adapted from the pilot episode of CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother”
Kids, I’d like to tell you a story. It’s a story of drama, of comedy, of happiness, of sadness, of theology (believe it or not), and of love. Kids, this is the story of how I met your mother.
A little over twenty years ago, back in August of 2010, my life changed in a very serious fashion. In the span of just a few days time, I left my job, I played piano for my last Sunday at Foothills Christian Church, and I said goodbye to your grandparents, your Aunts Colleen and Elli, your Uncle Mike, and your cousins Edward and Elliot. I packed up the minivan I had at the time – yes, I had a minivan – and I headed east, to Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
I was about to embark on a three year journey at the School of Divinity at Wake Forest University, to become a pastor, and I gotta tell you, I was terrified. I was moving 2200 miles away from home. I knew only one person in Winston-Salem. I was experiencing the death throes of a toxic relationship. Quite frankly, I was one screwed up person.
But something miraculous happened. I found there a community unlike anything else I have ever experienced. It was a community that welcomed me in and took care of me. It was a community that said, “You might be a screwed up person, but so are the rest of us, and we accept and affirm you wholly. You are a creation in imago Dei, and nothing can take that away from you.”
And let me tell you, kids, the things I learned there – and the people I learned them from – amazing! I learned all about the Old Testament from a man named Neal Walls, who is quite possibly one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met. And you know that Baptist historian who’s been in the news a lot lately, Bill Leonard? He taught me about the church in America, about Appalachian Christianity, about how religion and contemporary culture intersect every day. If you ever go to seminary, you’ll hear about a theologian named Frank Tupper – yeah, he taught me too, all about the amazingly wonderful, scandalous providence of God. Lest I forget, of course, Vice-President Melissa Rogers? She was one of my instructors for a class called Christianity and Public Policy, which she taught with a Texan named James Dunn – and kids, he knew every President from Lyndon Johnson onward. And the dean of the school, Gail O’Day – well, kids, she quite literally wrote the book about the Gospel of John.
Of course, you know about some of the people I went to school with. You know your Aunt Stokes, of course, and your Uncle Patrick, and Aunt Sara, and Uncle Chris, and Aunt Tasharia, Uncle Brown Bear, and Aunt Megan, your Aunt Lisa – you know she and her wife, Kristin, were the first legally married same-sex couple in the state of North Carolina, right? – but kids, those are only a few of the people I went to school with. You know General Thomas, the Chaplain of the Air Force? I went to school with him. Rev. Russell, too, the coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship – and the funny thing is, she didn’t even WANT the job, but they insisted that she was the best person for it! And Dr. Dixon over at Chapel Hill, and Dr. Knight up at Georgetown, they were at Wake Forest with me too. And the tall minister in your mom and my wedding photos, the guy who officiated our wedding – yeah, Rev. Carlton went to school with me too. And I could go on and on, kids, but it would take forever – I went to school with nearly 200 people while I was at Wake, and almost all of them changed my life in some way or another.
But then, one day in the spring of 2013, everything had to come to an end. Within just a few weeks’ time, my classes ended, I graduated, and suddenly, I was an ordained minister. It was like the beginning all over again – I was terrified, and I had no idea what I was going to do next. The thing is, kids, this time, I knew that a whole lot of people had my back – people who I had learned from, people who I had learned with, people who had been my friends, my colleagues, my partners-in-crime – people who had, without a doubt, been my family. And even though I had to cross the stage, receive my degree, and leave Wake Forest behind, I knew that collection of slightly wacky people would have my back – no matter what.
I hope you find that for yourselves one day, kids. A Wake Div. Something that will change your life the way that little divinity school changed mine, because I can’t even begin to imagine how different my life would be if I hadn’t gone there.
Which reminds me – the whole reason I wanted to talk to you! How I met your mother.
You see, kids, it wouldn’t have happened without Wake Div. You know she went there, too, right? Well, in August of 2011, the Friday before classes started, there was a party in the backyard of the house that Governor Callaway’s husband used to live in – yeah, I went to school with her as well. Anyway, so at this party, I start talking to this redhead, and I find out we have several classes together. We talk for a while, and finally, she heads off to go hang out with some of the other new first years. “Well, it was nice to meet you,” I said. “By the way, my name’s Jimmy.”
