October 28

Out of the Clamor

By kmshultz

When it comes time each week to write a blog post, I sometimes have so many words clamoring for space in my head that I have no chance but to lay them all out on the page, rearranging and editing until they read just right. But on other weeks, I don’t have that same clamor in my head. My words have already been put into order and I feel at peace. This is one of those weeks where I don’t have burning questions or issues that I need to send out into the world. Instead, I want to listen to the words of my fellow Marsh Associates. They also wrangle words into blog posts each week, forging meaning out of the clamor. They illuminate things that have been thrown into shadow, grow faith from seeds of doubt, and try to find clarity amidst confusion. They inspire and challenge me every week and I hope I can do the same for them. So here are my fellow Marsh Associates, sending their words out into the world—growing faith, illuminating the shadows, finding clarity:



“The true and honest exposure of the complicated beautiful nature of interfaith was given as a gift to those of us willing to listen…Faith, all faith should be celebrated authentically.”



“Music will always be a part of my dreams. It grounds me and comforts me. It fills me with overwhelming joy, and it makes me feel close to the divinity inside myself.”



“The excitement and anticipation of [the lunar eclipse] on that clear and calm night reminded me that sometimes the wait for something rare and breathtaking has as much worth as the experience itself.”



“We cannot ignore the rest of the New Testament because it is hard… Paul may have said some problematic things. It is okay for us to struggle with those things… those that came before us struggled. We struggle. Those that come after us will struggle also.”



“I think it’s a fun mental experiment to think about what it would be like to rebel against society and go off to live in a cabin in the woods. But I have to believe that abandoning the problems of a system is not the way to solve them.”



“Ambiguity is a sensation that I have struggled to come to terms with. So often, it leads to more confusion, doubt, and uncertainty than clarity, consistency, and stability. I don’t know if I encountered the Divine in these moments, but I do know that they brought uncertainty with a gentle whisper of comfort. Whether that is from the Divine or elsewhere, I hope to listen for and embrace that still small voice as I continue to encounter ambiguity in my everyday life.”



“All things are possible through God. Including getting through this semester. I can do this. With God’s help, I can do this.”



“This is my prayer for myself: Dream. Make new dreams. Love yourself. Follow your dreams, and let yourself make time to live into your old dreams too. Never stop singing!”



“The divine may appear in the ringing of the organ, the chanting of hymns, and the collective voice of all those gathered in prayer. But the divine can also appear in a soft whisper, when we are alone in a quiet space. Wherever we greet the divine, I hope that it can bring some comfort with it to face the unknown that lies ahead. May it help us find calm amid anxiety, clarity among confusion, and peace among the turbulent exams and trials to come.”



October 28

Interfaith makes my Heart sing.

By cbjones8

A few weeks ago at the chapel I got to see something amazing.  Rev. Soren Hessler shared with us experiences of interfaith workings, why it is important, and what it means for us as Christians.  A reading from the Torah and a reading from the Quran were heard at Marsh Chapel.

It made my little heart sing.

As a religion major I love the shared experience of religion.  I think there is something beautiful that we can learn from one another as individuals who value and love faith.  It is a beautiful part of the shared human experience.  I was thrilled to hear such a positive step in the Chapel’s direction towards being an open place of Christian hospitality.

I was sitting on the lectern side, and as I am rather short I can not ever see the congregation when I am sitting up there.  I was shocked and a little heart broken to hear that a hand full of people left during the service.  I was even more disheartened to hear about the not so nice notes that were left in the offering plate.

What is the offering plate?  A place where we can practice giving.  A place where we can give of our hearts and wallets in spiritual practice.  It felt uneasy to hear that the offering plate was used for such harshness and intolerance.

I was saddened to hear that so many people had not opened their hearts.

But yet, it still happened.  The truth and honest exposure of the complicated beautiful nature of interfaith was given as a gift to those of us willing to listen. I can not let the few erase the victory.

