Holy MOLY!

Compassionate Hearts for Moral Injury Victims

This week I was fortunate to attend two different powerful presentations by women from different religious traditions but with very similar messages. On Monday, Christian minister Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock spoke about “Soul Repair” and the need for communities of faith to assist veterans in recovering from moral injury after war. The next evening Ellen Cassedy, noted Jewish scholar, playwright, and speech writer, shared her experiences of tracing her family tree in Lithuania and discovering the continued impact of the holocaust on both Jews and non-Jews in that country.

Both Cassedy and Nakashima Brock cautioned their audiences on the danger of glossing over, or worse yet, ignoring the impact of violence on those who experience war and other atrocities, whether as victims or as perpetrators or sometimes both. The two presenters would agree that it may take a lifetime to work through the complicated and messy wounds of violence. Post-traumatic stress syndrome is but one example of the consequences of horrible atrocities.

As people of faith, our task first involves a willingness to acknowledge that there are walking wounded among us. Some may be veterans of war, victims of anti-semitism, or others who suffer from violent abuse whether physical, mental, or emotional. Once we open our eyes to the hurting among us, we are then tasked with having open ears to listen deeply to their pain without trying to fix it, explain it, or dismiss it. With open eyes, and listening ears, we are better able to have compassionate hearts to help walk with others as they work through their own unique and sometimes lifelong journeys toward healing and wholeness.

To walk with others, to give witness to their struggles, to be willing to sit with them in times of confusion, despair, and even anguish is to participate in the powerful process of inner healing. As we prepare for the upcoming sacred season of both Jewish Passover and Christian Holy Week, may we pray for and journey beside them – those whose lives have been forever marked by violence but who look forward with hope to a time of peace.

Peace, Anne

Posted in Anne

Who’s In the Majority?

One of my guilty statistical pleasures is the data collected by the Public Religion Research Institute. For the most part church folk are not much about numbers. It’s about faith, not the number of people in the room. It’s about the experience of the divine and not the money in the plate. It’s about individual faith journey and not a building. It’s about social justice and not the light bill. I tried to be an academic and am more of a pastor at heart, but I still like looking at the numbers.

The American religious landscape is becoming more and more diverse. White Christians are no longer the majority in 19 states. In 13 states those who claim “no affiliation” (often called nones) are in the majority. White evangelical Protestants are the majority group in 15 states, (mostly southern states). In Ohio and Virginia white evangelical Protestants are tied with the nones as the largest groups. Catholics are in the majority in 17 states. North Dakota and Iowa are the only two states which have a majority of white mainline Protestants, and Utah is 56% Mormon.

On our campus the categories that we count are defined somewhat differently. We have a clear Christian majority with a large diversity of Christian flavors. The list below shows religious affiliation of our students as they self-identified.

Agnostic 25
Apostolic 7
Assembly of God 11
Baptist 329
Buddhist 5
Church of Christ 11
Christian 435
Christian/DOC 31
Church of God 9
Episcopal 57
Greek Orthodox 6
Islamic 8
Jewish 23
Lutheran 42
Methodist 122
LDS 5
No Preference 246
Other 41
Protestant-General 30
Pentecostal 17
Presbyterian 51
Roman Catholic 261
Seventh-Day Adventist 8
Unknown 90

Please take the list as an approximation since our collection for this data has layers of complications, but it is helpful to have a snapshot of who we are.

Lynchburg College continues to be affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as it has been since “a group of Christian businessmen” founded Virginia Christian College, but true to that affiliation we also continue to celebrate our diversity and the opportunity for dialogue with those of other traditions. I am a third, maybe fourth, generation Disciples preacher, so I am very proud that the Disciples continue to prioritize higher education and diversity and that we live that out here at LC. With more than a dozen fellowship groups on campus, more than a dozen Bible Studies, three weekly worship services and bi-weekly Shabbat, you just might find our community a bit more religious than most places.

