From its humble beginning in two Atco trailers to its success 25 years later as a modern learning centre for Christ’s children, Rimbey Christian School has been about family.
And over the Feb. 11 and 12 weekend the school hosted a family reunion with the theme “Trusting God…Then, Now and Forever.”
Parents, students, teachers and trustees returned to the school to celebrate its 25th anniversary. A banquet at the Rimbey Drop in Centre opened the evening, followed by a celebration service at the Rimbey Church of the Nazarene.
Emcee Mike Fairchild stressed the school community’s trust in God and its work to His glory. From Deuteronomy 6:4-8, he read, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”
In his opening prayer, board chairman Martin Engelbarts observed: “(Twenty-five years) is indeed a milestone but we know we’re not there yet. We look forward to the day when you take us all home.”
Three of the school’s principals provided an overview of the evolution of the school; reliving those nervous times when the school was being planned and taking a glimpse into the future of Christian education.
Henry Vandermeer, the school’s first principal, lamented modern technology “when we had to give up the bell.” He and the students could stay and play hockey outside later when the bell was rung by hand.
Rimbey Christian School opened in the fall of 1986 in two Atco trailers and Vandermeer recalled coming to the school in the fall and “seeing three acres of grass and horse turds.”
The school was staffed with a young, inexperienced but enthusiastic group of teachers. “It was a step of faith to move ahead and it succeeded beyond what we would have expected.”
Vandermeer explained funding to build the school was secured by families who believed they could raise the necessary $160,000 and even those who believed it could not be done. “Everyone voted for it because those of us who believed it could happen were going to try to make it happen and those that didn’t believe didn’t think $100,000 would be achievable. It was unanimous.”
Principal for 13 years, Vandermeer recalled the challenges of teaching a split class of 14 Grades 1 students and four Grade 7 students. “There’s something really special about a school like Rimbey Christian School.”
The school now boasts more than 100 students from playschool to Grade 9.
Gary Duthler became principal in 2004 and built on the foundation that “God takes family very seriously.”
School and parents must work together closely to educate their children.
He is especially proud of the decision of the trustees and teachers to accommodate special needs children at the school. “We always accepted the children with special needs because they were the children of the King, God’s children.”
Duthler recalled the reaction of department of education inspectors who saw the school as a big family.
“What else could it be?” Duthler said. “We are educating the children of the King. We have a Father; we have His children. And He will look after the school. He has in the past. He will in the future.”
It was the future of the school that current principal Tambourine Simpson touched on.
She said education techniques are changing rapidly with the advancement of computers and the Internet. Futurists have warned about the “death of the classroom: and of the “online classroom.”
“Looking at the future is an overwhelming task,” she said. “We cannot (predict) where education will be or what it will look like.”
Simpson said the school must continue to help students live successful lives and teach them how to live in a community, whether that community is their family, town, workplace or school.
Teachers and parents must forge a culture in which students are developed as life-long learners.
The school is successful if it graduates students who have a “deep connectiveness to their Creator,” she said.
“We can’t control the future and we don’t know what it will look like but Rimbey Christian School has a vital part in it.”
The evening concluded with a performance by the comedy troupe The Pretenors.