turning again…

[from a back-to-school transition liturgy crafted by Agnes Kramer-Hamstra, and prayed together last night at a small gathering of faculty and staff]:

….We turn again to the little way station that is SSU

We turn to this small happening microcosm where
we try to play out the largeness,
the largesse,
the grand languid move and
the almost invisible quickstep
that is your life in and with our lives,
in and with the life of this world,
Creator and Redeemer.

And, as we turn, we ask for help:

Help us each to accept who we are and what we are able to give right now
Help us to offer what we can, gladly
Help us to hear and see the people students are, see them and hear them as you do
Help us to teach; help us to listen.
Help us to ask for help.
Help us when we feel overwhelmed.

Grant us your peace.

freedom, dignity and the spirit

[a follow-up passage on the freeing work of the Spirit in the individual, in community – in the context of Latin American “base communities”]:

But now a new experience is making itself felt in the Christian communities that have arisen from this context: that of freedom. This is not something that they receive from outside. If freedom were something brought by governments, by revolutionary groups, even by the church, it would not be a true liberation. No one can make anyone else free. The experience of the communities is one of self-liberation. They themselves experience liberation in the act of making themselves free; freedom is won in the struggle for liberation….

Those who become free, become free from sin. They cease collaborating in the social sin [of oppression and domination particularly]. They hold their heads high, feeling their dignity for the first time. This experience of dignity recovered is one of the most visible signs [of the freeing work of the Spirit] in the communities.

  • Jose Comblin, The Holy Spirit and Liberation (1989)

 

now they discover that they are acting

[Just after Pentecost Sunday, I recalled this reading describing the experience of the Holy Spirit in the base communities among the poor in Latin America]:

Then they have this experience: suddenly they begin to act; they discover that they themselves are capable of action. Before, they had no plans, no projects for the future, only frustrated dreams. They had no confidence in their own judgment, in their capacity to plan and gain practical knowledge of the world. They followed custom of the instructions of their masters. Now they discover that they are acting for themselves, discover that they are capable of setting and seeking goals, of achieving objectives….

It is a matter of experience undergone by a community of people who feel that something new is coming about in their midst.

  • Jose Comblin, The Holy Spirit and Liberation (1989)

where words are clarified

Two believers in conflict about their doctrines are concerned with the execution of divine will, not with a fleeting personal agreement. For the man who is so related to his faith that he is able to die or slay for it there can be no realm where the law of the faith ceases to hold. It is laid on him to help truth to victory, he does not let himself be misled by sentiments. The man holding a different, that is false, belief must be converted, or at least instructed … The thesis of religious disputation cannot be allowed to “go.”

[In contrast, I have only this confession] We expect a theophany of which we know nothing but the place, and the place is called community. In the public catacombs of this expectation there is no single God’s word which can be clearly known and advocated, but the words delivered are clarified for us in our human situation of being turned toward one another. There is no obedience to the coming one without loyalty to his creature. To have experienced this is our way.

  • Martin Buber, Between Man and Man

[inspired by Englewood Review of Books and their celebration of the birthday of Martin Buber]

encouraging and supporting the inner teacher

[The faculty of SSU have been reading (or re-reading) Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach together this year. Here is a quote mentioned in our final discussion that seems fitting for what we are trying to embody in our education at SSU.]

…Quakers had to invent social structures that would allow their members to do such work with and for each other.

The ground rules for every social structure they invented had to honor a powerful and paradoxical pair of Quaker beliefs: each of us has an inner teacher that is an arbiter of truth, and each of us needs the give-and-take of community in order to hear that inner teacher speak. So Quaker social structures offer community to help a person discover the guidance that comes from within and ground rules to prevent that community from invading the individual’s inwardness with external agendas and advice.

– Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach