Well, I’ve seen change. Since these stone walls went up, from basement to third floor, it’s kind of been constant. Sure, it’s easy to touch these stones and spy the slate roof and think there is a permanency to this building that has held us, as I have embraced you. Though that impression makes sense, as the flow of the river below reminds us, there are always new paths to chart and changes in direction that no one could anticipate. That has certainly been true for me.
Now I’m lit with lights that never fade, screens that allow you to see one another, and machines that project moving images with music and images, text and chats. I’m sure the original students, from over one hundred years ago, the men – yes, that’s definitely been a helpful change – would have a couple of theological responses to this “future” that might range from the blasphemous to the impossibility of it all. But here we are, communicating across the planet, with students here in-person and further abroad in places I will never see except through the images sent back here in real time as seminars and learning circles gather.
But it hasn’t been just technology. Even a book, pen, and paper are just tools intended to nurture the possibility of learning, but your world view, the way you understand Creator and relations to one another have shifted. When I recall the masons setting the mortar for the first time, so many years ago, for some it might seem cataclysmic.
At one time, your doctrine was intended to convert, change, and convince the Other that your truth was the Truth. That confidence, where your faith met your culture, led to some pretty devastating ministries. You’re still trying to address that – now you talk about the effects of whiteness, colonialism, and privilege. Not easy discussions, I suspect. As the one in whom you gather for these difficult, sometimes contentious conversations and teachings, I have experienced how easy you seem to forget how you got to this place of awakening. That’s one of your elder’s words: awakening.
I kind of like it – it reminds me of those long winter days, when it is dark inside and the never-ending ights have to be turned on. When all seems dark, you gather to learn. Then – in the midst of your learning – the sun’s easterly course gets just high enough, and light suddenly bathes you; hence, the awakening.
I remember when one of you, Reverend Meadow, who was just back for your annual return gathering, awoke. I think she was parsing Greek or seeking that genitive absolute. Perhaps she was journaling about a pastoral care issue or imagining how to support justice initiatives. Then Spirit seized her, and she stood straight up and declared aloud: “I’m not dumb … I get this, I’m smart!” For a moment, there was silence, and then all of her peers smiled. I am not sure what happened for her and her mates, but she clearly not only learned something, but also integrated it. In that moment, was transformed.
More often than naught, I hold you, in your frustrations and triumphs, as you go about sowing leadership through such ideals as justice, love, and care. The point is that, yes, there’s going to be change – don’t try to hide or entrench. Do what this room reflects: adapt and innovate, and in the changing, be ready to awaken to something bigger and greater. Each time one of you awakens, you become part of something larger, more connected. And, if I have been able to understand the TED-talks you project and learn from and world issues you explore through the lens of justice, you’re needed now–more than ever.
There sure have been mistakes, sometimes even soul devouring. Yes, you have, more importantly, you are, to deal with those legacies. You also must learn from them, so don’t get paralysed. Ask those tough questions of yourself because getting out there in the shadows, you’re going to have to prepare leaders who are confident in their passion, but not driven by ego. You’ll need people certain that there is redemption and grace, and also be able to simply listen in the places of overwhelming trauma and oppression.
Finally, I have held those who came before and will do so for those who shall never stop learning. Embrace the growing awareness that it’s not through words alone that information becomes knowledge, becomes wisdom. Embrace the way your bodies move, how music inspires the shift from data to integration, how textures and taste invite appreciation that words alone cannot impart. As one of those saints you often talk about says, awaken to the promise of being fully human. Recognise one another as irreplaceable precious reflections of a Universe madly in love with each of you. Then go share that Good News courageously, unabashedly and joyfully.