Wednesday
September 14

Nationalism in Church

By Matthew Cron

And so it begins, school is ‘finally’ back. I put finally in quotes because I don’t think it stopped over the so-called summer that I had. But that is less of an issue and more of an inconvenience that I am milking. In all honesty, I am truly blessed and excited to be back in school.

Over the past few months since my last blog post I have learned a lot about myself. Theologically speaking, I have had more than a few long conversations between myself and God to try to decipher incidents that have occurred along the way. Although a lot of these conversations are private, I will share something interesting that I have been recently thinking about.

I am co-leading the Marsh Sunday Morning Book Study. This past class we had a wonderful discussion on the politics and its ‘relation’ to the church –the book is about 5 major christian traditions; however, it can include other religions too. One of the topics we discussed is whether there should be flags supporting a country within the confines of a church. To be honest, I have never really given thought to this issue.

Some background into my upbringing: I want to a small Catholic Elementary school from kindergarten to 5th grade. The church was connected to the school that I attended. At the beginning of the school day we would say a prayer and immediately follow that with the pledge of allegiance. In front of the church there was a massive flag pole that would always have the American Flag flying. And to be quite frank, the services are at some time very nationalistic. I remember sermons about how we should be supporting the war effort and the country because it is our duty.

The discussion we had in class really got me thinking about the relation between devotion to my faith and my country. The line seems to be jaded at certain points. I can honestly say that I have not yet formulated my opinion on the issue. With that being said, I do see how over nationalism in the church setting can lead to issues. A church is supposed to be a place of worship where people can go and have a safe place. If the service is overly nationalistic it could be hard for people who are not from that specific nationality. In a very overgeneralized example, it is like a Yankees fan coming to a Red Sox v. Orioles game. Yes this is a baseball game and the Yankees fan is a baseball fan; but, they may not feel welcome because the team they are affiliated with is not playing. However, if that same fan went to the All-Star Game, they would be welcome because there is no one particular affiliation with a specific team.

 

Thursday
September 8

First Sight, Second Thoughts

By iquillen

“First Sight means you can see what really is there, and Second Thoughts mean thinking about what you are thinking. And in Tiffany’s case, there were sometimes Third Thoughts and Fourth Thoughts although these…sometimes led her to walk into doors.”   –Terry Pratchett

My name is Ian. I am a senior studying neuroscience at Boston University, with a minor in speech, language, & hearing sciences. I come from the town of Brookline, MA, which is all but a couple minutes’ walk from BU’s campus. In some ways, I never really left home when moving to college. Instead, my home expanded, growing to encompass the space within BU’s campus and to include the friends, mentors, classmates, and people that I’ve met in my time here.

I also happen to work at Marsh Chapel, which as a science major can lead to some interesting conversations with people when it comes up. These conversations frequently contain a healthy dose of awkwardness as well, so naturally I tend to avoid them if I can help it. Nevertheless, navigating the boundaries between science and ministry has challenged me to grow in my ideas, my expression, and my ability to encounter and engage with ambiguity. But to quote Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, “that is another story and shall be told another time.”

The story that I will tell you about myself centers around a question that a friend asked me recently: What is your philosophy on life? This was one of the few times I’ve been asked that particular question, whose answer can range in length anywhere from a sentence to an entire novel, depending on whom you’re talking to. I can’t answer the question in its entirety at the moment, frankly because I don’t have a complete answer yet. But I can at the very least explain how the Terry Pratchett quote that began this post ties into it.

I read Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men, one of the novels in his Discworld series, three summers ago. In the book, a young girl named Tiffany searches for her kidnapped younger brother with the help of the Nac Mac Feegles, a race of tiny, boisterous, blue-skinned fairy folk. During her search, the Nac Mac Feegles tell her that she possesses two gifts: First Sight, and Second Thoughts. Her First Sight allows her to see things as they are, and not as they appear; her Second Thoughts allow her to think about, evaluate and challenge her First Thoughts, which tend to appear immediately when she encounters an obstacle. Third Thoughts are her thoughts about her Second Thoughts, and so on.

When I read this book for the first time, those two concepts jumped out at me as something personally significant. At the time, I didn’t know why. I had only finished my freshman year at BU, and hardly could come up with what I wanted to study, accomplish, and become–let alone articulate my personal philosophy to a friend. I don’t think this is a bad thing, as there is time to discern and decipher those things. But reflecting on that book now, I believe that First Sight and Second Thoughts do play a significant part in what I believe in.