I was inspired, and uplifted to see such a beautiful moment of collaboration.  Faith, all faith should be celebrated authentically.  As Christians we are called to love and to be radically hospitable.  I am inspired by that radical hospitality that the Chapel is moving towards.  It makes my heart sing.  What an amazing place I have the privileged to be in.  God is good.  Amen.

October 22

Paul Is Problematic

By cbjones8

This Past Sunday I had the privileged to preach at Old West United Methodist Church.  It was a challenging experience as I was given a question and not a bible passage.  However, I am really proud of how I did.  I would like to share my sermon as my reflection for this week.


“I don’t like everything that Paul says.  Why does Paul have so many books?  Do I really have to follow all of the teachings of Paul and can I just follow the teachings of Jesus?”


Paul, oh Paul.

We have in our new Testament a collection of writings from this guy who went around and started churches all over the ancient world.  Mind you I said ancient.

Back then they didn’t have email or facetime.  They didn’t even have the phone.  They had letters.


Paul’s letters are his way of keeping in touch with the people he had connected to.  He was answering their questions, and addressing the issues that were arising in the baby churches he had planted.


Some of them he was probably bored during.  Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon were all written when he was incarcerated by the roman empire.  He had a lot of time on his hands to reflect, and to write.


Paul’s letters are simply put, letters.  It does not do us good to read them without understanding the context.  Since we do not have the letters from the churches


Hey Paul, so uh, we have been having some problems here.  People are like fighting over who can speak in tongues the best and uh, it is getting awkward in here.  Do you have any advice?


We do not have those letters, so we have to do some digging.


We also have to remember that so often when a passage is read in church it is taken out of a broader work.  Often the things that happened before hand in the book help to explain what is happening in the passage read.


So now, let us talk about the problems with the stuff that Paul says.

I have chosen for us today two of the passages I personally have wrestled with in my own life.


The first one is

1 Corinthians 14: 34-35

34 Women[f] should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.[g]


This has actually been used against me on several occasions.  When I was living in Maryland and I was teaching swim lessons on the weekends, I had a mother ask me casually like what I was doing with my life.  At the time I was attending the college of Southern Maryland, and I told her I had plans to then go to Boston University and Study anthropology and religion.  She asked me what I wanted to do after that.  I said that I was planning on going to seminary and that I would then go into the ministry.  She immediately said “well what about what Paul says about women should not speak in church and that they should ask their husbands.”  I was dumbfounded. I was shocked to my core.  I stumbled around some words and said something like “uh, well, my tradition, we um subscribe more the the part where um Paul says there is no Gentile or Jew, Slave or free, Male or female…that we are all one in Christ.”


That answer was evidently not what she wanted to hear.  She ended up removing her son from my swim class.


We first have to admit openly to ourselves that over the course of history and even still today certain parts of the bible have been used to hurt people. It is foolish to try and deny this and it is foolish to try and excuse it away.


Having said that let us talk about women and slaves.


Ladies first so we will start here.  What is going on here?  Well The Corinthians were having a lot of issues maintaining and establishing hierarchy.  They were all wrapped up in spiritual gifts, and like who was better and who is speaking in tongues honestly and who is faking and it was all a big mess.  Paul was like “um, I basically enlighten you to all of this, and you are still somehow missing the point.  It should be all about radical love.”


There are several interpretations of what Paul is saying when is says that women can’t speak in church.  Scholars discuss the translations of “speak” and what they could all mean.  Some say that maybe they were squabbling or gossiping.  Others think Paul is still talking about Speaking in Tongues and who can do that and when.

But rather than trying to excuse or erase what has been said, I think we should look at the text.


We can also do this thing that feminist and postcolonial biblical scholars often do called reading against the grain.  If Paul is telling women not to speak then obviously women are speaking in Church.  Obviously they are taking on leadership roles.   Maybe Paul is telling them to stop, but there is also so much else going on here that it is hard to really tell.  He also in this letter tells women that we should never cut our hair, and that we should have it covered when we pray.


