Laboring on Labor Day

As crazy as this may sound, the title of this post is indeed true; Yale Divinity School, it seems, stops for very few men, and CERTAINLY doesn’t stop for any Federal holidays like Labor Day (although all the staff at YDS did take the day off, the faculty and students showed up, and continue to show up all day long).  That said, today was actually an excellent day, with several instances worth mentioning, and of course the requisite small photograph gallery (again taken with my phone, so I apologize for the lower quality of photos than I’d really prefer).

A Labor Day spent Laboring

The best part of the day thus far was the chapel service, which was tailored around the concept of it being Labor Day, and religious notions of resting and working, the Sabbath, and the like.  The overall service was good, but one part in particular really resonated with me, and I would like to reproduce it here.  A lot of Christian aims have to do with the cyclical nature of life, and in particular the duality of people who are doing well, and those who are suffering, often summed up with the expression “feast or famine.”  The closing hymn for today is one I had never heard, and so I am reproducing the lyrics here, as it does such an excellent job of covering people with a feast or famine of work, and all the possible spots in between.  Not least of all, this really touched me as today was the first day of the first full week of my time laboring at the div school, and also because I am waiting to hear about a part time job I interviewed for, so a meditative consideration of work and rest did me a lot of good this morning.  Being only partially facetious here, its almost like the placement of chapel at 10:30am between classes was intentional (and is such a great break between lectures).

“God, Bless the Work Your People Do”, lyrics by stanza

1) God, bless the work your people do throughout each working day, The contributions that they make the talents they display.  God, bless the work your people do, with minds and hands and hearts, To benefit the common good, the sciences and arts.

2) For all who have no respite, God, from labor without ease, For those for whom their work is filled with danger or disease.  For all who labor without gain, or have no rest this day, For all who labor without hope, O God we humbly pray.

3) We pray for those who cannot work, or seek for work in vain, Great God, we pray your mercy shall encourage them again! We pray for those whose work is hard, on body, spirit, soul, The underpaid, underemployed, who fill a vital role.

4) Grant unto each a day designed for worship, joy and rest; A Sabbath time of holiness, in which they may be blessed.  As you achieved creation’s work, then rested from your task, God bless the work your people do, and call it good, we ask!

Systematic theology: meeting Professor Volf

I mentioned Professor Miroslav Volf in my previous post here, as the other professor of my Systematics class, but now that I have had him, I would like to quickly speak to his excellent teaching and method of running the lecture.  As I mentioned previously, he is world-renowned for his teaching, and having sat in on his class, it is for good reason; today’s lecture was a seamless blend of history, theology, and hermeneutics, punctuated with just the right blend of anecdotes and jokes to make for a delightful experience.  The best part, however, was how he opened today’s class and will be opening them in the future: he picks a prayer which was meaningful to one of  the major thinkers we read for the day, and then leads the class in said prayer.  Today we talked a fair amount about Aquinas, and so we opened with Aquinas’ somewhat well-known “Prayer Before Study,” which I will also reproduce here (as taken from here):

Ineffable Creator…
You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.

Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.

You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
Refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
the goodness of Your blessing.

Grant to me keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.

May You guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.

You Who are true God and true Man,
Who live and reign,
world without end.

Good stuff.  Words worth pondering as my semester goes on and I enter midterm and final territory; I can already imagine that I will have at least one study guide that, upon my reading it, I can only respond with “God, help me, who was born into sin AND ignorance” after not having read in enough detail or the like.

First class of Pastoral Care & Addiction

Finally, we come to the one remaining unknown (a “known unknown,” if you will) in my schedule during the first week; my only skills-based course in a veritable forest of theological ground-pounding, Pastoral Care & Addiction.  In short, this class is the only one this semester not in the Niebuhr lecture hall (pictured below), and is actually around 20 students, so my smallest setting for learning.  It is also taught by Professor Jan Holton, whose work is predominantly in the value of theological approaches to helping war refugees deal with suffering and grief, which is an interesting angle to be approaching this course from, in my opinion.  Since I only have the class one night per week, it is a 3 hour long experience, but I am very happy to report that if tonight’s lively and engaging discussion was any indication, the course will likely fly by as the semester goes on.  I am excited about this course, and everyone else in the room seems to be coming from the same point of view.  More on this course as it develops!

Photos: Yale’s Commons dining hall, the H. Richard Neibuhr Lecture hall where most of my classes occur, a model of Chartres Cathedral from the Institute of Sacred Music

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