Monday, March 26, 2018

God in the Checkout Line

ESR MDiv student Keelin Anderson prepared the following essay for the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference  coming up June 6-10, 2018, in Canby Grove, Oregon: 





            I am currently staying for a few months in a small town called Richmond in rural Indiana. Unlike my neighborhood in Portland, OR, there is no Whole Foods here, no organic kale, no unbleached toilet paper, no vegan deli, and few who could afford these things if they were available. The local grocery store does a find job, but they do not have the staff to rush to open a new cash register when the line gets longer than two customers.
            I was recently approaching the check-out area at a time when there was one register available with a line of six to eight folks waiting. Just as I arrived, a store employee opened the express lane where I was standing. I looked over to the long line to see who was next and waved that gentleman through in front of me. He signed thank you (one of the few signs I know) and went ahead with his cart. I wondered if he was hearing impaired. He was stooped over, weathered. The next man in line came over but waved me in ahead of him, indicating that I only had one item.
            The cashier checked and bagged the first man’s items. She asked him if he had their loyalty card. He was slowly getting out his payment card, concentrating on the debit machine. He did not react to her. I mentioned that he may be hearing impaired. She asked a few more times more loudly, then stopped. He took a long time to manage the payment machine. He brought his face close to read the screen. I glanced at the people in line behind me. Their faces looked resigned.
            I felt grateful that I was not in a hurry. I felt an opening and outpouring from my heart for this man as a fellow human being. This was not so much a mental activity as a complete body feeling. I felt tenderness for how all of us are shuffling along here, getting in each other’s way, living our lives the best we can with our physical limitations, life conditions, injustices. I felt grateful that I was personally in a mental, physical, and emotional moment where joy and patience were available to me. I felt grateful to God for this moment of awareness and opening.
            The man finally finished his payment and moved his bags to his cart. I felt the release of tension in the folks around me. He went to move on then paused, reaching for his pocket. He pulled out an empty pack of cigarettes. He pointed to it, looking at the cashier. Her expression was helpful, attentive. I felt she was doing well to try to attend him though she had other customers waiting. They both proceeded together to the wall where the cigarettes were apparently stored in a locked case. When they came back to their respective places, the cashier held up three types of the same brand, asking with her movements which type he wanted. He pointed and impatiently gestured with two fingers for two. The cashier went back to the wall to the locked case. Gently amused, I wondered if we were going to do the long debit machine thing again.
            At that moment the man turned to me with a look of irritation, rolling his eyes clearly as if to say that the service here was terrible, as if the delay and the communication problems were all the clerk’s fault. I felt my defenses momentarily shift into place and my heart start to close against this man where a moment before I had felt open and joyful. I got a glimpse of his personality and I did not like him. I wanted to side with the clerk. This man did not deserve my love and generosity of heart. He was further delaying us all for his nicotine habit.
            Right then I had another opening. God asked me what it would be like to be this man in the world. How would I feel to speak a different language than what most others around me speak: to have to take extra time to communicate with everyone; to negotiate public places not set up in my language; to feel other’s embarrassment and irritation; to feel the shame of being different than what our society constructs as normal; to be judged for being poor, a smoker, disabled, slow. Would I not have defenses?
            And were not my own small fears of being hurt by this man’s attitude triggering my own defenses in this moment? I was judging him to protect myself. I felt a wave of forgiveness for both of us together, myself for judging him, and him for his attitude. Again I felt the opening of Christ’s tenderness for us ordinary human beings. My heart opened again in empathy and joy with this man as I (with some small relief) saw him take out cash for his cigarettes. We both had defenses in action to cover our fear of being hurt. We were both actively working to escape the shame of having our tender real selves exposed to the public. We were both being human and we were both held in the awe-full compassion of Jesus Christ.
            George Fox asks us in a 1656 letter from prison to “Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.”
            This story illustrates what this quote means to me at this time. It is my commitment as a Quaker to do all I can in my own awareness to be available to the openings of God. This means I am available to Christ making me a pattern and example of God’s Grace in the world such that my “carriage,” how I carry myself, reflects Christ’s compassion and forgiveness. This means that I realize as much as possible that I am a fallible human being like everyone else. And, that I forgive myself with God’s Grace for my moments of cowardice and failing as I forgive others for theirs. In radical compassion and forgiveness for self and others, with my eyes on God, I am able to “walk cheerfully” because when all my little resentments and discomforts, not to mention my big pain and sorrows, are held in love, what is left is a joy in which to hold others.