We still have to remember that letters are a part of a dialogue.  We have bits and pieces of a dialogue here.  We know mostly what Paul said but he also is responding to and drawing from the letters to him.  Sometimes even scholars can not tell what is Paul and what is a Quote.


Which conveniently brings us to Colossians.  Colossians and Ephesians are books that are disputed among scholars as to whether or not Paul actually wrote them or if someone writing in his voice wrote them.  Back in ancient times plagiarism was not really a thing.  In fact it was a great honor to write as someone else.  It was a way of paying homage to the person’s authority, as well as a way to tap into it a little.


Having said that, we still need to make sense of Colossians and slaves “obey your masters.”

As someone who finds the exploitation of life as a whole pretty horrific, I will say that I have spent many years of my life trying to figure out why for thousands of years human beings have had the capacity to see another human being as nothing more than property.


It is completely horrific for me to try and understand.  Perhaps I never will.  But what we must understand is that Slavery happened, in ancient history and in our history.  However, it is also a reality that is not completely behind us.  Human trafficking, child labor, sweatshops, the exploitation of foreign labor, the exploitation of farmers around the world who are being cheated out of their living.

Slavery is not something that we have yet to overcome, nor can we pretend that it never existed.

This passage in particular was used in the American South to reinforce slavery.  It was preached to slaves, and it was used to put down and prevent uprisings.


This is a part of our history.  We have to accept that it is in our scripture, and in our narrative as humans.  That does not mean however that we must uphold it.


Paul or whoever was writing this, starts out with a wonderful unified “We are all one in Christ.”  Then a few verses later re-enforces the social hierarchy and the power dynamics that existed at the time.


Yes we can contextualize this verse.  Yes we can say “Oh well this applied when slavery was more widely accepted.”

But what do we say to people exploited today?  What do we as the body of Christ tell people who are slaves in today’s world?


Would it be too radical to accept a moment of weakness?  If we believe that the holy spirit is present in our lives, and present in the development and the journey of the church, than we must understand that we are looking at people.  People who struggle with Authority, and social norms, and power dynamics.  People, who maybe didn’t always get it right.  People who were trying their best to follow the radical love of Christ and go where the Holy spirit led them.


Are we not just as much at fault for how the Church has hurt people today?  WE can blame scripture and the Conservative Right.


But that is dangerous.  It is just as dangerous as pretending these scriptures and this pain doesn’t apply to us.


People love to watch Christians.  In an ever increasing atheistic generation it is more critical now than ever that we name these struggles.

We can not uphold problematic scripture.  We can not ignore it because then people will use it against us.  We can however, acknowledge that it is problematic. We can say yes we as the Body understands how these verses have led to harmful practice.  We understand the pain that Christians before us, and Christians today still continue to inflict on all communities of people.

However, we stand with the oppressed as Christ called us to.  We stand with you in Christian love.


So to the question I was asked.  Can I just follow the teachings of Jesus?


The Gospels themselves are written with specific intentions at various points in the early history after Christ.


We should follow the teachings of Christ.  We should follow this radical rabbi who ran around and told us that all were equal and loved.  Yes that is good.

But we can not ignore the rest of the New Testament because it is hard, (not that Gospels are completely easy either).  How are we to grow in understanding and compassion if we are not challenged?  We have the Holy Spirit.  We are guided in interpretation.  We are given the struggles and challenges of those that came before us.  That is valuable.  These models for interacting with each other have great value.  Paul may have said some problematic things.  It is okay for us to struggle with those things.  They were mentioned because obviously the people Paul was writing to were struggling also!  We share that bond.  The letters from Paul give us radical love as well.


11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.


We have to look at the whole picture.  We can not ignore things, and focus on others. We can not throw the baby out with the bath water.  This thing called the bible is a package deal.  Yes, it is hard, yes it is uncomfortable to sit with, and yes it is problematic.  All of those things are okay.

