Holy MOLY!

Spiritual Life 101

Autumn officially begins this week. The warm and oftentimes hot days of summer give way to cooler nights and the beautiful, cheerful colors of fall. Our campus will come alive with color and the many activities of college life. A part of that college experience can be developing, celebrating and/or being held up and comforted by your spiritual life.

Lynchburg Spiritual Life offers several opportunities for prayer and reflection on campus, including religious services and locations where you can express your concerns in prayer. On the second floor of Drysdale, almost directly across from the Campus Store, is our prayer wall. It provides a place to write down your prayer request on paper, on ribbon, or by using chalk on the wall. Someone from our office will read them and offer your concerns or petitions in prayer as we once per week wipe it clean. We collect the paper and ribbon requests as it becomes full and offer them prayerfully as well.

Spiritual Life maintains a presence on campus at our Spiritual Life Center house on the corner of Brevard and College Streets, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Please call or drop by if you would like for us to listen or pray with you or just be with you in a sacred space. We are a center that respects all religious traditions as well as respects when you are not necessarily inclined toward a specific religion or expressed spirituality. It truly is first and foremost about your journey which is as individual as you are unique. If you need someone from Spiritual Life after hours, just contact Security, and they will get in touch with our Minister on Call.

On Thursdays you may have noticed us in the cafe. We are there for Thankful Thursday. We provide cards for you to send to people on campus and cards and envelopes for people off campus you would like to remember as well. We will provide the postage and mail it for you. Sending someone a thank you note brightens their day and lets them know how much they are appreciated. It can also give each of us an opportunity to be thankful for the many people who are a part of our journey.

Information about weekly worship services on campus can be found below and left in this and each newsletter. And if you would like to connect with one of our many fellowship groups, you may explore by visiting the Spiritual Life web page. My prayer today is that you will know that Spiritual Life considers each of you a part of the Lynchburg College family and we will hold your concerns, triumphs, and difficulties in our space, hearts and prayers.

Kay Higgins

Posted in Kay

Peace Above All Differences

Since the Spiritual Life Center sign has been missing for a while (the post fell over and it is just a long story), our staff had a conversation about how to use our outdoor space. The idea of a peace pole to stand for our commitments to diversity, justice, nonviolence, welcoming of all people, acceptance of all faith traditions, and personal respect rose to the top of the suggestion list immediately. The new Peace Pole is safely tucked away in the Spiritual Life “terrace level,”  awaiting its new location in the front yard at 500 Brevard Street. Our Peace Pole has eight languages printed on it: English, Creole, Hebrew, American Sign Language, Swahili, Spanish, Arabic and Cree and a Braille plaque.

Last April, Anne Gibbons and I were literally hollering across the upstairs hall working on the annual calendar trying to pick a day to plant the pole when we realized that September 21st is International Day of Peace (http://internationaldayofpeace.org/). It’s the perfect time—and the United Nations program “Together” for Peace (http://together.un.org/) could not be more timely.  “The International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) is observed around the world each year on 21 September. Established in 1981 by unanimous United Nations resolution, Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.”

This year Spiritual Life is dedicating our new campus peace pole as part of the worldwide celebration. The phrase that jumped out for me in the UN materials is “peace above all differences.”  I can hardly imagine how different my own life would be if I put the common good ahead of my own petty emotions, my ego, and my need to be heard. Imagine if respect and concern for safety and dignity of others shaped our public policy instead of financial gain and greed. What if we made a worldwide commitment that no one would go hungry or that every child had access to education? We all know that this is naïve.  We are praying for folks in Texas and Florida. We are worried about Malawi, Haiti and India.  Ethnic cleansing in Myanmar and racial violence in our own state cause hearts to skip beats in pain.

I give thanks that there are so many on this campus who are committed to justice and the common good. I give thanks that our leaders speak out against hate. As a way to celebrate that we are all in this journey toward changing the world together, I invite you to come to the Spiritual Life Corner next week and help us celebrate a commitment to peace.

Cheyenne Prayer for Peace

Let us know peace.

For as long as the moon shall rise,

Let us know peace.

