Prayers for MSU

Periodically, I (Brenda) lead the congregational prayer at River Terrace Church, which supports the ministry of Campus Edge. As a reflection of this semester’s studies on difficult conversations, the prayer includes some of the topics that would be considered difficult, like politics, being vulnerable and honest, and doubt.

As a way of continuing to pray the words in this prayer I am posting it below. It is also a way of praying for the current situation at MSU and the challenges faced by what appears to be the soon resignation of interim president, John Engler.

Almighty God, we come before you with our thanks and our concerns. We thank-you for the work that you are doing in this church and in the ministry of Campus Edge. We thank you for all those connected to MSU that we are able to encourage and support.

God of all peace, we pray for the world. We pray for those harmed by religious persecution or climate change and those suffering on account of war, poverty, or hunger. Bring comfort to all those who are suffering and protection to those who are fleeing dangerous situations. just as Joseph, Mary, and Jesus once had to.

God of all wisdom, we pray especially for this country in the midst of the government shutdown. May good dialogue happen; help those in charge find a way forward that will protect those living in the United States while also being a place where foreigners might be allowed to seek refuge.

God of all power and truth, we bring before you the church – and ask that Your spirit work among us. We pray that we might be able to speak the truth in love with each other, both encouraging each other and holding each other accountable. And that we might find ways to be vulnerable about our struggles and grow through voicing our disagreements. We pray this not only for the wider church but especially for River Terrace and Campus Edge.

We pray also for the work of your church at MSU. We pray for all those reaching out to those on MSU’s campus: that we might provide places where people find fellowship and support as well as space to ask questions about faith and know You better.

God of all comfort, we bring before you the communities of which we are a part. We pray for our families and friends, for the community of River Terrace Church, for those participating in Campus Edge, and for the wider community of Michigan State.

For the MSU community, we pray especially for the challenges that are part of a new semester. Fill people with hope and courage for the challenges and experiences that lie ahead of us. We pray for the family of the student who passed away this week in an accident. And we pray for those who’ve been harmed this past year and for the leadership, especially as John Engler’s time seems to be coming to an end.

We pray for those who are suffering. We pray for the illnesses and suffering that we know  about and for those things we don’t know about – whether that be spine surgeries or infertility, financial troubles or relationship troubles.

May all those suffering know your grace in all of the complicated areas of our lives. Give us the courage and wisdom to know how to be honest and open with each other, speaking about things that matter to us. May we also listen well, encourage each other and to be a strong community to each other.

Knowing that you hear all of our requests, we pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Difficult conversations

Conversations that matter are often difficult. Stone, Patton, and Heen do a good job of explaining what makes a conversation difficult:

“Anytime we feel vulnerable or our self-esteem is implicated, when the issues at stake are important and the outcome uncertain, when we care deeply about what is being discussed or about the people with whom we are discussing it, there is potential for us to experience the conversation as difficult.” Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen, Difficult Conversations, xv.

By God’s grace, however, we can learn to have those difficult conversations through learning from the wisdom of others (like the authors of this book).

Pastor’s Update

The following is the pastor’s report from the December 2018 newsletter

Looking back over the past semester, I’m deeply thankful for the insightful conversations about the Bible and other spiritual topics we’ve had at our studies and pub theology. Although numbers have been a bit low (about 20 people), I’ve been thankful for the relationships I’ve developed with those who come regularly. We’ve all grown deeper in understanding how we might serve God faithfully now and in the future, both in our disciplines and our lives.

I’m also excited that we’ve tried a couple of new initiatives this semester: first, we hosted Wine Before Breakfast, a brief service of communion at 7:33 on Wednesday mornings for most of October and November. We joined with University Lutheran Campus Ministry, and hopefully we’ll be able to do something similar together during Lent (albeit a bit later in the day)! I’ve also been able to participate in (and co-organize) a prayer group for faculty and staff. It’s been encouraging that there are regularly 10+ people there who clearly care about students, the university, and are following God faithfully. I was encouraged by our recent conversation about how to show compassion to students, especially when so many people are absurdly busy, many struggle with mental health issues, and the university focuses more on rules than on grace. Yet, all of us want to be seen and heard, whether student, staff, or faculty. Compassion can be shown in different ways: a gracious email after a bad grade, being present before or after class for extra questions (or with colleagues), an offer to pray for students (right now!), or simply listening to someone’s story in order to understand the need and together find resolutions that are compassionate and good.

Thank you for all your support of what we do, especially your prayers for the students and faculty. Pray especially that people who are struggling with faith would find Campus Edge.
– Brenda Kronemeijer-Heyink, Campus Pastor

 

December report from the CEF Board

Taken from the December 2018 newsletter: a bit late, but still relevant.

