Thursday, July 14, 2016

Dispatches from Innisfree

 Thanks to the generous and far-sighted leadership of the Trinity board and the strong team of staff and faculty, I am able to take a six-month sabbatical during the latter half of 2016.

I'm not planning to blog regularly during this time, but I'm a few weeks into my time now and thought I'd post some pictures of things I've spent my time with so far.

It has been a very busy July: travels to see family, weddings, and preparations for our pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago.  Lots of time with family--you will see a certain one-year old in many pictures below.

How am I doing?  Better than I deserve, as they say.

In the mountains with Stone and his parents
I rode Blood, Sweat, and Gears again this year to kick off the sabbatical 
Stone was not very pleased to see his sweaty Pops in a strange outfit at the end of the ride.
I visited my Mom in Knoxville.  Breakfast on her patio.
Pat Summit died the day I was in Knoxville
Mom and I paid a visit to her statue
At the pool with my grandson

On a visit to see Des' family in Atlanta, we stayed with friends who have this spiral stairway in their townhome.
We rode bikes on the Atlanta Beltway and paid a visit to Ebenezer Baptist Churc

And MLK's birthplace
Then to Chicago

My son, Chad, and his girlfriend, at the train station in Lemont, her hometown

Playing the tourist in Chicago, on the architectural boat tour

Rode a bike up to U of C Loyola

Preparing for the Camino
With Des on a Duke Forest Trail
With Cooper on the Quarry Trail
With Stone on the Garrett Farms Trail

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Our Letter, You Graduates

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

Dear World,

We give you the Trinity Class of 2016.  Ready or not, here they come.

They can sing a stageworthy “I Dreamed a Dream.”  They can do independent studies of Quantum Mechanics.  They can create phone apps for Androids and do novel gene research at Duke.  They have coached middle school basketball, cross-country, choreography, and chorus--and soccer in Costa Rica.  They have built a motorized dirt bike and rebuilt a 1969 Mustang.  They designed an illustrated guide for pediatric patients at Duke’s Eye Center.  They hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail, survived in the cold woods, and made a documentary of a pilgrimage in Spain.  On their own, entirely outside of any school assignment, they have trapped hydrogen in a balloon, written a program to simulate planetary motion, raised tens of thousands of dollars for a school in South Africa, read Borges, Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower, and all 1,059 pages of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  They will make you laugh dancing like Ballou and singing “Bare Necessities,” and they will make you smile dancing like Bert and Mary Poppins.  They can write and direct their own play; and they bring that play to life with their own brilliant acting.  They have done street evangelism, have tutored homeless fifth graders, have befriended a sixty-year old who is learning to read, organized a 5K, and met with congressional staff to advocate for the deaf community.  They can bake and cook, they can design a line of clothing, they can play the sax and the violin.  And they can swim themselves into a championship.  And when they come together to sing acapella . . . how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters sing together in unity!

They came to us as children and youth.  But they are not children any more.  They are young adults, coming into their own, smarter and more talented than their teachers sometimes, with minds of their own and gifts that came from somewhere else and blossomed under our noses while they were here.

We recommend them to you.  We would take them back in a heartbeat, if we could.  But they have outgrown us here, and it is time for them to move on.  We hope you enjoy them.  We at Trinity surely have, and we will miss them very much.  Please take good care of them.  

Trinity School

You all are very familiar with letters of recommendation.  This excellent faculty has written them for you, as you applied to college.  You will probably be asking some of us for such letters as you apply for jobs and internships and graduate schools in the future, and you will eventually be writing these for others, as you find yourselves in positions of influence in your lives.   

They go way back.  The Apostle Paul talks about letters of recommendation in the passage from 2 Corinthians that Alyvia read.  Paul himself wrote such letters--in Romans 16, he is providing Phoebe, a church leader, with just such a letter to the church at Rome.  And the book of Philemon is essentially a letter of recommendation from Paul to his brother in Christ, Philemon, on behalf of the slave Onesimus.  

