Spiritual Mosaics

4 Jul

I returned home Friday afternoon from a week at Yale attending the Global Conference of Chaplains in Higher Educaiton.  The theme of the conference was “Mosaics in Motion: Spiritual Leadership in a Multifaith World.”  It was a good week, with wonderful monments of spirit and spontaneity, profound revelation and simple discoveries.  I met dedicated and committed colleagues from across the world and the nation, experienced some wonderful speakers and events, had my passion ignited by several great workshops and sessions, and was deeply moved by the spiritual music and dance of the Yuval Ron Ensemble, a group certainly worth bringing to any campus!

I was impressed and intrigued by the variety of settings and circumstances represented by the conference attendees.  There were many Chaplains employed by their institutions, but there were also plenty of combination  chaplain/campus ministers (designated as chaplains by an institution but supported and working for an independent entity); campus ministers, seminarians, denominational officials, student affairs profesisonals, student leaders and religious studies professors.  It truly was a mosiac of folks from different backgrounds, in a variety of settings and performing their ministries in an impressive collage of styles, approaches, methods and structures.  I came away hopeful and grateful that so many of our college and university campuses are served skillfully and faithfully by such dedicated servants of Spirit.

My mind was active throughout the conference, jotting down notes for program ideas for our ministry, projects our interns could work on, and things to explore and consider.  I feel less isolated and beleagured with the burdens of sustaining campus ministry in these times, and I was encouraged to learn from my colleagues, veterans and newcomers alike.  The critical value and importance of having ministries and spiritual places that are open, inclusive, accepting, ecumenical, multifaith, progressive and engaged ministries on our campuses was made even more evident to me.  My commitment to supporting our own organization’s movement deeper into those realms was bolstered and encouraged by this special time learning from my colleagues.

This morning, I preached and led worship in a small town church near Durham, NH where I live and work.  I told the gathered community a little about the conference, and attempted to connect my experiences with the scripture passages from 2 Cornithians (8:7-15) and the Gospel of Mark (5:21-43) which our service was centred around.  The importance of relationship and community seems so central to our ministries, and are the essence of what we have to offer the students, staff and faculty whom we meet and engage every day.  The campus community members I know are seeking and appreciative of communities that care, do good work, are welcoming and hospitable, and looking for the common ground where we all can meet and engage our spiritual, social, political, physical and emotional experiences.  Our students in particular are also looking for safe places, places of mindfulness and non-hurriedness, that are genuine and authentic in what they believe and are open to discovering.  They are seeking places where loving kindness is practiced in every action and step.

Being this kind of community can be hard to measure in the objective and quantification systems we increasingly find ourselves trying to utilize to demonstrate our worth and effectiveness to university administrators, denominatiomal officials, donors and funding sources.  I often wonder how Jesus (or Buddha, Moses, Mohammed) would fare under such measurement tools, and whether their efforts would be marginalized or dismissed as many of ours often are by the powers that be.  While we need to be cognizant and literate in such measurement systems, for our own benefit as well as others, they are of the essence, not the essence.  Our essential worth is measured in the lives that we touch, the relationships that we form, and the communities that we build, mold and strenghten.  As the Reverend Paul Cullity, my former Colleague at the Keene State United Campus Ministry, liked to say, campus ministry is “building the beloved community one friend at a time.”  Indeed it is.

We need to be places where the one matters; where everyone matters; where the “other ones” are cared for and affirmed.  No matter the structure of our settings, we need to be those places where spirit is in motion: where the mosiac is forming and evolving; where there is always room in the circle for the next wanderer to venture into our midst.  Our ministries of enagemement and exploration, affirmation and welcome should be the rule, not the exception, and a witness to the founding teachers that gave us form and substance.  I am humbled and blessed to be in a community of faithful servants witnessing to a future that is possible and the hope for a brighter day.  Rave on, global chaplains, campus ministers, spiritual teachers, students and all you committed to Mosiac in Motion and loving spiritual leadership in this multifaith and non faith world.  Namaste, aloha, shalom, salaam, blessed be, peace be with you and blessings always from the Wysmeet Center at the University of New Hampshire.

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Reverend Larry Brickner-Wood is the Chaplain and Executive Director of the United Campus MInistry to the University of New Hampshire.  The UCM, aka the Waysmeet Center, is an ecumenical and inter-faith ministry that has existed at UNH for over 60 years.  Larry is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC) and is in his 14h year at UCM.  He served previously as the Assistant Pastor at First Church Congregational, UCC, in Rochester, NH, and spent twenty years in another calling in local government, serving as a municipal manager for most of that time.  He has a Bachelors degree in Public Administration from James Madison University in Virginia, a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Vermont, and a Master in Divinity from Andover Newton Theolgical School.  He is married and has two sons, who are in college in West Virginia and Arizona.  He loves his work!

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2 Responses to “Spiritual Mosaics”

  1. Jan Rivero July 4, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    Cody – good to see you in New Haven. I’d love to write an entry about engaging campuses in the work of ending hunger. Let me know if you are interested.

  2. Barbara Battin July 9, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    Allauia and AMEN!

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