Holy MOLY!

Earth Day

I’m a bit puzzled about what to write about Earth Day. I always have to start the Chaplain’s Corner article several times. The first false start yesterday was about Environmental Theology and used some academic resources from a seminary class long ago. At this point in the semester I don’t expect anyone to read academic work that isn’t required. I took a carbon footprint quiz and it told me what I already know, I should bike more (if I could balance on one of those), that I should eat less meat, that I should drive less, and that the avid recycling that we (but primarily my mother) do at our home makes a huge difference.

When I was little, Earth Day was a day to head to the park and play games and learn at little kiosks about water and recycling. Today it means teaching my kids to do better than I have and about the interconnectedness of the whole of Creation. There goes the theology again. This year I have paused to reflect and produced a prayer to share with you.

Holy Creator, I wonder with awe about the intricacy of Your work. The magnificent views are breathtaking and the microscopic anatomy fit together perfectly. I wonder how the complicatedness of creation balances so well with the simplicity. I wonder about the diversity of the oceans and the land, the mountains and the vast flatness, about the rain forests and glaciers. I wonder why the sand of the deserts and beaches seem so alike. I wonder about the sea creatures that live in deep trenches still waiting to be “discovered.” I wonder about the abundance of mosquitos.

I wonder about my own self. I am wonderfully made with fingernails and ears, with a brain and a heart. There are so many parts all working together, so many fluids and cycles and mysteries. I wonder about disease and cancer. I wonder about personality and creativity and mental health.

I give thanks for my own ability to think for myself and for my own ability to co-create. I confess that I live selfishly and use more resources than I need. I confess that I confuse likes and needs and that I get consumed by worldly goods and ambition and ego. I confess that I ignore the fact that all of creation is intertwined.

Creator, I look around and see just enough order and just enough mystery. I look around and balance seems possible. I pray for our Earth, for the magnificence of it and the vastness of universes beyond. May I give thanks for Creation every day and work with all of who I am to preserve it, to be a true caretaker, and celebrate its beauty. AMEN.

May you find a few moments to wonder about creation today and consider how your life might celebrate the Earth.

Blessings, Stephanie

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Remembering

I will never forget where I was or what I was doing on April 16, 2007. My husband and I had taken our daughter on a college visit to James Madison University in Harrisonburg. It was a beautiful day, and we were surrounded by hundreds of other hopeful young adults and their families exploring the possibility that this large state university might become a new home. We had been checking out the bookstore when I received a call from my sister in Kansas.

I was about to tell her all about our adventure that day when she stopped me short with the news of the tragic shootings in Blacksburg at Virginia Tech. At the time no one realized the full extent of the massacre. By the end of the day, 32 students and faculty members were counted among the dead. My husband and I had spent four years working with students at Tech as campus ministers in the late 80s so my sister knew we would be especially shaken by the news.

Like so many others I was shocked, stunned, and deeply saddened. I still am today as I reflect on the senseless loss of lives and the horrific grief that continues to paralyze so many families and friends. Each year, we pause at this time to remember and reflect and to honor the memory of all those who died that day. This week we recall not only those who lost their lives in Blacksburg, Virginia but indeed all who have died as a result of violence.

In a particular way we remember the victims of the Holocaust as the Jewish community observes Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah— in Hebrew literally translated as the “Day of (remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Heroism.” This year Yom Ha’Shoah begins on the evening of Wednesday, April 15 and ends in the evening of Thursday, April 16. Whether grieving the loss of individuals or lamenting the genocide of entire communities as occurred in Nazi concentration camps, we come together for mutual support and spiritual solidarity.

George Santayana reminds us in his now famous quote that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This Thursday we are invited to gather together at Friendship Circle at 12 noon to remember the past in somber reflection. We will call to mind those men, women, and children who died as innocent victims at the hands of violent perpetrators. We will honor their memory by prayerfully committing ourselves to be people of peace, reconciliation, and healing in our own families, on our own campus, and in our own communities. Please join us either by participating in the vigil or by taking time in your day for quiet remembrance and peaceful prayer.

