Holy MOLY!


Fall is my favorite time of the year. There is something about the hues of the season that are cheerful and bring back memories of hayrides, apple cider and running through the leaves. The colors of the changing leaves and cool crisp mornings instill in me a sense of comfort and happiness. When I was a little girl, I remember my grandfather and I debating the seasons and deciding which season was our favorite. I said my favorite was the fall, and he said he felt the fall was a time of things dying, so he preferred the spring. I guess there is some truth in that logic, but I never think about the leaves changing and falling as a dying process; to me it’s more of a time of transition. The tree is still very much alive.

This helps me to reflect on times of transition in my life. I just returned from a funeral in North Carolina of a beloved aunt. Although losing her brought such sadness to my husband and me, we were also able to be with her wonderful family who embody in so many ways her positive and infectious outlook on life. We shed tears, heard stories of childhood, and laughed a lot together. I am comforted by a belief that she is now with her husband, who died a little over a year ago. She will be missed and I’m sure there are more tears to shed but I am truly comforted by the time we had together.

Transitions in my life are sometimes exhilarating as I contemplate the newness of the experience. The possibilities of a different path can really open in me a sense of adventure and creativity. Every year the colors and possibilities of fall surprise and delight me.

Transition can also be painful and unearthing. Change, especially if not planned or timely, can shake me from my roots and remove those blankets of security I have gathered around myself. An example of an unplanned transition was when I experienced a job loss that was very painful. I must say that the job that followed was much more life-giving and rewarding, but at the time it brought up insecurities I didn’t know existed. I am fully aware that the spring did come for me as I experienced the death of something important to me. Certainly the understanding of the tree being still very much alive in me helped me to move through this time of loss. Keeping my tree alive through times of transition comes from having a strong faith in God, friends and family who support me, and the experiences of others who have been there.

The many years of transitions in my life have made me the person I am. Celebrations have kept my tree alive and exhilarated with possibility. Yet unearthing difficult transitions have probably taught me more about what is important in life and stretched me the furthest.

I pray that you will be gentle with yourself as you go through times of transition and that your colors will burn brightly and be a source of comfort in your life.

Peace and Blessings, Kay Higgins

Posted in Kay


Last summer I saw an ad for a new curriculum on White Privilege. I made a mental note that I would like to get a small group together to read it with me. When I finally found the materials, I was impressed and, so I quickly posted on Facebook and sent a campus email to gauge interest. Response was good, and currently there are three groups of faculty and staff working through this study. Thank you to Anne Gibbons, Kaky Bowden and Katrina Brooks for assisting with the facilitation. Many have asked if we will offer this again – we hope to launch a second set of offerings next semester.

So why a study on White Privilege? Most of us are aware of and can identify overt racism. We know a racial slur when we hear it—we may even be willing to confront someone telling a racist joke. We have seen separate drinking fountains in old photographs. Where things get more difficult and uncomfortable is when we start to talk about systemic racism. One in three black men will be incarcerated before age 30. The Department of Justice found that the police and municipal courts in Ferguson, Mo. had consistently violated the constitutional rights of the city’s black residents. Another example is the story of the black female doctor who was  asked for credentials to prove she really had medical training, while the white male doctor was not questioned at all. Any study of poverty, criminal justice, medical services, etc., quickly reveals race disparity, and several of our faculty study race as part of their research.

White Privilege is the status that “white” people enjoy simply by living in a country where whiteness is seen as the norm. Part of the curriculum’s introduction reads, “One of the pernicious and enduring characteristics of privilege is that even whites who long ago became aware of the endemic racism in America, and who challenged themselves to grow beyond their racist pasts, are yet still recipients of privileges that give them enormous economic advantages. Even more insidious is that some of the most committed white allies for racial equity remain largely unaware of the countless ways that privilege manifests itself daily in their lives. This curriculum is a concerted effort to enable allies to see with new eyes how privilege works.”

As we strive to talk more openly about race on the Lynchburg College campus and to be more honest with each other about inequalities in our own community, here are a few resources that may interest you. Harvard has a website where you can “test” your implicit bias by reacting to pictures and prompts, https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/selectatest.html. Take a look at some of these charts. The data is a bit old, but it is a powerful grouping of statistics, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/02/civil-rights-act-anniversary-racism-charts_n_5521104.html. You may also want to browse the curriculum, http://privilege.uccpages.org/.