This passage in 2 Corinthians came to me all of a sudden, on the morning of April 19.  I was standing in the back of the Great Room for the last Trinity Parent Organization meeting of the year.  Five of you were presenting a précis of your Capstone for the parents.  (Abigail, Rachel, Ryan, and the hiking bros Peter and William)  I was enjoying very much hearing about the things you learned and how you learned them, and I was watching the parents enjoying this just as much as I was.  And it occurred to me how different this year is from the early years of our Upper School.  In the beginning, we had nothing to show except our dreams and visions.  Just the talking Head . . . master.  Oh, we waxed eloquent about them, I can assure you.  But I kept waiting for someone in the back of the room to raise his hand and say, “How do you know this works?  Show me the money.”  You guys showed them the money at the last TPO meeting.  As I stood in the back and listened proudly, it came to me: You yourselves are our letters to the world.

Anyone can talk about education, but doing it is harder, much harder.  I am deeply grateful to God that in 2016, ten years since we launched our Upper School, we have 40 amazing letters to write to the world, letters that show what a classical Christian rich and unhurried education looks like.  You are our letter of recommendation, and we are proud to seal you up and put a stamp on you and send you out there for the world to read.  Which is just what Paul said about the Corinthians.

Sort of.  After that meeting, I actually sat down to read 2 Corinthians again, and it very nearly ruined my graduation speech.  For what Paul actually says is that he’s not that into letters of recommendation; and that the only letter of recommendation he’s interested in is very different from the notion that the Corinthians are his letter to the world.  What Paul actually says, I want to translate for you, graduates: “More important than any actual letters of recommendation that we could (and will) write for you; more important than any letters of recommendation (even your own lives as such “letters”) that you could write for us at Trinity, is another letter.  It is the letter that Christ is writing on our hearts.  Paul says, “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts”--that would be in your case the hearts first and foremost of Trinity’s teachers and leaders and your own parents.  And that letter is you.  

This letter that you are, from Christ on our hearts, keeps a promise we made to you and your parents when you first came to Trinity: that you would be known and loved.  I hope that you have no doubt of this, especially after last night’s Senior Banquet.  Each of those tributes read by a faculty member was a glimpse into the letter that Christ has written on our hearts as we have taught and coached and known and loved you these many years.  That kind of love never dies; it will never be wasted; it is hidden with Christ in God forever and ever.

Let me put this another way: You are an amazingly gifted class--I don’t mind saying that the faculty struggled more to choose the recipients of the awards for your class than for any class that has come through this school.  You are so gifted!  But it is not primarily your gifts that will stay with us, but your graces.  That would be the surprising, better-than-we-deserve way you have made us glad.  In every one of you, we see Jesus Christ--his truth, goodness, and beauty.  Every one of you has been God’s grace to us, and I speak for the entire faculty when I say that it is a profound privilege to have known and loved and taught you.  

Dear World,

We know that this Class of 2016 is an amazingly gifted group, and we are sure that they will accomplish great things out in the wide world and acquit our school admirably.  But if you want to know what is most important about them, read here, on our hearts, these letters, written not in ink, but by the Spirit of the living God:

