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Father's Day 2019

Last Friday we gathered to celebrate and honour the fathers in our community at the Father's Day Community Breakfast. There was delicious food and coffee, incredible musical performances, and an encouraging talk by one of the fathers in our community, James Macbeth. His reflections are below. 

"He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge." Proverbs 14:25

This addresses us as men – not just fathers. Are you a man who fears the Lord? You might be drawn to this school for all sorts of reasons, but not on grounds of personal faith.

In our sin we can be so conscious of our failure that we run from God – or we can have a vague awareness of him, maybe call him Lord, but don’t treat him as such – or perhaps we have no thought for him at all:  there is no fear of God before our eyes.

Jesus has come and died for those sins – all those responses – so that we can be forgiven men and fathers who have a right fear of God – a fear that draws near to him, and doesn’t pull away – an awe that wants more of him, not less.

Because of faith in Jesus, we can meet in the terms of Ephesians 3 – as those who approach our heavenly Father ‘with freedom and confidence’, knowing that in Christ we have a secure fortress.

His saving work is complete – his word does not fail and his promises are sure. He lives in us by his Spirit, walks with us into the day and promises to bring us home when the time is right. He doesn’t despise us in our weakness and he loves it when we ask for wisdom and walk in it when it’s given.

In a broken, complex and at times dangerous world we need that fortress and so do our kids. He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.

It’s a cultural expectation and a pretty basic instinct in us as fathers to be a refuge for our kids - to provide financial security, a home, physical protection, an emotional safe place, a source of wisdom and a Godly model of what a man is to be. I hope this morning we can see areas where we are doing well, or at least ok, and we’re keen to grow. I also hope the kids and youth here are encouraging your dads beyond today – noticing where he is working hard, doing his best and having a go. Being a dad is a tough gig – arguably the most complex responsibility we will ever carry.

I hope as dads we can see areas of growth and encouragement in ourselves – but there will be areas where we are struggling, even failing to provide a refuge because of unemployment or overwork, money troubles, sickness, broken relationships or issues at church affecting fellowship there.  

At some point many of these problems will describe all of us. As much as we might hope to be a ‘secure fortress’, a refuge for our families on grounds of our own strength – we can’t do it – and the days when we know it can be crushing for us and them. We’re just men.

The question is – are we men who fear the Lord – who are learning to bring all that brilliance and brokenness before him – walking it into the safe, honest place of his presence? Are we walking by faith into this day – audibly, visibly, deliberately with our kids beside us?

I love this proverb because it reminds me that the Lord is a secure fortress for my kids – but there’s something more here. There’s a sense in which the refuge is the whole package – it’s in a dad who fears the Lord – a father walking with his heavenly Father in all weathers. When we are doing that our children know that our strength is his strength – and our wisdom comes from him. They learn from us who to thank for our money and our home – and who to trust in our trials.

When the kids were little they would cry out in fear at night if there was a large storm. I would go in and sit beside them in the dark – a reassuring presence, even though I had no power over that storm. What made me a true refuge was the moment I put my hand on their side and prayed to the one who is greater than the storm. We would go together to the Lord – and they would drift back off to sleep, safe in his sovereignty, not just my arms. Now that they are older, I am learning to not just pray for them and with them – but to ask them to pray for me. I want them to give thanks for the ways God has blessed me – but I also want them to know there are storm cells in life that frighten me, pressures that can crush at times and responsibilities that are beyond my native strength. I need them to ask the Lord to give me courage, wisdom and strength. As they do, I pray they are learning to ask those things for themselves in the face of uncertainty and pressure. If we would breed a right fear of God in our kids – the fear that draws near - we must take their faith seriously and invite them into our own lives. We want them to see up close what a walk of faith looks like.

I have found this particularly important when I am often not around at home. Regular absence due to work can so easily breed resentment in a family and distance from our kids. We can be haunted by our failure to be that reassuring presence. How can we be a refuge when we are so often elsewhere? I have had to learn – and re-learn - the art of remaining at home, even when out, and taking them with me when I am away. The secret is prayer. My family knows this doesn’t always happen – but often before a big day begins or I head out for another evening meeting, I pray for them, briefly, but deliberately – making sure I know what they are up to and committing them to the Lord. Then I ask them to pray for me. They don’t need to know all the details of my work or carry all of my adult weight and complexity – but they can pray.  In that way they come with me and are partners in my ministry. This means I leave a home that blesses me as I go and is curious upon return. They want to know how it went, because I invited them to be part of it. If we would breed a right fear of God in our kids – the fear that draws near - we must take their faith seriously and invite them into our own lives.
Yes, that makes us vulnerable. Yes, it means bringing them close to points of weakness and struggle and need in our lives – but the truth is, they already see these things behind the busy mask we often wear. Instead of modelling stoicism, why not be that secure fortress of Proverbs 14? Why not show them how to answer these areas of weakness, stress and uncertainty with faith and engage their own faith in the process? They will often prove wiser than us and quicker to believe. Their best refuge is a father walking with his heavenly Father. Let them see up close what that walk of faith looks like.

Ours is a home gradually taking refuge in the Lord day to day – not just in a crisis. We are learning together to approach God with freedom and confidence in all things. May that be the mark of your home on this Fathers’ Day. 

Here are two prayers I have written to help me keep growing in this role as head of a busy household. I encourage you to pray them – or something similar- regularly.
 
DAD’S PRAYER   

‘He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge’ (Prov 14.26)

Heavenly Father, cultivate in me the fear that draws near in confidence & awe. 

You are my fortress and a refuge for my children. I praise you for making me a father.

Equip me to love, teach and discipline ___________, ___________ as you love, teach and discipline me.

Make me even tempered and slow to anger, ready to repent and quick to forgive. 

May I be a man of my word, full of encouragement, a blessing to my children – and they to me.

Show me how to train and instruct them in Christ so they know their Shepherd’s voice, walk with you in all weathers, and lay all things before you in prayer.

‘Give them wise hearts, for then my heart will be glad. I will rejoice when they speak what is right’. (Prov 23:15,16)

ABBA, Father - by your Holy Spirit make me a dad who is a growing gauge of your character, our faithful heavenly Father. AMEN
_______________________________________________

A PRAYER FOR MY HOME

Heavenly Father – thank you for my home. May it be a house of prayer that welcomes your wisdom, and abounds in love with each simple act of service.

Breed your peace here, with a quick end to quarrels in forgiveness and healing.

May our door be open to the stranger, our table spread for the guest, our roof a refuge for the needy.

May we be a blessing to our neighbours, salt and light in our street.

Guard us from greed and the love of money. Make us content with what we have and who we have in Christ.

‘Better a little with the fear of the Lord, than great wealth with turmoil’

Make us godly and steadfast in testing times, For even in darkness light dawns for the upright,

for those who are gracious, compassionate and righteous. (Ps 112)

Father, you are our refuge and shelter. May we taste in this home something of your heavenly house and the place Jesus has prepared for us. AMEN