Prejudice and racism, whether overt or systemic, are issues of faith and spirituality. I invite you to pray for the true equality of all people. In this season of elections where racial issues are raw in our country, I invite you to pray for our nation and for all of its people. I invite you to pray for our campus, for those who do not feel welcome, and for those who experience hate. I invite you to pray that each of us, no matter our demographics, uses his or her influence, privilege and power on behalf of ALL our neighbors. AMEN.

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Season of Atonement

This week we observe holidays both sacred and secular. On Monday many people celebrated Columbus Day, heralding Christopher Columbus as an Italian hero who “discovered” America. Beginning Tuesday at sundown our Jewish sisters and brothers observed the holy day of Yom Kippur when Jews ask for forgiveness and pardon for sins committed in the previous year and resolve to do better in the year ahead.

It occurs to me that those of us who have honored Christopher Columbus in the past might do well to have our own season of atonement and to ask forgiveness for the atrocities that were committed by Columbus and his followers.

I am especially interested in the history of Columbus’ travels since he landed on the island of Hispaniola, which now includes Haiti, a country that I have come to love, having visited it many times including this past summer. Haiti is, of course, even more on my mind and in my heart since the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew.

If one is to read the journal from Christopher Columbus upon arriving on the island, you would discover the following entry about the Indigenous people that welcomed them: “They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned…. They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane…. They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

Over time Columbus and other European explorers did indeed subjugate, torture, murder and maim almost an entire population of the native Arawak population. Columbus was among the leading colonizers who plundered the land, forcing the Arawaks and later African slaves to mine metal, ore, and other riches and resources for the benefit of the Europeans. According to some accounts, less than 500 of the original 250,000 indigenous people were still alive by the year 1550.

With such a historical background, is it any wonder that there is a movement to replace the celebration of Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day as a way of recognizing the history and contributions of native people instead of the one person who exploited, enslaved, and eradicated an entire population.

May we join the Jewish community in this season of atonement. May we commit ourselves to a greater awareness of the sins of generations past. May we resolve to have a deeper understanding of the wounds that have been inflicted on a people and on a country. And finally, may we pray for and work towards the recognition and support of all indigenous peoples so that the sins of Columbus may never be repeated again.

Peace, Anne

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Lives Are Changed . . . When Someone Chooses to Care

Recently, I watched a video on Facebook entitled The Conditioned. It’s 4½ minutes in length but is a powerful story that touched my soul and brought me to tears. Take a few minutes to watch it. The video briefly tells the story of Raimundo Arruda Sobrinho, a homeless man who lived in anonymity for 35 years on a street median in the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil. In a city of almost 12 million people, Raimundo sat in his same spot every day, his “island,” as people walked by, never giving him a second thought. To the world around him, he was just another dirty old homeless man living on the streets.

Raimundo was a man who found great joy and pleasure in writing; in particular, poetry. He would write every day, hoping that maybe, just maybe, his words might be remembered by someone or even published in a book. However, deep down he knew it was more than likely a pipe dream. But then one day, in the spring of 2011, he was befriended by a young lady named Shalla Monteiro.  Shalla made a point to stop by every day to visit with Raimundo, and on the first day he gave her one of his poems. She read the poem and was so moved by its message that she created a Facebook page for Raimundo so that his poems and stories could be shared with others.

Sometime later, Shalla received a message from one of Raimundo’s brothers. Because of Shalla’s choice to care and show some kindness and compassion for this homeless man, Raimundo’s brother was finally able to locate him. After 57 years of looking, the emptiness and void that Raimundo’s brothers had experienced in their lives finally came to an end. Long story short, Raimundo moved in with this brother who had messaged Shalla after seeing the Facebook page. Now, Raimundo is not a guest in his brother’s home, but a very integral part of the family. And, Raimundo’s poems have been published!

Each of us, as members of the Lynchburg College family, is given opportunities to make choices every day. Whether our choices are for a positive impact or for a negative one, lives will indeed be changed. However, for such a time as this, let us choose to show love in a world being torn apart by hatred and division. Let us choose to show compassion and be a sign of hope in a world longing for peace. And, may we take the time in a world of busyness to show someone else that we genuinely care. Again, lives are changed, for the better…when someone chooses to care.