“Nice to meet you, too, Jimmy,” she replied. “My name’s Caitie.”
And that, kids, is how I met your mother.
Aunt Stokes: Jessica Stokes (MDiv ’13)
Uncle Patrick: Patrick Campbell (MDiv ’13)
Aunt Sara: Sara Reynolds (MDiv ’13)
Uncle Chris: Chris Hughes (MDiv ’13)
Aunt Tasharia: Tasharia Harris (MDiv ’14)
Uncle Brown Bear: John-Mark Brown (MDiv ’15)
Aunt Megan: Megan Snider (MDiv ’14)
Aunt Lisa: Lisa Page (MDiv ’15)
General Thomas: Justin Thomas (MDiv ’13)
Rev. Russell: Amy Russell (MDiv ’13)
Dr. Dixon: Perry Dixon (MDiv ’14)
Dr. Knight: Kolby Knight (MDiv ’13)
Rev. Carlton: Jeremy Carlton (MDiv ’12)
Governor Callaway: Katie Schlimmer (MDiv ’14)
Caitie: Caitie Smith (MDiv ’14)
To the visionaries that sit beside me in classrooms, to the dreamers who pass me in the hallways, and to those who entered into this place with an idea that will touch this world, this question is for you: Why Wait?
I assume your answer is a lot like mine,
I am waiting for the perfect place, the perfect time, the perfect connections, and the perfect resources.
If I told you that this was the perfect time and place with perfect connections and perfect resources, would you believe me? Or would fear just simply keep you waiting?
While our time in Divinity School is designed to prepare and equip us for what is to come, we must not underestimate the skills, gifts, and abilities that have brought us to this place. We must not allow the worldly weight placed on degrees and accomplishments to distract us from our ultimate end which extends beyond the graduation stage. Your degree will not be your source. Instead, it will be a resource.
Once we shift our thinking, we can begin to discover the gold that sits amongst this mine. We will begin to see how perfect this experience can be and how perfect this time is to do what God has nudged us to do. Every idea, vision and dream that you believe God has given you is not meant for later. They are for this community, this campus, this city…now.
I entered into this place with a vision to change the lives of young girls around world. Amidst the theological discussions, critical reviews papers, and thought-provoking lectures of my first year, I almost forgot about these young women. A few weeks ago I was reminded of my big picture through a simple inquiry from a classmate. She wanted to know about the non-profit organization I had started for young girls: HerSpace, Inc.. It was then that she led me to the Wake Forest University Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship Center where they are committed to equip students with the tools and resources to be innovative thinkers, value creators and entrepreneurial leaders. Through this department, I was awarded a summer stipend to work for my non-profit organization. I have never had the time to uninterruptedly invest my time, knowledge, energy and resources into this vision and now, this summer will provide me with that opportunity.
I share this with you to say: Do not lay down your big picture. Pick it up. Carry your books in one hand and your big picture in the other. Your classmates want to encourage it. Your professors want to nurture it. Your administrators want to support it.
There was a time in life where Nike’s 3-word mantra - Just Do It – was enough. Today, in a world full of injustice, oppression, poverty, brokenness, and hopelessness,we are in need of a more urgent, active and immediate mantra and I think this is it: Just Do It NOW!
Why Wait? Go where no one has ever gone. Do what no one has ever done. Because you are who no one has ever been.
Be encouraged my fellow dreamers.
Brittani D. Chavious
>> Find out more about HerSpace, Inc..
All divinity students engage the Art of Ministry program (other seminaries call this field education or contextual education) while at the School of Divinity. In addition to internships and other components, part of the experience in Art of Ministry is theological reflection on the practice of ministry, and the experience of God’s presence and work in our personal journeys as well as in communities of faith. This week’s blog features a poem written by a first year student for his Art of Ministry small group. In the poem he characterizes some of the spiritual battles he has encountered in discerning his call to this work.
Who Am I, That You Should Send
Who am I that you should send
I am nothing
Before I was a thought in my parents mind, I was nothing.
When I was conceived, I was nothing, no identity, no personality
When I was birthed from my mother’s womb, I still had nothing
I never had the strength of Samson or the riches like David.
I ask again who am I that you should send.
How could you trust me?
For the first eight years of my existence and partially after, I barely acknowledged Your existence.