Keelin Anderson joined ESR as an MDiv Access student in the spring of 2016. She is spending the spring 2018 semester on campus as a residential student. Keelin lives in Portland, OR, where she attends Multnomah Monthly Meeting (North Pacific Yearly Meeting). She holds a BA from Reed College and a BS from Oregon Health Sciences University. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Practicing Mysticism in the World

ESR Board of Advisors Clerk Dwight L. Wilson delivered the following message during ESR worship on Thursday, March 22, 2018:
Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, Robert Walter Weir

Jesus was my first hero. I expect him to also be my last. One of my favorite stories is of him in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, "If it's possible, remove this cup." We don't read the answer; it is implied. This is almost universally true in the Gospels. Jesus prays. By his actions we learn the answer.
I write modern psalms directed to the Holy One. I am a mystic who, like Jesus, receives my answers in organic surround sound. From the Spiritual Source I act out my response. This has been true since in nearby Middletown, Ohio I became both the first conscientious objector I had ever met and the first black protester I knew to take complaining to the streets. From the activation of spirituality I am happy to say I have photos of my three young grandchildren demonstrating separately at multiple sights in California and Kansas. One person is an aberration. A second generation is a trend. A third generation is a family tradition. As Jesus' brother said, "Faith without works is dead."
Jesus was an itinerant common-unity mystic, not a cave-dwelling mystic or lounge chair memorizer of memories. He also did not confine himself to contemplating other people's ideas. Continuing revelation, a cornerstone of those who are convinced God is neither dead nor retired behind the clouds, says even in these dark ages you and I have direct access to the Holy One.
My goal also is to be in constant contact with the Holy Spirit while always moving. I am nobody's savior, but I am a person who wants to honor my uniqueness: black and Quaker. That it includes a great deal of reading and researching from various sources is a part of who I am. In meeting for worship or hospitals, living or board rooms, police or corporate offices, The Spirit is always waiting for you and me. I try to increase the times I arrive in a timely fashion.
Tuesday I spoke of my work holding cardiac babies for the past 7 years each Monday in Mott Children's Hospital. This practice starts my week because babies come directly from the Holy One and remind me of my former purity. They have no artifice. Although many have had operations even before birth and nearly all have had at least one open heart surgery, their courage is boundless. Their living witness and sometime death--we lose about 30 a year-- sets my week's tone. Also in most weeks, I'm going to:
1. write historical fiction about the antebellum period in the United States, insuring in my series "Esi Was My Mother," or my short story book, "Kidnapped," that the African-American voice is heard about life both in the south and the north where racism was nearly as codified. Whether millions read it is not the point. My job is merely to make it available.
2. work on my manuscript "Whispering to Babies," insuring that one day others may read how to soothe babies and calm their own bombarded souls.
3. use Facebook to correspond--beyond likes--with more than 1200 friends. I reach out and touch each "friend" at least 3 times a year. Almost 300 I do so at least once a month. My wife says I'm pastoring. Since I help them through job loss, relationship breakups, death and dying and actively mentor 15 from California to Europe and Australia who am I to disagree?
4. serve as an Ann Arbor Human Rights Commissioner, insuring that the rights of all people are respected.
5. work on police oversight, insuring through over 2000 volunteer hours in the past three years that all people, especially blacks and LGBTQ are protected from those who are licensed to take life and often exonerated of outright murder by Internal Affairs, grand juries, and the politicians to whom they report. With two cousins who have been killed by the police and two policeman nephews I bring a special perspective when I sit down with police chiefs, sheriffs, mayors, council members and ordinary people. As an aside, did you know although blacks are only about 13% of the population, 40% of the crimes blacks commit are against blacks? Did you also know that 40% of crimes whites commit are against blacks? Yes, all people need to know Black Lives Matter.
6. work with the Interfaith Roundtable, insuring that my non WASP neighbors are respected and welcomed into all spaces that are "The Lord's and the fullness thereof."
7. work with other members in our congregation who support our meetinghouse as a sanctuary, insuring that those targeted by ICE know victims not only have a friend in Jesus but also a friend in Friends.
8. Co-Chair a Wayne State Medical School study on anti-prostate cancer. I'm a 6 year survivor.
9. Facilitate an interfaith anti-racism group.
In some weeks I also work with the homeless and on gun control efforts.
I do all of these things as a Christian, following Jesus, the itinerant mystic who kept his ears open for the Holy Spirit's leadings. Sometimes I want to say, "If it's possible, remove this bitter cup. Nevertheless, thy will be done."
As did Jesus, my wife practices Judaism. Diane is an attorney with a 50-60 hour work week. Yet, as I did while a Headmaster, Dean and Executive Director she averages more than 8 hours of weekly community service. We may not pass the eye test: 6' tall and 5' tall; classified black and white; wearer of Buckeye gear and wearer of Wolverine gear--but we are an equally yoked spiritual couple of grandparents who do like the Doobie Brothers sang, "Take it to the streets."
Neither of us is a saint. Like my face, our souls have many freckles. We are servants who have a call to keep.
I close with Psalm 100 from my book, "Modern Psalms in Search of Peace and Justice."
PSALM 100
I am forever an initiate
being introduced
into Your special society.
Help me bear witness
as a man of courage,
following the lead
of the Master.
Thank You
for not hazing me
when I lose my way home.
Nothing stays the same as it was.
I have never been
in this present moment.
You have been and are everywhere.
Lead.
Make me the human
You intended.