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

The Gift of Higher Education

I have worked in Higher Education for over 30 years and today I felt a double blow as a professional whose lifework has been devoted to college and university communities. The first blow came when President Garren announced the abrupt closing of Sweet Briar College, an all-women’s institution founded in 1901 and nestled in the mountains less than 30 minutes from our own campus. The reasons for the closing were primarily financial according to all reports. “Few students are choosing to attend rural schools where options for internships and work experiences are limited, and even fewer want to attend a women’s college” reported President James F. Jones, Jr. I have friends who work at Sweet Briar and have met incredible young women who study there. I can’t imagine the grief and shock that currently rock that closely knit community of students and their devoted faculty and staff.

Later in the day I heard an interview on NPR of Kevin Carey who directs the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation. In his new book, The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere, Carey envisions a future in which “the idea of ‘admission’ to college will become an anachronism, because the University of Everywhere will be open to everyone” and “educational resources that have been scarce and expensive for centuries will be abundant and free.” Carey argues that a private liberal-arts education such as we enjoy at Lynchburg College is no longer financially viable or realistic.

I understand and appreciate that a growing number of potential students and their parents are primarily interested in a college degree as a means to simply get a good job. However, I still hold out hope that future generations of students and families will continue to see the value of the educational experience that communities such as Lynchburg College can provide. In addition to preparing students for future employment, institutions such as ours create lifelong learners with a curiosity and wonder about the world beyond the classroom. Within the classroom, engaging and challenging discussions, small group activities, and opportunities for oral presentations create an energy and wealth of wisdom that simply cannot be replicated online. In musical halls, on theater stages, and in studios of the arts, the creative spirit is allowed to flourish and thrive.

Outside the classroom students learn what it means to live together with civility and charity alongside those who may be very different than themselves. In the residence halls students learn conflict resolution and communication skills. On athletic fields and tracks, gyms and courts, sportsmanship and teamwork abound. In coffee houses and dining halls, fitness centers and trails by Beaver Point, on the porch of Hopwood and in red chairs on the dell, lifelong friendships are formed and nurtured, creating bonds that neither time nor distance can ever erase. Special relationships that cross the boundaries of students, faculty, staff, and administration form the heart and soul of the Lynchburg College experience, and we are indeed blessed and graced to call this campus our home. May we never take for granted the gift that we enjoy in being a part of the Hornet Hive, and may we do our best to continue the LC legacy for many years to come.

Peace, Anne

Posted in Anne

We Are Called

The Catholic Church has embarked on a renewed mission that seeks to invite all into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. The mission, called the New Evangelization, calls us first to know who Jesus is and his existence in our lives. It calls for us to reach out to those who perhaps have “lost their faith, or no longer find a home in any Church… or perhaps have never known Jesus.”

Christ calls all people to himself. We need to reach all people. Throughout his public ministry, Jesus welcomed the stranger, healed the sick, offered forgiveness, and expressed his eagerness to give rest to the weary and burdened. We want to be that on our campus. How do we, today, follow the call and summons of Jesus to seek out the stranger, heal the sick, and welcome the weary?

The New Evangelization is helping us channel our efforts to do just that. Each of us is called to deepen our own relationship with Jesus, have confidence in the Gospel, and be willing to share it. If we don’t know Jesus, how can we share our relationship with him with others? How can we share this Good News? We need to make Jesus the center of our evangelizing. We need to share our own stories of conversion and our love for Christ.

Pope Francis has written a wonderful apostolic exhortation called the Joy of the Gospel which helps Christians to better understand our call to share in the joy we experience in Jesus.

We have many Christian groups on campus that are led by and joined by faith-filled staff, students, and faculty. Their call is to provide campus ministries whose doors are open and welcoming to all. Pope Francis says we are called to “stop rushing from one thing to another” and be present to someone. Just one person. We must be always ready to welcome a new face or someone returning back to our ministries after a time away.

Pope Francis says our campus ministries are to be “sanctuaries where the thirsty can come to drink in the midst of their journeys.” We should be loving and show mercy. We must get involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives. We should also be “center of constant missionary outreach.” This love should be at the core of our efforts to care for the marginalized and needy.