Even though I had thoughts of something possibly being up there in the skies, I never spoke of You or even spoke Your name.
Are you sure it’s me who you want?
You claim while in my mother’s womb, you called me for Your purpose.
You obviously have been mistaken.
Like Moses I’m the son of sinners,
The descendant of betrayers.
Even in my own crimes I cursed you and defiled your name with my actions.
I denied You before man, and I never came to Your defense.
Certainly it cannot be me who you will send.
If I spoke what will I say.
As Your chosen ambassador for your kingdom, will they even stop to listen?
They threaten me like Jeremiah, and they ignore me like Noah.
What good am I for your glory?
You deserve better, You deserve greatness, You deserve perfection.
You deserve anyone else other than me, oh please don’t choose me.
I plead with you, who am I that You should send?
With a still voice You cried out “I am always with you.”
Before you knew me, I knew you.
You were lost and now you’re found
The heavens rejoiced and the trumpets sound
Before you knew Me, I knew you.
I gave you the voice of a messenger, the sight of an eagle, the heart of a shepherd, the spirit of a righteous king and the assignment of a prophet.
Before you knew Me, I knew you.
Before you were birthed I gave you dominion, I gave you authority, I anointed your head in your mother’s womb,
And I formed you out of divine clay.
I protected you in your adolescent, and I nurtured you with my spirit,
And placed My words on your lips and in your heart.
Therefore do not be afraid, for the aid of my people in bondage I send you.
With your words they will not listen, but by my wonders you shall speak.
The road ahead isn’t easy, and difficult days are coming,
But I knew you, before you knew Me.
You are My servant, My kind, My shepherd that I shall send!
Over nine days and five cities, from Friday, March 8th – 16th, thirty three people from various racial identities headed on one of Wake’s Alternative Spring Break trips, to the heart of the South. The goal: to explore the deep history, past and present, of our segregated nation. By exploring the era of Jim Crow the trip hoped to foster change makers. We toured all the major sites and places that commemorated the movement such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, National Voting Rights Museum, Dexter Ave. Church and Parsonage of MLK Jr., University of Mississippi, Kelly Ingram Park, and the 16th Street Church in Birmingham, AL where four little black girls were bombed on a Sunday morning. During our daily drive, we watched films such as Soundtrack for a Revolution, Ghosts of Mississippi, 4 Little Girls, and Mississippi Burning.
I remember the following during our visit in Reverend King’s home. As we stood at the edge of the door frame in the King’s kitchen, all the students circled inside, my colleague and I could not help but turn away as we listened to the recording of Dr. King’s words explaining his call from God in this very place, to stand for justice. I turned my eyes to the ceiling in hopes of containing the tears burning in my heart.
The days to follow would be no easier, yet it empowered us all to hope and re-imagine our world as we crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge where Bloody Sunday occurred, or engaged in a slave trade simulation. We ended the tour at the Lorraine Motel and Museum where MLK Jr. was assassinated. This site was haunting and powerful, yet what was uplifting was the “Freedom’s Sisters” site, a traveling company from the Cincinnati Museum Center and Smithsonian Institution. This showcased some women who participated, propelled, or sustained the movement who we rarely discuss. Women such as Ella Jo Baker, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Shirley Chisholm, Fannie Lou Hamer, Sonia Sanchez, Dorothy Irene Height, Septima Poinsette Clark, Kathleen Cleaver, and so many more. Many of us have heard the popular names, such as Rosa Parks, MLK Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Medger Evers, James Meredith, Loretta Scott King, but on this trip we also learned the silent names and faces of everyday people called Freedom’s Foot Soldiers. Those who risked their lives; children, women, men, black, white, Jewish, LGBT, rich, poor, people from all walks of life because they saw and heard the outcry of a people. They understood truly that their freedom was wrapped in the freedom of all people.
