How do you find balance in your life between the demands of school, home, work, friends and family? The Campus Ministry Collaborative will explore this question during its third annual retreat, to be held on the weekend of October 21-23, 2016 in Columbus. To register, fill out the form below.
The study of physics has had an indelible effect on human affairs and philosophical thinking. The 20th century was no exception as physics experienced two revolutions: Einstein’s theory of relativity and the revolution in our understanding of atoms and other elementary particles. This latter topic is usually called quantum mechanics and the subject is the source of much discussion in philosophical and theological circles since it involves a variety of truly mysterious and paradoxical phenomena.
Chris Orban, who is an assistant professor of physics at OSU, gave us an overview the physical and philosophical thinking that came prior to the advent of quantum mechanics in the early 20th century. As Chris discussed, after Newton and Laplace, the earth and the cosmos were understood to be a kind of “world machine” or “clockwork universe” that operates in a highly predictable way according to the laws of physics. This understanding led many church-goers in the 18th and 19th centuries to an idea of God as a kind of watch maker who created the world and set it into motion, but who may or may not need to intervene as this universe takes the course it was designed to take.
Chris argues that this idea has had a profound effect. By creating a detached and distant picture of God, this would have helped lay the groundwork for the Enlightenment. The “clockwork universe” idea may also have had a strong effect on the past and present reluctance of American audiences to accept evolution as fact. The first American interlocutor of Darwin’s theory of evolution was a Harvard botanist and protestant church member named Asa Gray. In defending Darwin’s theory to religious audiences, he had the unenviable job of explaining that this clockwork universe must have been designed by God from the very beginning to use scarcity and competition as a means for producing biodiversity. “Nature, red in tooth and claw” as Tennyson would say.
Although Einstein was not an especially religious man, he too had an idea that God (or whatever God is) determined the laws of physics at the beginning of time and set the universe in motion. Einstein’s goal was to understand the symmetries of nature so well that he could understand whether God could have made the laws of physics in any other way than they currently are.
The phrase “God does not play dice!” is attributed to Einstein in a series of discussions he had with the physicist Neils Bohr over the way that quantum mechanics introduces a degree of randomness into the world. Quantum mechanics removes the absolute predictability of the “world machine”. Einstein once said that he found quantum mechanics to be so strange that he spent more time thinking about it than his own theory of relativity. Chris drew from a chapter on Niels Bohr in Richard Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic Bomb to explain that although Bohr too was not an especially religious man, he dismissed Einstein’s assertion. He argued that the universe can operate however it operates. Decades of subsequent investigation have continued to confirm the notion that the affairs of atoms are intrinsically unpredictable on the smallest scales, which was the scientific basis of Bohr’s response.
The ramifications for this understanding of the world are as far reaching as the clockwork universe idea that came before it and Bohr spent time considering a renewed understanding of free will and other concepts in the light of quantum mechanics. Bohr once said that “[Philosophy] was, in a way, my life”, which is a reference both to his contributions to quantum mechanics and to the philosophical discussions he experienced growing up as a child of a biology professor at the University of Copehagen. A collection of Bohr’s speeches and writing can be found in his book Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge.
by Deborah Woolsey
It was a great experience this year. Katharin Foster joined us for a little while and Elizabeth Thompson stayed with me the whole time and gave out hot apple cider. We were able to engage more people than last year despite incredibly cold temperatures. My favorite part was when someone stopped, looked me in the eye and asked me what Ash Wednesday is. Describing the day and it’s meaning when I felt pressure to do so quickly because of cold (there were a few times I couldn’t feel my face) and time ( people were on their way to class etc) as well as accurately and still be theologically sound all in a way that anyone could understand was an enjoyable challenge. The majority of the people who asked (I’d say there must have been around 6 people who asked) chose to receive the ashes after I explained it. We also had a few who were grateful for the reminder that it was Ash Wednesday and even walked out of their way to receive ashes. Two people asked if it was okay to receive ashes if they were not Episcopalian. We found out there was a great deal if conversation about Ash Wednesday at Free Lunch. A few who had questions from that conversation came back outside to ask us.