We are challenged to go forth in joy despite times when ministry isn’t joyful. We are challenged in our respective ministries to see if we follow the call to “grow in Christian life, dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration.” Do we put ourselves out there and possibly be hurt in our attempts to reach all people? Isn’t it worth it??

Pope Francis said, “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”
Soooo, we are called:

To go forth and make disciples of all (students)…to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel.
To go forth and invite all to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
To go forth in joy as we plant seeds of trust and love.
To go forth with each other as a team, relying on each other as brothers and sisters.
To go forth breathing new life into the ministry for an authentic evangelical spirit.
To go forth to satisfy the thirsty and teach the entire truth of the Gospel.
To go forth and get muddy.

Kaky Bowden

Posted in Kaky

Looking Ahead to Lent

It’s that time of year again – time to gear up for another Lent! Ready or not, the invitation to “fast, pray, and give alms” begins a week from today on Ash Wednesday. For those unfamiliar with this holy season, Lent is a time of spiritual preparation and special practices leading up to Holy Week and Easter. When I was a child, the emphasis in Lent was always on sacrifice and giving something up. As I grew older the emphasis shifted to doing something extra as a way of practicing one’s faith. Ultimately, there is no one right way to observe Lent, as each person is in a different place in their spiritual journey.

For me a guiding question in considering my own Lenten practice is: How will this help me to pay attention to God’s presence in my life and to heed more deeply the guidance of the Spirit? Read more ›

Posted in Anne

Reflection

While in college I was sexually assaulted. His name was Mike and we were on a date. I said no. He chose not to hear me….and yeah, I became a victim. The day after the incident I told a friend. The friend helped me weave an imaginary tale which allowed me to pretend the assault never happened. Then he called me. In my attempt to process what happened I finally asked, “Why did you do this? You heard me say no.” His response was curt and to the point. “Someone took my virginity and I was determined to take yours.” I hung up.

What does someone do with all that? My 19-year-old self could not imagine pressing charges. It would be my word against his and there were no visible scars. In the eighties in my town and at my Baptist college, sexual assault was not discussed. Date rape was considered a term victims used to rationalize their consent. Sexual conquest was applauded and it was thought the victim “asked for it.” I also did not tell my parents.

What does someone do with all that? The healthy thing would have been to not do what I did. I bottled it all up inside of me and pretended the assault never happened. Except…it did. The sexual assault changed everything, even my spiritual life. I had to wrestle with losing my virginity. Once something I held up as proof of my faithfulness was gone I wondered if God could still use me and my brokenness, my incompleteness…my imperfection. I even wondered how God could love me. It took a great deal of time and patience to knit myself back together as my crisis of faith gave birth to an even deeper faith and sense of worth and value.

Even after all these years, all the processing of the event and the knitting myself back together, I have scars. My heart stops when someone I do not know creeps up on me. I go into a hyper-vigilant stance when I perceive threat or when someone violates my personal space. I become aggressive when someone tries to “take something” from me and every once in a while I feel guilty for not having been more careful. Thoughts of what I should have done…or not done occasionally pierce my dreams. Things that happen to us in college change us.

Lynchburg College has an Interpersonal Misconduct Policy. Recently procedures and policies were updated to include mandates the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) insists are present on college campuses. Copies of the Interpersonal Misconduct Policy and Response Procedures are provided in all our campus offices. In the manual confidential sources are identified. Rights for charged students and complainants are specified. Reporting options are detailed. Response procedures are outlined. Disciplinary procedures are spelled out. On campus and off campus resources are published. This document can also be found on the Lynchburg College website.

Things that happen to us in college do change us. Had there been policies and procedures in place when I was a student, I would have had advocates and resources and the support I needed to navigate the cacophony of emotions that made my world so very dark and hopeless.

While I cannot prevent sexual assault from happening to our students, I can be confident that if it does, procedures, policies and resources are in place to help. It is the Lynchburg College way and I for one am thankful to be a HORNET!

by Katrina Brooks
Campus Pastor and InFaith Community Senior Pastor

Posted in Katrina

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 ›

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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