For as long as the moon shall rise,

For as long as the rivers shall flow,

For as long as the sun shall shine,

For as long as the grass shall grow,

Let us know peace.

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Movie Review and Call to Action

My husband and I enjoy going to see movies on the ‘big screen’ and consider a darkened theater the perfect spot for a date night. After an especially long week, we may look forward to a romantic comedy to provide some relief from real life stressors. However, we’re also interested in films which challenge perceptions, provoke deep conversation, and maybe even move us to positive action. Two recent movies that provided the latter effect were “Detroit” and “Wind River.”

Without giving away the plot entirely, suffice it to say that “Detroit” is a remembrance of the riots that took place exactly 50 years ago when that city burned for five days, 43 people died, 1,189 people were injured, over 7,000 were arrested and more than 2,000 buildings were destroyed. Much of the movie takes place in the Algiers Motel, where three black men were murdered by police officers. The officers responsible for the killings were later acquitted.

“Wind River” was of particular interest to me, as I had listened to an interview on NPR with the director, and also having grown up in Wyoming near the Indian reservation which served as the focal point for the movie. Again, without spilling the storyline, the plot centers on the mysterious disappearances, rapes and murders of young native American women. While the movie was not based on one particular true story, a final credit flashed on the screen to bring home the point: “The FBI does not have statistics on missing Native American women, whose numbers remain unknown.”

I continue to be haunted by the movies which remind me that people of color, and people from traditions and cultures very different than my own, experience struggle and suffering in ways that I will never be able to understand or appreciate. At a time when white nationalists cry out to “take back America,” I recognize that many of my ancestors were responsible in some way for taking away the land and culture of this country from the indigenous tribes that were here long before Columbus arrived.

Similarly, I have ancestors that owned slaves who built up this country through their labor, blood, sweat, tears, and even lives. Yet generations of African Americans have been systematically denied an equal participation in the life of this country and continue to experience a different kind of economic slavery, to name just one of many injustices.

I wrestle with my privilege every day and struggle to find a positive way to use that privilege to confront the social injustices all around me. I recognize that there are no easy answers, but I pray that I will work to engage with others who share a desire to name and own up to our own complicity in injustice. May we band together in our common commitment to live out Gandhi’s truth by “being the change we wish to see in the world.”

Peace, Anne

Posted in Anne

Have You Met Kevin Yet?

Have you met Kevin yet?

After hearing about Reverend McNeil for a couple years now, I finally got to meet him last month. You’ll definitely want to meet Kevin.

Kevin hails from Florida, Palm Bay to be exact. After graduating from Palm Bay High School (fun fact: my sister is also a graduate of Palm Bay High School), Kevin attended the University of Miami and Liberty University. He is also an Army veteran. Reverend Kevin McNeil holds credentials in the Church of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) faith tradition and pastors a church in Floyd, Virginia.  He has an incredible spouse and smiling, inquisitive children. But that is not why you want to meet Kevin.

Kevin has been hired to work with InFaith, the worship community that meets on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. in Snidow Chapel. His official title is worship mentor and co-campus pastor. Reverend McNeil is paid through a Black Church Leadership Grant through Disciples Home Missions (disicpleshomemissions.org), a grant Chaplain McLemore wrote in the spring and Lynchburg College was awarded in June. Kevin works about ten hours a week and can be reached by contacting the Spiritual Life Center. But that is not why you want to meet Kevin.

I was sitting in my summer doctoral seminar listening to a contextual ministry presentation when I received the chaplain’s text about the grant. I may or may not have danced in my seat. I know I silently declared, “Yes” and probably did the iconic accompanying hand gesture. I tried hard to explain to my classmates what the grant and Kevin’s hire meant, but many just could not grasp the meaning. After all, their congregations were mono-racial, and sometimes even mono-cultural. But as I shared the Lynchburg story, I saw the professors smile. These gentlemen understood, for they also serve diverse student populations. Kevin’s hire increases the diversity in the Spiritual Life Center. His gifts and talents join with other staff members to increase our ability to serve Lynchburg students. Kevin’s hire embodies Lynchburg’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. Reverend McNeil’s hire also brings to fruition the dream of a few Lynchburg staff and students who gathered in 2013 to imagine a worship community made rich and viable by its multi-cultural and multi-racial student leadership and congregation. But that is not why you want to meet Kevin.

