Last September I had the grace-filled blessing of being the proclaimer for the Redeemer Middle School Fall Retreat. The theme? Holy Friendships. This theme was suggested by middle school director Valerie Barclay based on a speech I gave to the Teachers’ Appreciation Luncheon at the end of the 2021-2022 school year. You see, my doctoral work was focused on forging, cultivating and sustaining holy friendships among clergy, a topic I am very passionate about. So the speech I shared with Redeemer teachers, administration and staff that May afternoon was focused on the multiple benefits that holy friendships offer teachers and their respective colleagues.
Holy friendship is a term coined by my former professor and Dean of Duke Divinity School, L. Gregory Jones. He said that holy friends “challenge the sins we have come to love, affirm the gifts that we are afraid to claim and help us dream dreams we otherwise would not dream.” Sharing this perspective on friendships among the staff at Redeemer School that day seemed to resonate deeply with those in attendance. This reaction was not surprising, for God made all of us to live in and for community; we were formed to share our lives in order to build authentic, meaningful friendships, mimicking the consecrated communal dance of the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). So when the middle school retreat took place at Camp Merriwood the weekend following Labor Day, our students quickly realized the impact that holy friendships make, not only for their present circumstances but also as part of the future plan that God has in store for each of them, a plan to bless them and to protect them (Jeremiah 29:11).
I submit to you that while our teachers, students and staff have learned the value of holy friendships, it’s equally important to witness and celebrate the holy friendships that emerge among Redeemer parents. Though not all Redeemer parents attend the same churches, we do have a love for Jesus and his Church in common; this particular “tie that binds” us is built on the solid foundation of our friendship in Christ. The cross reconciled all of us (in other words, made us friendly again) when we were enemies of God due to our sin. This truth opens new pathways for creating and cultivating holy friendships, and parents are included in this blessing.
Think about it: who better to understand the necessity of holy, parental friendships than fellow parents? After all, our children’s educational and spiritual experiences help us empathize with one another. Our successes and failures as parents remind us that we share more in common than we do apart. And, as our children develop and grow, we, too, realize that we need peer friendships all the more, friendships that ensure that we are navigating our roles as parents in ways that imitate Christ, offering forgiveness for moments when we miss the mark (as we parents often do!). Take time to consider the holy, parental friendships God’s given you during your child(ren)’s time at Redeemer School. Perhaps 2023 can be the year when building holy friendships among parents at Redeemer can be your resolution, offered to the glory of Jesus and to the edification of God’s Kingdom on earth!
Now, more than ever, we must commit never to take the gift of holy friendship for granted. After all, God knows that if our kids can watch us create and sustain holy friendships among other parents that they, too, might follow our example when they become parents one day. Perhaps leading the way as holy, parental friends is one way to consider what Paul means when we offer ourselves as “… a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] reasonable act of worship” (Romans 12:1). What a way to worship the Savior—Amen!
Redeemer School is celebrating Holy Friendships during Spirit Week (January 23-27) by sharing relationship-building fun and intentionally encouraging one another!