by Craig Dunham, Headmaster
As you plan to join us at Petra Academy this fall, you will be part of a new chapter that God is writing in the history of our school. It will be a new year (Petra’s 20th, no less), with new faces (at least 20 of them, pushing us over 200 total students for 2015-16), and with a new Headmaster (who moved his family 20 hours to be with you in Bozeman).
A new chapter, indeed!
Whether we recognize it or not, the concept of “chapter” is an important construct, for it is how we’ve come to experience others’ stories as well as our own. Nicholas Dames, a teacher in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, writes in an article, “The Chapter: A History,” in The New Yorker,
“Books have been written or arranged in chapters for over two millennia now, although that fact has never received the attention it deserves from historians of the written word. Perhaps the sheer longevity of the concept has rendered it invisible… we simply expect chapters to be there, breaking up our reading, giving us the permission to pause or stop.”
Summer is a chapter break (a much welcomed one, at that!) and a time to pause, to stop…but not to end. God – the Author of our faith – is always authoring new chapters in our lives; in fact, without meaning to be too cliché, history is indeed His Story of the world’s redemption.
“The chapter is tied intimately to our notions of literacy, as signaled by the fact that we give the name ‘chapter books’ to the texts that offer school-age children their first mature reading experiences. More than this, the chapter has become a way of looking at the world, a way of dividing time and, therefore, of dividing experience. Its origins date back to long before the printing press or even the bound codex, back to the emergence of prose in antiquity as both an expressive and an informational medium.”
As with any book, we have longer chapters and shorter chapters; favorite chapters and ones we may not care for as much; chapters that plod along and chapters that race to a cliffhanger ending – all of which give way to yet another chapter that continues the story – or metanarrative, as some call it. In the Christian view (and as always in good literature), a chapter’s ultimate meaning is found ultimately in this metanarrative; it is not a stand-alone.
“The unassuming quality of the chapter, its way of not insisting on its importance but marking a transition nonetheless, turns out to be its most useful, if also its most vexing, quality. It is a vocabulary for noting the way we can organize our pasts into units. Some things stop; others begin. We note these shifts, in relationships or jobs or domiciles, reassured that the environing story itself—our lives—are still ongoing.”
As we had the privilege of meeting many of you in April when I was introduced as your new Headmaster, Megan and I, along with our four daughters – Maddie, Chloe, Katie, and Millie – are excited to join you in God’s next chapter of the Petra Academy story. We are grateful for those “characters” who have gone before – founding Headmaster Louise Turner, previous Headmaster Todd Hicks, departing Operations Director Hope Sukut (not to mention past and current board members, teachers, parents, and students whose stories God also intertwined with Petra’s) – and we are humbled by God’s goodness to our family to be able to join yours. We look forward to our first summer in Montana!
Thus, in striving to prepare students for purposeful, godly lives by integrating academic excellence with our Christian Faith, may God grant us the faith, hope, and love we’ll need for this next chapter at Petra Academy. By His grace, we have a story to (continue) to tell.