Monday, December 26, 2022

Why is A2OCA so Important?

Why is A2OCA so Important? This is question that we need to answer, and an answer that we need to strive to share together as a parish family.

There are various ways to answer the question posed above. There are positive ways, and as Orthodox Christians we should always see things from a positive point of view. For us the glass is ALWAYS half full, even if it only has a few drops in it, because we trust that the Lord can fill what is lacking in any sort of situation. But there are negative ways to answer this question too, and although we do not prefer to look at the world from this perspective, we also cannot deny reality. We are not called to live in a fantasy, but to live in the fallen world, struggling to raise the world to a higher place by our lives as Christians. 

Positive Ways to Answer the Question Posed Above:

  • Our School Mission
    • The mission of Ann Arbor Orthodox Classical Academy is to provide a classical education in an Orthodox Christian environment, allowing our students to grow to their full human and spiritual potential, with the ability to engage society as mature followers of Jesus Christ.

  • Our School Vision
    • The vision of Ann Arbor Orthodox Classical Academy is to foster the next generation of leaders for the Church and society with fully developed minds, bodies, and souls.
  • Our School Goals
    • At A2OCA, we support our students to:
      • strive for academic success
      • develop a love of learning
      • appreciate the value of classical languages, math, science, the arts, and music
      • be creative and responsible
      • engage in a traditional learning atmosphere
  • Our school children, teachers, staff, and parents will share the same foundational values, those eternal values taught by the Holy Church. Consistency in this regard is important for our children and all those involved in their education.

Negative Ways to Answer the Question Posed Above:

  • We are not going to change your child’s gender
  • We are not going to normalize deviant sexuality (in fact, we are not going to actively purse discussions on sexuality at all – we feel that is squarely in the parents’ locus of influence)
  • We are not going to invite drag queens in to read to your children
  • We are not going to carry pornography in the library
  • We are not going to do anything to or with your child without your knowledge
    • You will never hear any adult associated with A2OCA say: “you can’t tell your parents about this”, rather, parents will know everything about their child and his/her experience at A2OCA and be the closest associates, assistants, and partners to the teachers and staff in the education of their children
  • We are not going to do any of the crazy, immoral, or evil things that are being perpetrated on children in public schools in our days. Period.

It is very easy for us to deny the reality of the things on the negative list. We know that such things can’t happen in a society which values things that are good and true and beautiful. But these things are happening in our society, which shows us what the society DOES value. Probably in some places these things happen more than others, but even somewhat rural and more conservative areas are beginning to see these sorts of shenanigans. We do not live in a rural or conservative area. :) Obviously as a society we have lost our way. That is not a radical new statement. It is not meant to invoke despondency. This is simply a statement of fact. We have written here previously about how as Christians we are not, and never have been, and never can be, consumed by society. We have talked about this many times in sermons and lectures in church. Society will always have another agenda that is more or less opposed to Christianity. For instance, the desire for religious toleration and societal political peace and continuity (all good things in the abstract) in the Byzantine Empire brought us… Iconoclasm – a terrible heresy. Those espousing this evil doctrine viciously persecuted those who refused to reject icons. Not persecutions like “you can’t join this fancy country club because you are not cool”, but persecutions like: we torture you, exile you, imprison you, kill you. 

It is not good for us to have a persecution complex. It is not good for us to overly focus on the evils of society – past or present. We are called to live in the world but not be consumed by the world. We are called to be a light to the world and to try to raise it to a higher place – towards the Heavenly Kingdom – by having the love of Christ shining so brightly in our hearts that it enlightens those around us. But it is also not good for us to live in denial. The simple fact of the matter is that as Orthodox Christians the safest path for us to deal with the educating of our children in our days is to home school them or enroll them in an Orthodox school. 

This is coming from someone who had a GREAT experience in the public schools. My public school education was excellent! Incredible really. But those days are long gone, and we have to be honest about that reality. That does not mean there are no good public schools. Many charter schools are solid. Charter school have become a kind of retreat position that many have assumed in fleeing from public education. All parents have to do what they feel is best for their children regarding education, and whatever decision you make I will do my best to support you and your children in your striving for the Heavenly Kingdom. And we are not saying that children in public schools are doomed. But as a priest, who will answer for the souls of all the children in our parish, I have to say that I cannot recommend public schools as a suitable and safe place for our children. That is not because I want to guilt you into participating in our parish school. That is because my #1 job is to do everything I can to help you and your family save your souls. And because I WILL ANSWER FOR YOUR SALVATION BEFORE THE LORD. That is a rather big deal for me as you might expect, and thus I’m going to do everything I can to to help you – even if sometimes what I say in service to this goal is a challenge to you. Spiritual challenges are good – they help us grow. 