Those that came before us struggled.  We struggle.  Those that come after us will struggle also.

No one said this would be easy.  But let us go forth, love radically, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and remember that we are all one in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

October 22

Reclaiming My Voice

By jdingus

Singing has always been apart of my life. My mom says I started singing long before I started talking. And I remember how I would make up my own little songs and sing them all over my house. My brother would get so mad, because I would use non-sense syllables like ‘dum’ (this was back in the day when ‘dumb’ was a bad word), and I wouldn’t get in trouble for singing them. I had the sort of typical, little girl dream of being a pop star when I grew up. I wanted the stage and the lights, and the Hillary Duff-esque hats. But my singing ended up taking me in a different direction.

By eight, I was singing in church choir. By high school I was part of the audition-only women’s choir and participating in All-District Choir. I loved the music and I was happy singing in choirs, but there was always this part of me that craved the microphone and the backup singers. I wanted to sing for people and have my voice heard. I wanted to be seen, and listened to. Now, my voice has always been pretty good, but the more I heard other people my age who could belt and riff the more insecure I felt about my own voice. The internal monologue started:

“My voice is too shrill and high”

“I guess I’m just better at choral music.”

“Performing is nerve racking anyways, I’ll just be happy singing in choir.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love singing in choir. I love the camaraderie and the harmonies. I love the way 20 or 50 people can make themselves sound like just one voice. But as I let these pieces of insecurity float around in my head, stewing and taking root, I started to lose the confidence I used to have in my own voice. On the very rare occasions that I would sing a solo part in a song at church or at school, the nervousness in my body would betray me. My knees would actually shake underneath me, and the words that came out clear and controlled in rehearsal would shudder and screech.

Since I’ve been part of the music team at Sanctuary, I’ve been given a really amazing gift. Each service our director decides who will sing which songs during the service. And almost every service now, I get a solo part or a duet part. The music is not just choral, but pop and folk, praise and gospel. I feel like I’ve been given my voice back, or maybe the love of my voice back. I have grown so much as a musician, but even more I’ve grown as a person. Being a performer has given me another new layer of confidence. Replacing the quivering betrayals, I feel only joy, pride and gratitude now in my body as I sing.

As I’ve grown my dreams have changed a lot. Little-girl wanna-be-pop-star me would probably have rolled her eyes at my dreams of ordained ministry. And I’m sure there are dreams that I have now, that will seem frivolous to older versions of myself. But, what a blessing it has been to find a place that speaks to all of my dreams; past, present, and future. Music will always be a part of my dreams. It grounds me and comforts me. It fills me with overwhelming joy, and it makes me feel close to the divinity inside myself. And I’m so grateful for people and spaces that let me sing with all of my exuberance. This is my prayer for myself. Dream. Make new dreams. Love yourself. Follow your new dreams, and let yourself make time to live in to your old dreams too. Never stop singing!

October 19

Ventures of Which We Cannot See the Ending

By kmshultz

At Holden Village, the community and Lutheran retreat center where my family lives and works, we have a prayer that we say when people leave the village. It’s called the Prayer of Good Courage:

O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This prayer has taken many forms in my life but it has been especially relevant over the past few weeks. Of particular interest right now are all of the unknowns—ventures, paths, perils; my life has got them all. In a year and a half, I will graduate and, although I have a vague semblance of a plan, I have no overall picture of what my calling is or where I will end up. Meanwhile, my brother is applying to colleges across the country with all the uncertainty that that entails and in five weeks, my family will leave Holden after more than five years of calling it home. There is a lot to accomplish in this five-week period: packing, shipping, cleaning, finishing construction of a teardrop trailer, applying to colleges, planning for the future, and upon departure, my family will set out on a six month road trip around the country, making a home in a hand-built teardrop trailer pulled by a minivan that’s as old as I am. Needless to say, untrodden paths and perils unknown have been key components in our lives lately.

