowers to parents.]

When you are old and gray and full of years and nodding by the fire, what will you remember about this day?  Not much, I’ll wager. My graduation was thirty-nine years ago, and I remember only a few things: a new glen plaid suit (my first), the processional our class chose (“Brian’s Song” from the movie by the same name), and that I sat, alphabetically, next to Hazen Dempster.  It’s a fair question to ask: If this is all I carry with me, what was the point of all the pomp and circumstance?

Today we dress up to mark your time here at Trinity because we remember you.  Remembering is one of the basic and distinctive human acts. A classical education might be defined as the process whereby human beings become what they are. You came to us–whether thirteen years ago or four years ago–as a human person; you leave here, I pray, formed more fully as a human person, and one of the marks of that formation is that you can remember some things you learned here about yourself and about the world: how to decode a word with consonant-vowel-consonant pattern; the love that Charlotte bore for Wilbur; Shelley’s “Ozymandias,” the Preamble to the Constitution, the opening lines of John’s Gospel, how the quadratic equation can be solved by completing the square, where and why the Periodic Table divides between metals and non-metals, and how to translate “Non nobis” (even if you didn’t take Latin).  (That would be an illustrative list and not an exhaustive one, I hope.)

I expect that long after you have forgotten this graduation speech, you might remember movies that came out during your senior year. And maybe one of them will be Boyhood, the tour de force that took twelve years to film and that ends where you are now beginning, with leaving home and going off to college or wherever. Two scenes at the end of that movie are particularly poignant: One where the weeping mother faces her son’s departure for college and laments, “I just thought there would be more.”  And then the final scene of the movie, in which the main character sits awkwardly beside a new girlfriend, who says, “You know how they always say, ‘Seize the moment’?  Well, I think it’s the other way. The moment seizes you.”  In the imagination of the filmmaker, life is a series of moments. The experiencing self is the only self there is.  

If this is true, then life is constantly slipping through our fingers. Moment after moment after moment, until there are no more moments. One of your own, the renowned philosopher John Matthews, made this point powerfully on Field Day. I was walking up from the field at the end of the morning with a gaggle of kindergartners when a group of Upper School students emerged from the west stairwell out onto the sidewalk.  They looked a little confused to see us all, and I tried to help them out: “We’ve just finished field day.”  John’s retort: “Enjoy it while you can.”  

It’s true that you are unlikely ever again, in all your life, to play Duck, Duck, Goose with a big sponge full of water on a fine Friday morning in April.  But you can remember your own Field Days.  And remembering them, you can make some sense of them.  We make sense and meaning of our lives not as we are living them but only retrospectively, as we remember them.  The remembering self, says psychologist Daniel Kahneman, turns our experience into a story.  And it is by stories that our lives make sense.  Think of Augustine’s famous autobiography, his Confessions, in which he spends nine of his thirteen chapters remembering his early life and interpreting its significance.  And his tenth chapter is a deep reflection on memory itself, which he plumbs in search of his God.  He calls memory “the stomach of the mind,” for there our experiences are digested into something that means something.

In the stomach of your own minds, if you will ruminate long and hard enough on your own experiences, you will find something besides yourself.  You will find that your mind is not large enough to contain itself. You will find Truth there: your mind really connected to the minds of others, your understanding that something is as certain for you as it has been for anyone anywhere.  You will find Goodness there too: the deep magic from before the dawn of time, the law of nature written on your heart that you cannot ignore or change.  And there you will also find Beauty, so ancient and so new, the reason why the caged bird sings.  God has put eternity into the human heart, and if you really chew on what you remember, you will know that He is there and He is not silent.  I know that I speak to believers and unbelievers among you, doubters and those who doubt their doubt, some who are still surprised by the Christian story and some who are tired of hearing it.  But to you all, I ask this question:  Do you remember that God created you to be with him forever?  This is the Good News which, when you really hear it, will seem like remembering something beautiful or delicious, which you had forgotten.

Today we dress up and make speeches because we remember you, the class of 2015.  We have stories to tell about each of you.  Things you have said, your ways of being in the world, funny things and serious things--all these are part of the story that we will go on telling about the class of 2015.  The stomachs of our minds will be working on our memories of you for a long time.
We remember Lee Parham’s plastic bugs encased in amber-colored jello for a book report on Jurassic Park; and Leah Sykes witty Wife of Bath with a country accent.  We remember Catherine Fay’s “I just have one more little question about last night’s homework assignment” and Esten Walker’s eighth grade essay about being a twin--published in the Column.  We remember the unsettling play, Elephant’s Graveyard, that Anna Dengler directed for her capstone and Angela Tawfik’s iconic drawing of Tolkien with his pipe.  

We remember what Cammie Behnke said to Mr. Hicks when he told her he was about to put a zero in his gradebook for the rough draft revision she never turned in: “Go look in the recycle bin in Mrs. V’s room!  If you hurry, you can get it before it’s taken out to the dumpster!”  And we remember how Raheem Poole blurted out to his teacher who was coming to help him with a problem, “Oh, oh, oh, don’t tell me!”

We remember Daniel Ray’s witty Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest, Alexandra Hall’s dance at Grandparents Day accompanied by the Lower School String Ensemble, and Evan Kottiel’s sense of style--especially his shoes. We remember Jeanie Stouffer playing her bass guitar and singing joyfully in the worship band and Zach Schaad sitting on the sideline of his sister’s soccer game talking to his friends and holding his little brother Moses in his lap.  

We will remember Brian Wright’s scavenger hunt built into the new Blake Hubbard Commons and the wonderful remembrances of Blake that he put into a book.

We remember how Tim Govert solved the infamous acid-base challenge on Dr. Sundseth’s Honors’ Chemistry test; how Ted Hampton swam like Tarzaan with his head out of the water during his first practice and went on to qualify for states.

