I recently traveled to the ecumenical monastic community in Taize, France (called “Taize”) with LCM’s small student vision team. This community is fascinating for a number of reasons; it’s most known for it’s contemplative worship and music, and it’s also a point of pilgrimage for hundreds if not thousands of young adults across the world EACH week. Most interesting and inspiring to me, however, is its inception as a place of reconciliation –a community born in a call to respond to the Jewish refugee crisis in 1940 – and the way that community lives out it’s call to reconciliation now.
One of the ways the brothers of Taize support this ministry is by selling pottery. I purchased this beautiful blue chalice and paten (cup and plate) to be used for communion, and shared by LCM and the community of Grace University Lutheran Church (see above). All sorts of beautiful metaphors were stirring in my mind. And then, despite carrying it on, and lugging it on trains, buses and planes, on the way home it chipped. Which was deeply disappointing to me. After some thought, however, I decided to save the plate, and use it anyway.
What a more fitting tribute to our shared humanity, our brokenness as individuals, and the way we are gathered together as Christ’s body.
Our community at LCM has long prided itself as being a place of theological and political diversity, and this year we struggled with how to live that out. There was some discord, and some division, We are, as humans and human community, almost always in need of reconciliation. We own that.
And we also proclaim that it’s into those chipped vessels, those broken places, and those cracks that God’s light shines, with power and purpose.
The team of students that traveled to Taize was called by their peers to explore a Christian community different than our own. They were also charged with bringing back and integrating those learnings into our community. After we left Taize, we spent a good chunk of our (one!) day in Paris reflecting on our year as a community, and what we might bring back so that LCM can continue growing into a thriving, generative community that bears witness to God’s love on campus.
We talked for a long time about theological diversity, what it means to claim a particular theology and still make room for difference, how we’re all (as in ALL of us) still figuring out how to do that well, and how we can to that better in the coming year. Going into our broken places is hard, and without this trip, I doubt we would have had time and space for this conversation.
We don’t yet have the answers, but again, Taize may have something to teach us. When asked about their mission of reconciliation and how they live that out, Brother Emille said that they “trust, and pray.” While that honestly seemed to be a bit naïve to me at first, when faced with our own situation it seems like the best way to proceed; trusting in God and our community that we’ll work together to bind up the broken pieces, and rooting ourselves in prayer as our starting point. I pray that it’s as simple, and as complicated, and as deep as that.
In Anthem, Leonard Cohen croons,
“Ring the bell
that still can ring.
Your perfect offering.
There is a crack
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
This chip, this crack, in our paten/plate will continue to remind me of our time at Taize, and our striving to experience reconciliation. In the meantime, we also trust and pray that God shows up in our cracks, shining so much light and beauty and hope into our lives, into your lives, and into this world.
May it be so.
I’m away from the LCM community this semester, taking my adventures abroad to Hong Kong! I’m really enjoying my time here and I’m learning a lot about myself and what it’s like to be a Christian here. One of my highest priorities coming here was to find a Christian community that will help me grow in my relationship with God. Surprisingly, finding a Christian community is not the hard part- finding one in English is! There are at least 4 Christian groups at the university I am studying at, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). One Catholic, one for Mainland students in Mandarin, one for locals in Cantonese, and Campus Crusade for Christ (known as CCC here, Cru in the U.S.) which is mostly in Cantonese but has a 3-yr-old English sub-division called Agape. So I joined Agape! Agape has about half local students, half international students, many of whom are exchange students from the U.S.
The most striking thing about Christians here is their commitment to their faith. They are very willing to share their faith with others, which is much needed at HKUST. Students at HKUST often get caught up pursuing grades and GPA and success at whatever cost. Many base their lives around their ability to perform on tests. This manifests itself in a high suicide rate which just breaks my heart. Students here are so smart and have so many wonderful opportunites, but aren’t given the support that they need due to the culture that places so much weight on certain ideas of success. I aim to learn from my friends in Agape how to spread God’s love at HKUST and to inspire others to work for a higher purpose.
I also joined a fellowship group (not related to HKUST) for undergraduates and recently-graduated young adults. Last night, the topic of our discussion was the Occupy Central and Student Protests that have been taking place over the last 2 weeks. The movement started with student boycott of classes at the major universities in HK to protest a recent ruling by the CCP regarding the election process of HK’s chief executive. My university participated in the boycott, but had lower participation rates than other universities. Last Friday, protests escalated when police used pepper spray to try to dissolve a protest. In response, the Occupy Central pro-democracy group and many other citizens joined the students. The protests continued for a few more days, but have since lessened with the promise of talks between HK’s current chief executive, CY Leung, and the student groups. Until last night, when it re-escalated as pro-Beijing citizens, fed up with the pro-democracy protests, violently attacked protesters still assembled at one of the sites. Now, I’m avoiding those areas and waiting for what is next.
Our discussion was about whether it is right, as Christians, to participate in the protests and Occupy Central movement. It was an interesting discussion, as the fellowship members were a diverse group all with varying backgrounds: local students, international students, exchange students and expats here for work. Some supported the pro-democracy protests, some didn’t, and some (like me) felt they didn’t have a say in the matter. But what we concluded was that we must proceed by what we feel is right. As Christians, we are supposed to obey the laws, except in cases of injustice (Isaiah 1:17). If HKers feel the law is unjust, and many do, then it is okay to participate in peaceful protest. One thing we all absolutely agreed on was that the protest must remain peaceful. We concluded by praying for all parties involved and that a peaceful solution can be found.
Finally, I just wanted to let you all know that I am safe and far away from the affected areas. Hong Kong is usually a very safe and peaceful place and it makes me sad to see violence here. I feel like this is my second (third? fourth? I’ve lost track) home!
The last semester of senior year is, to no one’s surprise, a stressful time. Not only are you juggling school, work and clubs, but also trying to figure out your next steps in life. Finding a job, figuring out your place in the world, it is all very stressful stuff! As I am currently in the midst of sending out applications and putting my next year into focus, I have found the beauty of tea breaks.
Having taken a number of tea breaks in my time abroad, I have tried to maintain that moment of breathing. There is something wonderful about realizing you are tired and doing something about it. My days have become long and busy, but realizing that I can and should take 15 minutes to just sip a cup of tea has been a joy. God has a way of making us realize our own limits and God also has a way of giving us small joys in times of chaos. So even when I feel like life full and my “to do” list is too long, I have found joy in my moments of pause. I truly know that God is with us through everything but it can be hard to notice God’s presence if we don’t take a moment to stop. To stop and breath. To stop and sit, To stop and drink a hot cup of tea.