Holy MOLY!

Spiritual Journey and Bowling Balls

My personal mission statement for my work at Lynchburg College is that each member of our community will have opportunity for spiritual growth while they are here. I hope that students, faculty and staff have a place for growth along whatever path of faith or non-faith that he or she chooses—whatever path that makes sense to him or her at that time. For some members of our community that is a broader statement than is comfortable for them, but I also know few faith journeys that are linear—and college is a time of exploration of spirit as well as academic pursuits. Read more ›

Posted in Stephanie

The Spirit of Selma

Over the break my husband and I saw the movie “Selma” at a local theater. While I knew something of the background of this monumental chapter of the civil rights movement, watching a reenactment of that fateful Sunday in March of 1965 was very disturbing. As I watched hundreds of courageous men and women march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma to Montgomery to demand the right to vote for all people, I tried to imagine what it must have felt like. What kind of inner strength enables an individual to move forward, putting one foot in front of the other, knowing the perils that undoubtedly awaited on the other side from opponents to equality who have demonized you and wish nothing more than to destroy you and all that you stand for? Read more ›

Posted in Anne

Happy Holidays

So let’s name Lynchburg College as a community with some diversities of economic status, race, ethnicities, political views, sexual orientations…thousands of other things… and of faith and non-faith traditions. We may do well with our diversity on some days and not as well on other days. We have different comfort levels with some communities than with others. Most of us struggle daily with the concept of “us” and “them” regardless of which group we find ourselves among in any given discussion.

When we get to December it becomes even more difficult. I helped get a new Christmas tree for Drysdale, and since we are at a church-related college Christmas is alright…right? In my puritanical moments I think Christians “should” focus on Advent all the way until Christmas Eve, and work harder to avoid the great altar of consumerism. Hanukkah starts December 16th so let’s get a Menorah. Some are celebrating Kwanza this year on campus so shall we get a Kinara? Winter Solstice is coming too. Read more ›

Posted in Stephanie

A Time of Reflection and Hope

This week begins the season of Advent, a time of reflection and spiritual preparation leading up to the celebration ferguson-free-hugofChristmas. Two images inform my understanding of Advent this year. The first is that of the traditional Advent wreath, a circle of greenery with four candles for each week of the season. The other image is a photograph that has gone viral of a police officer in Portland, Oregon hugging a 12-year-old African-American boy. According to a CNN website:

“The boy, Devonte Hart, was holding a sign offering ‘Free Hugs’ during a Tuesday protest over a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson. Portland police Sgt. Bret Barnum approached Devonte and extended his hand. Barnum said he approached Devonte ‘not as a police officer but just a human being’ when he saw him crying.” A hug and conversation followed soon thereafter and the photo is now referred to as the hug shared round the world.
Read more ›

Posted in Anne

Thankful Thanksgiving

The Spiritual Life staff prides itself on meaningful low-budget programs, and two years ago Anne Gibbons was inspired to start Thankful Thursdays. We have a banner and some note cards that get set up by different people and organizations on Thursdays, and we offer the community an opportunity to simply say thank you to someone who has helped them or who deserves a pat on the back. We offer both on-campus mailing of thank-yous as well as posting of off-campus notes. Thankful Thursday has been so successful that last year it challenged the Spiritual Life postage budget! The community has even written notes to student center donors and the crews that have done the construction.

Next week is Thanksgiving and since there is no Thanksgiving Eve service this year, you are invited to participate in Super-Thankful Thursday and see if we can’t break records of the number of notes we collect. Please travel safely!

Prayer of Gratitude
O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
when I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
when I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
when I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer.
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency,
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help,
by word and deed, those who cry
out for what we take for granted.

Native American Prayer
Give thanks
for unknown blessings
already on their way.

Child’s Prayer
Thank you for the world so sweet.
Thank you for the things we eat.
Thank you for the birds that sing.
Thank you, God, for everything.

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Living Creativity

You may have noticed the image at the top of the Chaplain’s Corner representing the Center for Spiritual Life at Lynchburg College. When I was asked to describe or explain my process for creating this painting, I realized how difficult it would be to explain. So much of my process is spiritual in nature. I oftentimes go to a place that is within me, a place that is meditative and unexplainable.

I began by thinking of ways I can create an image that represents the interfaith and ecumenical nature of our mission on campus for an upcoming Christmas card last year. I was given a picture of different symbols of different faith traditions. Each symbol was painted inside a white circle including a circle that was left blank to leave room for faith traditions not yet discovered.

Read more ›

Posted in Kay

Rituals, Not Remedies

“Once a Hornet, always a Hornet.” Our LC Hornet family grieves deeply this week with the reality that two of our best and brightest are no longer with us. Brogan Franklin ’13 and Chelsea Meager ’14 both died in the past week as the result of unrelated car accidents. It is a painful and difficult time in the life of our community. Unfortunately we have been down this road before and mourned the untimely and tragic deaths of other students with other stories.

As a chaplain I often have the privilege of being involved a bit more directly and personally with those most affected by death. Yet I still find myself often at a loss with what to say and how best to respond. I’ve been to countless workshops on grief and I have read many books and articles on death, dying, and loss. However, sharing in the intimate and vulnerable moments of those who are grieving is still difficult. Read more ›

Posted in Anne

Date To Ask

The responses were varied. A few said none, but more said three or more. I am reading eight. True, a few of them I am reading through the lens “I wonder if this might help _____ understand _______”, but many more are just for me.

I developed a love for reading as a youngster. Once I figured out that lines and shapes were letters, and then discovered forming the letters into patterns meant words, my world exploded. Words sparked my imagination and my dreams. I had this innate ability to enter stories in a host of roles and explore worlds unbridled by modern decorum. It also meant I questioned reality.