Randy Bower

Minister on Call

Posted in Randy

Check Out the Chapel

If you have not been inside Snidow Chapel yet this fall, please go take a look. We did some work over the summer and the sanctuary looks really good. More importantly, the organ sounds really good!

The organ console traveled to Lawrence Kansas to celebrate its 50th birthday with being converted to digital. The original organ builder, Reuter, removed miles of tiny wire and replaced the innards with circuit boards. The organ now has its own thumb drive! The organ had shown some problems with reliability so it has new pistons, and all of the stops work every time. For the historians among us, the actual instrument (pipes, bellows, etc.) are still mechanical, but they work from a single fiber optic cable rather than a five inch bundle of wires. The bellows had the leather replaced, and I could list all sorts of other details that would only serve to show off my newer vocabulary.

The chancel itself (the raised place up the front marble steps) looks very different. The choir pews were removed so that the choir can now face the congregation. This also opens the space up for worshiping differently and having small services on the chancel. I cannot wait for the steppers to try out the new space now that they can dance where everyone can see them.

The acoustics are different now too. If you have ever been to a lecture held in the chapel, you have heard the reverberation that made it hard to understand the speaker. With the final pew cushions arriving in October, the chapel will now be a better venue for lectures and presentations as well (and a praise band is no longer ear shattering).

There is no requirement to go to chapel services any more, and some community members don’t go into the space in their entire tenure here, but our college seal bears its image because our founders believed that the dialogue between faith and reason was essential to higher education. So I encourage you to check out the space and, whatever your faith/non-faith tradition, to have a moment of silence there soon to appreciate its beauty and the gift that donors 50 years ago, and donors over the past two years, have shared with our community. Consider it a reminder that the pursuit of Knowledge, Truth and Beauty is found in our learning and in our spirits.

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Parents and Family Weekend

When our three children were in college, Family Weekend was one of my favorite events. I loved meeting their professors and advisors and enjoyed getting to know their new friends.  Although it was not always easy to “let go” as our sons and daughter ventured off to the world of higher education, I was grateful to know they had discovered family in new ways and with new people. It was hard to hear them say “I’m looking forward to going home,” after a break, meaning they were going back to their new home at their respective universities, I was also relieved to discover they felt a deep sense of belonging. Their world had expanded to include a new community and new relationships. The friends my children came to know and love as young adults have truly become their sisters and brothers.

I have the privilege of watching these kinds of families develop at Lynchburg College every day. I am most aware of the bonds that happen with the Bonner Leaders since I work so closely with them. However, I see it happen in a variety of clubs and organizations, on athletic teams and in residence halls. Living up close and personal, perhaps even sharing the same room with another person for the first time, provides life-long lessons in communication, conflict resolution, and compromise. Such outside of the classroom experiences can be truly transforming, as strangers become friends and bonds can become as deep as those we experienced growing up in our own homes.

For those of us fortunate enough to be blessed with strong families at home as well as at school, we have a special obligation to look out for those who have not been so lucky. We have all known individuals who have been wounded by the very people they were supposed to trust while growing up. There are those among us who feel marginalized and left out here on campus for a variety of reasons. By virtue of our common humanity, these men and women are also our sisters and brothers, in need of and deserving connection and relationship. In the words of Jane Howard, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” We all need to feel like we belong.

As we observe another Parents and Family Weekend at Lynchburg College, let us take to heart the new sculpture on campus and practice LCVE – LC LOVE. The sense of family and community that many of us cherish and treasure is meant to be shared beyond our own circle. Find someone with no guests this weekend and include them in one of your own family meals or gatherings. Notice the student who seems to eat alone every meal and invite them to join your group in the dining hall.  Practice bystander intervention by noticing when someone may be in trouble and act on their behalf.  Make an effort to learn the names of some of the people who cook your meals, clean your hall, take care of the dell, and any of countless other tasks that help enhance your life at Lynchburg College. Speak to them by name and thank them for helping to provide you a home away from home and a family to call your own here.

As Sister Sledge might sing: “We are family . . . I got all my sisters with me. We are family . . . Get up ev’rybody and sing. We are family . . . I got all my brothers with me. We are family.”