My favorite encounter was after a student gratefully received ashes. He turned and started walking toward a group of students he knew and one person in the group yelled out to him: “What the hell is on your face!?” He grinned and said, “Ashes, it’s Ash Wednesday.” Then she asked him what that was. He explained it, and she said, “That’s cool,” and came and asked to receive ashes herself. Definitely one of the best parts of the day for me.
Sing to the Lord a new song! Music has always been integral to the spiritual life, and to worship in particular. In recent years, campus ministries have been at the forefront of experimenting with music, creating music, and leading the church in singing a new song. When Amy McCreath was the chaplain at MIT, she wrote the piece that has become the unofficial song of Music that Makes Community. Our own Reid Hamilton of University of Michigan has written the book on improvisational music and preaching in worship. When it comes to music, we have a lot to offer each other! And a lot to offer the world. Religious communities are among the few remaining communities that sing together, and we find our relationships deepened through singing. Whether one is musical or not, the effects of music play out in our individual and corporate lives together.
Join us on February 19th-21st as students and young adults in Province V come together to make music in Chicago! We’ll welcome members of Music that Makes Community into our midst, and fill the weekend with workshops and worship experiences that emphasize the power of music to deepen our faith and stand as a metaphor for the different ways in which we encounter the world.
The retreat will take place at Hosteling International Chicago, in the South Loop (24 E. Congress Parkway). Register below or contact the Rev. Karl Stevens, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.
Students from the Edge House were singing as we hiked into Conkle’s Hollow. Sandstone cliffs rose up on either side, striated by the lapping waves of an ocean that disappeared millennia ago. Thin trees clung to them, and when the wind blew yellow leaves shook loose and scattered like the rain that was occasionally falling. A thin waterfall trickled down at the trail’s edge, and small fish darted in the shallow pool at its base. And the song reverberated through all of this, as other members of our group arrived at the big rock where the Edge House students were perching, and joined them in singing. We sang pieces from the paperless music tradition that Alice Connor teaches at the Edge House, and then Amazing Grace, at the request of a student from OSU, and then songs by the group Psalters, that Alice lined out for us, giving us each verse in turn and waiting until we’d repeated it before weaving the whole song together. A few years previously, my friend Jared Talbot, who is a post-doc in biology at OSU, had proposed to his wife in the Hocking Hills, and after she’d said yes, they’d hiked to the Rock House, where a Mennonite group had sung song after song together, a gift to any stranger walking through the rock formations. Our singing in Conkle’s Hollow that day allowed Jared to pass that gift on to all the other hikers who had braved the rain and came down the trail behind us.
We were on retreat as a community of campus ministries in the Diocese. There were students from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University, Mount Carmel College of Nursing, Xavier, and Ohio University. We had conceived of the retreat as a response to the pressures and anxieties that afflict everyone in Higher Education these days. The anxieties that plague campuses aren’t unreasonable. Students worry about the future, about the amount of debt that they’re taking on, about the availability of jobs in their field when they graduate. They worry about who they are and who they’re becoming, who they’ll love and how they’ll manage to love themselves. When planning the retreat, the campus ministers talked about this anxiety and turned, as we always do, to scripture to help us make sense of the present mood and frame a response to it. We looked at Jesus’s words in Matthew 6 – “can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? Why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” We talked about how Jesus’s words might have multiple meanings. Yes, they’re a call to rest faithfully in God’s grace, but they’re also direct advice. Go and look at some flowers. It will make you feel better. And, we added, extending the thought, consider who you really are responsible for. There are so many voices demanding our attention that we can’t possibly respond gracefully to all of them. If we can become clear about our true responsibility, we can choose not to answer the demands of those whom we really aren’t responsible for, and give ourselves more fully to the things that truly call us.