Did you live through this era? If not, what would you have done? For many black communities and some white, the institution of Church was a centerpiece for empowerment, community, hope, love, and change. For others, it was a place of oppression, against speaking out, a point of guilt, shame, or ignorance, as their pastors and other church going folks donned themselves at night in KKK dress or silently participated in American apartheid, becoming a torment and terrorist. The church was a major player in the battle for civil rights during Jim Crow, but it was not always cut and dry as to what side you were on. I recall a conversation my supervisor and I had where she proclaimed, “If it was not for the Church’s role during the Civil Rights Movement, I would have left the Church a long time ago.” I believe she was only referring to the church that hoped for a new and better world, not one that demanded its rights remain the same, separate and not-so-equal for all. There is much re-education to be done, from the people of courage, to the visible signs that remain from our tortured past. We as the next generation must advance the struggle for equity to ALL people. Do our part by becoming aware of the issues and taking a step to action. If we do not, who will? Yes, some change has come, yet there is still work left undone because “the Arc of the Moral Universe is long, but it bends toward Justice.” God is calling us to listen and act in love. Will we, the next generation presently, only two people removed from the Civil Rights Era, take up the baton of practicing and manifesting true racial reconciliation? Let us do our part, together.
Every young clergy’s favorite Tumblr, “Ev’ry Day I’m Pastorin’” could not have put it any better when describing Holy Week from a minister’s perspective. After a full week of daily services at my own church, additional services at school and within the community, and a full load of homework, I am exhausted. But as I reflect back on the week, I feel a renewed sense of my call to ministry within the world.
The Divinity School, as well as the greater Winston-Salem community, provides several unique services including, Walking the Labyrinth, First Baptist Church on Highland Avenue’s Seven Last Words Service, and Centenary Methodist’s Tenebrae Service.
At the beginning of the week, Chris Copeland (the school’s Assistant Director of Leadership Development) guided students through the ancient, contemplative practice of walking a labyrinth in the Lower Auditorium (picture, lower left). This practice offers an alternative means of reflection and discernment by inviting students to engage in movement rather than simply sitting still. Participants followed a circular maze moving from the outside inward and back out. This pattern serves as a metaphor for our spiritual pilgrimage. The process of listening and experiencing God takes place in community as participants joined hands and walked together. Labyrinths create a means of experiencing the Holy through the rhythm of movement.
At noon on Good Friday, Wake Div students, faculty, and staff joined with FBC Highland’s congregation for their annual Seven Last Words Service. Six Third Year students from the divinity school and Dr. Dunn gave five-minute reflections on the seven last phrases spoken by Jesus.The readings were supplemented with a beautiful and haunting rendition of Were You There. The preachers spoke according to their tradition, personal experiences, and theology. The dynamic diversity of voices and messages were powerful. The service concluded with the taking of communion and the sharing of a meal.
Later that evening Centenary United Methodist in downtown Winston-Salem held a Tenebrae Service in which Jesus’ death narrative was interwoven with magnificent singing and the extinguishing of sevens candles in relation to each of Jesus’ seven last words. Silence and darkness set the solemn mood for the service calling us in to deep reflection. At the conclusion of the service we sat in darkness as the Christ candle was carried out of the sanctuary. We left speechless, reflecting on the tragedy of Good Friday, and the darkness still present in our world today.
These are just a few of the many services that our students took part in and attended. But more than a marathon of events, Holy Week is a transformative time for Christians to acknowledge the presence of injustice, pain, and suffering within the Biblical narrative and our own lives. Liturgical scholar, Nathan Mitchell writes that there is dirt underneath God’s fingernails from becoming flesh and working with people. With this understanding he believes that worship should not create an alternative world that offers Christians a place to retreat, but worship should be a place and practice where all are welcome to come and be changed. As we walked through Holy Week, our feet might have followed the physical maze of the Labyrinth, or we may have navigated busy schedules full of special services amongst our daily lives, but if we let ourselves become fully immersed in the alternative rhythm of this week, listen to the stories, and sit in the darkness, we cannot resist transformation.
In conversation with an older congregation member last Sunday I arrived upon an unexpected moment of introspection. I was asked how much my Divinity education had rendered my previous beliefs asunder. What the older gentleman was implying was that the process of learning new things and deconstructing / reconstructing one’s religious beliefs is a good one. Certainly, I agree with him. And he told me many of the things he learned in theological education and PhD work (that atonement theology is horrible, there is no reading of scripture distant from interpretation, etc.). But when he asked me what I specifically had once believed and did not any longer, my response was not what he likely expected.