  • Michael’s humble way of being so smart;
  • William’s affable knack for being the first to speak;
  • Davis’ quiet pursuit of servant leadership;
  • Allison’s way of listening well, even when she may have the most to say;
  • Libby’s penchant for twisting gravity into levity and making the whole cross country bus laugh;
  • Jackson’s remarkable work ethic and determination to succeed;
  • Ellie’s whimsical love of gummy bears, for French pastry, her minion voice, and the artistry of her deep, quiet faith;
  • Cassie’s loyalty to her friends, to the Yearbook staff; to her family.
  • William’s gentle way of walking through the world, and his beard;
  • Connor’s polite and respectful gift of being EveryLion, a model of all things Trinity.
  • Rachel’s sincere greeting: “How are you and your family doing?”
  • Kayli’s spiritual leadership and the way she shares her organizational skills to help others who need it;
  • Leslie’s habit of helpfulness and her kindness to us all;
  • Mikael’s calm and collected presence on the court and in class, his soft hands, tender heart, tough as nails;
  • Gina’s generous tutoring of younger students;
  • Montae’s grateful opening of his own heart to his friends and even his teachers;
  • Isabel’s sense of style and poise, her gentle personality, and the line of Trinity clothing that she designed and sold;
  • Anna’s smile, and the gleam in her eye on the cross country course or in math class;
  • Peter’s love for God’s Word and passion for sharing it;
  • Abigail’s strong leadership, her integrity, all the times she has gotten us organized, and all the songs she has sung for us;
  • B-Lo’s grateful attitude, his respectful demeanor, and the amazing heights he has scaled in his learning--and his fashion sense;
  • Ashley’s probing, creative, and persistent questions, and her deep love for learning;
  • Jack’s insatiable quest to understand things and all the homework he has given to us faculty in the questions he has asked us;
  • Ryan’s infectious way of making us all glad to listen to him talk;
  • Matthew’s easy laugh and smile, and the pop-up book that still lives in Dr. Utz’s office;
  • Mary’s genuinely happy (in Jesus) smile, her sympathy for friends, and her care for those on the margins;
  • Eli’s left-handed, booming way of inviting us all to have a great laugh;
  • Riley’s generosity with her camera, so that all our stories can be told;
  • Barnes’ laid-back, encyclopedic questions for us and for the world, all from a heart that cares deeply;
  • David Proano’s tenacious devotion to fixing things, especially things robotic;
  • Nico’s intrepid honesty, his fleet feet, and his way with the tenor sax;
  • Dowdy’s habit of thinking before he speaks and the heart he brings to all that he does, especially his swimming and jazz band;
  • Grant’s organizational skills and efficiency, and the way he manages the soundboard invisibly but flawlessly and selflessly in the back of the room;
  • Philip’s curiosity and wit, and the courage he has shown in the face of unimaginable hardship;
  • David Stewart’s Eagle Scout-like responsibility and diligence, his independent study that just keeps on going;
  • Erin’s high standards and devotion to quality, the gift of several fine Yearbooks, and really excellent Upper School community events;
  • Corky’s wide-open way of inviting us all into the Great Dance where the Father, Son, and Spirit are weaving the kind of joy we see on her face;
  • Andersen’s brave persistence, and the delightful way he steps into a room, says something about Texas, and greets us all warmly.
  • Wade’s loud but hospitable exhortation to us all to do justice, and his skill with the fiddle when we worship together;
  • Chandler’s courage to try something new (like cross country), find a new gear, and her singing with friends in Mrs. Ray’s room.

Class of 2016, you are Christ’s letter, written on our hearts.    

And there is one more letter to mention, which is not something you put a stamp on, but more like the letters we write on the page--the kind of letters our first graders learned this year.  This letter Paul contrasts with the Spirit:
“The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.”  

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret.  I believe that a Christian school can be a place of great good and blessing in the lives of its students, and I hope and pray that Trinity has been that for you, and that the further you get from it the more you will appreciate that.  But I know that Christian schools can be places where some people learn to have nothing much to do with the Gospel of Jesus.  They’ve had enough.  They’ve heard it all.  They’re frankly a little bored with, tired of, or disillusioned with the Christian message.  This we know, and this pains us.  It means that for all the good that Trinity has been in the lives of some of you, the school is really just part of the letter that is dead.

That’s how I was when I graduated from high school a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  I even carried away with me a Bible that I had underlined and highlighted, but I had no idea what those words meant.  They were dead to me.  But I’m eternally grateful that in college some fraternity brothers read the Gospel of Mark with me and the good news about Jesus came to life for me.  And so I know that God is not done with any of us yet.

I pray for every one of you: that if you are leaving here with the Spirit-given love for Jesus in your hearts, you will go on, as Paul says, from glory to glory, in college and in life beyond.  We pray that Christ will write on your hearts the same gracious letter of love for God and others that he is writing on ours, through you.  And if you are leaving here unsure of or opposed to or disinterested in Christ, we pray you will meet someone or read something or learn something or remember something that will be a life-giving tug back to the heart of Jesus, who loves you more than you could ever imagine.

But all of you, wherever you are, wherever you go and do, wherever you are with Jesus, will always be written on our hearts, a living epistle. If someone ask us to show them the heart of Trinity School, I would say, “Go ask our faculty how they loved the Class of 2016.”  Come back often and let us read again and anew that letter written on our own hearts.