So we gathered at a rented house in the Hocking Hills on a weekend in late October. When we gathered on Saturday morning, we introduced ourselves by naming things we were grateful for. Then Alice led us in a meditation on Ruth, who is responsible both to Naomi, her bereaved mother-in-law, but also to herself, going to Boaz in the night and requiring that he pledge his protection to her before she lays with him on the threshing floor. Out of the grace of this meditation, we went to Conkle’s Hollow, where we sang together at the base of the sandstone cliffs. Granted, it was October, and the only lilies in evidence were in a vase back at the house. But when the singing ended we all felt the profound stillness of the light rain of an October day. Later that afternoon, some of us hiked again, to the Rock House, and sat in the ancient hollowed out cliffs that had once served as a tribal fort, watching the play of color on rock and drift of leaves as they fell. That evening we gathered for public story-telling, asking first who had taught us responsibility in our lives, and then telling stories about the time when we came into our own sense of deep responsibility. These stories proved to be intense and powerful and often very sad. A box of tissues was passed along from person to person. And it occurred to me, listening to them, that there is often something lost in the moment when we come into our responsibility. They are so often moments of crisis, when the old dispensation, under which we’re free from the responsibility that someone else bears for us, disappears, and we find the weight of that responsibility shift onto our shoulders. And yet every one of these stories was a story of gain, as well, since receiving and accepting responsibility is an act of love. By accepting responsibility, we grow in our ability to love.
George, one of the Downtowners Campus Ministry group, pushed us to think beyond the responsibility we bear towards ourselves and those we love, and consider the responsibility we have for the world at large. The next morning, Dr. Ellen O’Shaunessy brought the point home in her homily as she talked about a trip that she and her husband had taken to Mother Emmanuel in Charleston after the murders this summer. How do we move beyond the confines of our own narrow world, and realize that we are responsible for strangers, some of whom act and look in ways that are very different from us? And how, and most challenging, do we learn to feel responsibility for those who have done us grievous harm – the killers who pick up guns and take innocent lives? After she was done speaking, we found an answer to her question in shared eucharist, and shared singing, which teaches us that greater responsibility that encompasses the whole world. It’s a lesson we learn bit by bit – by learning responsibility to ourselves, how to rest and how to discern our heart’s true call, and by learning responsibility to our loved ones, by taking on their burdens in moments of crisis. We learn through listening carefully to each other, as singers do when matching their voices, and by looking carefully at the world, at the shape of cliffs and the fall of leaves. When we consider the lilies, its not a small or insignificant act. It’s a moment of preparation for the coming Kingdom of God, a way of glimpsing that Kingdom, resting in it, and confirming that we’re willing to do whatever is required to help bring that Kingdom about and have it reverberate through other people, as if it were a song.
by Jared Talbot
Dear Lord, please be with the graduate students and postdocs who are coming to campus this year; those sojourning on and those who are wrapping up. As they discover their passions in research and thought, help them to find balance and not be consumed by the work. Help them to sense the zest that inspired their work in the first place when faced with the doubt that makes it even sharper. Give them the ability to mix passionate perseverance with the capacity to let go and change course when the time is right.
Help them to find community and support in the midst of what can be a very isolating career. As graduate students, most have left friends and family; as post-docs they did so again. You promised that anyone who left homes and fields for your sake would find a hundred-fold again. Please bring your presence and care to the students and post-docs on campus. As they build relationships and families, help them to be filled with the same grace that you offered to them.
Please guide these students and post-docs as they contemplate their uncertain futures. Help them to follow a course that will lead to wholeness, even when it is not the one that they set out on originally. Help them to remember that even if nothing goes the way they had hoped- they will never be alone; please, help them to find you through these struggles.
All this we ask in the name of your Son, who could find peace inside raging storms, and through the power of the spirit who offers counsel to those who need it most. Amen.