Many students come to the School of Divinity with concrete convictions: ideas about who God is, who Jesus was, how to treat scripture, what Christians ethics should be and so on and so forth. Then, as students make their way through their years in the School, most are significantly changed in some way. For a large number of students, life and God no longer look the same; when they leave, beliefs have been enriched and enlightened. This process can entail the shedding of many old beliefs for new ones. This phenomenon is one of the most rewarding parts of our program and it can be one of the most difficult. But my own experience has been a bit different.
I did not come to the School of Divinity with concrete convictions. My time in undergrad was essentially a four year stint in the Agnostic Minor Leagues. Fortunately, I only made it to double-A and never really went pro. That was a surreal time in of itself. So, when I came to the School, I literally believed only one thing about God, and only six days a week, at that: God exists. I was so distanced from tradition and conviction that I felt, often, as though I was operating in a different universe than many of my classmates.
Slowly, through all the aspects of the program (classes, internships, jobs) and in building relationships with members of this community, I began to change. For me, the process has been one of construction; I came with very little to lose in the first place. I have had a great deal to learn, and a great deal of catching up to do. But, I believe I have been transformed in very similar ways to those experienced by many of my classmates. I have learned, through experience, sustained by the grace of this community, to re-situate myself amidst Christian faith, tradition and commitment. What that means may be unique to me in part, but it is also shared with those who have helped me so far.
As it turns out, the School of Divinity is a place where all are invited to be who they are, walking alongside others through an embracing process of growth. I am grateful to have begun a process of construction grounded here and look forward to all the future may contain. And when I told the older gentleman all this he was a little surprised, but voiced a deep appreciation that this place exists for students such as me.
I came to the Wait Fellowship visit a day early in order to attend the Food, Faith and Justice Conference. I thought this would provide an opportunity to observe the interaction between the School of Divinity and surrounding communities. The conference contained a mixture of students, local leaders, and advocates, all of whom provided their own insights about social justice. Some were involved in other (than food) avenues of social justice, but everyone spoke the same action language of the conference: courage, faith and hope.
The following day was packed with classroom visits, lunches and gatherings with faculty and students, and ended on Friday with an introduction to the Art of Ministry and a campus tour. Although weather prohibited the tour, everything was well planned and executed. The visit culminated, for the individual, on “the interview”
I attended two classes on Thursday. Both classes were vibrant and they were more interactive with the sharing of thoughts, concepts, ideas and understandings rather than a question and answer dialogue. Because of the diverse student population and wealth of knowledge of the instructors, the classes provided a breadth of wisdom. I began to see how the Wake Forest learning environment is transformational given the dynamic teaching method and personal exchanges between the faculty and students.
Thursday mid-day we attended weekly coffee hour. During the course of things, I was descended upon by fellow Disciples of Christ and was touched. I did not reveal my denomination to anyone with the exception of the admissions interview yet they welcomed me. This brought about a feeling of inclusivity. I also mentioned during the acceptance interview, that I was getting married the following Saturday. This became a catalyst for conversations and friendly banter wherever I went. I was also impressed that everyone remembered the names of us visitors, even if we met just once. I felt welcomed as a part of the community and that folks at Wake Forest have a genuine interest in people.
Following coffee hour we had lunch with Dean O’Day and the faculty. I observed the interaction among the faculty and saw how comfortable they were with one another, much like the comfort in the classroom I experienced earlier that morning. There was a great sense of camaraderie. The side-bar conversations I had with some of the professors reflected the legitimacy and authenticity of my observations in the classrooms. Everyone I met at Wake Forest was genuine. There was a palpable and subtle language in the spirit of Wake Forest that indicated it is a people place. I was tremendously moved by the spirit and I realized that it was the method and process of the visit which brought about this spiritual movement. I felt that something good was happening at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity and I wanted to be a part of it.
At dinner on Thursday night, it was obvious that all of who were invited to the Wait Fellowship Visit had become more comfortable. We were now speaking the Wake Forest language. Our language was uninhibited and motivating as opposed to our initial language of apprehension and uncertainty. I believe that because of how the visit was organized and the inclusive, genuine community of Wake Forest, we were all speaking the same language at dinner. The “interview” was no longer the centerpiece of our discussions. Wake Forest had become the focal point.
That Friday, as things were wrapping up, I made a conclusion about the language on campus. Everyone was saying,
welcome to Wake Forest, where you are invited to share all of your hope, courage and faith with everyone, for everyone.”
Cura Personalis, Pro Humanitate.