From 2002 to 2009, Dwight Wilson was Head of Friends School in Detroit, a PK-8th grade Quaker school founded in 1965 and dedicated to “offering superior education to students of all races, religions and incomes.” Prior to his work at Friends School in Detroit, he served as executive director of Mariana Bracetti Academy in Philadelphia and as Dean of Students, Assistant Upper School Director, and Chair of the Social Studies Department at Moorestown Friends School. Early in his career, Dwight served as General Secretary and Executive Director of the Meetinghouse Fund at Friends General Conference. He is now retired and spends much of his time volunteering weekly for Mott Childrens Hospital, Meals on Wheels, S.O.S., where he tutors homeless children. In addition, he serves on the Boards of Interfaith Council for Peace Justice, SafeHouse (domestic abuse prevention) Center and the Earlham School of Religion. Several times a year he donates blood to the Red Cross and assists at Arbor House (for homeless families).

Wilson received his B.A. magna cum laude in history and sociology from Bowdoin College and a M.Div. degree in theology and counseling from Bangor Theological Seminary. He has been invited to the White House on three separate occasions, first by Lady Bird Johnson after being selected one of the top teenagers in America, a second time by Jimmy Carter after being named one of the most influential religious leaders in America by Christian Century magazine, and most recently at the request of the Bush administration to participate in a summit on inner-city children and faith-based schools.

Wilson currently attends the Ann Arbor Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends and attended Moorestown Meeting when he lived in South Jersey. A devoted Quaker, he has been deeply involved with Quaker organizations throughout his life, serving on the National Board of the American Friends Service Committee, chairing an advisory committee to the President of Haverford College, and serving as Trustee at numerous institutions over the years, including Friends World College and Rancocas Friend Academy, Medford Leas Retirement Center. Wilson has been an invited speaker at Yale University, Sidwell Friends School, the University of Virginia, Stanford University, Friends Central School, Guildford College, Brooklyn Friends School, and at conferences organized by the Friends Council on Education, the National Association for Independent Schools (NAIS), and the Independent School Association of the Central States (ISACS).

Monday, March 5, 2018

When God is calling

ESR MDiv student Keelin Anderson delivered the following message during ESR worship on Friday, March 2, 2018:

Luke 9: 1-6 NRSV

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.


Luke 9: 57-62 NRSVAs they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”






In our readings today, Jesus doesn’t pitch discipleship very well. He basically tells us that if you follow him you will be barefoot, hungry, homeless, and alienated from your family and your former way of life. So, I ask you, what are you all doing here contemplating seminary?

I joke here, but Jesus is saying his call is not an easy one. There will be people in your life who will not understand. There will be habits and assumptions of your own you will have to leave behind. God is calling for an ongoing radical transformation in your way of being in the world. Not everything and everyone in your life is going to come along with you.

Three years ago I was minding my own business, walking home from a yoga class in my neighborhood in Portland, OR, when an idea popped into my head. “Go find out what it takes to become a hospital chaplain,” it said. I had been a nurse and a massage therapist, so in a way this made sense, but I had never had a religion. I was raised by divorced parents, my mother a scientist and atheist, my father, a psychiatrist who during my teen years, lived in a cult that followed the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Religion at the least was suspect, at the most, dangerous.

