The Sabbath and Liberal Arts Education, Part 3

Presence to others: The sense of our presence to each other increased on the day the students in my freshman honors colloquium on the Sabbath observed a secular mini-Sabbath.  That day, designed by the whole class, included a number of Sabbath appropriate activities: no technology; natural and candle-light instead of fluorescent lighting; festive attire; food (bagels and cream cheese, of course!); song; private meditation; expressions of gratitude; and communal text study.

The text? This, by Wendell Berry, from A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979 – 1997:

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

[Read more…]

The New Improved Golden Rule

Our neighbor Jack is a retired widower. He goes to a mainline Baptist church. It’s a massive structure on the edge of what some here call the ghetto. Years ago this big church saw the majority of its members take flight to suburban churches with coffee shops and rocking praise bands.

But there is, in that magisterial building, a haggard group of diehards trying to continue on, trying to fulfill the calling to love their neighbors. Jack is one of them.

He once invited my daughter to be in their Christmas musical. They were trying to fill a children’s choir from their neighborhood but couldn’t find enough kids willing to join, so they resorted to casting their net a little wider. He and my wife, who does much of her work in one of the poorest city neighborhoods, talked about what his church was trying to accomplish.

Jack described the things they were doing, and he himself made the observation, after describing some programs, that their mostly African-American neighbors are not the least bit responsive to their attempts at doing good in the area. [Read more…]