Peace, Anne

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LC LOVE, Unity, and Renewal

The LC LOVE sign was erected today as I write this article to remember the collapse of the twin towers and the crashing of 4 airplanes. We remember 9/11 and we will never forget the horror we saw. In the end, however, LOVE trumps all.

This fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 can be a time of renewal for us. Fifteen years ago we came together across religious, political, social and ethnic lines to stand as one people to heal wounds and defend against terrorism. As we face today’s challenges of people out of work, families struggling, and the continuing dangers of wars and terrorism, let us summon the 9/11 spirit of unity to confront our challenges. Let us pray that the lasting legacy of 9/11 is not fear, but rather hope and love for a world renewed.

Father James Martin, SJ, a Jesuit priest, was on the front line of aid rendered that fateful day. He writes:

And here was God offering us a parable today. As I looked around at the rescue workers, I thought, what is God like? God is like the firefighter who rushes into a burning building to save someone. That’s how much God loves us. And I saw this love expressed in the great charity of all the rescue workers who gathered at the American Golgotha… So for me, the experience of September 11, 2001, was not simply one of tragedy but also of resurrection. For me it embodied the Christian mystery of the cross: the place of unimaginable tragedy can also be the place of new life that comes in unexpected ways.”

The lesson we still gain from the tragedy of 9/11 is that from darkness comes light, from pain comes comfort and from hatred comes love. In remembering the fateful events of September 11, 2001, may we resolve to put aside our differences and join together in the task of renewing our nation and world.

Let us make our own the prayer of Pope Benedict XVI, when he visited Ground Zero in New York in 2008:

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us; people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site, the scene of incredible violence and pain….

God of understanding, overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain. Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope, and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all. Amen.

Posted in Kaky

Reflection on Saintliness

From second through sixth grade, I attended a small Catholic school in Wyoming. We were fortunate to have three Franciscan nuns who taught all six grades. At least once a week the parish priest would come by the classrooms, reminding us to “pray and obey” and to strive to be saints. I have failed miserably on all three counts throughout my life.

As an adult I understand my calling much differently. Prayer is often a struggle, blind obedience is simply wrong, and saintliness has been greatly misunderstood. I’ve been thinking about this whole saint thing quite a bit lately in anticipation of the canonization of Mother Teresa, which is to occur this Sunday. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to canonize in the Roman Catholic Church is “to officially give a dead person a special status as someone very holy: to declare (someone) to be a saint.”

Most of us can picture Mother Teresa as a small bent-over woman, wearing her traditional white and blue trimmed religious habit, ministering to the poorest of the poor, primarily in India. She had a special love and devotion for those considered untouchable, including lepers and the terminally ill left to die in the streets. She would often tell the story of a particular man who was found in a gutter, half eaten by worms. When the nuns brought the man to their convent, he said, “I have lived like an animal in the street, but am going to die as an angel: loved and cared for.”

I also remember when Mother Teresa visited the U.S. after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. According to one account: “She was asked to come to New York to be presented with $100, 000 for her work by a Catholic organization. The occasion was a fancy formal dinner where filet mignon would be served. Mother Teresa accepted the check. Next she scolded the crowed for their extravagance, telling them that before she came it took her three hours to scrape the maggots from a dying man’s body. Then she left without eating. A few days later, she received another $100,000 donation, equal to the cost of the banquet.”

My husband even had the opportunity to meet Mother Teresa in 1976 when he volunteered at a Catholic Worker house in Davenport, Iowa. The community offered simple hospitality to the poor and homeless, and Mother Teresa chose to pray with a small group in their living room when she was visiting the area.

But perhaps the most notable aspect of the life of Mother Teresa for me is that throughout all the years of her amazing and grace-filled ministry, she struggled a great deal in her spiritual life. After her death, a book was released filled with letters that she wrote to her pastoral advisors over the years. Although I have not read Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, I understand that it contains many accounts of Mother Teresa’s deep despair and darkness in her prayer and personal life. Her saintliness did not come without cost nor by “cheap grace” but by living with much inner turmoil and tribulation. I tend to believe that she was able to reach out in such loving empathy to the suffering around her because she identified so personally with the suffering she felt within herself much of the time.

As some of us celebrate the official “saintliness” of Mother Teresa on Sunday, may we also reflect on our own calling to serve those in need. May we reach out in service, even when our prayer life feels empty and God may seem very far away. May we find encouragement in our efforts, recalling the words of Mother Teresa herself: “God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.”