I would be wealthy…I mean name-on-a-building or endow-a-scholarship kind of wealthy, if I had a nickel for every time I have asked why or why not. My vivid and seemingly limitless imagination has awarded me more spankings (physical and verbal) and more letters (formal and informal) of exclusion than the average human. It has also birthed many things.

I bring my audacity to question into my spiritual life, and consequently into my life at Lynchburg College. Questions such as:
• A culturally diverse community with intentionally diverse worship leadership? Why not?
• Implementing a fusion of Protestant worship cultures? Why not?
• Using only one translation of scripture? Why?
• Excluding pop culture references from worship? Why?
• Worship must occur in one format. Why? Using technology in Sunday’s services? Why not?

If I cannot determine the theological why, I am not doing it, saying it, playing it or leading it. But once I become rooted in the why, orthodoxy and convention are mere obstacles to hurdle if they stand in opposition to the theological why (I told you I would be wealthy).

Vision and asking “why not” birthed the InFaith services held on campus. Led by students, the InFaith Community gathers on Sundays at 3 p.m. for a time of creative and intentionally designed worship which reflects a fusion of protestant church cultures. The venue moves from Sydnor to the Chapel reminding us that long before buildings people gathered in tents for times of worship.

I invite you to join us. Come and explore what it means to worship with a diverse community. Come and be amazed at how different a service can look, yet God still is present and the Spirit moves. Come and be reminded of our call as Christ followers to discipleship. Come and be reminded of our connection with one another as world citizens.

Come and dare to ask why…or why not.
Be blessed,

Reverend Katrina Stipe Brooks, campus pastor
InFaith Community, senior pastor

Posted in Katrina

Do a Hopeful Thing

A recent post on Facebook from a high school friend decried all the bad news happening around the world. She wondered what folks were doing in the face of so much seemingly hopeless tragedies such as ISIS, Ebola, the death of college co-eds, etc. As I thought about her question, I was reminded of a quote by a priest and peace activist, Daniel Berrigan. When asked how he was able to remain a person of hope in the midst of so much violence and war, he answered simply, “I stay hopeful by doing hopeful things.”

Emotions take energy. Always feeling overwhelmed and even paralyzed by bad news both near and far can be draining, exhausting, and ultimately even numbing. Choosing to channel that energy into hopefulness by doing hopeful things can be energizing and life-giving. Recently I’ve been very fortunate to have many opportunities to practice hopeful things. I cannot stop wars raging around the world but I’ve been able to befriend students from Afghanistan and other countries whose lives have been turned upside down by violent upheaval. Friendships with people who have known such suffering up close and personal helps ground me as I learn from them courage and resilience. I cannot stop multi-national corporations from taking over small businesses all over the world. But I can listen to the success stories of small communities who have banded together. In places like Nicaragua, communities have created their own cooperatives and fair trade factories as they work together to improve the lives of their village. A woman from such an organization, Julia Vallejos, shared her story at LC this week. Go to this link to read more about her organization.

I cannot wave a magic wand and improve the conditions of people living in Haiti, one of the poorest countries of the world. However, I can contribute to the efforts of those who live each day on that island as they work tirelessly to better themselves through education, agriculture, and other positive development. One way to share in this hopeful venture is through the 14th annual Hike with Haiti as we walk along the Black Water Creek Trail. We reflect on the miles walked by our Haitian brothers and sisters every day as they traverse great distances to get water at the spring, to buy charcoal at the market, and hopefully to go to school for the fortunate few who have access to education.

In my visits to Haiti over the years, I never cease to be amazed by the creative energy of the people from Matenwa whose community learning center we support.

This past summer I participated in a local summer camp where children learned everything from basic science, to playing guitar, to weaving purses from recycled gum wrappers, to building stools, to growing vegetables. Lacking certain basic skills myself, I simply offered to play games with the campers using cards, dice, puzzles, and balls that didn’t require a shared spoken language. We spoke laughter instead.

Those interested in “doing a hopeful thing” for and with Haiti are invited to walk with us on Sunday afternoon. (Meet at Chapel 12:30 p.m. Van shuttle to bike trail. Return by 4 p.m.) Hikers are asked to contribute $10 to support the community learning center as well as “House of Love” an orphanage founded by Ancito Etienne, an LC sophomore from Haiti. If you can’t join us on Sunday, you can still be a person of hope by sending a contribution through campus mail to the Chaplain’s Office. Checks can be made out to LC with “Haiti” in the memo line. If you prefer online donations please go to this link.

Yours in Hope,

Posted in Anne

Prayer for a Rainy Day

Holy One,
On this grey day I celebrate the nurture of the rain.
I grow tired of dampness and mud puddles.
I am chilled to the bone.
I am weary of wet shoes.
I am tired of plastic slickers.
My umbrella is almost too soaked to protect me.

I celebrate that the earth and your people need water.
I need to drink and wash.
The food I eat depends on the rain.
I confess that I would change my environment today.
I am so tired of wet that I doubt the holiness of nature and balance.
I confess that grey weather greys my spirit.
I crave the joy of never-ending sunshine even though I know it is not sustainable.
I confess that I want the rain to stop even though there are those who know drought.

Help me to remember today, right now, that rain is a blessing.
Warm my heart.
Cheer my soul.
There are so many blessings that come in disguise,
so many blessings that I fail to recognize,
so many blessings in my life that others with less yearn for.

Holy God of rain and sun, of cold and warmth, of grey days and brightness,
I am here amidst the puddles waiting to understand, open to looking beyond my own immediate needs, willing to serve. Rain Your blessings upon me.
Blessed Be and Amen.

Posted in Stephanie