Friday, November 17, 2006

An Early Thanksgiving Celebration

One of the joys of this sabbatical has been the wonderful Benedictine hospitality which has pervaded the entire semester. This applies not just to the monastery itself, but especially to the School of Theology and, more particularly, my colleagues at the Ecumenical Institute. We all seem to gravitate towards regular cycles of food and laughter--perhaps to offset the intense experience of research and writing which makes up the majority of our time here.

Last night we were treated to a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner by the School of Theology, served up for us by the faculty members. When you are cooking for one, as many of us do, and time is of the essence, you usually don't spend much time on cuisine. The tables tended to be somewhat international. Ours had several folk from Australia, a New Zealander, and a Korean. Fr. Patrick Howell (the other "token male") sat at the head and kept the drinks moving around while the Australians carved up the turkey and distributed all the trimmings--dressing, corn, potatoes, squash, etc. We even had a choice of pecan or pumpkin pie to close out the repast.

Though the theology is different, the climate colder, and some of the regional and ecclesial assumptions different from mine, there has been an acceptance that has allowed me to let my guard down and enjoy the range of emotions--from tears at prayer to laughter at table. Reading through Gordon Lathrop's new book, The Pastor, I have been reminded how important the table is to the Christian community and the sense of hospitality that we establish around it. In the midst of all of the tribal warfare in American politics--even ecclesial politics--my faith has been renewed in this place, largely because others have made room at the table for this guy from a small rather sectarian Wesleyan background. I never forget the humble roots from which I have sprung and give thanks, especially during this season, for the privilege to struggle and learn with Christian brothers and sisters from such different backgrounds than mine.