Archive for May, 2019

May 12

‘This I Believe’ Meditations

By Marsh Chapel

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Acts 9:36-30

John 10:22-30

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Jonathan Allen – JD – Liberation Theology, Critical Race Theory and Civil Rights Law; LAW’19

This I Believe:

We are all God’s children,

Interconnected, interrelated, and interdependent.

This I Believe:

Our diversity is our strength and our power.

This I Believe:

God sides with the oppressed and is actively working throughout the world to liberate those under the weight of oppression, injustice, and deprivation of life, liberty, and dignity.

This I Believe:

We have more in common than we think and therefore, share a bond that if activated can disrupt forces of evil and injustice in our world.

This I Believe:

That all things are possible and that with the power of possibility we can create a more just and equitable world.

This I Believe:

The best is yet to come and that with faith, hope, and love we are indeed better together.

This I Believe:

If God is the Creator, and we are God’s Creation, then the best way to get to know more about God is to spend more time with what God has made.

This I Believe:

Life is a collection of moments; therefore, we must cherish each one.

This I Believe:

NO weapon formed against us shall prosper, we are more than conquers.

This I Believe:

God is greater, wiser, smarter, more caring, and more involved in our lives than our human capacity can conceive.

This I Believe:

We have an obligation, a collective responsibility, to treat all living things with dignity and respect. And thus, our obligation requires that we work diligently to eradicate dehumanization.

This I Believe:

Irrespective of our religious affirmations, God’s love and heart for justice transcends doctrine.

I believe in our capacities to make change. I believe that we are inherently good.

I believe that anything that divides us is counter-goodness and Anti-God.

I believe that regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, educational level, religious background, gender, or even political party, that we need each other.

I believe that we are greater than our worst mistake or misjudgment, and are therefore, worthy of forgiveness and restoration.

I believe God is everywhere, capable of living in everyone, and can do anything.

I believe, we, as God’s offspring, are equipped to foster greater harmony in our communities through empathy and intentionality.

I believe that leaders concerned with social transformation must take care of themselves by developing self- awareness, social-awareness, and spiritual-awareness.

This I Believe:

That LOVE is the answer to all things. This I Believe!

Carolyn Hoffman – BA – International Relations; CAS’19

If the past four years have taught me anything, it is that life can be unpredictable. The major you began freshman year in has absolutely no interest to you anymore? Sure. The dryer in the laundry room does not actually dry your clothes in one cycle? You bet. The BU Bus is not around the corner as the app claims but is instead all the way at the medical campus? Every other day it seems.

But in all seriousness, my time as an undergraduate student at Boston University has fast-tracked my life from being a 17-year-old nervous about how to spend the weekends to a 21-year-old who is employed, in a graduate program and with a partner I want to spend the rest of my life with. This evolution did not happen overnight; it happened over minutes, hours, days, weeks and years of hard work, late night snacks and purchasing of face masks that claimed to rejuvenate my extremely tired-looking face.

I have mental illness, and for the last year I’ve been battling depression. I’ve had anxiety for almost my whole life, and I began seeing a therapist when I was 10. In high school I began medication for generalized anxiety and it made a world of difference. My sophomore year in college I began having panic attacks, and I started additional medication for that. But depression is unfamiliar to me, and that has made my mental illnesses even more unpredictable.

As someone with mental illness in her family, you could say that I was genetically predisposed to it. But as a “type A” student at a challenging university, I would say that predisposed me to mental illness even more. My longing for perfection in all aspects of my life—academics, extracurriculars, relationships etc.—is countered by the reality that there are only 24 hours in a day, and it is impossible to make everyone happy while making sure I am happy.

I, like many students, appear perfectly fine on the outside because I am able to hide behind the façade of my resume. President of this, co-chair of that, Honors in this…the list goes on but the reality is skewed. Too often I fear that disclosing my mental illness will result in others’ thinking I am less capable and less stable. But I realize that in doing so, I am preventing myself from living authentically.

I believe that if we talk about our mental illness experiences, not only would mental illness become less stigmatized but the world would also become a better place. Being vulnerable with loved ones and strangers is scary but necessary if we wish to create a more compassionate and empathetic society. If we hide our stories, we do ourselves the injustice of limiting support and failing to speak our truth.

I have mental illness, but mental illness doesn’t have me. I am not defined by my mental illness and neither are you. I have faith that we can join together by sharing our stories in order to eliminate, once and for all, the silent suffering of those with mental illness.