Posted in Anne

Chaplain’s Corner: The Spiritual Part of Our Mission

This is an excerpt from the Lynchburg College Mission Statement.

The mission of Lynchburg College is to develop students with strong character and balanced perspectives and to prepare them for engagement in a global society and for effective leadership in the civic, professional, and spiritual dimensions of life.”

The Mission Statement is a good place to review as we start classes and resume our academic routine. The staff at the Spiritual Life Center takes the challenge to prepare our community for spiritual living very seriously, and we hope that you will be a part of sharing your spirituality on campus.

First, Spirituality on campus is very diverse. We have Agnostics and Atheists, Protestants and Catholics, Jewish and Hindi, Muslim and Mormons, Orthodox and SBNRs (Spiritual but not Religious) all gathered around the Dell. We have those who meditate and those who rock praise bands, those who sit in silence and those who do Bible Study. There are over a dozen organized groups on campus and we can help you start another group too.

So, how will you know what the resources are on campus? The Spiritual Life Fair, of course. Next Tuesday, August 30th the Spiritual Life Center sponsors a cookout and spiritual activities on the Dell. A special thank you to the Dining Hall folks for making it possible. We will have several opportunities for reflection, coloring, making your own Zen garden for your room or a Mezuzah for your door. The Labyrinth will be available to walk as will directions to the Acorn Labyrinth off one of the wooded trails near Wake and College Lake. You can sign up for Bible Study groups and meet Spiritual Life Staff and Student Leaders, and we will help you find a local place of worship and transportation. The Prayer Wall will be getting a bit of a make-over before it returns to Drysdale, and we have T-Shirts for the first 400 students who swipe in with Check I’m Here! Bring your college ID!

Follow Us At #LCSpiritualLife and look for more information on the website, http://www.lynchburg.edu/spiritual-life

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Lessons from the Olympics

Although I have not been completely riveted to the television this week watching the Olympics, I have enjoyed watching several events and human interest stories. I’ve never played a competitive sport in my life, so I can’t begin to relate to the athletes in Rio, but I do feel that I’ve learned a great deal even as a spectator.

I’ve noticed that the happiest athletes are able to celebrate the victories of their competitors as well as their teammates. Such affirmation and admiration was especially evident after Tuesday evening’s performance by US gymnast Simone Biles. “It was so incredible, I don’t believe it,” said German gymnast Tabea Alt. “She is a hero for us.” “She’s amazing, amazing,” said Netherlands gymnast Celine van Gerner, “A really great legend.” “She does everything right, everything perfect,” said Russian gymnast Angelina Melinkova. “I like her so much.”

Instead of sulking or feeling jealous or even angry at the untouchable performance of their arch rival, these athletes chose to celebrate Biles’ talent, skill, and awesome performance. If gold medals were given for positivity and being a good sport, I would honor these other athletes for their integrity and spirit. They are winners too in my book. These competitors know how to live out the adage coined by Theodore Roosevelt: Comparison is the thief of joy.

Roosevelt’s wisdom has challenged me on more than one occasion. Throughout my life I have often struggled with comparing myself to others and coming up short. I’m embarrassed and even a little ashamed to admit how often I have let envy and jealousy creep in as I measure myself according to others. Sometimes my comparisons revolve around physical attributes, worldly possessions, academic prowess, professional accomplishments, etc. Such judgments create lose-lose scenarios. The other misses out on my appreciation, admiration, and respect. And I miss out on the joy that comes from sharing in another’s good fortune. Moreover, in comparing myself negatively to others, I fail to be grateful for the many gifts and blessings that I myself enjoy.

When I catch myself going down the negative path of comparisons and then call to mind Roosevelt’s words, I’m able to turn my attitude around. In those moments I can make the decision to celebrate others’ accomplishments and circumstances and also recognize that I have my own unique contributions and attributes worthy of celebration. I now enjoy a win-win scenario. I truly do want to live a life of elation, recalling the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin that joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.

As we prepare ourselves for the coming academic year, may we resolve to keep comparisons at bay and focus instead on finding ways to celebrate the giftedness of all people and to count our own blessings along the way. Perhaps the Gospel of John says it best: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Can I hear an Amen?!

Posted in Anne