Monday, August 29, 2005

Embracing a Sense of Place

Learning to be at home in any one place has been quite difficult for me. Perhaps it is a vestige from all of those growing-up years when we would move every year or two (a practice based on the old Methodist routine of circuit-riding preachers). Given such a reality, one develops a proclivity to avoid attachments to a particular set of people or geographical markers. As a result, I have always held relationships loosely and been somewhat afraid about becoming too "attached" to any one place.

But the biblical view challenges such a nonchalant approach. As Eugene Peterson says, "Our Scriptures that bring us the story of salvation ground us unrelentingly in place," (Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, 74). From the desire to dwell in "the land of milk and honey," to the longing by the exiles for Jerusalem, the Bible maintains a thorough grounding in particular places as sacred ground.

After 14 years on the road following graduation at Greenville (in Princeton, London, Stillwater, and Toronto), my family and I returned to this little village where my wife and I first met and fell in love. For twelve years now, I have been pouring my energies into this particular place--longer than I've ever lived in any one place. From the steps of Hogue Hall to the weather-stained monuments against the dawn morning in Montrose cemetery, this place has become a part of me. Christian faith has become grounded, in my mind, in particular people and places.

The life of faith is never something that is ethereal and confined to "ivory towers." As Peterson goes on to say, "God's great love and purposes for us are all worked out in messes in our kitchens and backyards, in storms and sins, blue skies, the daily work and dreams of our common lives. God works with us as we are and not as we should be or think we should be. God deals with us where we are and not where we would like to be," (75).

So, here I am, Lord, in this particular place at this particular time. Help me to embrace all these new faces around me and acquaint them with the story of your activity at this institution over the last 150 years. May their stories be added to ours to form one long tapestry of hope and grace in this particular plot of sacred ground.