Katherine Ward – BS – Biomedical Engineering; ENG’19

My journey these last four years through Boston University and my spiritual growth journey are intertwined and inseparable. The physical journey to Boston wasn’t trivial: home is 918 miles away, my closest distant relative is in Philadelphia and the closest person from my high school graduating class was going to college in Washington, D.C. I quickly realized when I got here that the culture I grew up in and the culture of Boston University were vastly different.

I was alone.

I knew regardless of where I went to college that I wanted to form my own religious affiliation now that I had left the private Presbyterian school I attended for 12 years. I came to Marsh Chapel my first Sunday at Boston University because it was the closest walk from Warren Towers. I’m not sure whether it was the space, the stained glass, or the music but Marsh instantly felt familiar. While I personally identified with the Episcopal tradition, I never felt the need to look elsewhere for a church home once I came to Marsh.

So I stayed.

I stayed until the people became familiar faces and then close friends. I kept coming long enough that I eventually grew out of my habit of sitting alone in the pews on Sunday and then heading straight to study to Mugar library alone for the rest of the day. I became an advocate for the small community of Episcopal students on campus and worshipped regularly with the Episcopal chaplains Cameron Partridge and then Karen Coleman. I began to look forward to the community dinners and even studying for finals because of the study retreats organized by Brother Larry. I found my community and my family, my home away from home.

Now that I have attended my last community dinner and my last study retreat, I can look back on this whirlwind trip through Boston University. I can’t imagine what my journey would have looked like without Marsh, as it was an integral part of every week I spent on campus. Once I paused to reflect a bit, I realized that God was behind all of this. God’s spirit is in this space, the people who fill it, and the sounds that resonate inside of it.

About this time next week, my journey through Boston University will be complete.

Maybe I’ll return back to Boston and to this community at Marsh that I’ve come to call family, or maybe I won’t. But, no matter what, the experiences and memories I’ve formed here are coming along with me for the next leg of the journey.

Karey Statin – BS/MS – Political Science and Urban Affairs; CAS 18′ and MET’19

I believe that we can learn to live as one human race. We have the capacity to eradicate the embedded racism that has been reinforced by fear and greed. We have the intelligence to cure all diseases physical and mental, if we choose to work together and share all experiences and knowledge. We have the strength to overcome all challenges foreign and domestic, external and internal, if we unite as one. We have the power to decimate all forces of evil, if we join together in faith. We have the love to conquer hate, if we individually and collectively treat everyone the way we would like to be treated.

I believe that in order to achieve our real and true potential, we must be willing to change. We must seek the truth and release the lies we have been taught. We must accept our own faults and strive to make the right corrections. We must be willing to learn and acknowledge the commonalities that we share with others that don’t look like us. We must face our fears and denounce the hypocrisy that created, and continue to fuel them. We must relinquish our unfounded advantages, to remove unfair disadvantages imposed on others. We must sacrifice our gains to empower those who have been denied opportunities through systematic oppression. We must, with purpose and intention, visually and expressively change positively to encourage others to embrace our change, and to make the same change for themselves.

I believe, because after initially coming to Boston University in 1978 and experiencing the positive change of attitudes and behaviors toward each other showing a new respect of individual persons and cultures. Now, nearly two generations later, I believe because in spite of all the chaos and pessimism, I see optimism in the eyes of my schoolmates here at BU, and I hear optimism in the expressions and conversations of my classmates. So, I know we are headed in the right direction.

Finally, I believe with our Creator guiding and leading us all the way, we will all become the best versions of ourselves, as He who began a good work in us has and is careful to see it to completion.

Denise-Nicole Stone – BS – International Relations; CAS’19

My sophomore year, after reading the book, This I Believe which compiled accounts from the NPR segment, I wrote my own version. When thinking about writing this, I went back to it, curious to see what has changed in the past two years. I wrote that I believed in presence and appreciation, that these tenants drove the core of my being.

This assessment holds generally true. However, I think I would define it differently now. Now, I say that I believe in bearing witness. Bearing witness to the beauty, heartbreak and complexity of life. I think this journey; the good, horrible, and mundane moments of life, is sacred and worthy of sincere attention.

My BU experience, and especially the past two years, has been full of opportunities to explore new topics in a variety of situations. They have taken me to Israel, Geneva, South Africa and St. Louis. They have asked me to explore restorative justice, international responses to conflict, peacebuilding, the shortcomings of aid and the challenges of community. I have seen the capacity of people to address challenges and collaborate for healing, and to do immense harm to one another.

