“The ape said Aslan wanted me to dress like that. And I thought he’d know… I only did what I was told… I don’t even know what’s been going on outside.He never let me out except for a minute or two.”
Puzzle: The Last Battle, by CS Lewis
Since CIRCE’s founding, the world has experienced three major disruptions. Each time the Lord both provided for us and changed us.
In August of 2001, my family moved to Charlotte with grand expectations. None of our plans survived 9/11 and that unsettling winter. There followed seven years of confusion, uncertainty, and dogged resolution. But in them, Our Lord revealed Himself to us as strong in our weakness and wise in our folly.
You were there too, with your friendship and support, participating in the baby steps of our rehabilitation.
Mirabile dictu, those years saw the formation of the first CiRCE apprenticeship, the establishment of our national conference, and the publication of the earliest editions of The Lost Tools of Writing.
Then came 2008. You have probably heard the story: $1 in our bank account; face down before our Lord. Repeating, “I don’t know what to do.” I open the scriptures. These words lift from the page: “This will prove to be a testimony to you.” Later that day we received a gift of $1000. I am here to testify. Our Lord revealed Himself as provider in our need, peace in our anxiety.
And you were there, praying for us, providing gifts, apprenticing, participating, teaching the early versions of The Lost Tools of Writing, even helping with research.
2020. We have all been living in a third great disruption, and for many of us the price has been even more severe than the first two. Personally, I have lost friends to this disease, and I seem to have some sort of “long-haul covid” that keeps me off peak performance.
And yet, once again, our Lord revealed Himself to us, this time in a subtler, more mature way. Let me explain:
After 2008, CiRCE grew from a simple ministry to a research institute with multiple ministries. Gradually, I let it become too complicated and inefficient: we became operationally sloppy. My biggest regret about that time is that people were hurt by my failures of leadership, both internally and externally.
But in His mercy, our Lord prepared us for the coming crisis. Beginning in 2019, He led us to initiate the long process of restructuring. By the spring of 2020, when the Covid-crisis hit, we were ready to respond promptly and effectively, offering online support for little or no cost to the many who suddenly found themselves at home, on-line, and overwhelmed.
And once again, you were there. You attended our online offerings, you gave generously, you sent letter after letter offering support and thanks, and you prayed for us.
Three global crises have unsettled our plans. Three times our Lord has reminded us: we serve because He provides. Three times you have supported us, participated in our offerings, and sustained us through prayers and friendship.
This Covid crisis is much more than a disease, it is a social crisis. For a century, our cultural leaders (especially in education) have undermined authority and judgment, which are the forum and means to wisdom [read Frank Furedi’s essay, “The Diseasing of Judgment,” First Things, January 2021]. In a crisis, what we most need is virtue and wisdom, especially in those with authority.
I sense a deep cynicism in our country. The absolute relativism of the 90’s has become less relativistic and more absolute. Unfortunately, the new absolutes lack foundations, resting instead on the ever-changing will of the “influencers.” We no longer rest our values and morals on transcendent truth, but on what Alasdair McIntyre wisely called, emotivism [read After Virtue]. Perceptions of right and wrong are determined by intensity of feeling and desire, rather than nature and purpose.
CiRCE was born in the 1990’s with times like these in mind. We have always taken the very long view, asking the hard questions and sharing the fruit of our inquiry. Our priority has been the nourishing of the soul: cultivating wisdom and virtue in students, parents, teachers, and school leaders.
Because you have shared in our calling, we still take that long view, but we are also seeing an ever-growing bounty of fruit. Just in this past year, you contributed over $60,000. See what you made possible in 2021!
More teachers equipped for homes and schools
The CiRCE Apprenticeship has graduated over 100 CiRCE certified teachers for both schools and homes. 92 more apprentices are currently working toward certification (In 2022, our Latin Apprenticeship will graduate its first 4 Latinists!). More than 4000 teachers received training through one of our 6-week teacher-training intensives or our 90-minute webinars. Home school parents participated in telephone consultations. Hundreds more teachers were trained during on-site or on-line workshops.
