Tuesday, September 09, 2014

... and also with you.

On August 16th I accompanied Dawn to the annual Newberry College Music Department picnic in Lexington. Jim and Sarah Ingram are fabulous hosts, and their house has a spacious deck that provides a great place for the picnic (we overflow into the carport as well). The picnic is a great opportunity for faculty and their families to reconnect after the summer, and to integrate the new faculty into the Music Department family.

Because Newberry College is associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), this Baptist pastor is usually off the hook as far as being asked to pray before the meal. It’s an honor to be asked to lead a gathering in prayer, but I was delighted when Jim asked Dr. Robert Hawkins (professor of organ & church music) to do so.

When a Baptist calls a picnic gathering to prayer, it’s usually something along the lines of “hey y’all, let’s pray.” Bob called us to prayer with a pattern that (I assume) is familiar – almost instinctive – to Lutherans. He opened with, “The Lord be with you,” to which most of us responded, “… and also with you.” Only then did he say, “Let us pray.” I detected phrases from the Book of Common Prayer as he framed thoughts that were fuller of care for the day and for the occasion than anything I might have prayed. My soul is grateful for how that prayer brought me to a healthier place.

I came away from a primarily social gathering with a few profound spiritual lessons that I don’t want to forget:

  • Though Jim Ingram had already called our attention from our scattered mingling toward a common direction with the news that the food was ready to be served, the ancient pattern Bob Hawkins used to lead us to prayer drew us into a deeper sense of community and belonging. We were not just witnesses to the prayer, but rather participants in it.
  • Invoking Christ’s presence with us in the meal and in the semester ahead, Bob called everyone [back] into a different way of relating to each other. His prayer led us into a renewed mindfulness of the gifts of God and the assurance of Christ’s presence with us.
  • There is always nervous tension at the beginning of a new academic year, and the Newberry Music department has more than its fair share this year because of significant faculty turnover. In his blessing, Bob shepherded (pastored, if you will) his colleagues to a healthier place of relating to each other. I want to do that, too.

I always enjoy being around Bob. His calm, gracious manner smells like Jesus to me. I want to be like that.

That’s enough to think about for now.  The peace of Christ to you.


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