Bearing witness is not merely to see. It is to allow all that we have seen to change us and alter how we approach the world. It is active. It is a commitment to hold the stories of those we have met and to carry them with us. It is a commitment to try to understand what can be understood and above all to honor our human connections. I believe in sitting with tension and discomfort, wrestling with pain and love in community and asking questions of myself and others. How am I contributing to this situation? How can I disrupt cycles of harm? What are our responsibilities to one another?

What I believe has changed slightly since Sophomore year, it has evolved and been clarified by my experiences. The college years are dedicated to such growth. It is a period of near constant change and opportunity. As I leave this space, I hope life continues to teach me, challenge me and that in 2 years I will be able to further refine my beliefs.

I want to live in a way that interrupts harm, that bears witness to all of life and that honors my connection to all people.

This I believe.


May 5

This Holy Mystery

By Marsh Chapel

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John 21: 1-19

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In the Morning

The sermon begins with a recitation of Psalm 110, in gender neutral language.

Habits lead us forward.  Come Easter. Death makes us mortal.  Facing death makes us human. At the tomb.  Come Resurrection. This is a Holy Mystery.

Jan and I have grave plots in the local cemetery of Eaton, NY.  Where is Eaton? Exactly. It is nowhere. We bought them for $400 each, which is a real estate bargain.  Especially when you amortize the amount over eternity! All need to plan ahead, one way or another. In addition to burial or equivalent, you will want to employ the Robert Allan Hill planning for post-retirement system:  OOPS. O O P S. My mom always remembers the OOPS but then asks, what do they stand for? Order of worship. Obituary. Photo. Special papers (DNR, will).

Over the Hill from the fancy Hill post-retirement real estate there is a little town, Oriskany Falls, dating, like the graves in Eaton, from just after the American Revolution.  Our friend’s dad, Russell Clark, a Colgate and BU graduate, loved life as a pastor there. One winter a farmer, his lay leader died, and the widow was not in church for a long time.  The pastor tried to console and help, but she didn’t want company. Grief is a slippery dragon. If I had another two lifetimes I would spend half of one really studying, trying to understand grief.  It is a dark stranger, an opaque mystery, individual to each. For Russell’s Oriskany Falls widow it was too. Then one day she called to say that she would like a pastoral visit. She told him something, when he asked how she was doing.  She began: Don’t take this the wrong way, Rev.  (You know you are already in trouble with that prelude.)  It has been so unutterably hard for me.  There were days when I could not get out of bed.  But I did. And do know why? It wasn’t the resurrection sermons I have heard. No.  What got me going, got me out of bed was…the chickens. Every morning at dawn they would fuss, and rustle around and cluck, waiting to be fed.  They were hungry and they needed feeding. So I got up and put on my robe and went out and fed them. By then the sun was up, by then the mist was lifted, by then I was awake, and by then I could stand the thought of breakfast, and after that, well the day opened up.  So don’t take this the wrong way, Rev. (you know you are in trouble when…), don’t take this the wrong way, but the clucking of those hens meant more to me in my grief than all the hymns of Easter.  The clucking of those chickens meant more to me than all the hymns of Easter.

You see?  The rhythms of life, evening and morning one day, detailed disciplined attention to the routine can by grace admit illumination, the light in which we see light.  Including religious practice. Joanna, the newcomer, found it so. So can you, especially if you on Easter are a newcomer, looking for a first helping, an initial course in faith, a church family to love and church home to enjoy.  Particularly in grief. It is one thing to attend to religious practice, and another to do so, to visit the body, when you have loved the person. As some of you have done so this year.

