What Makes Westminster Special?

Westminster is special. But what makes it so? You hear that word often when people discuss where they work. Some schools and businesses strive towards that distinguishing marker by incorporating the latest curricula and modern learning methods. Westminster always seeks opportunities to push the learning mold by utilizing cutting-edge technology when applicable. But is that what truly makes us special?

By definition, being special means being set apart by some unique quality. Westminster is not alone in the technology we use or the classes we teach. What sets Westminster Christian Academy apart is our dedication to relationships with one another, academic rigor, and restoration.

“I looked at other schools, but I liked Westminster the most,” says senior Molly Kate Bugh. “When I visited Westminster, I had way more fun. The kids in the other schools I visited didn’t look as happy as they did here. I got to go to a chapel. I loved it. The whole school was there together.” Every Wednesday morning, the entire school—faculty, staff, and students—gathers for Chapel. It is a time for us to pray and sing praise to our Lord and to hear from speakers how God is working in their lives. Spiritual growth is crucial in all our lives, and just as we want our students to develop their minds, we want them to develop empathetic hearts open to Christ’s good news. Chapel is a critical part of our weekly schedule because it gives us time to slow down from our busy schedules and remind ourselves that everything we do, say, and learn is because of God’s love and mercy.

Chapel gives us time to slow down.

Like Molly Kate, senior Ellie Berkland had the opportunity to “shadow” a student for a day and see what a typical day at Westminster would look like. “My old school was supposed to be religious but really wasn’t,” says Ellie. “Every week, we’d have a chapel. There was one time when one of the teachers was reading a Bible story and then just closed it and said they didn’t like it. There was nothing Christian about it. For me, I [visited] on a day when Westminster had Chapel, and seeing how they were gathering and worshiping and having it built into the schedule was amazing.” Our school’s mission is rooted in our faith in Christ and our desire to see our students live faithful lives dedicated to changing the world for God’s glory. We don’t take faith lightly, and we seek every opportunity for spiritual growth.

Along with weekly Chapels, the daily school schedule allows for time at the beginning of each day for teachers to hold a devotion in their first-hour class. Regardless of their subject, every teacher gets time to study God’s word with their students. It is truly a blessing to have a special place like Westminster where students and teachers can come together regularly to embrace Scripture.

Westminster opened its doors in 1976 when a group of people saw a need in St. Louis for a school that provided an excellent and rigorous education rooted in Biblical truth for Christian parents. Faith has always been at the core of Westminster’s purpose. Every day, we are all inundated with messages of who and what we should identify with and what we should consider to be true. We cannot escape what the world tells us to believe, but Scripture gives us something different. There are more stories every day of schools across the country teaching conflicting ideologies in their classrooms, which puts students in difficult positions. What truth should they trust? The world’s or Christ’s? When our culture tells us to focus on our individual truths, the Bible points us to the truth that God created the universe and we belong to Him.

A teacher and three students stand in a science lab. The teacher is showing the students a device attached by a wire to another part held by a student.

“I was teaching in a public high school for three years, and I remember in 1977 there was an assembly event,” says upper school science teacher Dr. Andrew Shaw. “This particular assembly was to drum up support for an upcoming dance, and the girls’ club was patterning the assembly after the dating game. I remember sitting in that assembly, and the answers were not good. Borderline obscene. When we returned to the classroom, my students looked at me for my opinion because they knew where I stood in my faith, and I said, ‘I just can’t agree with the kinds of things that were said from the stage.’ That was the one time I got called down to the office for ‘preaching.’” For Dr. Shaw, that was the moment when he realized that he was not free to teach the truth in that school—to proclaim the authority of Scripture and the truth of God’s word and God’s world. Very soon after, Dr. Shaw received a phone call from Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis asking him to teach science. As Dr. Shaw puts it, “It just felt obvious that God was saying ‘go here,’ and I like to do what God says. Things go better that way.”

Where other schools conform to social and cultural pressures, Westminster has remained steadfast in its mission to teach Biblical truth in every facet of learning. This permeation of faith is certainly what makes Westminster special, and for senior Harrison Bailey, it is one of the best parts of being a Westminster student: “My favorite thing about Westminster is the fact that I can have conversations with other students and teachers about faith. When I’m reading a Bible verse at night and don’t quite understand it, I can go to my teacher the next day for clarification.”

Teachers and students can talk about faith.

