Students at Smithville Christian High School started their school year with invitations to belong, with a promise that God will protect them, and with prayer.
At the opening chapel of the year, held in the gym on Tuesday morning, students were invited to join an impressive list of extra-curricular activities — some of which are already starting today. They also had their friendships, their studies and their club activities lifted up in prayer.
Teachers and students took turns leading the entire school community — and some visiting parents — in praying for the many ways in which school life is enriched. Student Sam D. prayed for student leadership, Mr. Park prayed for extra-curricular activities, student Sophie B. prayed for relationships between students, between students and teachers, and between families and teachers, Mrs. Horvath prayed for students' academic life and Mr. Robb prayed for the community of parents, family and friends who surround the school with their support.
The school also prayed for Pastor Wes Collins and his wife, Stephanie, who were seriously injured in a car crash last week.
Principal Ted Harris also led in an opening meditation, in which he described the things he worries about sometimes — his leadership, his hairstyle or his bad jokes.
He said students wonder about whether there will be someone to talk to on the bus, about finding a friend, about being a capable student. They wonder if they will make the team or pass the audition.
Parents wonder about their sons and daughters grabbing hold of faith, said Harris. They wonder if their children will thrive at Smithville Christian.
But no matter what we worry or wonder about, "God certainly has a plan for each of us and there is nothing that will stop it," Harris said. "The gifts you have, the passions that drive you -- God gave them to you for a reason."
God promises to uphold and sustain us despite our uncertainties and fears, Harris said, sharing words of comfort and promise from a pastoral blessing and from Scripture.
Harris said his pastor blesses the congregation with these words: "God go before you to lead you, God go behind you to protect you, God go beneath you to support you, God go beside you to befriend you. Do not be afraid. May the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon you. Do not be afraid. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord."
Harris also read from Psalm 139: 7-12 and from Romans 8:39"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,' even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for the darkness is as light to you."
"Neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
The subjects and extra-curricular activities that students are good at are gifts given to them for a reason, Harris told them. "The way you are with people, God gave you that personality for a reason. It will not turn out to be pointless because Scripture says it will not come back empty."
At the end of chapel, students were given an opportunity to welcome new students.
Also today: we had our first visit from a technician for the malfunctioning photocopier and Mrs. Vanderheide signed her first late slip. It's good to be back!