When I talked to my dad on the phone this past weekend, he talked about how he’s heard the Prayer of Good Courage in a different light since we found out two weeks ago that we’re moving. Specifically, he said, the part about ‘ventures of which we cannot see the ending’ has taken on an entirely new meaning. Over the past five years, my dad has overseen a number of projects around the village including undergrounding the electrical system and redoing the water system. These projects have essentially been completed by now but he has also been planning for an expansion of our hydroelectric plant and the building of a new power plant at a different location. He’s made a lot of progress but neither of those projects will be completed in five weeks. They are ventures of which he cannot and will not see the ending.

On the one hand, this is discouraging. Part of the joy of working on an important project is looking forward to seeing its completion and success. But it’s also a good reminder that sometimes, we are called to lay the groundwork for others. We may be called to do things that we will never see come to fruition. But we can hope that one day someone else will be called to finish them.

No matter what we tell ourselves about what will happen later, however, times like these—times of transition—are still hard. We look around and wish we had more time because we had all these things we wanted to accomplish and places that we wanted to go and things we wanted to see. I, for instance, wish I could have come home this summer to pack up my room and say goodbye to my favorite hiking trails instead of watching from afar as a wildfire burned up the valley. My dad wishes he could finish his projects and leave everything tied up nicely. My mom wishes she could have had more time and didn’t have to say goodbye just yet. My brother probably wishes college applications didn’t involve writing so many essays and that he could just travel around in his teardrop trailer for the rest of his life.

But that’s not what we’ve been called to do. We’ve been called to make a new home somewhere else, to be proud of the things we have accomplished and hopeful that someone else will be called to finish the projects we couldn’t, we’ve been called to cherish the time that we’ve had and hope that goodbyes will one day turn into hellos. We’ve been called to have faith—the faith to trust that the path we’re following doesn’t lead us off a cliff, the faith to believe that there is a path at all, the faith to go out with good courage. Because none of us know where we’re going—my brother doesn’t know where he’ll go to college, I don’t know what I’ll do when I graduate, my parents don’t know where they’re going to be living or what their jobs will be. We are one hot mess of a family right now. But our whole community is praying right alongside us that God’s hand will lead us and God’s love will support us. Amidst all of our unknowns and all of our uncertainties, we know that God will always be our foundation, holding us up and leading us on. We don’t know what form that will take or where it will actually lead us but we know that God’s hand will be there to guide us, and God’s love will support us, as we venture with good courage into the unknown.

October 14

Finding peace and sanity

By cbjones8

In the throws of the ever constant stream of exams that comes with the reality of taking 6 4credit classes, I have desperately tried to cling or to find some semblance of peace.  The chaos never ends and it feels like I can never catch my breath.  As soon as one thing is done, the next thing is due.  I understand that this will be my reality until December 18th when I am finished for the semester.

If it were not for my desperation to move on with my life perhaps I would have stayed in Boston an extra semester.  If it were not for the fact that seminary money is really only available as readily if you graduate in the spring like the rest of the world, perhaps I would re-think this life choice.

Having said that, I am not they type to give up or surrender.  It feels too much every day.  Every day I feel like there is simply no way on this green earth that it will all get done.  I like to think that I am responsible and good at time management.  I also recognize that sometimes I need to go to the gym or to take a nap all for my own sanity.  Every day I am convinced that it will never get done.  And so far, everything has gotten done.

I have become rather dependent on my prayer life.  I have discovered that in the throws of crying and stressing about the fact that no human should even have four take home exams/papers due within two days of each other, it does not matter.  All things are possible.  I’ve done it so far.  I have adjusted to the relentless stress that this semester has created.  I have found a rhythm that while not relaxed, is functional.  I found that every day I pray “Okay God, just get me through today.  I have three papers and one has to get done.  Give me clarity.  Give me motivation.  Give me strength and perseverance.  Give me the patience to know it will all be over soon. Okay God, lets do this.”  Every. Single. Morning.