Dear Friends,
December is a busy time for the graduate and professional students of MSU, whether they are preparing for final exams, getting ready to defend theses or dissertations, or just pushing forward day after day on their research. And in the background, the decorations and celebrations associated with the Christmas season multiply. No doubt some students regard Christmas as do we on the Campus Edge Board – a time to remember with joy God’s great gift of love, His coming to live among us. And they wish they had a better understanding of God, and of the meaning and implications of His actions. Others are not so sure that the events we celebrate at Christmas really happened as we think they did or mean what we think they mean. We are grateful that Brenda has made Campus Edge Fellowship a place where both types of students can feel welcome and can take a break among friends from the demands of their disciplinary studies to talk about the spiritual questions that they sometimes find creeping into their minds.

It has been an interesting semester at Campus Edge, with Bible studies on the parables of Jesus and Pub Theology discussions on a variety of intriguing topics. There was also the annual trip to Art Prize in Grand Rapids, and the annual Halloween party. And for part of the semester, Campus Edge hosted an early morning, on campus, outdoor Communion service.

Earlier this month, the Board organized a “Farm to Pizza” fund raiser, for which one of our Board members (Dirk Oudman) and his wife Kjersten (a Campus Edge Alumna), put their knowledge of local agriculture and their cooking skills to work to prepare pizzas using locally grown ingredients. The event was a big success, and we are grateful to those who showed up to support Campus Edge by collectively consuming over 40 of Dirk and Kjersten’s unique and freshly made pizzas. Campus Edge depends on fundraisers like this to help support and expand its mission to the MSU campus. Other ways of supporting the mission can be found on our website (https://campusedgemsu.com/donate/). I ask you to prayerfully consider giving to Campus Edge in the coming year and wish you a joyous Christmas season.
– Jeff Biddle, Campus Edge Fellowship Board President

Time to reflect

In the short break between semesters, and as we enter into a new year, I encourage you to reflect on what it might look like to live more fully trusting in God’s abundance in our lives. This includes wondering what seasons it might be appropriate to work “too much,” while also challenging the length of those seasons and even the unspoken assumption that grad school (or academia) implicitly involves always working too much.

Heather Walker Peterson wrote a helpful reflection questioning what assumptions we make when we work all the time:

I’ve come to believe that when I had lived attempting to do all things well, ironically I was treating God as a God of scarcity instead of a God of abundance. By not following God’s command to rest, I was like the children of Israel trying to collect manna on the Sabbath when I needed to have gathered a little extra the day before. If God is a God of scarcity, I am required to do more and do it well for him (and me) to look good, but if he’s a God of abundance, then I must trust that I can take risks, listen for discernment, and focus on what I discern as the most important.

What might it look like to live into God’s abundance this coming semester/year?

Advent mourning for Michigan State

Near the end of the fall semester at MSU, news has come out about how Michigan State handled allegations of abuse. Sadness and anger seem to be the only appropriate response to the news: how can our world be so broken? Why did so many people not listen well when informed of problems? Why did people not want to listen? Why was MSU’s reputation more important than the well-being of those (potentially) hurt?

As we have been remembering all through Advent, the world is not how it ought to be. This is why we desperately need a Savior – this is why Christ came to earth in the first place and why we need to continue to long for Christ to come again: so that all things might be made well (including judgment on those who have harmed others).

Please pray. Pray prayers of lament for all that has gone wrong; prayers of lament and healing for all those hurt and still hurting. Yet pray also that God will work in the midst of these revelations to bring about change and that Michigan State might become more of a place where people listen to those who are hurting and advocate for justice and good.

End of semester compassion fatigue

As the semester ends, your prayers for those (still) grading are requested. Having compassion for students, while also being fair and gracious and challenging students to be responsible and held appropriately accountable, takes a lot of wisdom and strength.

The Well recently highlighted an article that presents the challenge of end of semester compassion fatigue:

It’s the second-to-last week of the semester, which for many professors is the most intense stretch in the academic term. . . Almost exactly one year ago, while trudging through the very same sense of exhaustion, I found strange encouragement when I happened upon two articles acknowledging the existence of this experience for faculty. One piece appearing in Inside Higher Ed includes boundary-setting advice from a former faculty member who admits to having struggled between feeling “like I wanted to be the professor” and caring “so deeply about my students that I wanted all of them to feel seen, heard, and supported in their growth.”

In a related Chronicle of Higher Education piece, an anonymous faculty member details how students’ and colleagues’ appreciation of her willingness to listen often results in expenditures of her time and energy that go unnoticed by her institution. . . The author is quick, though, to emphasize the very problem I felt as my tired eyes read her words: “Listening, empathizing, problem solving, and resource finding take an enormous amount of time and energy.” And, as I seem to re-learn every year, the intense exhaustion many faculty feel is more than physical — it’s emotional, mental, and even spiritual. It’s compassion fatigue. . .