Go Demon Deacons, go MDiv… hoo-rah!
Incoming Student, Fall 2013
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Growing up for me involved summers at Clarklake, Michigan water skiing, boating, swimming, and having an overall great time. During the school year my family regularly attended an Episcopal church; and, I went through the rigors of Confirmation classes, sang in the youth choir, and served as an acolyte. Since it was a downtown church in Toledo, Ohio, families came from various places across the city which meant we did not socialize with one another. I envied those youth groups whose members lived in close proximity to their church – they hung out together. As a result of this disconnected church community, I never went to camp as a kid and I never really understood what I was missing. Recently, however, I had an opportunity to experience a piece of what I had missed. Sometimes our youth comes back around for us to relive.
While taking Fred Bahnson’s Food Faith and Spirituality class last spring, as you might expect we ate together. It was a rich experience joining in fellowship with peers and friends, spouses and partners of fellow classmates. At one of these meals I spent some time chatting with LaTonya McIver, a fellow student, and Rodney Coleman, an alum of WFUSD. We shared our love of food and somehow the bread pudding I prepared left a positive impression on LaTonya. Later in the semester LaTonya asked me if I had plans for the summer and whether I would like to be the chef for Camp Discovery at her home church (United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church). Long story short, I accepted the position and off we went.
As a former chef, I was in my element and consulted with LaTonya about the overall theme of Camp Discovery. I made sure healthy and fresh cooking was on the menu each day. It was truly a discovery of new and different things for all of us, not just the youth in attendance. Amidst the singing, dancing, recording music, preparing food, and praying sweet grace uttered by the tiniest of voices, I discovered I had indeed gone to camp. Little did I know the stories shared at camp would be as precious to the adult as they were to the children.
We all ate lunch together, the youth in their classroom groups while the staff ate at one center table to supposedly “keep an eye on what was happening.” We all laughed and told stories about the mornings’ events. We planned staff coverage when someone had to leave early. We supported one another as some of us made presentations in our particular skill areas for the rest of the group. The summer was indeed filled with discovery. I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing new and exciting things. We learned to depend upon one another, some of us not knowing anyone before arriving at camp. Trusting and caring relationships were beginning to emerge as we served food side by side, washed dishes, taught children the educational rudimentaries, learned karate, practiced our zumba moves, and discovered that fresh vegetables from the garden were not only fun to look at and touch but were delicious as well.
Each day as I drove to Camp Discovery, housed in this wonderful old church, I realized how blessed I was to be part of this temporary family for the summer. I thanked God for sending LaTonya with the invitation. Soon I realized through our hard work, which was really disguised as playtime (shh, don’t tell anyone we had so much fun!), I had gotten my camp experience I not enjoyed as a child. I suppose I experienced all the things I would have had I been to camp, only this time I was as an adult and could appreciate it all the more fully. I made some lifetime friendships with LaTonya, Maria Nkonge, and Rodney; and, I formed strong bonds with Volii, Lauren, Arkita, and many more. We, I, became part of a community that will last in my memory for a very long time. I am so grateful God gave me the rich experience of going to camp.
What is the difference between tasting something and savoring something? I was asked to speak to a group of clergy persons this week. The topic? Self-care. As I prepared for the presentation, the question surfaced for me: What is the difference between tasting and savoring? My personal point of reference for this question is food. I enjoy cooking, and I relish opportunities to experience culinary excellence. New restaurants. Unusual foods. Gastronomic delights. Certainly, “tasting” and “taste” are important to my encounters with food. I enjoy tasting foods—“ascertaining the flavor by taking a little into the mouth” (Merriam-Webster)—and certain flavors particularly appeal to my sense of taste. But to “savor” a particular food or dining experience? To savor is, for me, a different matter altogether. The word “savor” is derived from the Latin sapere, which is related to the Latin word for wisdom. To savor is to appreciate fully, to enjoy or relish. It requires a certain amount of patience and perhaps even wisdom.
What does this have to do with clergy self-care? Or with well-being? In a world as fast-paced, frenzied, and frantic as ours, savoring can be an elusive practice. We taste countless things every day, it seems, but rarely do we have the time or take the time to savor any of those things. To taste them with pleasure. To observe them with relish or delight. To consider with curiosity and care their breadth and depth. Savoring life is important to personal well-being. It is also important to societal well-being, to the overall health of human communities. People who savor creation cultivate wisdom for caring about creation. People who savor food cultivate wisdom about the sources of food and a concern for food accessibility for all people. People who savor life seek strategies for improving the health and life of all humanity.