I had come to my own sense of God in my late twenties through meditation, a practice I mostly did by myself. It had never occurred to me to do religion with other people. My sense of religious people came from American media. Throughout the world people were fighting wars in religion’s name. At home, “Christian family values” meant homophobia and misogyny. As far as I could see, religious people wanted either to control me or kill me. Now God wanted me to get an MDiv?

And here I am three years later giving a sermon! I have not made a dime since I began school. I have abandoned my husband and two cats alone at home in Portland for this Spring Term. I have discovered I am a Quaker. I am learning to appreciate that there is something to this “gathering together in Jesus’s name.” I feel more able than ever to express my true self and allow God to move through me, and, I have to work constantly on my faith and courage. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Jephthah’s daughter then and now

The other day, after grading a set of Intro to Old Testament Studies papers, I posted on Facebook, “It’s a good day when you learn new things about how to read well known texts from your students.” This post by ESR M.Div. Access student Nikki Holland is one of the papers I learned from. The assignment was to write about what you would say about one of the women from Joshua and Judges for an adult Bible Study group. Nikki chose to write on Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11:29-40). I invite you to read what Nikki’s response. I hope you find it as illuminating as I did.
 - Nancy R. Bowen (Professor of Old Testament)

From the surface, the story in Judges 11:29-40 seems foreign and weird to us. A man makes a foolish vow and keeps it, though it results in the death of his daughter; and what is maybe more astonishing, she participates. But with a close examination of this story, we can see several themes that echo through our lives today.


1)      Victim blaming
   Upon realizing that he has vowed to sacrifice his own daughter (hereafter called “Daughter”), Jephthah lays the blame immediately on her head. “You have brought me very low,” he says. “You have become the cause of great trouble to me” (Judges 11:35). He explains that he has made a vow, but the emphasis is on her culpability. Never mind that he made a foolish vow and she was simply fulfilling her role as a faithful daughter in celebrating his victory.[1] Jephthah deflects blame from himself onto Daughter. I hear echoes of his words in my own generation, “Look what you made me do…” and “Well, you shouldn’t have been in that place anyways."

2) Internalized misogyny
   Daughter’s response when she hears that her father has made a vow to kill her is, “Do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth.” She cares more about her father’s honor than her own life. Contrast this to Jonathan’s response to a similar vow made by Saul in 1 Sam 14:43. In the NRSV, Jonathan’s response is a statement, but in the CEB and most Spanish translations, it’s a question: “‘I only took a very small taste of honey on the end of my staff,’ he said. ‘And now I’m supposed to die?’” Jonathan has the self-assurance to protest Saul’s foolish vow (see 1 Sam 14:29-30), whereas Daughter understands herself to be her father’s, to do with what he will.
   We read this and we feel superior (we would fight – we would run away) – but how many of us have been violated and rather than protesting, have been more concerned about the feelings of the violator? How many of us have soothed his guilt or laughed it off so as not to appear rude? How many of us have chosen to be polite rather than fierce when our boundaries are crossed? How many of us have excused men’s exploitation of women by saying something like, “Oh men.” How many of us have let doctors do things to our bodies that we didn’t actually want done? And then thanked them for it? Like Daughter, we are still vulnerable to the belief that our bodies are here for other people to do with what they will.


3) Solidarity of women
   The one request Daughter makes for herself is that she and her friends be allowed to mourn her virginity for 2 months (Judges 14:37). After her death, “the daughters of Israel would go out to lament” Daughter (Judges 14:40). These women are linked in sorrow by their belief that nothing can be done for the women. They lament her fate. It is what it is, it’s horrible, but there’s nothing at all we can do about it. [2]  
   Each generation of feminists builds on the previous generations. I wonder if this lament is the very first women’s rights protest in western history. As we know, the first step to a solution is recognizing the problem. Although these women could not imagine a different world, they are recognizing and bringing attention to a problem – and that is Something.
   This story is a cautionary tale, from which we can learn to hold people in power accountable for their choices; to maintain a strong sense of self – and the awareness that our bodies are our own and no one may violate us with impunity; and to gather with other women in solidarity with the full knowledge in our hearts of a different world and the hope that we can change the injustice we see.


Nikki Holland lives in Merida, Mexico with her clan, including her husband Brian, their three boys, and their kitten Ellie. She enjoys meeting for worship in her sister’s house (and occasionally on the beach), and loves all that she’s learning as a seminarian at Earlham School of Religion. Click on the link to check out more of Nikki's writing on her blog: www.thebrokencurse.com.