Songs of Joy and Lament (3)

The following is a continued reflection on songs used in worship by the handbell choir directed by Mitchell (Campus Edge’s Emerging Leader).

I Wonder as I Wander (follow link to listen)

Our December piece – “I Wonder as I Wander” – is, to me, a quintessential Advent hymn and perhaps the most contemplative of all the music in this series. The plaintive song starts with the nature of Jesus’s death in the first stanza before moving to Jesus’s birth in second stanza. All three verses contemplate Jesus’s humble and sacrificial nature:

I wonder as I wander, out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor ord’n’ry people like you and like I.
I wonder as I wander, out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus, all in a cow’s stall,
Came wise men and farmers and shepherds and all,
And high from the heavens a star’s light did fall;
The promise of the ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing,
He surely could have had it, ’cause he was the king.

What words stick out to you? One of my favorites is “the promise of the ages it then did recall,” indicating that this long-prophesied Messiah has finally arrived as indicated by the light of God in the star of the magi. The cosmic truth of this line comes amid the dirty, stinky and inconvenient realty that Jesus was born in a stable. (Compare this with “It Came Upon the midnight Clear”, which says there “shall come the time foretold when peace shall over all the earth, and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.”)

Like “Wayfaring Stranger” this piece is from Appalachia. The tune and the text were assembled by American folklorist John Jacob Niles in 1933 after he heard it being sung at a revival meeting. In his autobiography he writes

A girl had stepped out to the edge of the little platform attached to the automobile. She began to sing. Her clothes were unbelievable dirty and ragged, and she, too, was unwashed. Her ash-blond hair hung down in long skeins. … But, best of all, she was beautiful, and in her untutored way, she could sing. She smiled as she sang, smiled rather sadly, and sang only a single line of a song.

The story goes that Niles had to keep paying the girl for each additional line of the song. Like me meditating on the words, I can only think the Niles was transfixed by this sight and the almost mystical words he was hearing. What sort of scene does this song conjure up for you?

New and Old Stories
These are only some of the things that could be said about these pieces. There are also the wonderful ways in which each arranger captures the music for handbells and the contributions of the composers who devised each melody. Even so, I hope that my reflections on the music will help more fuller appreciation of the music shared above.

– Mitchell Eithun, Ringers of the Kirk, Director

Songs of Joy and Lament (2)

The following is a continued reflection on songs used in worship by the handbell choir directed by Mitchell (Campus Edge’s Emerging Leader).

Pie Jesu (follow link to listen)
The words of the Kyrie, a part of the mass from the ancient Church are “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” The basic liturgical formula used today by Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans was standardized some time before 1000 C.E. Some of the key parts are the Kyrie, Alleluia, Sanctus and Angus Dei. The Angus Dei is a prayer for penitence (“Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.”) It is these words that Andrew Lloyd Weber uses for the basis of “Pie Jesu” in his Requiem:

Merciful Jesus, who takes away the sins of the world, give them rest.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, give them rest. Everlasting rest.

Weber also uses the ending words of the Dies irae, a text used for the ancient requiem mass: “Merciful Lord Jesus, grant them rest. Amen.” Together these words are a powerful reminder of our bleak mortality, but also God’s ability to forgive.The text with Weber’s music is a beautiful song of lament and resolve.

Timbrel and Dance (follow link to listen)
Aside from “Pie Jesu”, in October we also shared joy with “Timbrel and Dance”, an original piece for handbells. The phrase “timbrel and dance” comes from Psalm 150, which offers wonderful insights for church musicians. I particularly enjoy the KJV version of the text. (The world timbrel means “tambourine”).

Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high-sounding cymbals. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.

The driving rhythms, and joyful energy in the piece shout “Praise ye the Lord!” I picked this piece because I remember hearing it played by the youth handbell ensemble when I was young, and it always made me feel excited.

I’m Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger (follow link to listen)
In November, we played “I’m Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger”, a piece of American folk music probably first sung in Appalachia in the early 1800s. Little is known about the song’s origins, but the hardship expressed in the song could reflect any number of antebellum issues including famine, hardship and immigration. The song has probably persisted because of the universality of the lyrics. Consider the first verse:

I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger,
I’m trav’ling through this world below;
There is no sickness, toil, nor danger,
In that bright world to which I go.
I’m going there to see my father,
I’m going there no more to roam;
I’m just a going over Jordan,
I’m just a going over home.

The journey of the wayfaring stranger could be a life of physical hardship or a spiritual lament yearning for the presence of God. What do the words mean to you? 

– Mitchell