And there is still one more letter--seems like there is no end of letters this morning.  This is a letter that you have written.  I’d like to ask you to take them to your parents, letters of gratitude for the gift of being able to learn and grow in this place.  Parents, I hope these are letters that bring life to you, written by those who are themselves the letter on your own hearts.

Thanks be to God.  Non nobis.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Known and Loved

The final Lower School Assembly last week featured a group of sixth graders who remembered fondly some of their special moments travelling through the early grades at Trinity.  They are ready to launch now into the Middle School, and it was gratifying to see them stand before the entire Lower School and speak with such confidence.

The final tribute came from Krista Padilla, who wrote a poem that captures the heart of what they leave behind and what they have ahead.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

My First Grandparents' Day

I remember well my first Grandparents’ Day at Trinity School.  It must have been April or May of 1996, and I expect it was a Friday.  I had just returned from my hometown, Knoxville, TN, where I had been interviewing for a job as Associate Pastor at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church.  The lure of going home was strong and I was trained to be a pastor, but I was torn because there was this young school that Desiree and I, along with some others, had poured ourselves into.  There was disappointment at Trinity already over the candidates we had interviewed for Headmaster, and a good friend or two had said, “You should think about this.”

I returned to Chapel Hill and Durham just in time for Grandparents’ Day at the new school meeting at Hope Creek Church.  I remember standing in the back of the assembly hall, watching our fledgling school showcase their curriculum for an eager group of grandparents.  I was weighing options, as I am wont to do: To stay or not to stay, that was the question.  

And then came the Tallis Canon.  Music teachers Doris Stam and Mary McKinney had introduced this to the students.  I had not heard it since my friend, Brian, had introduced me to it in college.  (Brian was my Christian friend who took it upon himself to introduce this Philistine to rich, classical Christian culture.  He was, of course, Anglican.)  As the students began their refrain, deep called to deep:

All praise to Thee, my God, this night,
For all the blessings of the light,
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings
Beneath Thy Own Almighty Wings.

I’m sure it was weeks before I was offered the job of Headmaster, and (alas, as is my wont) it took me two weeks to decide.  But as I look back on it now, I think that the die was cast on that Grandparents’ Day.  I remember thinking, Why would I not want to be around this kind of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty all my days?

As we prepare to celebrate the 21st Grandparents’ Day, I hope and pray that many Trinity Grandparents will experience the transcendent tug that I felt on that day in 1996.  Trinity School has changed a lot, but this has not changed: We are a place where young minds and hearts are drawn to the beauty of God, where Christ plays in ten thousand places, where the generations see invisible faith passed like a visible torch from generation to generation.  Non nobis foreever and ever.  Amen.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Dowdy Sarvis Signs with Gardner-Webb Swim Team

Yesterday Trinity senior Dowdy Sarvis signed his commitment letter to swim at Gardner-Webb next year.  

Steve Efird, our Athletic Director, arranged a signing ceremony in the gym.  Many of Dowdy's swim team were there, along with his family, other students, and faculty.  

Coach Janet Ray spoke briefly about Dowdy's swimming prowess but more importantly about his leadership.  We are very proud of him and happy to send him off to college to represent Trinity at the next level.  

Dowdy signs his letter

Parents Ed and Angela do their part 

Dowdy's Family

US Director Warren Gould, Athletic Director Steve Efird, Dowdy, Swim Coach Janet Ray, and I (l to r)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Growing Flowers for Others

This week saw the culmination of a year-long service learning project dreamed up by our Service Learning Director, Lori Easterlin, and our Lower School Director, Robin Lemke.  It is a simple but beautiful (literally) project that involved students from TK to 6th grade and the Durham Nativity School to boot.  Even Trinity Grandparents got involved in gathering vases and putting flowers in them.

After much planning, designing, building, planting, and waiting, this week our young students (see above) cut daffodils.

On Wednesday, the 6th graders hopped on the Trinity bus and went downtown to the Senior Center to deliver the daffodils and cards made by the younger students.  They entered into conversations with seniors at the center.