Is it possible to set aside anxiety in an anxious world, particularly during a time of life when the future looms large and every choice we make might effect that future for good or ill? Much of our anxiety is merited, and we can hear Jesus’s call not to be anxious as too simplistic or, worse, as belittling something that is very real. But what if he’s calling us to an action, rather than a mindset? What if he simply wants us to go out in nature and contemplate its beauty? Although this won’t end all of our anxiety, it will give us a respite from us. Our hope is that this retreat will provide that respite to you. Please use the flyer below to promote the retreat, and register at the bottom of this page.
People get PhDs because they love learning. When Elizabeth Thompson said this to me I realized how obvious it is, and wondered how I’d missed that basic fact. I’ve worked with professors for years, and have been part of many conversations about departmental committees and faculty politics – conversations in which we decry the corporatization of the university and the way that employees, especially adjunct professors, are treated. Often anxious and bitter talk hides a deep spiritual longing, and Elizabeth helped me to understand that professors long for that feeling of excitement and discovery that was with them during their student days.
Understanding this, Elizabeth set out to help herself and her colleagues fill this longing, and build a community for a learning community at Ohio University, where she works as an Instructor in English. She gathered a few colleagues, and together they created the Soul Biscuits program at The Church of the Good Shepherd. “We put our spiritual life in a box,” she told me. “When I start neglecting the things I love best, I know I’m on a downward spiral.” Soul Biscuits works at opening that box, so that people who love learning, but have little opportunity to learn, can feel their spirits nurtured.
Soul Biscuits meets every other Friday evening. People gather for wine and cheese, have time to chat and form friendships, and then listen to a musical performance, a talk given by a professor or a graduate student, or participate in a workshop. Elizabeth, and the friends who help her organize Soul Biscuits, are clear that this is a secular outreach program. Many of our churches sit on campuses or in neighborhoods that have specific community needs. When we stop worrying about how we can get people into church on Sunday morning, and start wondering about how we can help our neighbors, we find ourselves opening our doors to all sorts of community activities, and meeting the spiritual needs of all sorts and manner of people.
Adjunct and visiting professors are most in need on many of our campuses. Even though we’re living through a period of steady expansion in higher education, when many schools find that they can be more selective in the students they accept due to the size of the millennial generation, and many campuses are engaged in large building projects, the job market for PhDs is exceedingly tight. Many schools are cutting costs by hiring adjunct instead of tenure track professors. People who have dedicated their lives to studying the things they most love now find themselves teaching heavy course loads for very little money, and with no hope of promotion. They’re so busy teaching that they have no time to learn or research, or to pursue publication, which they need to do if they’re to have any hope of finding tenure track positions.
Campus ministry is ministry to the whole campus. This includes non-tenure track professors. Campus ministries must find ways to serve them, both by calling the institutions they serve to account, and by helping to nurture their souls. Knowing this, and having spent much time worrying over the needs of adjuncts, it was a revelation and a grace to discover the work that Elizabeth is doing at the Church of the Good Shepherd. It’s work that could be shared on all of our campuses, each in its own way and in its own context.
Bible Study today at 3:30 PM
What does it mean to live as a fully alive human being, a life of grace and joy? And how can community help us to live such lives? These are Paul’s questions, and ours as well, as we read through his letter to the Romans. Join us!
Sunday Service – Learning how to pray with the body
Christians believe that God became incarnate and lived among us as Jesus Christ. That means that God was a human being during the thirty-three years of Jesus’s life, and had a human body that felt all of the aches and pains, and experienced all of the bodily processes that we do. Our tradition has often been uncomfortable with the body, yet we use it constantly when we pray. If we become more mindful of the ways in which we use our bodies, will we understand the incarnation better? Come explore this question with us as we continue our summer series on Christian spiritual practice.
Worship & Dinner
6:00 PM on Sunday
Saint Stephen’s (30 W. Woodruff Ave.)