I believe in the notion of presence, of simply being to the fullest extent possible. Much of what I think we do to be present in a moment requires us to experience and discern things as they actually are–not as what they were or might have been. This does not mean I don’t believe in looking back or looking forward, nor does it underscore the value of imagining things to be better or different. Presence to me means being centered in the present reality, not being restrained or confined to it.

Nevertheless, I hold to the principle of acknowledging what we encounter in acts of presence, instead of trying to distort or downplay it to make it more pleasant or palatable. For me, this act of discernment, or First Sight, applies to the joyful things in my life: the friends and relationships I’ve formed, the compassion I’ve received from others and given to others, and the acts of witnessing someone come alive in their personality, beliefs, and actions. It also applies to the grim, harsher aspects that I’ve seen as well: death and loss, people’s responses to trauma, and the resilience and durability that grow out of grief and suffering. When I see moments like these, I try to feel their weight and bear it before letting the weight pass on. In carrying their weight, I can better understand the depth of these moments, and better appreciate their meaning.

A second concept that is something I deeply value is the concept of self-awareness. Although it is closely related to presence, I don’t think it is identical, as the act of being present carries two kinds of awareness: the awareness of one’s surroundings, and the awareness of oneself. Terry Pratchett’s idea of First Sight belongs to the former, while his notion of Second Thoughts belongs to the latter. The ability to think about our own thoughts, or metacognition, lets us evaluate who we are as people, question ourselves, and understand our own thinking and feeling. Being aware of ourselves shapes how we are aware in relation to each other. As a scientist, I believe it shapes how we are aware in relation the world around us. As someone who struggles to grapple with religion, ministry, and theology, I also believe it can shape how we are aware in our relationship to the Divine, or whatever guides us in our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

First Sight and Second Thoughts are two ideas that lie at the heart of what I believe in. I call them presence and self-awareness, respectively. These aren’t the only values that form my personal philosophy, but perhaps they can give you a better idea of who I am than my major, hometown, and position could on their own. As my final undergraduate year at BU begins, I hope to explore and articulate these concepts that define myself, what I believe in, and how I choose to interact with the world. I seek, in other words, to know myself. In that process, I hope I will learn to know you as well.

Wednesday
April 27

Final Reflections from Freshman Year

By Devin Harvin

Sitting in the second floor of the George Sherman Union, writing the last essay of freshman year, I can only be grateful. Grateful for the obstacles that made me feel like quitting and going back home. Grateful for the success I felt after receiving my first A paper. Grateful for confirming the decision I made this time a year ago to attend Boston University. I won’t be too reflective and dwell on my feelings entering my last week as a freshman. Instead, I’ll write a letter to high school seniors.

Dear Senior,

First off it’s okay to cry. Moreover, its normal to feel like you can’t continue on the challenging path called Freshman year. I’ve done both many times over this first year. Secondly, college is hard, painful, enlightening, developing, ugly and beautiful simultaneously. Embrace every part of it. Don’t find the painful or dwell on the beautiful for too long. Third, stick to your beliefs and find your group. Coming into college I wanted to “reinvent” myself, become a better and improved Devin. I was willing to change who I was, what I believed in, and felt that I had to. You don’t. I’ve found a group of people who believe and accept me, and encourage me to be the individual that I am. Fourth, if your into God like I am, take time to focus on God. It does wonders for your soul. All nighters and last minute papers could not have been written if I didn’t have the opportunity to focus on God. If it’s for 1 minute or  1 hour it can make a difference. Lastly, enjoy your first year, because it goes so fast. I remember moving in, fighting back tears when my parents left and nervously introducing myself to new people. It feels like yesterday, but you’ll grow so much in such a small amount of time.

Sincerely,

Devin.

All praises to the most high for giving me the strength to succeed at Boston University and the courage to share it with others. I am so excited for what God has in store for me in the future years. Sitting in the second floor of the George Sherman Union. writing the last essay of freshman year, I feel accomplished.

Wednesday
April 27

Home Sick

By cbjones8

In all of my time at BU never can I remember a time so distinctly when I was as home sick as I am now.  I miss my family, my partner, my dog.  Perhaps because after all of the stresses of college I associate being home with rest, and I really long for rest.  Maybe it is because I have been sick, and I always get a little home sick when I am actually sick.  Maybe it is because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I am all the more eager to return to the familiar.

There have been moments along the way when Boston felt like home.  There will forever be a part of my soul that is attached to this place.  I love this city.  But even too much of a good thing can drive you crazy.  I miss looking up and seeing the stars.  I miss the sounds of frogs and crickets (rather than construction and sirens).  I miss my mom’s cooking (though she did teach me all I know and I am not a terrible cook myself).  I miss having family dinners on the deck outside, I miss local hiking trails.  I miss perhaps, the slightly slower pace of it all.  Maybe I am just tired.