My job is not to pat you on the hand and tell you everything is OK. My job is to take you by the hand, look you in the eye, and let you know when there is a problem. And right now there is a problem in our society – a big problem that is potentially (and almost certainly) harming our children in the public schools. This is why we are building a parish school. This is why we undertook the school project before the new church project. Not because we don’t want to build a new church. WE DO! But building a school is MORE important! Because if we don’t do this now we will not have a next generation to worship in that new church. Sure – some of our kids will make it through somehow. But take a look at the last few generations. How many made it? How many of our kids who were born in the 90s and 00s are with us every Sunday in church? If we keep doing the same thing and expecting different results we are embodying the definition of insanity. We have to do something to save our children – something other than what we have done before. Bringing them to church every Sunday and hoping that is going to overcome 5 days a week of indoctrination against everything that the Church teaches us is not sufficient. We have to make a change. And this is why we are building our school.

And this is why we need everyone – EVERYONE – to take this seriously. We need everyone on board and rowing in the same direction. To support this undertaking however you can. If you have children too old for the school right now please remember that one day you will have grandchildren. You want our parish school to be there for them. If you have no children we still need you – because you are a Christian and care about seeing the next generation of Christians in the church on Sunday – not pursuing some secular humanist fantasies or just sleeping in on Sunday mornings. You want our parish school to be there for this generation so the next has a better chance to be grounded in their faith. Is attendance at the school a guarantee that all children will live exemplary Christian lives? Of course not. Most know that Stalin was a seminarian. Orthodox education is not magic. There are no guarantees in this life except we must struggle diligently for our salvation and that we will die. But the more we can do to strengthen ourselves and our next generations in the faith while we live and struggle the better. And the school will be a GREAT aid to our children. The school is the beginning – the foundation – of training our children in Love for God and man. There is much work to do beyond providing a school for our children. But you cannot build anything without a firm foundation – and the school will provide this firm foundation. The school will be a haven from the insanity of the world for our children – and this will allow them to get their Christian bearings before they are faced with the difficult choices our world forces them to make.

Now we are raising funds to finish our school. This school is for you. If you are a parishioner of St. Vladimir’s we need your help. If you are an Orthodox Christian in Washtenaw County we need your help. If you are an Orthodox Christian who wants to help ensure the proper Christian education of the next generation of Orthodox children in Michigan we need your help. Because our school is the FIRST in Michigan, but it cannot be the last. We envision a whole series of Orthodox school across our state, educating the children of future generations and preparing them to be the future leaders of the Church. 

We ask the time, talent, and treasure of those who can support this worthy cause. In the ancient world cathedrals were built from pennies – pennies of thousands of the faithful. We invite everyone to throw in their mite, because if we all give what we can from our time, talent, and treasure then we will reach our important goal: the first Orthodox school in our Michigan. May God inspire you to support this crucial project!

To learn more about our parish school and how you can help the school succeed, please VISIT THE SCHOOL WEB SITE.

Asking Your Prayers,

Fr. Gregory 

P.S. May people ask us why are we charging tuition in our school. If it is so important, should we not give away the education to everyone who asks for it? Honestly the answer is yes: we should give it away. We want to give it away. But we cannot afford to give it away unless our teachers are willing to work for no pay, DTE is willing to give us gas and electric for no cost, and we can find contractors to build and maintain our facilities for free. Unfortunately the way the education funding system works in the United States, property taxes go to the public schools. A child is welcome to leave the public schools to pursue home schooling or private education, but the child does not take his property tax funding with him. If he leaves the public schools that money stays in the public school system. Thus, the public schools have a financial monopoly, and it is not legal to provide any public funds to private schools in Michigan (or pretty much any other state, with a few exceptions). Therefore, perhaps providentially, we are forced to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak. At Ann Arbor Orthodox Classical Academy we are committed to make sure that EVERY CHILD, no matter his or her family financial reality, can attend our school. What that means, given the education funding system in our country, is that not only do we need to raise funds to build our school and to pay our teachers, but we need to also raise scholarship funds for those students whose families cannot afford to pay full (or any) tuition. We believe that we are doing the Lord’s work in our school, so we trust that He will also help us raise those funds. EVERY CHILD who wants to join our school will be able to do so, but we need to build that school first, and that is principally what this note is about. However, we promise to return later and have a nice, long discussion about how and why we need to find a way to provide scholarship funds to help us make our school available to EVERY CHILD!

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