You want to meet Kevin because his inner peace, his inner strength, and his confidence bear witness to one who understands his role at Lynchburg to be a gift and a sacred trust. He understands that the task of journeying with students, as they grow spiritually, is not for nonprofessionals or the faint of heart. Reverend McNeil understands college years are critical to faith formation and critical thinking. He understands that encouraging students to ask questions and inviting students to be comfortable in questions is absolutely the role of a campus pastor. Kevin also understands effective student ministry is not personality-driven; it is daring to journey with students as a fellow pilgrim, a little older and a little wiser, but still on the journey.

Can you tell that this founding pastor of InFaith, and now co-campus pastor for InFaith, is thrilled about her new colleague and teammate?

Seriously, you really want to meet Kevin.

Be blessed,

Katrina

Posted in Katrina

Opening Prayer

For our opening Chaplain’s Corner this semester, I decided to adapt the prayer from the Opening Staff and Faculty Breakfast last week.  Good luck to everyone as we start the 2017-18 Academic Year!

Prayer for Opening Breakfast 8-16-17

In such a time as this where diversity can divide us – violence wounds us – and higher education struggles on so many levels – we gather again this fall because we are committed to our mission of education. Our Disciples founders believed in learning – in the intersection of faith and reason to shape minds and lives that Lynchburg students might change the world. I believe that is still why we do what we do:

– and no matter if your faith is the Christianity that the original donors took for granted, or the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

– whether you are shaped by Buddha or Confucius

– whether you celebrate Denali or Eid

– or whether your faith lies in our basic humanity, we celebrate wisdom and the creative thinking in this space

We know we do that best when we work together.

My prayer, in the name of all that is holy, in the name of all basic goodness, in the name of all we are created to be, is that this academic year may be one of safety, one of student engagement, one of student success, and one of student growth.

And that this year may be a year of community:

  • Of support
  • Of growth of wisdom
  • Of true freedom
  • Of mutual respect
  • Of living our mission fruitfully.

If you can pray this with me and carry hopefulness, love and peace in your very being.  Let it be so. Amen.

Blessings, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Life Happens in the Interruptions

My writing today for the Chaplain’s Corners was supposed to be about a trip to Spain I was to take with my sister this past July. We were going to hike 150 miles of the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage also known as the “The Way of St. James.” Unfortunately, my parents’ health precluded us from going on this three-week journey. We were needed here to care for them and plan for their imminent future.

At first I was disappointed, sad, and frustrated, but knew it was what God called me to do. My parents have spent their lives loving, supporting and caring for my four siblings and me.  Read more ›

Posted in Kaky

Reflections on the Assembly, the Faith, and the College

As I write this installment of the newsletter I am sitting in the business session of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The business sessions are not all that lively . . . until they suddenly get very heated. We are currently receiving a report on immigration and undocumented people in our congregations. Next, we will consider protection of children in Palestine. Tomorrow we will talk about the continued efforts of our church in antiracism and pro-reconciliation. We will spend hours over the week talking about living out faith in our community.

On campus most of the community has some understanding that Lynchburg is a church-related school, but few recognize how truly “Disciples” our university is. Rev. Jose Morales’ sermon Sunday night reminded the congregation of about 4,000 that Disciples were founded on the pursuit of unit . . . the hard kind of unity that involves deep discussion and the sometimes-painful pursuit of living together with diverse views. He reminded us that Disciples thrive when we are working for justice for all people. Rev. William Barber spoke prophetically during the Monday business session, reminding us that welcoming immigrants is important, but we must also learn to welcome brown immigrants.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a relatively small denomination which boasts sixteen colleges and universities and a strong commitment to higher education. As the “original frontier religion,” the first denomination founded on American soil, Disciples have a root in American individualism. Disciples congregations make decisions for themselves, and each member is responsible for their own study, prayer and life of service This individual Responsibility prompts the need to be educated and therefore higher education is vital. The emphasis on justice means that both the communion table and our educational institutions are open to anyone and everyone.