This has been and will continue to be the hardest semester of my life.  I chose this course load.  I knew what I was getting into.  It didn’t feel that bad until October started.  I literally have a constant stream of exams and papers from now until the end of the semester.  But then…then I have spring semester.  Four classes will feel like nothing in comparison.  And then I can finally graduate.  I am not doing to well at enjoying the journey this semester.  I am working on that, when I have time, which is almost never.

All things are possible through God.  Including getting through this semester.  I can do this.  With God’s help, I can do this.    Amen.

October 12

Ambiguity and the Divine

By iquillen

Soren asked me during our one-on-one meeting, “Where have you encountered God over the past few weeks?” After a few seconds of silence, my answer came out slowly, and hesitantly. I did encounter turbulence at the beginning of the beginning of the semester, and responding to it has required a lot of energy. I would certainly consider the past month to be a significant period in my life; however, I’m unsure if I encountered the Divine at all during this time. This is a rather uneasy sentiment to admit to myself since it opens up room for doubt and uncertainty. Isn’t the Divine supposed to always be present with us? Shouldn’t it be a source of comfort for us when we are suffering? I’ve struggled with these questions, but I’ve come no closer to finding satisfying answers to them. So instead, I will relate a few instances of ambiguity over the past few weeks, moments where I may or may not have encountered the Divine.

A few weeks ago, Courtney, Jaimie, Kasey, and I attended a compline service at The Society of Saint John the Evangelist, a monastic community located near Harvard University. When we entered the doors of the community, instantly the space assumed a different quality from the cool night air and the car-filled street we had just left. An deep, utter silence greeted us as we passed through the doors. After we had arrived, a few individuals approached us and greeted us in a friendly, gentle whisper. This reminded me of a blog post written by Jen, one of my fellow Marsh associates last year. She wrote about a passage where God appeared to Elijah not in a wind, an earthquake, or a fire, but in a gentle whisper. A certain peace filled the sanctuary, but I cannot say whether it came from the silence and solitude, or from the gentle whispers of those who were present.

Later, I watched along with a group of students gathered outside one of the dorms as the moon entered a full lunar eclipse. Students huddled over telescopes, shivering slightly and chatting excitedly about when the full eclipse was supposed to begin. Over the course of about half an hour, we witnessed the moon transition from a pale purple to a glowing blood-red. The total eclipse came gradually, and it was never quite clear when it happened. Nevertheless, the excitement and anticipation of the event on that clear and calm night reminded me that sometimes the wait for something rare and breathtaking has a much worth as the experience itself.

The most recent instance came after I had a particularly intense conversation with one of my closest friends. I had related to them two significant events in my life that had happened earlier that day; one filled with hope, and the other filled with grief. After we had finished speaking, a long pause hung in the air before we parted with a hug. I remember the intensity of that moment, when the physical and the emotional met in one long embrace. I remember the uncertainty of which kind of intimacy felt more intense: the physical intimacy of the hug, or the emotional intimacy of opening up to my friend. But above all, I vividly remember the warmth, comfort, and kindness that was present in the gesture.

Ambiguity is a sensation that I have struggled to come to terms with. So often, it leads to more confusion, doubt, and uncertainty than clarity, consistency, and stability. I don’t know if I encountered the Divine in these moments, but I do know that they brought uncertainty with a gentle whisper of comfort. Whether that is from the Divine or elsewhere, I hope to listen for and embrace that still small voice as I continue to encounter ambiguity in my everyday life.

October 8

Seventy-Seven Times and Beyond

By kmshultz

We go to church and hear scripture and preaching about how we should live out our faith, but sometimes it’s hard to transfer that into our daily lives. Or we’ll see large problems in the world and not know how to respond to them. We say, ‘I’m just one person. What can I do?’ Well, this week, I was confronted with a problem that brought my faith directly into a concrete situation.