Peace, Anne

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Faith to Keep Going

Usually by this time in the semester I am feeling two wildly different opposite feelings. I get caught up in the rapid pace of the whole community speeding rapidly toward the end of the semester, preparing for commencement, hustling to get everything in. There are lectures and concerts and productions and inductions and students planning for summer. On the other end of things I feel like life is dragging a bit and that I am in a rut. By this time in the spring, I have had too many meetings (Dean on Call, Hot Names, and Cabinet) and too many lunches at my desk. Not to mention – enough trips to the hospital with students to get a bit too familiar with the ER “Ambassador Services” lady.

The good news is that this is Doggies in the Dell week! Some students actually miss their pets more than their parents, so come out and take a dog for a walk, throw a toy or just bring a blanket and rub some canine ears. Doggies in the Dell has the sole purpose of reducing stress. We are hoping for nice weather so that the dogs can hunt for Easter Eggs filled with treats and we can all get some needed fresh air. My dog, Snickers, loves students. She is usually exhausted for several days after a few hours with all her campus friends. Doggies in the Dell is good news for me because it is a change of pace and a chance to play together as a community. (See you Thursday!)

We are all called to live well and with intentionality every day, not just in the times that are fun, not just in the times that are easy. We have to live lives of love when everything is going our way and when monotony sets in. A friend passed this poem along this week and it speaks to me about faith in the ordinary times. The celebrations of Easter are over and we are back to live as usual, wondering what to do between the times of joy.

Faith
Sometimes I wondered if
I had any faith.
I sat down and thought about it.
And when I had had enough
of that I got up
and went on my way.
And that—the getting up
and going—was faith.
(by Mary Jean Irion)

Please take a deep breath several times a day in this final push toward May. Study hard, hold tight, meet all of your deadlines, and remember that sometimes getting up and continuing on is the greatest testament of faith we have.

Blessings Stephanie

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I Dare You to L.O.L. (Live Out Loud)

Friday evening I attended the Amherst County production of The Wizard of Oz. Pulling into Amherst County High School’s parking lot I followed the car ahead of me, pulled out what I needed and began the trek to the auditorium. I took about four steps when I was attacked my one of my favorite little people. The youngest daughter of our pastor, Miss Emma embodies life. She says what she feels and acts how she wants to act. Miss Emma lives life fully and completely. One of my favorite qualities about her is she thinks “big thinks” for a second grader. Miss Emma asks why (and why not) and her imagination is limitless. After exchanging hugs with her mom (Miss Emma does not hug, willingly – she just wants you to know she sees you), we traveled together to the auditorium.

From the opening chord the night was magical. The cast gave 200% and the music was spectacular (the cowardly lion was incredible), but it was the Munchkins who stole the show. Comprised of community children (including Miss Emma’s sister) these little ones were animated, energetic and everything a Munchkin should be. As a group they were top notch but a few of them enjoyed the spotlight for their 15 minutes of fame. I laughed. I giggled. Tears came to my eyes as I watched these children live life fully and completely…putting all of themselves into the performance.

Later that night I began to wonder. At what age do we decide we cannot dance, sing and perform? At what age do we stop challenging ourselves and settle for the known and a life without magic and wonder and moments in the spotlight? At what age do we forget life is to be lived fully and out loud?

These are important questions. Religious traditions teach life is a sacred gift. Life is something to be lived fully and completely. Life is meant to be savored. Magic, imagination, wonder and moments in the spotlight empower us to become.

As Spring rolls into Lynchburg I double dog dare you to live life fully and completely. I dare you to use your imagination to dream dreams and try something new. I challenge you to step into your moments in the spotlight and lay hold of that which calls your name. I dare you to live the life the Sacred Divine gave you with audacity and boldness. I invite you to live life asking why and why not and then boldly dancing into the possibilities. I invite you to live.

Carpe diem, fellow Hornets. Seize the day!

Katrina

Posted in Katrina

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

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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

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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

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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