Letters to the College
Welcome from the Master
Brooks College proudly stands in a tradition stretching back to Western civilization's first universities.
My days as the master of the college will come to their conclusion at the end of the 2012-2013 academic year, bringing to a close six wonderful years of life for the Henry family within a collegiate community that we have come to cherish.
An Anniversary Gift
Today is an auspicious day, and I invite you to celebrate it and say a prayer of thanksgiving, if you will, for the occasion.
Making Good Use of the Day Alone
Our time apart from one another is essential for our time together. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose little book Life Together has much wisdom to offer, makes the point well in two terse cautions. "Whoever cannot be alone should beware of community," and "Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone."
As always, I invite you to help me lead us in a way that fulfills the best aspirations we can share for the college. I am thrilled to be among you--so much so that I want us to be better than we presently are. I hope that you share that hope and that you will do your part on behalf of it.
The Root of All Wisdom
I hope you are here because you know that the collegiate experience is not only about self-reliance and independence, but even more fundamentally about deep and abiding friendships that point us beyond ourselves and ultimately to the Lord that made us, loves us, and calls us heavenward. Evelyn Waugh has one of his characters observe that "to know and love one other human being is the root of all wisdom." May we show in abundance, this day, this week, this year, that we have some sense of the root of all wisdom precisely inasmuch as we truly know and love each other.
Thinking about WALL-E
Among Pixar's fascinating films in recent years, WALL-E not only stretches the bounds of what computer-aided animation can accomplish, it also raises provocative questions about human existence. For instance, how does one fall prey to the age-old vice of sloth? The passengers of the Axiom succumbed to the expansive and life-destroying vice of acedia, understood as the loss of aspiration for great things. How did they get to be in such a condition? What things did they do--or not do--that led to a lack-luster, mind-numbing, and risk-averse existence? What might we learn from the mistakes that the filmmaker attributes to them? And how might one resist or recover from the dangers of sloth?
Springtime brings to us gentler breezes along with its knee-shaking thunderstorms, of course, but beyond the change from wintry weather it is the unbidden profusion of renewed life that we cherish most in it. Doesn't the season of spring call forth our consent to be changed and renewed in our own lives as well? Yet while seeing all else around us made green, vivid, and warm may increase our longing to be remade, whether or not we are given the gift of new life depends on our openness to the means of grace that God offers to us.
Be ye therefore doers of the Word, and not hearers only
When you come up against the evils and tragedies of our world, as you ultimately cannot avoid doing, I hope that you will grieve, that you will pray, and that you will speak with directness, integrity, and reason insofar as you are able. Beyond that I also hope that you will respond as compassionately and helpfully as your circumstances allow, whatever that entails.
On Starting Over
In my more moderate times of reflection on the past semester, I recognize both accomplishments in which I have proper pride along with failures that I genuinely regret. A little self-critical consideration brings me to see plenty of ways in which I might have been a better teacher, scholar, friend, father, mentor, husband, and Christian. Such thoughts almost always cause me to look for an opportunity to make a fresh beginning, building on demonstrated strengths and remedying obvious deficiencies.
Morning and Evening Prayer in Brooks College
By showing up to pray we profess to one another and to the world--but even more so to the Lord whose glory we show--that we are not sufficient unto ourselves and that we trust God to supply, most evidently through Jesus Christ, what we lack.
Even though you are not living with the four walls of the college, you have a warm invitation to continue affiliating with the college and involving yourself in the life of the college.
Help, Companionship, and Community
By building and remembering experiences of shared life, we can learn and tell one another's stories. By learning and telling one another's stories, we can grow in trust of one another. As we give ourselves in confidence to each other, we can embrace the help and companionship of a purposeful and life-giving community, one in which mutual friendship delights and sustains us.
We are here to share life with you in a Christian intellectual community that is utterly serious about the life of the mind; unflinchingly prepared to ask hard questions of ourselves, others, and the world in which we live; and unqualifiedly committed to cherishing and honoring one another.