For me as a liturgical theologian, savoring that leads to personal and social well-being is connected to theology and to religious leadership. To savor is to take up a sacred practice—a sacramental practice—of paying attention to God’s good creation and our role in it.
Religious leaders today have unique and growing opportunities to cultivate well-being in congregations and in other communities where they serve. Recognizing this and committed to equipping students “to be agents of justice, reconciliation, and compassion in Christian churches and other ministries,” the School of Divinity has developed a new Well-Being and Religious Leadership Program that emphasizes care of creation, personal and communal spirituality and ethics, individual and communal health, and the common good. The program offers two concentrations within the Master of Divinity degree, one in food and faith and one in faith and health.
The food and faith concentration is designed to equip religious leaders with the knowledge, skills, and pastoral habits necessary to guide congregations and other faith-based organizations into creating more redemptive food systems where God’s shalom becomes visible for a hungry world. The faith and health concentration, offered in collaboration with the University partners such as the School of Public Health (WFUSM) and the Faith and Health Division (WFUBMC), is designed to promote interdisciplinary care, which recognizes and respects personal and communal spirituality and ethics as essential to well-being and quality of life.
The Well-being and Religious Leadership Program encourages students to spend a significant portion of their study in the Master of Divinity program exploring how faith communities can respond effectively to public issues and challenges related to food justice, hunger, sustainability, wellness, and health. To concentrate on these areas of public, even global, concern is to concentrate on issues that that reside at the spiritual and ethical core of faith communities’ identities. Caring for God’s creation is an overarching theme of this educational initiative; to savor the earth and the life it gives is a responsibility, if not a calling, that all humans share.
Find out more information by clicking below.
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Worship and Liturgical Theology
The School of Divinity is a community where one could easily pass for both a Christian and a heretic. In other places in the Church this would not go over well.
I am grateful to be in a community where I can explore the way of Jesus apart from dogmatic constraints.
For dogma keeps Christianity from following Jesus.
What if Christianity actually looked like Jesus? I don’t just mean the church or people. What if God looked like Jesus? What if the religion constructed in the name of Jesus looked like this humble peasant from Nazareth?
First of all, as a religion, Christianity would be diametrically opposed to the triumphalism of fundamentalist religion. Why? Because Jesus was not a triumphalist. Jesus did not try to force his enemies to convert to his way. He simply embodied it and then was willingly crucified for it.
Would Christianity also be willing to undergo crucifixion for the way of Jesus?
What if Christianity was more concerned with embodying the emancipating way of Jesus than making its own name great? Jesus wasn’t concerned with making his name great. He was concerned with inviting people into the way he embodied in his life, the way that leads us to the loving heart of creation and into the center of reality.
Jesus invited people into a gracious understanding of reality, into a universe that is not indifferent but a relational cosmos grounded in the love that binds reality.
Jesus was more concerned with the well-being of humanity and creation than his own life.
Christianity must take up its cross and incarnate the way of Christ.
The truth of Christianity is not propositional but relational and contextual, not abstract but operational.
Jesus was the truth not through his words but his actions.
The truth of Christianity then must be contextualized through incarnation in the life of the one who would follow Jesus. In this way, Christianity may actually look like Jesus.
What if Christianity was more concerned with the well-being of the world than its own survival? If we seek first the kingdom of God then maybe, just maybe, Christianity will be added to us. But we first have to give up our triumphalistic notions of a God who loves and cares more for Christians than everyone else. And who knows, perhaps we will realize with the kingdom that we no longer need Christianity.
Perhaps upon seeing the kingdom we will realize that, as a temporary vocation for the children of God in human history, Christianity is over. That the goodness harbored within has been resurrected into our material reality as an all-encompassing presence, revealing the children of God as present in every divinely loved and cherished human body. When Jesus died, Christ was risen in the body of those who remembered him and who carried forth his presence through the indwelling of the Spirit.
Perhaps Christianity will also pass away, and the Spirit within will rise again in the whole of creation as the kingdom fully arrives with the peace of God covering the entire cosmos.