Nothing complicated, but a lot of good hard work that we pray will blossom into glory for Christ and the good of the people here in Durham.

Check out the video of our sixth graders at the Center here.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Hub Dedication

On Friday, March 4, we dedicated the new Blake Hubbard Commons (The Hub) at Trinity.  Many people came to help dedicate this space.   Here are some remarks from the Headmaster, including a letter that Jeff Hubbard asked him to read.

Welcome to the HUB!  Is this not an amazing space?  Over the last few days, I’ve had the privilege of watching students, from kindergarten to our seniors, come into this space.  The looks of wonder, surprise, excitement, curiosity, awe, and joy have been overwhelming.  I’ve seen seniors rocking on the chairs in the Idea Box like kindergartners.  I’ve seen Middle School students running up and down the stairs in joyful discovery.  Yesterday, as the Lower School students were coming into the space, one fifth grade said to me, “I LOVE what you’ve done with this space!”

This is a building fraught with meaning.  And with emotion.  We would not be here today, in this beautiful new space, if not for a boy who lived among us and died, as we think, too soon.  
I want everyone to get a glimpse of the kind of person Blake Hubbard was.  

What can we say?  Maybe the best comment on this comes from Blake’s father, Jeff.  Listen to these words which he wrote this week:  

I hope that our tears today don’t disguise the fact about how excited we are as a family.  This truly is a day to celebrate!

Blake’s 14 years on this earth seem oh so short...but those 14 years were oh so meaningful.

He was a unique child that taught so many of us some important lessons about life.  As many of you know, except for the tennis courts, Blake was one who never moved very fast.  In fact, it was virtually impossible to rush him into anything.  But looking back at it all, I truly believe it was Blake’s way of appreciating the smaller things in life…..the things that most of us take for granted.
Blake also had a way to make everyone around him always feel welcome...even special, no matter the circumstances.  Blake’s happiness came from making the people around him happy.  Patty and I would often ask Blake in many different ways, “What do you want to do?”  His answer would always be “What would you like me to do?”  Making us happy made him happy.

But, without a doubt, the biggest lesson he left us all with, was the value of having a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Something he took very seriously and fortunately for him an investment that will be paying him dividends for the rest of eternity.  A lesson that I can only hope we all will take as seriously as Blake.

Lastly, over these past four years, all of you have done so much for our family, and today Patty, Robert, Lauren, and I want to personally thank you all.  The endless hours you have spent with us helping our family heal...and the generous donations which have allowed a vision turn into a reality is an amazing gift to our family.  The Blake Hubbard Commons is truly an incredible honor to our son, but even more importantly, we hope this building opens the doors to new opportunities and that new families will be excited about Trinity School and introduce the love of Christ into their homes.  
Thank you, everyone, for making this possible.  

We love you all.

Blake stories continue to come to light.  I told Holley Broughton earlier this week, “We need a picture of Blake with his friends.”  That night, unbidden, Faith Rios sent Holley a picture she had stuck on her refrigerator four years ago.  This is second grade.  Blake is the third from the left.  Look where they are standing!

And just this week one of our teachers told me a story I had not heard.  I think it captures so well Blake’s spirit, which we honor today, and which our architects and builders have embodied in this space we are calling the HUB.

In seventh grade, at lunchtime, most of the students ate quickly and hurried outside. One student always stayed behind because he didn't want to play football and had no one to hang out with.  Blake was still eating his lunch, and he made up a game and coaxed the other boy into playing with him.  Blake made a paper triangle football, and the two boys would sit on the front row.  Blake would take one bite of lunch, then he would shoot the football at the prayer request basket up front, and the other boy would take a turn as well. If Blake scored a basket, he would take another bite of lunch and move back one row. The other student would move back one row too. Then, they would shoot the football again. If Blake missed the basket and did not score, no bite, no moving back. In order to get through five bites, Blake had to score from the back row of the classroom. Within a week or so, the other boy was as enthusiastic about "their game" as Blake was. Blake drew his friend out and encouraged him to hang around with other guys.  Once other boys found out what was happening, lunchtime football in the prayer request basket became a preferred sport on rainy days.