At the core of everything we do at Westminster is teaching students how to live a life that reflects God’s call. As Head of Academics, Micah Gall, often says, we use a biblical framework to inform our decisions and our curriculum. As a college preparatory school, our students come to class and engage in difficult and challenging classes, including dual-enrollment and Advanced Placement courses in math, science, literature, and much more. We want our students to succeed, not just here in high school but also at the next level, wherever the Lord leads them. Our classes prepare students for numerous career opportunities, but what sets a Westminster education apart is that our teachers present the material through a biblical lens.

Academics at Westminster are rigorous, but we do not use the term lightly for its own sake. Why do we have to do the work? Why do we challenge ourselves and our students? We do so because when we study math or science, we study the mind of our Creator. 11th-12th grade principal Dan Burke says it best, “We cannot love God well unless we are actively trying to discover who He is.” Education is valuable because we push our students to think deeper and reach higher. An education that does not ask anything of us is not worth anything. Whether our students are studying biology or American history, the beauty of Christian education is that our faculty are given license to talk openly about what they believe and why and how it can be applied to any subject matter with the intention of preparing our students to go out into the world and serve the Kingdom of God.

Of course, integrating faith with academic study extends beyond the classroom. Every summer, upper school students have the opportunity to go on a summer trip to South Korea, Spain, or France as part of our global partnership and world language programs. Not only did our students have an opportunity to become fully immersed in the language, but they also stayed with host families to engage with the culture personally. Along with our summer programs, this year, the Music Department took a group of students to Europe during spring break. “We performed concerts for different groups of people, and during some of these concerts, I could feel the Holy Spirit moving through everyone listening,” says senior Jacobi Robinson. “Watching people receive the Gospel was really moving for me.”

Choir students stand in front of an audience inside of a white church with vaulted ceilings.

At Westminster, our seniors are required to take Worldviews as part of our Bible curriculum. The course outlines different philosophies that exist throughout the world, from different forms of atheism to other religions such as Judaism and Islam, all to better equip our students to listen well and be gracious even to those we disagree with. International trips such as the music department’s spring break journey to Europe offer our students practical opportunities to express their faith and practice what they learn in the classroom. For Jacobi, “Going there to listen and learn the way we do in Worldviews, to see how they live, hear about their experiences and respond with love and understanding make our overseas trips special and important. I really appreciate Westminster giving us the opportunity to go on these trips.”

Students have opportunities to engage the world.

Westminster has always seen the importance and value of integrating a Christian worldview into academics. If the vision of our school is truly to prepare and equip our students to engage the world and change it for Jesus Christ, it is crucial to ingrain excellent academics in Biblical truth. Going into his senior year, Kent Kehr ’78 was attending Ladue High School, where he was earning straight As and on the high track for math when George Knight approached his mom about enrolling her children at a new school, Westminster Christian Academy. It could have been a risk, transitioning from a nationally well-known school to one opening its doors for the first time, but God was in control. “There was no downside when transitioning to Westminster,” says Mr. Kehr. “The biggest change was having classes as a senior with 9th graders, but I realized that God was using me as a leader to touch more lives than I could have done before. [Coming to Westminster] I knew I’d be losing out on something, but I realized that this was God emphasizing that relationships matter. When you got to Westminster, you could see that this was a place where you had relationships with the church, family, and the school all bound together beautifully.” This year, Mr. Kehr retired after many years of working at Westminster, having been a tremendous blessing to our students and our community. God’s faithfulness to Westminster is evident in stories such as Mr. Kehr’s.

Susie Brown, retiring this year along with Mr. Kehr, has worked at Westminster for 21 years in various capacities, including the Student Life office. Throughout her time at Westminster, she helped oversee exciting community events such as Carnival and Spirit Week and was integral in implementing our expanded Faith in Action program. She remembers fondly her time at Westminster, and as she looks to the future of our school and our community, she hopes and prays that as we develop and change over time, we always keep our eyes on God and continue to “grow and invest in students to live out our vision to change the world for Jesus.”

From our humble beginnings to our current beautiful campus, our students have gone on to live out our vision to change the world for Christ in cutting-edge organizations, prestigious universities, and the mission field. From having only a few classes and rooms to multiple dual-enrollment and AP courses, from a makeshift stage in a gym to a 600-seat Theatre, God has blessed our school, and we continue to look to Him as we approach our 50th anniversary and beyond. God was faithful to the men and women who planned and founded our school, and He has remained faithful for nearly 50 years. As the students of Westminster said in the school’s very first yearbook, “In the beginning, Westminster Christian Academy was only a thought… a dream. Thanks to the diligence in work and the faithfulness in God of a few teachers and parents, that dream became a reality.” When we look at the history of our school, we see God’s faithfulness, and we know that He will remain faithful now and in the years to come.

This article was originally published in our alumni magazine, Chimes.
Read more from the Summer 2024 issue →

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