September 25, 2009
A silent group of scholars exits a candle-lit chapel in the Texas countryside. The darkness wraps around them as they leave the flickering light, and meditatively they fan out, some alone and some in small groups. Feet crunching on the gravel road, a few walk through Moon River Ranch's arched entryway, following the road a short distance as it winds through the darkened fields. After passing under the arch, they pause, faces lifted and breathless with wonder. Thousands upon thousands of glittering stars fill the sky, awakening a fresh awe in their viewers. A hymn, recalled from Compline, drifts through the otherwise silent night: "Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures, here below..."
Offering praise to the Creator, humbling hearts in awe of creation, uniting voices in soft harmony: this one moment captures the heart a Christian Scholar. Yet Christian scholars must still face the challenging reality of surviving in the secular academy. The Crane Scholars Retreat took one weekend in March to provide "Advice to Young Christian Scholars," advice that would challenge them to live and work as Christians while being faithful to their calling as a scholar. Christ's Great Commission charges all believers to go and make disciples; the Crane Scholars Retreat equipped students to fulfill this commission in their own spheres of influence. As Dr. Alden Smith noted in his talk on leaving a legacy, the Christian scholar has a mission to engage, not to shun, the secular academy.
Stimulating speakers, all examples of excellent Christian scholars, drew from their own experience to offer advice on just how Christian scholars can accomplish their mission. Dr. Jennifer Hart Weed, assistant professor of Philosophy at the University of New Brunswick, encouraged the Cranes to remain in good Christian community. Senior Crane Scholar Brock Scheller, after hearing Dr. John O'Callaghan's presentation, realized "that the academic life for all its challenges has intrinsic rewards and, in a way, ought to be pursued for its own sake, its 'uselessness,' because such ends are the highest ends and most successfully reflect the goodness and love of God." Dr. O'Callaghan warned Cranes against what Scheller called "the empty rhetoric of practicality." Dr. Alden Smith, professor of Classics at Baylor University, as mentioned earlier, spoke on leaving a legacy.
Beyond participating in intellectually stimulating discussions and lectures, the Crane Scholars enjoyed each other's company and Moon River Ranch's delightful amenities. Whether roasting marshmallows around an open fire, tossing around a Frisbee, walking to the Brazos River through scenic pastureland, or gathering around the Ranch's piano, the scholars had many opportunities for fellowship. Everyone even enjoyed a musical rendition of Oedipus Rex, thanks to a talented bunch of sophomores.
The Crane Scholars Retreat provided scholars with a beautiful, peaceful setting in which to wrestle with real challenges they will face as they continue in the academy, both as a graduate student and as a professor. Refreshing, community-building, and inspiring, the retreat was the highlight of the year for many Cranes. Having a moment to reflect, in the still quiet of a candle-lit chapel or in cool air under breath-taking stars, Crane Scholars were re-envisioned to live out their calling while remaining faithful to the charge of their Savior.
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