Next week Bryn Athyn Church School will begin its 125th year of New Church Education. The goal of this education is our best effort to serve the Lord in guiding a child towards a useful and happy life in this world and one day we hope, and pray, a heavenly home.
The foundation for New Church Education happens in the home during the infancy and early childhood. A child development specialist I respect cites a significant period between the time a child is eight months old and two years old in which that child develops a number of key patterns of interacting with others. A transition occurs during this time from a period in which a child’s wants and needs are the same to one in which a child is, for example, bored and either develops a pattern of making this boredom their mother’s problem or starts to learn elements of self responsibility and independence. This may sound far from what is commonly thought of as New Church Education but the healthy relationship that young children can learn they have to others is so important. The Lord wants each of us to grow in taking responsibility for key parts of our own lives and developing a sense of capability to make changes in our lives for the better. The beginning of these ideas can take place in very early childhood. Habits of curiosity and a sense of wonder in the world the Lord has created also can be encouraged at very young ages.
Formal New Church Education builds on the work of parents at home trying to allow the Lord to touch the children’s hearts with a love for the stories of the Word and with the wonder of life after death. Teachers try to provide a pattern of teaching about all the subjects of the curriculum that help the children to see the order and wonder of the natural world, to recognize something of the Lord’s role in the flow of history, to see the variety of social relationships that literature can illustrate. New Church Education also works to develop wisely kind behavior in the children. While external order is supported, it is not the highest goal. We hope to help children learn how to make decisions that are truly good for themselves and others. External order can sometimes be isolated to the environment that mandates it. We hope the children will learn and come to value making choices that support that order for themselves.
Bryn Athyn Church School works with young children on into their early teens. The efforts we work on can then be further supported and deepened with the education provided at the Academy Secondary Schools and Bryn Athyn College. We know that young people who have had many years of New Church Education will still arrive at adult life needing to face the spiritual challenges of defining who they will be to eternity. It is our hope that our work serves the Lord in building affections, knowledge and insight that encourages them to choose a wise and useful life in this world and a heavenly home in the life to come.