Several weeks ago, some damage was done to the sacristy and the student involved—someone who is the same age as I am—is facing up to ten years in jail. When I first heard about it, I was shocked by the destruction of the act but took the news of the potential punishment in stride. Growing up in a world of TV shows about the criminal justice system, I took it for granted that a punishment was warranted for this crime. But over the last week, I’ve begun to question what our role as people of faith should be in situations like this. How are we called to respond?

If we turn to scripture, there are verses about visiting people in prison. There are verses about the importance of forgiveness—how we should forgive again and again. In the 18th chapter of Matthew, Peter asks Jesus how many times we should forgive someone and he answers (depending on the translation) seventy-seven times. This is then followed by a parable in which a debtor who owes a king astronomical amounts of money is forgiven his debt. However, that debtor immediately turns around and throws one of his debtors in prison for a much smaller debt. Upon hearing of this, the king rebukes the debtor for his reaction and sends him to prison. The parable ends by saying this is what God will do to us if we refuse to forgive people. There are aspects of this parable that are problematic for me—for example, the idea that if we don’t forgive people, God will revoke our forgiveness—but that’s not what I want to focus on. Basically, this parable tells the story of someone who is forgiven in a complete act of grace but then betrays the spirit of that forgiveness by refusing to forgive someone else.

We have been forgiven unconditionally by God, no matter what we have done, and we are called to forgive others as well. The only problem is figuring out what forgiveness means. In the case of the student, does forgiveness mean telling that student we forgive him and there are no hard feelings but then still leave him to rot in jail? Or does forgiveness mean extending the same grace that was given to us and working together to give him a second chance? How do we reconcile our notions of legal justice and what people ‘deserve’ with the tenants of our faith and how God calls us to live our lives?

Maybe we are called as a faith community to allow the criminal justice system to send someone to jail for ten years because of some really stupid decisions he made and let him fall out of our minds. Maybe we are called to visit him in prison. Maybe we are called to write to him. Maybe we are called to be there for him when he’s released. Maybe we are called to draw attention to how our prison system is broken. Maybe we are called to give him a second chance—the grace that none of us deserve but that God gives to us anyway. Maybe we are called to reach out and welcome him into the community of faith, to allow him to find a home here among us. Maybe we are called to do the things we don’t want to acknowledge as options, the things that scare us, the things that make us uncomfortable.

I don’t know. I don’t have any answers. But I think it’s important to be challenged and to question how we are called by God to live our lives. It’s important to stop and think about the things we are doing or not doing and whether those are things we need to change.

I’ve been struggling a lot this week with the things I don’t want to acknowledge as options, the things that scare me, the things that make me uncomfortable. And it’s been really hard. It’s made me see parts of myself that I would rather ignore—the parts of myself that don’t want to think about other people’s problems, that would rather stick to myself, that feel scared about challenging the people I respect, the parts of myself that can describe everything I think is wrong with society but never seek to do anything to change it. But I’m trying to acknowledge those parts of myself so that I can slowly coax them out and leave them behind. I’m trying to learn how to take action and how to speak up. I’m learning, albeit very slowly, how to form my own opinions and defend them. I’m trying to learn how to use my faith as the framework through which I see the world instead of an addendum that I tack onto the end. I’m learning to question, to challenge, to stand out. I’m learning to forgive myself and others over and over again—seventy-seven times and beyond.

October 8

I don’t like Violence

By cbjones8

The events that occurred last week in Oregon have had an impact on me.  Yet again we see violence in a place that should be safe.  As a college student I can not help but think about what might happen if a shooter came here to BU.  Or what if a shooter was at one of my friend’s schools far away?  How would I contact them?  How would I know if they were okay or not?

The lack of media coverage, and the lack of outcry in response to this tragedy is a tragedy in of itself.  We have become numb to the loss of lives.  We have become numb to the loss of young lives.  We have become numb to the loss of our future.  Those victims were my age, my peers, future colleagues.  Why are we not more upset?  This is the only country in the world where this mass violence occurs.  And yet, enough people in our world care more about their own personal guns and their “rights” than the lives of people.