I love this story.  I think it captures the heart of why the board of Trinity chose to name this building after this young man:
  • His playfulness.  Blake loved life, loved to enjoy games, invent games, and explore the possibilities in the world that God made.
  • His unhurriedness.  He was the quintessential Unhurried Child.
  • His capacity for friendship and building community.  
Where did all this come from?  Many of us have asked ourselves this question: How did a 14 year old boy have such a capacity for wisdom, generosity of spirit, enjoyment of God’s world, building relationships across borders, putting others first?  This is not your textbook Middle School way of being in the world.  

The answer is that Blake had a very special relationship with Jesus Christ.  As a boy, he said “Yes” to Jesus and began to trust him.  Because he knew that Jesus loved him, he was able to let go of all the Middle School angst around taking care of himself.  Jesus said to him, “I got you,” and Blake believed him and spent his energies enjoying God’s world and serving others.

Blake and this building have something in common: They are both silent, but they both speak powerfully to us.  Just yesterday every Trinity student came into this space to worship and to hear Blake’s story in the video and in our reflections.  Many hearts continue to be moved, called to Christ through the life and legacy of this young man.  May that call go on for many generations, here in this space.  And may many students, like Blake, say “Yes” to Jesus.

I said that this building speaks, even though silent.  That’s what buildings do, and the better their design, the better they speak.  I want to thank our architects at Duda Paine--three of them are here tonight--who invested deeply in this project to create a space that embodies the message of Blake’s life, which is so consonant with Trinity’s mission.

This is a building designed for play.  There is room--lots of room--for students to spread out their bodies, their books, their iPads, and their minds.  There are rooms for playing with ideas, for solving puzzles and tackling challenges.  There is a playfulness in the design of the building, from the sprawling suspension above you to the nook under the stairs to the Golden Ratio hidden right in front of you.  The space opens up to the outside, both visually and literally, inviting students to spill out for playful exploration in the world God has made.  And the Memorial at the front of the building--well, I hope you all have some time to play with the interactive digital memorial that Chris Bitsas has built for us.  A poet once imagined that “Christ plays in ten-thousand places.”  This is surely one of those, lovely in design.  We faculty and staff sit on the edges of our seats to see what they will do with this place and in this place, these students who are loved by Christ every bit as much as Blake was.

This is a building designed for community.  A community of learners.  A community of friends, hanging out in the HUB.  A community sharing meals together, planning events together.  A community of readers, gathered upstairs and down, searching for truth in books, online, and in conversation with one another.  This is not a building for any one division, but for us all.  It is located, exactly, at the HUB of the campus, at the intersection of Lower, Middle, Upper Schools, and Athletics.  We are One Trinity, and this building is meant to bring us together as a community.  I thought I saw a vision of Blake and a new friend flicking paper footballs at the cup holders in the Campfire Room.

As a community of worshipers especially, which reminds us maybe most of all of Blake Hubbard.  I can just see him now, standing with his friends in singing praises during worship, listening to God’s Word, praying with and for his friends  Just yesterday, we christened this space by bringing every Trinity student in here to worship and praise the Triune God.  Nothing would please Blake’s Lord more than to see this space used to bring students closer to Christ--in worship, in conversation, in Bible Study, in exploration, in friendship.

Jeff, Patty, Robert, and Lauren, along with nieces and nephews, are here representing the Hubbard family today.  To you all we want to say this:  We know that no building can ever embody or capture or represent the amazing person Blake was.  And we would trade this building for Blake any day.  Buildings fall apart, wear out, lose their relevance over time.  But Blake, like all of us, is an eternal soul, and though we continue to grieve his absence from us, we believe that he is with his Lord.  
Thank you for being here today for this celebration.

Thanks, also, to every one of you who made this amazing space come together in just two years.  The generosity of the Trinity community and friends from the larger community have made this possible.  A building built without any debt, paid for by many generous donors, many of whom are in this room right now.

So today, we want to dedicate this The HUB, in honor of Blake.

  • May it be the hub of much playfulness, delight in learning, and unhurried exploration of God’s world.
  • May it be the hub of a rich community of learners and friends.
  • And may it be the hub of Christian formation for many students, who worship here, are discipled here, read and hear God’s Word here.