At Lynchburg, this means that we teach religious studies classes that shape the individual’s ability to interpret scripture. It also means that as a Christian school we welcome and allow space for students of all faiths. It means that we encourage dialogue. I also think this undergirds the campus commitment to service and justice. One of the distinctions of LC is our commitment to service and we feature our students’ 70,000+ community service hours each year. We boast about our connection to our community. Our relationship to the church includes some annual funding and significant contributions to our endowment funding.

The Disciples biennial family gathering, which we sometimes call our Assembly, concludes today with a celebration of our new General Minister and President. Twelve years ago Disciples were the first to call a woman as our head of communion; this week we have called our first woman of color, Rev. Terri Hord Owens.

So, the next time someone asks you if LC is a church-related school, you can proudly declare that LC is a Disciples of Christ school and add that that this is the reason why we welcome everyone, why we are committed to dialogue between those of different cultures, and the reason we are such a good neighbor to the Lynchburg community.

Blessings from Indianapolis, Stephanie

Posted in Stephanie

Summer Peace Prayer

Although most of our staff at Lynchburg College works through the summer, the slightly slower pace does allow for a somewhat saner rhythm to each day and a bit more time for reflection. In the midst of completing annual reports and planning for the new year, I’ve been able to muse a bit about where I am spiritually as we transition from one academic year to another. I find myself trying to balance a realistic appraisal of the pain and struggle I see in the world around me and a still hopeful appreciation and gratitude for the joy and beauty that is also present in people and places all over the planet. A helpful and instructional guide, as I navigate these seeming disparate realities, is the Peace Prayer, commonly attributed to St. Francis, though actually from a still anonymous source.

I offer this spiritual resource once again with brief commentary that seems relevant for our current times.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  If I pray for peace, I must be willing to take responsibility for being an agent of peace in my own life and in my own corner of the world.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.  When my heart feels broken by hateful words or actions either towards others or me, I can choose to share loving words and actions in my own relationships

Where there is injury, pardon.  Forgiveness is a journey that ultimately will be healing for my own heart. I can take one baby step towards being more forgiving towards myself as well as those that have harmed me, if and when my heart is ready to do so.

Where there is doubt, faith.I can try to embrace the mystery of all life even when so much around me seems to make no sense in the present moment.  I can trust the process of life unfolding.

Where there is despair, hope. In the midst of all the bad news that surrounds me I will spend at least equal time seeking out the good news and celebrating every small act of positivity and progress.

Where there is darkness, light. I will recognize that each of us have within us a sacred light if we choose to radiate it and that doing so actually makes a difference when all around us may feel dark and difficult

Where there is sadness, joy.  If joy is indeed the infallible sign of the presence of God, I can acknowledge the sorrow that may surround me while also expressing freely and openly a sense of glee and delight at the wonders of the Divine Creation which are also all around me.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love. 
Help me to practice the platinum rule by treating others as THEY would want to be treated.  Help me to empathetically seek to understand what might be going on in their own lives and then respond accordingly.

For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
May I celebrate the irony of life that my attempts and efforts to be of service and care to others often results in my feeling served and cared for in return.
Amen.

As we begin this summer season, perhaps we can take even one aspect of the peace prayer to heart. A simple spiritual practice of referring frequently to a specific phrase throughout each day may bear unexpected fruit in our lives and in our world. Seems worth the effort to at least try. Will you join me in a collective effort to more and more become instruments of God’s peace today and in the days ahead? I hope so and I look forward to experiencing the positive results of our common striving for harmony and wholeness.

Shalom!  Anne

Posted in Uncategorized

Of Chain Saws and Quiet Hours

Yesterday as I was walking across the dell, groundskeepers were busy beautifying the campus for commencement activities and lumberjacks were pruning the trees. The air was literally abuzz with the sounds of the season including chain saws and leaf blowers. A student laughed and remarked: “So this is how we do reading day and quiet hours at LC!”

The student was correct. As I left the outdoors and entered Drysdale the building was eerily quiet even though there were students filling beanbag chairs, study carrels, and quiet coves around every corner. The loud din of the dell had been replaced by the somber silence of study. Somehow our community manages to hold seeming opposites together.

