[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 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.
[a poem by SSU ministry student, Jessica Williams]:
Find me in the Darkest Night
afraid of flight
praying to the God of Light
to find me.
Find me when my head’s bowed low
turned from Love
and all that glows
when shadowlands have gathered slow
to find me.
Find me in the shame that grips
when ancient roots
arise and trip
eroding paths I thought
were sent to guide me.
Find me where the Thistles Bloom
as Pain and Beauty
holding space, creating room
within my heart
to find You.
It is there I recognize
You’ve been inside
that’s come along
beneath this Sky
to find me.
We will name them
large and small
I am held
within them all
even as I rise and fall
to find You.
Help me then to keep my gaze
on what is here
within this Place.
This is where I know your Grace,
this is where I see your Face,
this is how I find You.
– Jessica Williams
[After an amazing week in which SSU helped to host the inaugural Bonfire Festival in St. Stephen – with the help of many alumni and friends – we had some final songs from visiting artists to wrap up this morning at St. Croix Vineyard. In the middle of the service, when the vulnerability and presence of the Spirit were getting thick, Rosie Funk read this passage from Thomas Merton]:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
[We’ve just benefited from the wisdom and experience of Wendy VanderWal-Gritter as she visited SSU. This is from her new ebook, which you can get from the link below]
If the goal of generous space is to nurture a positive relational experience of unity in the midst of difference, then we do well to test how the theology that undergirds the four core values of generous space serves to promote such unity. Humility calls us to live as incarnational people, willing to strip ourselves of privilege and status. Humility shapes us and prepares us to prefer the other over ourselves as we commit to listen deeply, suspending our desire to persuade and convince. Humility chooses to embrace God’s strategy of powerlessness to overcome systems of evil and injustice. Humility allows us to truly see the other….
Hospitality embraces the reality of difference with the anticipation of a richer and deeper sense of grace and truth as we travel together. When we
live in hospitable communities we ask, “Whose voices are missing?”
Mutuality challenges us to learn to divest and share power. It invites us to learn the grace of “power-with” instead of “power-over”….
We enlarge our vision of justice in the longing for all to flourish in the recognition that if, “I diminish you, I diminish myself.” Justice calls us to live out our interconnectedness. It invites us to cooperate with others to dismantle the barriers that prevent others from flourishing.
Later I came under the influence of some Anglican monks who introduced me to the mystical and intellectual life…. The kind of faith that encouraged a questioning skepticism and, at the same time, a deep compassion, was new to me. I have a feeling that some of the monks would have been considered nonbelievers by many of my friends because they were too open, too ready to entertain ideas and listen to stories from other traditions. The big problem with “God” (the monks said) is idolatry. “God” gets stuck to ideas like patriotism or personal virtue – things that give us the illusion of control. Most of what we think of as God isn’t God. They taught me to be skeptical because believing was a moving target and its test was always love.
- Alan Jones, from Reimagining Christianity