Classes, print, and digital resources.
Our online classes grew over 50% after doubling the year before. You downloaded CIRCE Network podcasts 30,000 times a month. including the second season of The Weight of Fatherhood and our newest podcast , Dwell, a conversation for homeschool moms. You have access to an expanded collection of free offerings on Vimeo and YouTube. More than 15,000 students were trained in classical rhetoric through The Lost Tools of Writing. CiRCE Press released Good in Every Thing by Josh Mayo.
What can you look forward to in the coming year? Well… What needs to be done? In a way, it’s simple: we need to cultivate wisdom and virtue in ourselves and those we serve.
That is why we restructured: to take full responsibility for our own operations so that we could grow in wisdom and virtue as an institution. It is also why, soon after we restructured, we identified four strategic CiRCE Landmarks, those activities that define us as the CiRCE Institute: CiRCE Conferences, The Lost Tools of Writing, CiRCE Consulting, and The CiRCE Apprenticeship. Those landmarks stand on the firm ground of our central activity: research. It is in and through these services, resources, and research that wisdom and virtue are most directly and lastingly cultivated.
Therefore, we have launched an initiative to hire directors for the consulting and Lost Tools of Writing divisions. Wisdom demands that we give them the additional attention our growth has demanded and the Christian classical renewal deserves.
In addition, we have adjusted our conference strategy. Watch for additional regional conferences, on-line conferences, and, in future years, national conferences in cities and even regions where we have not met before.
Watch for a new facility. Three years ago, you helped us launch a building fund. Since then, we have outgrown our current home, so we are looking urgently for a purposeful, strategic facility, one suited to hospitality, research, and teaching. Oh yeah – and to the daily work of our staff! We hope to secure a fit location in Concord within a year.
We are in the initial stages of a plan to house a physical and digital research library to serve the classical renewal. Already, we have begun to gather, sort, and catalog more than 20 years of research and resources so that we can create a searchable online database. If all goes well, watch for it to go live in the coming year.
Speaking of research, for many years I have been preoccupied with the need for a more adequate Christian cosmology [read CS Lewis: The Discarded Image]. What we have discovered has informed all that we do at CiRCE, from consulting to curriculum development to the arts to our understanding of man and his place in the cosmos. It has even yielded an initial framework for a classical Astronomy curriculum.
We have initiated a team to pursue this project. When time and resources permit, I will either devote more of my time to it or hand my portion of the work to others more able than I. This project is multigenerational and multi-institutional.
So much has been done. So much is left to do.
Our Lord has made Himself known “poly-tropically” in the crises and in the times of fruit-bearing. And you have always been there.
With your help we can augment our active programs, move to a more purposeful facility, and share the fruit of our research with you, with others walking the same path, and in places looking to us for guidance (have I mentioned Australia and England? Argentina? LTW translations? Well, another time…)
- to teach more, extending the fruit of the apprenticeship into online classes, offering local in-person classes and activities, conducting retreats.
- to expand our scholarship offerings, especially for the Apprenticeship.
- to continue to offer ourselves to the home school explosion.
- to speak our stewardship into the rapidly growing Christian classical renewal.
We pledge to continue to draw from the deep fountain of the Christian classical tradition, to train teachers, develop curriculum, reform assessment, enrich communities, and expand the reach of the Christian classical renewal.
Will you continue your support of our shared calling? You can do so in several ways, none greater than the first:
- Pray! We want and need to grow in wisdom and virtue.
- Provide a one-time gift of any amount
- Join our monthly giving program
- Become a CiRCE Patron with a donation of $1,000 or more
- Call, email, or send a carrier pigeon to give even more as a Legacy Donor.
We hope that you are gathered with those you love this holiday season and that you have as much to be grateful for as we do. And we hope that wherever you are gathered, you feel our deep, deep gratitude.
May our Lord remember you in His kingdom.