I am about to graduate from college, and I am almost ironically homesick.  While all my peers scramble to get one last of (insert college activity here) in before graduation, I long deeply for the comforts of home, and the knowledge of being done.

I am almost there, to the end.They say home is where the heart is, and my heart is not here.  It is of no fault of Boston, it is simply where my heart is.  Perhaps it reinforces my reflections from last week; I am ready for the next chapter.

Amen.

Saturday
April 23

Art Museums

By iquillen

I have a confession to make: I’m not particularly fond of going to art museums. I don’t feel this way because I think art is dull, boring, or worthless. To the contrary, I think art is an incredibly powerful means of expression. It pushes our intellectual and emotional boundaries, can convey deep messages, or it can simply exist and stand alone as something to be engaged with, admired, or contemplated.

When I went on field trips to art museums with schools, though, that never seemed to be the focus. The trips always felt like going on a very long tour, where I had to stick to the group’s pace. I would groan inwardly whenever the group lagged behind to look at something I wasn’t particularly interested in. The worst part, though, was not being able to go off and explore the museum on my own. It didn’t help that sometimes I felt a little bored looking at just paintings, and my sense of patience hadn’t fully matured yet.

It might come as a surprise, then, that I went to the Institute of Contemporary Art in South Boston earlier today. And frankly, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I went to the ICA with a few friends and a professor from class. We spent a few hours exploring the exhibits, mostly on our own. As I wandered from room to room, several pieces caught my attention. In one room, a round table had numerous cut-outs of sculptures, from different periods and styles. In another, a giant cube made of pins dominated the center of the room. In another still, series of photographs flashed by, and each set had a different series of sounds paired with it.

Traditionally, I’ve considered art to involve only one of the senses. Painting and sculpture lay in the visual sphere, music fell in the auditory realm, and dance fell into touch and a kinesthetic category of its own. The exhibits that I explored today, though, showed me that art can combine and engage any and all of these senses. The colors, the sounds, and the textures of the pieces all contributed to creating an experience of the art itself, and not just a viewing of it.

I am a firm believer of immersing oneself into an experience in order to truly appreciate it. Sometimes it is not enough to see something. Engaging more than one of our senses in an art exhibit, or any other experience, deepens that moment of interaction. It attunes us more to what we are observing. Instead of simply seeing something, we are feeling it. And in turn, art can make us feel something, whether that emotion is awe, disgust, or confusion. That experience, in my opinion, is what makes art museums worth going to, even if it happens to be on a field trip.

Thursday
April 21

Isolated Growth

By Devin Harvin

The most important people in my life have always given me the space to be me. They rarely crowd or look to control my actions. In perhaps the biggest decision of my life, choosing what college I would attend, my parents gave me complete control. They informed me of the financial situations and left me to decide where I would attend college to me. I feel that is how my relationship with God is, he gives me the freedom to act how I will. My parents and God have many things in common, (no my parents are not God) but most apparent is a trust in me. They had trust in the child they raised, and I believe, that God trust in the person that has been trying to live more like his son for years. My parents never questioned my decision to attend BU and supported me throughout the  entire process. Till this day they demonstrate this trust in me, they only call when they miss me, not to check up on me, but to simply talk to me.

I like to believe that me and God have a special friendship. I know he has my back and he knows I have his. God has allowed me to grow by giving me space. Space that can feel lonely and isolating, but that is where I grow the most. When I’ve been alone and believed to be without God, I have undergone the most impactful change. Alone is where I made my college decision and alone in college is where I’ve grown in the best way.

Thursday
April 21

Summertime!

By Matthew Cron

For this is one of my favorite times of the year! As a native New Englander, Patriot’s Day marks off the unofficial start to summer! Although I enjoy winter sports (snowboarding in particular), The summertime is a time in which I feel the most joy and happiness. The weather has already begun to get warmer, and the trees and flowers are beginning to bloom again. The Red Sox season is in full swing and the NFL draft is quickly approaching. Although the New Year is in January, at the beginning of each summer I like to think back on the previous year and look forward to the new one.

Life is in an everlasting cyclical pattern, everything is in motion at the same time. If you remember Jaimie Dingus’ poem during the Easter Morning Sunrise Service, there is a sort of rebirth that has begun to happen everywhere.

For me this joy of new birth comes less from a theological standpoint and more of a personal standpoint. I thoroughly enjoy the ornate beauty of this time in the seasons. Everything is warmer and seemingly more accessible. It is almost as if during the summer time the world is at your disposal to do things you could on do the summer prior.

