West Dallas Community School

Monthly Archives: November 2014

Do Justly, Love Mercy

by wdcs

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This past week I joined our Class 8 students on their trip to Washington DC. It’s an ambitious five days where we try to see it all: Jamestown, Williamsburg, Charlottesville, and then most of what our nation’s capital offers. In a city noted for its famous buildings and monuments, the Washington National Cathedral stands out as a beauty of gothic architecture. While impressed with this massive stone building and its stunning stained glass, our students were perhaps more interested to learn that the Cathedral was the location where Dr. Martin Luther King preached his last Sunday sermon just a few short days before his fateful trip to Memphis.

IMG_2253Reading the text of this sermon makes his assassination all the more tragic and poignant – truly his voice was prophetic. Many of King’s most memorable phrases were employed that Sunday morning, and among them, my favorite, included at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

This quote resonates with the story the scriptures tell us, that God has vanquished the enemy and that sin and death were conquered on Calvary. A great hymn echoes this hope, “Jesus who died shall be satisfied and heaven and earth be one.” The story of our world ends in justice and those belonging to God’s family are called to work to that end. It is one of the great mysteries and marvels of the universe, that though God does not “need” us, He nonetheless chooses to use us, to call us into creative partnership in His master plan of redemption. Remarkable though it’s true – we are the plan. There is no plan B. We are called to be God’s Ambassadors, reminding and revealing to a watching world that God as expressed in Jesus is a God of compassion, mercy, and justice. Towards the end of King’s sermon he reflected, “Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God.” History bears this out in the lives of faithful believers like William Wilberforce, Gladys Allward, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and King himself.

My vocation as an educator is animated by a desire to live my life and calling in harmony with God, tracing this arc of justice and reflecting a Jesus-shaped life that reveals the character of God – namely his love, mercy, and justice. Sadly, schooling in America has not been just. Despite the grand visions and tireless efforts of men as different as Thomas Jefferson and Horace Mann, our system of public education perpetuates cycles of poverty rather than serving as a lever of opportunity. Today we have a system where a parent’s zip code determines the child’s future. Most of our students live in a zip code where the local high school graduates only 3% “college ready.” STAND for Children, Texas recently released their “Cradle to Prison Pipeline,” study which reports that the zip codes that send the most inmates to prison are those with the lowest performing schools. Our zip code, 75212, was listed among those that incarcerate a disproportionate number of our residents. This system is not just.

It is then truly an honor and privilege to be a part of God’s work at West Dallas Community School, a school that for nearly 20 years has served as a beacon of light and hope. We believe that all children were made in God’s image and are worthy of the very best education. We humbly submit that with God’s help, we are changing lives for generations to come. What a joy it is to watch our graduates go on to graduate high school and pursue their dreams and callings on into college and beyond.

In 2002 we graduated our first class of 8th graders. Two of those graduates come to mind, specifically, as individuals who are living their lives as “co-workers with God.” Briesaun Williams attended Trinity Christian Academy, then graduated Baylor University, and now is training to be a doctor at Western University of Health Sciences in California. Briesaun’s perseverance has been fueled by his desire to alleviate suffering and help others. Timothy Jackson attended Townview Law Magnet, graduated from Dallas Baptist University, and now serves as an Officer with the Dallas Police Department. Timothy’s desire is to give back to his community, to serve and protect.

While we believe our work at WDCS highlights the fact that the “arc of the moral universe…bends towards justice,” we also pray our school graduates those who will themselves work for justice. Indeed, that is what we are seeing. We see it in Timothy and Briesaun, and I trust we will see it in this year’s 8th graders as their stories unfolds in the years to come.

IMG_0007 2Last week, Class 8 students lingered at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial late one evening, taking time to read and ruminate a bit on each of the sixteen quotes highlighted there. I asked them each to select their favorite and many of them selected, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” In the Bible, this kind of peace is referred to as Shalom. My prayer is that our students would hunger for shalom. My prayer is that our students would build their lives on the hope of the risen Jesus, who is tracing out this arc of history that bends toward justice. And my prayer is that our students would give their lives to be co-workers with God, co-labors for Shalom, producing fruit, seen and unseen, “on earth as it is in heaven.”

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Bentley Craft
Head of School