This week finds students, staff, and faculty alike in a frenzy of activities as we attempt to wrap up loose ends before the semester completely slips away. And yet most of us are also trying to squeeze in times of quiet and reflection, whether preparing for a final, grading an exam, or spending precious times with friends and colleagues before inevitable departures.

Our lives as individuals and as a campus are most often “both/and.” This time of year we are both anxious for the stress to subside and grateful for the opportunities presented to us.  We are both eager for the summer adventures we hope will unfold and a bit unsure and even nervous for the unknown that awaits us. We are both proud of personal and professional accomplishments we’ve achieved and disappointed that we didn’t meet all our goals or accomplish every task on our to-do lists.

The both/and realities of our lives offer a creative and healthy tension when we are able to accept and embrace the dualities of our days. I can accept that interruptions to my day can be both frustrating and offer an opportunity to be flexible and accepting. I can feel both disgruntled and appreciative when my spouse does a chore, just not the way I’d most prefer. I can continue to both grieve deeply the loss of a loved one and celebrate the fact that they were in my life to begin with. I can both lament the political strife that plagues our country and resolve to do my part to improve my own little corner of the world.

Living with creative tension is part and parcel of our spiritual journey.  Rather than imagining ourselves in a rigid lock-step procession through life, we can see ourselves as partners with the Spirit in a Divine Dance that is both challenging and exhilarating as we whirl from one step to the next. May the music of chainsaws and leaf-blowers be punctuated by quiet pauses for rest as the semester winds down, the summer begins, and the dance continues.

Peace, Anne

Posted in Anne

Don’t Miss Your Shot!

Lately I have been sort of “obsessed” with the Hamilton soundtrack. Whenever I hop in the car, I turn on the music… and find myself transported into the story. How lucky we are to be alive right now; it’s not a moment, it’s a movement; I am not going to miss my shot; immigrants, we get the job done; I want to be in the room where it happens; and a host of other phrases, have pierced me these past few months. Depending on the day, this soundtrack has moved me to tears, inspired me to greatness, or served as a muse for reflection.

Yes, I know the story is an artist’s imagined narrative. I do know words, phrases and illustrations were inserted intentionally into the soundtrack to spark imagination. I know the cadence, rhythms, and musical genre were chosen specifically to ignite the soul. I know characters are reimagined, with just enough historical accuracy woven in, to spark curiosity. I know the story is told through a particular lens. Regardless, I find the soundtrack powerful.

Always one moved by music, I find that the music and lyrics of this particular soundtrack speak to my revolutionary spirit. As a third-generation immigrant (Slavic Gypsy to be a bit more specific J), I am often struck by how lucky I am to be alive right now. The adventurer and dreamer in me soars in times of possibility. However, in times of status quo and decorum, I find myself determined to not “miss my shot” and to be “in the room where it happens.”

Yesterday, as I was listening to the soundtrack, it hit me. One of Hamilton’s tragic flaws was his obsession and determination not to miss his shot and being in the room where it happens. There is a fine line between drive and obsession. Drive provides incentive, gently pushing one outside the box in the quest to bring goals to fruition. Whereas an obsession paralyzes, rendering everything else insignificant. In Hamilton’s case, obsession led to his demise.

As the semester ends, it is easy to become obsessed. Deadlines are no longer months away. Projects, presentations and theses are due. Graduation is fast approaching, and it is easy for our minds to spiral into obsession, rendering everything else insignificant.

For a moment, just breathe. Allow the rhythm of your breathing to refresh. Stretch… and breathe again. Now grab some water. As the water flows down your throat, clear your thoughts. Count to ten and breathe again. Take advantage of all the events on campus. Star gaze with classmates. Take a date to the Movie on the Dell. Gather your friends and participate in Finals Blowout. Meet study partners in the dining hall for the Late Night Breakfast. Walk around campus. Fill up a water bottle, plop into a red chair and just sit in the Dell. Breathe.

Then… get back to it. Slay your assignments. Allow your drive to inspire greatness and bring your goals to fruition. Finish with excellence.

You got this!

Katrina

Posted in Katrina