We remember Rosamond Walker’s white and pink, beautifully harrowing poster for All Quiet on the Western Front; Victoria James’ 30 Hour Famine for World Vision; Connor Martin’s Capstone on his Irish and Lithuanian heritage; and Robert Smith rising at 5 am to run, even in the middle of cross country or track season.

We remember how Josh Bratcher helped the rest of us understand A Raisin in the Sun by talking honestly about his own story, without self-pity or accusation; how James Yarborough would ask questions he already knew the answer to so that others could learn what he had; and how Lina Habib spoke eloquently about Blake Hubbard to a group of donors gathered on the lawn of Trinity last summer.

We remember how in eighth grade Chris Wu was never quite satisfied with his filming of the destruction of the evil Lego skeleton warrior and had to keep building and destroying it back in eighth grade; how Layson Peters played the perfect hippie in her 1960’s class, with her big sunglasses, floral print, bell bottoms, and sandals; how Milan Moshay wrote, filmed, directed, and edited her own movie short for her Capstone; and how Patrick Knight built a Rube Goldberg Machine for the record books back in ninth grade.
We remember what John Matthews looked like with gray hair, tweed coat, and a pipe, as the wise grandfather in You Can’t Take It With You; what Jay Kowalski looked like going into his wind-up on the mound, as he delivered another lethal strike; and what Paul Dunlap looked like with his enormous wingspan blocking another shot on the basketball court.

We remember Anna LaDine’s big smile as she returned to campus from a successful robotics fundraising pitch at SAS.  We remember why Caldwell Academy walked Bennett Goss, and how he stole his way into scoring position and then scored on a bedlam play that clinched the victory for the Lions in the bottom of the seventh.  

We’ll long remember Alex Idriss demonstrating the sustainable three-wheeled cycle that he and Zach built for their Capstone; and Austin Blair’s brilliant commentary on Johnny Cash’s live album At Fulsom Prison.

And there is one more of you we remember: his smooth and graceful swing on the tennis court, his small self curled up in a nook somewhere, his mischievous look as he devised another crazy game for his friends to play.  I am reluctant to speak of Blake, for this is your graduation, not his.  But I do speak of him, for it is not his and I want to name that sadness.  More importantly, I speak of him because he has something--yet again--to teach us.  

Human memory is a mysterious and marvelous thing--a sort of bridge to God and things eternal.  But human memory is also a fragile and flimsy thing, easily broken by the normal wear and tear of life and, more drastically, by the ravages of disease and death.  No graduation speech, no yearbook, no senior tributes, no building named in our honor can keep people from asking, maybe not very far down the road, “Who was that guy?”  The grass withers, the flowers fade, and our memories wilt.  Much of what we have learned fades and is to us like the dream of a dream.  And our joys fly away from us--like Lucy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we cannot remember the delicious story we just read in the Magician’s book.  

Those joys--and our sorrows--belong to God.  The memory of God is eternal.  The Lord remembers.  And what he remembers is his own mercy and love towards us.  The only thing he chooses not to remember, in Christ Jesus, is our sins.  And so it is that the Lord remembers Blake Hubbard; he is hid safe with Christ in God.  

And so are you, says Paul, if you are in Christ.  The end of a matter is better than its beginning, according to Ecclesiastes.  But only God knows your end--when your life is finished, and what it means along the way.  We have wonderful memories of you all, and we have some inkling of what your lives may mean.  We suspect that some of the things we will remember about each of you--like Angela’s icon, Ted’s selfless toughness, Victoria’s humility, and Anna’s leadership in Student Life--are the sort of things that really mean something.  But that’s God’s business.

God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps on the sea, and rides upon the storm.

Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his works in vain.
God is his own interpreter, and he will make it plain. (William Cowper)

Class of 2015, we will be sitting on the edge of our seats to see what God makes plain about you in the future.  And we are glad to wait.  “Judge nothing before its time,” says Paul.  We may have given you lots of grades, meted out discipline, and assessed you on all sorts of measures, but the real measure of you is way above our pay-grade.  We have done what we can.  Now we send you off with prayers and hopes and applause, remembering your many gifts, but trusting more in the Giver of those gifts than in you who bear them.  Now we send you off, remembering your noteworthy accomplishments, but celebrating more the God Who Remembers you in his mercy and love.

Those of you who were here in Middle School may remember a game called Human or Not Human.  You eighth graders would put something--or someone--under a blanket and then bring others into the room.  They would have to guess whether the mystery under the blanket was human or not human.  Apparently you had no philosophical crises about telling the difference, once the blanket was removed.  But the time is coming and may already be here, when the distinction is not so clear as we might like to think.  With animal studies on one side and artificial intelligence on the other, the core of what it means to be human is in a bit of a crisis.  Is Chris Wu’s robot Ernie, with his humanesque emotions human?  I hope that your classical Christian education has given you some bearings on how to navigate such challenging questions.  I will leave you with this as you go: Human beings, like you, are the ones that God remembers in his love and mercy.  Redeemed human beings are the ones, like the thief on the cross--like all of us, fools and sinners, traitors, too big for our britches, all hat and no cattle--all of us who call on the name of Jesus, that Christ remembers when he comes into his kingdom.  May you all be among that happy band.

Class of 2015, congratulations on your graduation.  With God’s good help, we will not forget you.  Come back often and help us remember you anew.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

At the Train Station with the TK Cubs

My day on Friday started with lots of smiles and hugs at the train station in Durham.  I bade the TK Cubs, Mrs. Holland, and a lot of parents goodbye before their annual train trip to Burlington.  

Reports from parents and Mrs. Holland at the end of the day: Apparently the Cubs were more excited about their grand destination of BURLINGTON! than if they had disembarked at Disney World.