A Later Addition

Here are some notes about the unusual chapter John 21, our Gospel today.  R Brown: *An added account of a post-resurrectional appearance of Jesus in Galilee, which is used to show how Jesus provided for the needs of the church.  *1-14; 15-23; 24-25… *‘The gospel never circulated without 21’…. *Appendix, supplement, or epilogue?… *Stylistic differences…. *We shall work on the hypothesis of composition by a redactor… *Material drawn from the same ‘general reservoir of Johannine tradition’… *Completion or correction? (RAH)…  *Other miraculous catches of fish (Lk 5)… *Ecclesiastical and Eucharistic and Eschatology, symbolism of the chapter… *‘There are good reasons for finding Eucharistic symbolism in the meal’…*15-17 ‘Peter’s rehabilitation’ (!)… *‘As shepherd, Peter’s authority is not absolute’. *Did the community think the BD would not die?* Dodd:  ‘The naïve conception of Christ’s second advent in 21: 22 is unlike anything else in the Fourth Gospel’…*Thus, while the differences are not significant enough on their own to suggest that the original author did not write the 21st chapter, it does texture its continuity: *it is not immediately apparent why the original author, “wishing to add to his own book, would add [to] it in so clumsy a manner” (577)… *This chapter occurs after a strong conclusion (ch. 20:30). It is rhetorically weak to have material after a strong conclusion. *The chronological introduction of the narrative (“After these things Jesus showed himself again”) is strikingly less precise than other temporally-concerned introductions (ch. 20:1: “Early on the first day of the week;” v19: “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week;” and v26: “A week later.”)…* From these comments, Barrett suggests that chapter 21 be read as if it were a metaphorical account of the birth of the early Christian church *for the purpose of explicating the different, yet equally important, roles of Peter and the beloved disciple, penned by a second author (577). Read this way, we are to see the disciples as “catching men” (579)… *“pastoral ministry and historical-theological testimony” (587).

Lessons For Us

Our Gospel today offers us three lessons.

The first is that change, amendment, development, becoming are not only a part of life and life in faith, but also and earlier so, found right in the heart of the Bible.  The Fourth Gospel, twenty chapters long, written in the years leading toward 90 a.d., was composed out of sermons stitched together: a wedding in Cana, Nicodemus at night, the woman at the well, healings of body, feeding 5,000, debates with opponents, sight given to the blind, the raising of Lazarus, Jesus in farewell, passion and resurrection.  But then, a decade later, another chapter was added, because another chapter was needed. And all the things left out of the Gospel—so beautiful the Gospel—now have their time to appear or re-appear: the importance of the church, the centrality of leadership, the holy mystery of communion, the inherited tradition of the eschaton, the rehabilitation of Peter, the importance of pastoral care, the significance of evangelism.  The Bible has a story, too, and it is a story of becoming, not of static changelessness, but of adaptation, flexibility, formation—evolution. The Gospel ends in chapter 20, and is re-started in 21. If you find that you are changing, learning, growing—GRADUATING, well, you have some hints about how that happens, in the Holy Scripture. New occasions teach new duties.

The second is that institutions matter a whole lot, including the church.  If you eliminate ethics and pollute politics and contaminate culture, then you are left to go all the way upstream, from ethics and politics and culture, into the higher ground, the colder waters of religion.  The thing about institutions is that they don’t go away, they just either get better or worse. Love is finding a way to use time, even to waste some time, in the advancement of institutional health, in learning virtue and piety, in knowing, doing and being.  In leadership. Leading by example.

(The Methodist church hit an iceberg in February, for instance, and we are a long way from beginning to fathom the cost, damage, impact and consequence that crash.  It was an institutional failure of colossal proportion, and a spiritual defeat of colossal dimension. There is enough blame and responsibility to go all around. The question now is how to care for him who has borne the battle and his widow and his orphan and do all we can to attain a just and lasting peace, for ourselves, and for all.  Start with ten facts:

St Louis was decided by 27 votes.

42 votes were neither cast nor counted.

2/3 of US votes were liberal.

Of $400M spent outside the US by the UMC in 2017 $398M came out of US collection plates. (Funds 1,4,7).

In Finding Our Way 2014 the African UMC general superintendent referred to gay people as ‘beasts of the field’.

In 1972 mainline Christians were 33% of the US population; today 11%.

In 1972 ‘nones’ were 4% of the population; today 24%.

All but 6 UMC general superintendents finally supported the One Church plan, but they did not say so clearly and early with signatures.

Baldwin Wallace University in April 26, 2019 severed its 174 year old affiliation with the UMC by unanimous vote of the University Trustees.

Marsh Chapel marries gay people and employs and deploys gay clergy on a regular basis.

The third is that personal concern, and pastoral care, feed feed feed, have no substitute in the peculiar holy mystery of the church.  We are present for each other come Sunday. We are present for each other in Sacrament.  We are present for each other in fellowship. We are present for each other in education.  We are present for each other in visitation. We are present for each other in spoken prayer.  We are present for each other in care. In the ministry, stay close to your people. In the church, stay close to your neighbors in town and in the pew.  Love one another, as Christ has loved you.

On Friday, after senior breakfast, I met a new friend, who said, with some poise and calm, ‘well, I guess people gathering once a week to be together and remind each other to be good people and become better people, I guess that’s not such a bad thing’.  I guess not.

The sermon concludes with a recitation of the Canadian Creed.

-The Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill