[In late April, SSU alumna and now MA graduate, Shawna Lucas, gave the SSU convocation address. Here is an excerpt]:
In times of emotional, psychological, and spiritual change, the trauma of that change can lead us to desire quick fixes, surface level technical fixes, such as Aaron advising his community to build a golden calf. My challenge to each of us in this SSU community and those who are visiting today is to not react out of our current grief and pain by building individual or community level technical solutions. Instead, kneel low, dig your hands into the figurative soil that you are rooted in, and breathe life into what is hidden. I can’t tell you exactly what that will look like. It is as varied and creative as there are people in this room. Just as healthy dirt is a response to biodiversity, healthy communities also require diversity. Individuality, diversity of talent, unique identities and perspectives are all needed in building healthy regenerative communities. Bring what you have to the table and be hospitable to the gifts of others… Turn with affection towards the soil beneath your feet, figuratively and literally. As the Netflix documentary title suggests, “kiss the ground.”
- Shawna Lucas (you can read her whole address below:)
Building communities that practice understanding, loving-kindness and compassion may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of our world.
[After a Sunday in which Jesus’ prayer for unity was a part of the lectionary readings, alumna Chelsea Sosiak sent me this prayer by Merton]:
Prayer for Unity
O God, we are one with you.
You have made us one with you.
You have taught us that if we are open to one another,
you dwell in us.
Help us to preserve this openness
and to fight for it with all our hearts.
Help us to realize that there can be no understanding
where there is mutual rejection.
O God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely,
we accept you, and we thank you, and we adore you,
and we love you with our whole being,
because our being is in your being,
our spirit is rooted in your spirit.
Fill us then with love,
and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways,
united in this one spirit which makes you present in the world,
and makes you witness to the ultimate reality that is love.
Love has overcome.
Love is victorious.
– written by Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
[This past weekend was the inaugural (?) “Rain and Snow” winter festival at SSU, and Carol and I had the privilege of offering hospitality to Pádraig Ó Tuama, receiving more hospitality than we gave, from his presence, his words, and his easy appreciation of our shared moments. Here is a passage that shows the thoughtfulness behind an approach that combines hospitality with truth-telling:]
In many circles of faith or spirituality, there is generous time given to the testimony – the telling of the story of conversion, or re-conversion, of enlightenment or change. It is a moving thing, to listen to the testimony. But testimony, if told or heard unwisely, can be a colonisation of a single experience into a universal requirement. Jesus fed me when I was hungry, we hear, and those who are hungry feel bereft. Jesus healed me when I was sick, say the healthy, and the burdened feel more burdened. Meditation cured me of depression, say some, and others make plans to hide the Prozac. Upon whom is the burden of words? I don’t know. I don’t think there is answer. I cannot dampen gladness because it will burden the unglad. But I cannot proclaim gladness as a promise that will only shackle the already bound. Faith shelters some, and it shadows others. It loosens some, and it binds others. Is this a judgment of the message or the messenger, the one praying or the prayer prayed? I don’t know.
Hello to what we do not know.
What I do know is that it can help to find the words to tell the truth of where you are now. If you can find the courage to name ‘here’ – especially in the place where you do not wish to be – it can help you be there. Instead of resenting another’s words of gladness or pain, it may be possible to hear it as simply another location. There are there and I am here. At another point, we will be in different locations, and everybody will pass by many locations in their life. The pain is only deepened when the location is resented or, even worse, unnamed.
Hello to here.
- Pádraig Ó Tuama, from In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World