What rights did gun laws afford the students at Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech, UCC and all the other schools?  What rights are we affording our children, our future if we continue as a nation to be so selfish.

It is appalling to me that we can not have productive conversation.  It is appalling to me that so many people no longer have the capacity for compassion in these situations.  I have watched on Social Media the hostility increase.  It seems that each  time lives are taken because of unnecessary gun violence, the gun proponents become more aggressive, more defensive, and arguably more violent themselves in their efforts to protect their precious weapons.

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  Okay sure, but have you ever heard of a mass stabbing?  Sure people can blow things up, but the incidents are far more rare!  There is something that a gun affords people.  It gives them an opportunity for increased and mass destruction.  What makes me even more angry is that those same people calling for the preservation of their rights to bear arms, the do so in the name of Jesus.  They claim that it is their right, and a Christian duty!  I fail to understand how Jesus would support such mass violence and destruction! I am pretty sure he was a pacifist.  I am pretty sure he would call us to peace.  I am also pretty sure he calls me to love those very people that in these moments I can not stand.

I pray for the capacity to love the people who harm others.  I pray for all of us to have understanding.  I pray for the families and the friends and the young people affected directly by gun violence.  I pray that maybe one day this needless violence in our country will finally come to an end.   Lord in your mercy…hear our prayer.  Amen.

October 1

Collective Anxiety

By iquillen

I once read a book of case studies written by a psychiatrist. Among his many stories, he related one where a large group of school-age students mysteriously collapsed and fell ill when gathered in an auditorium. He described it as a case of mass hysteria, and talked at length about how easy it is in a large group setting for behavior to spread almost virally.

Although the definition and use of the term hysteria has changed significantly since this psychiatrist witnessed the incident, phenomena akin to what he described continue to this day. You only have to enter a college lecture hall before a midterm to experience a milder form of such an occurrence. While I wouldn’t call it mass hysteria (at least not without tongue-in-cheek), the tension and stress builds to exorbitantly palpable levels immediately before an exam. This certainly was the case before taking a neuroscience midterm yesterday, and it recurred between two exams earlier this morning. Yes, midterm season is upon us, and the amount of anxiety among friends and people I’ve spoken to has surged dramatically.

When I say this, I don’t mean to trivialize the experience that many students (myself included) feel before embarking on a major assessment. The mix of anxiety, dread, resignation, and perhaps even a little despair, derive from very genuine and significant concerns. Whether they come from not having studied until the night before, feeling unprepared despite studying, or worrying about the kinds of questions that will appear, these emotions are very, very real indeed. The fact that several dozen or hundreds of students in the same room may feel them at the same time often only amplifies them. Some people can draw energy from these stressful situations, and they can fuel and direct it toward the work that must be done. For many others, though, collective anxiety distracts from finding a steady state of mind, a calm that allows clarity of thought when the clock ticks, a term must come to mind to answer a question, and paragraphs must fill the pages of small, blue booklets.

Anxiety and stress can bring people together, and the saying “misery loves company” bears a lot of truth. Knowing that those who surround us also do not know what lies ahead can provide comfort and support, especially in the few minutes before an exam. Sometimes, however, finding a space to let go of one’s own worries can be comforting as well. This is true in our relationship with the divine and in worship as well, even though both lie in a very different realm from exam-taking. At least I hope they do, in that neither one creates copious amounts of stress and anxiety for us. No one entirely knows who the divine is, but sometimes we encounter it while in worship with a community, or in communion with those around us. The divine may appear in the ringing of the organ, the chanting of hymns, and the collective voice of all those gathered in prayer. But the divine can also appear in a soft whisper, when we are alone in a quiet space. Wherever we greet the divine, I hope that it can bring some comfort with it to face the unknown that lies ahead. May it help us to find calm amid anxiety, clarity among confusion, and peace among the turbulent exams and trials to come.