Mission Tension 1: Christian and Non-Covenant


Mission Tension 1:

Christian and Non-Covenant

November 2022   

Dear Trinity Community, 

Trinity School’s mission is like a guitar with several strings tuned together, all with a tension that is just right. Too much and the string is sharp; too little and it’s flat. The tension on a guitar string is not the sort of strain that needs to be relieved or resolved: the instrument plays as it should only when the string’s tensity is balanced and true, and the guitar is built to hold that tension just  

Trinity School is built to hold certain tensions, too. These are not accidental, but intentional. They go back, most of them, to the founding of the school and the codification of the mission.  Because they are tensions, we may feel the urge to resolve them, to move further to one end or the other to  release the pressure—tension can be stressful. But to do so would be to untune the harmonious mission of  Trinity School. 

In this year’s Head Lines, I have proposed to do a little tuning of Trinity’s mission. Let’s start with our Christian  and Non-Covenant string.


Mission Tension 1: Christian and Non-Covenant 

Trinity is a Christian school, and we also welcome students, parents, and families who do not share our  Christian faith. The technical term for this kind of Christian school is “non-covenant” or “open enrollment.” It  would be simpler, with less tension, if we went in one direction or the other, either by requiring every student  and family to be Christian, or by relaxing the Christian identity of the school, with a loose connection to the  Judeo-Christian tradition.  

Because Trinity’s Christian identity has been so strong, most of the conversations I have are about why Trinity  is not a covenant school. I’d like to share what I see as the two most compelling benefits of the open-enrollment  model we have chosen. 

The first is the gift that a school like Trinity can be to the community and the wider world. The light of the  good news about Jesus shines in a Christian school in all sorts of ways. Some without faith are drawn to this  light; some come for other reasons and see the light when they get here. The light may be truth taught or the  love of Christ caught, but it is real, and people know that in their bones. “Let your light shine before people so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). This is the gift of  Trinity to the world outside. Some have argued that the increasing secularization of our society calls for tighter  Christian circles to preserve our identity; I would argue that in a more secular world, a school is one of the best places for Christians to share the good news about Jesus. The good things we offer at Trinity are common goods, and many will come for excellence in learning, for a community that flourishes, for teachers who are  called to do what they love. Let us work and pray that everyone who comes will get a glimpse of our Good  Father, who is the source of all that is true, good, and beautiful at Trinity School. 

The second gift is what the wider world brings to Trinity School. This may seem odd, especially at a time when  many Christians lament the escalating secularization of our culture. But the world (à la John 1) is where we  live, and God knows this. Having unbelievers among us is inevitable, as Jesus taught us (Matthew 13:24-30)  and as experience bears out, but the presence of doubters and skeptics is good for us all. Their questions, when  honest, are often the best questions. Their doubts keep us from taking ourselves too seriously, mindful of our  own stories of faith and how it was God who found us and not we God. “There’s a crack in everything; that’s  how the light gets in,” as Leonard Cohen sings. And it’s the irreverent Imogene Herdman who reminds the pious  church folk of the shockingly good news of the Christmas story in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. 

How do we keep the tension on this string of Trinity’s mission in tune? I’d say that the very presence of people  of other faiths (and of none) among us guards us from going “sharp”—too religious, arrogant in our own  Christian convictions. But what is to keep Trinity from going “flat,” from losing our saltiness (Matt. 5:13) as  a distinctly Christian place? Three things: First, we hire Christian faculty and staff (check out the application  to work at Trinity), and members of our Board of Trustees are also Christians. Second, we practice Christian  community, worshiping, praying, and orienting our life around the Scriptures. And thirdly, we teach from a  Christian perspective, with Bible and theology classes for everyone, integrating our faith and learning in deep ways in every subject, shaping our pedagogy according to Jesus’s story. Traditions like all-school chapels,  weekly worship by divisions, faculty devotions, and faculty-staff prayer walks are anchors of our Christian  mission.  

One of my favorite kinds of conversations is with prospective parents who are cautious about our Christian  mission. “How Christian is this school?” they will ask. Here is what I like to say: “We’re Christian with a Big  C–if you want a Christian school that downplays Jesus, the Bible, the cross and resurrection, then that’s not  us. At the same time, we are so glad to have families who don’t believe in us, and if you come, this will  be your school too, and you will bring us many wonderful gifts. We will never force our faith on you or your  children; we don’t proselytize. But we do share the good news about Jesus with every student. If your child  comes here and becomes a Christian, that is a good story that fits our mission. But it’s a story that God will  write and not us.” 
May God keep us tuned to this mission always.  

Non Nobis, 

Chip Denton 
Head of School