With all this freedom I have some things that I hope to accomplish. I will not go as far as to say all, but most people share at least some of the feelings I have towards the summer months. I think summer is a great opportunity to go out and connect with people; to start interpersonal relationships and reach out to our neighbors. I understand that not all people are compatible, and so not all people will get along. I do not mean to go out and make friends with everyone on the face of the Earth. But, I think it is very important to go and meet new people, form new friendships, or enhance current ones.

Spending time with friends or making new ones can be beneficial both to our spiritual and personal lives. Meeting new people opens up insight into how they may or may not worship. You may meet someone who is from a different religious background than you. This person could be just like you, or not like you at all. That does not mean that you cannot connect with them and become friends. On a personal and social aspect, you may learn something new about the world or find a new way of looking at things.

All in all, this time of year is wonderful! I hope you all enjoy it and set some time aside to be able to go outside, enjoy the weather, and make new friends along the way.

Wednesday
April 20

Change is in the Air

By cbjones8

Today I registered for classes for Fall 2016 at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

It’s real.  It is actually happening.  I am so excited!!!

As graduation approaches it seems like everyone is trying to hang out just one more time.  Everyone is scrambling to get their work done in the face of senioritis.

I too am doing all of those things.  It’s hectic, but good.  I am so excited about what God has in store for me in the next chapter of my life.  I am ready for the next thing.  I have enjoyed this journey here at BU.  I can’t believe how fast it has gone.

I am moved by the love and support I have received here at BU.

This blog is short.  I am not sure I have much left to say.  I am ready for whatever lies on the next page.  I am ready. Amen.

Wednesday
April 13

Suffer to Succeed

By Devin Harvin

I was participating in Bible Study last Thursday night and we read a verse in Romans ( I am 77 percent sure, it has been a long week), and we landed on the topic of suffering. I listened to stories of struggling with classes and questioning your major and fears of financial problems and waisting time. I felt empathy listening to everyone speak about their struggles and really did pray that they found peace. I genuinely desired happiness and confidence to be instilled in these individuals and I was almost moved to tears listening to their struggles and their questioning of God and why ask Christians we have to struggle so much. However, I had nothing to share. By no means have I never experienced struggle. I’ve had a far share of financial problems, tried so hard in class and still fell short and questioned God when illness struck my family. But, at this moment and in the past years, maybe since the summer going into Junior year, I’ve always known that God would allow me to overcome my struggle. I tried to articulate this in bible study and explain that I’m very confident in my major, in myself and I have been blessed these past years in my life. Another participant responded, “just wait, it will hit you too”. The individual quickly understood the meaning of the words and tried to rephrase with, “use this time of blessing to will you through your struggles.” I understood what the person wanted to say, I appreciated the honesty, but I could not ignore a large question in my mind. Do Christians have to struggle?, is it possible for it to be all good and not have to have a dark time?

I would argue on the contrary. Call me an optimist, pollyanna, or naive to realities of life but I believe that with God it can be all good. Now my version of good is different than everyone else’s version. I’ve been “good” for a while now. I got into to an amazing college, I found two subjects that I really have a passion for (in the library right now) and I feel closer than ever to my family. Forgive me for the cliche but, Life is Good. Though I appreciate the individual that wanted to warn me of the pain they currently feel, I will take caution, but if I never dive into the realm of painful suffering, I will not be surprised.

Wednesday
April 13

Clarifying My Last Post

By Matthew Cron

Last week I wrote a post about being a first generation american and how that has affected me. I also talked about how people should not categorize others based off of what they look like, sound like, or where we are from.

Today I am going to elaborate more on the main points and ideas that I touched on. My last blogpost came off as being very nationalistic (which in some way was my intent). However, i failed to mention a key aspect to my side. And that is, people should be able to define themselves not the other way around.

I support people saying that they like to be described in a certain way. If someone is an American citizen but refers to be defined as something else, then I have no problem with that. The truly irritating part for me is when someone wants to be described as an American and is instead generalized into some other category.

Although I did have a really nationalistic post, I too like to describe myself as being Portuguese. I would never want to lose that part of my history and heritage. It angers me when someone neglects to respect the fact that I am not just some white kid. Yes that is the color of my skin, but that does not mean I am not Portuguese.

I sympathize with people in our culture today who are struggling with issues relative to mine. For those of African descent who are trying to stand up for both their rights and/or traditions. I sympathize with you. I know that I have far different experiences than you have, however, through my own experiences I have built a level of respect and understanding for the motives behind your movements. I sympathize with those people who are of mixed descent and are not truly accepted by both races. And I sympathise with anyone who feels as though the way they are described by others varies from how they describe themselves.