[1] Karla G. Bohmbach, "Daughter of Jephthah." In Women in Scripture: A Dictionary of Named and Unnamed Women in the HebrewBible, the Apochryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, and the New Testament, ed. Carol Meyers, Toni Craven and Ross S Kraemer (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000), 8359.

[2] Again contrast the women’s response with the men’s response in Jonathan’s situation – in 1 Sam 14:45 – the men join in solidarity with Jonathan in opposition to Saul, confidently imagining a world in which Jonathan is not at the mercy of his father. And they succeed.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Preparing for war: Are we ready?

ESR Professor of Peace and Justice Studies Lonnie Valentine shares a reflection on the importance - and timeliness - of conscientious objection to war:

With the love of war growing strong, what will follow after the attack on Syria, the “Mother of All Bombs” dropped on Afghanistan, and now the threats directed at North Korea?  As with all previous war-making, this US administration sees how the people praise war.  Presidents going to war show strength. Is it so that every US President must have his own war?  Is our government now preparing to do what Mark Anthony exclaims in Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar: “Cry ‘Havoc’ and let slip the dogs of war” (Act 3, Scene 1)?  Unlike us, Mark Anthony was regretting that this would be the cry heard as the Roman Empire descended into civil war.  He says:

“Blood and destruction shall be so in use 
And dreadful objects so familiar 
That mothers shall but smile when they behold 
Their infants quarter'd (i.e. cut to pieces) with the hands of war.”

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra 

And so it came to pass that Mark Anthony entered the Roman civil war. However, he faced the one who would become Caesar Augustus. Anthony lost the war and fled to Egypt with his queen, Cleopatra. Reaching the shore, they committed suicide together.
                                                                      
Real child soldier, US Civil War
And so what of those of us who seek a better way?  Many young people have been drenched in war propaganda and think it could be grand.  My spouse, Genevieve, is the piano accompanist to a middle school choir. One girl was wearing a sash and Genevieve asked what it meant.  The girl replied, “I am a diplomat. I and the other diplomats will gather to make war.” With Genevieve's horror discussion ensued, but the young ones replied: “Peace is boring; war is fun.”




Of the many things that we can do to prepare for war, here is one option for consideration: Quakers and others seeking peace and pursing it need to teach our own young people about the option of conscientious objection to war.

Anyone is eligible to become a conscientious objector under current law. No specific religious affiliation is required and those with deeply held philosophical or moral objections as well as religious objectors can qualify. Therefore, all those who would be subject to a military draft can be informed about what conscientious objection is and how to establish their claim, if a draft were reinstated.

Yes, the military draft did end, but all the regulations were put in “deep stand-by” and not repealed.  This means that Congress could vote tomorrow to activate the draft.  Given the war that some in Congress are seeking to wage against Americans seeking health care, do you think they would hesitate to support war against those “foreigners” who may—or may not—be a threat to our way of life? Further, all the mechanisms for Selective Service, such as local draft boards, are in place to begin to draft.

And yes, currently, only young men are required to register for the draft, but the question of women being required to register for the draft has come up, so young women need to be informed. 

There are resources on line, such as the Center on Conscience and War at www.centeronconscience.org.





Also, I was a conscientious objector in the Vietnam war and trained as a draft counselor and happy to talk with anyone about this. I can be contacted via e-mail: valenlo@earlham.edu

Here are four initial steps that a young person could take now:

1. A young man turning 18 is required by law to register for the draft. If you know of a young person not yet registered for the draft, they can write on the registration form that they are a conscientious objector to all war.  They then copy that form, seal it in an envelope, and mail it to themselves and put it unopened with the post date in their brand new conscientious objector file. Also, those with religious affiliation could get their church or Meeting to minute that the young person has stated they are a CO.

Such actions establishes a clear date that a person is claiming to be a conscientious objector, which can be very important in a draft board’s consideration of a CO claim.

Some young people have chosen not to register, but there are consequences in terms of federal loans for college, and some states have automatic registration if you get a driver’s license or refuse to issue a license without proof of registration.  No one since the initial days of the draft registration being reintroduced by Jimmy Carter has been arrested, but understand the consequences. See “Should I Register?” at the Center on Conscience and War web site: www.centeronconscience.org/pubs/brochures/draft-information.html)

2. As a young person starts high school often their contact information will be turned over to military recruiters unless they submit an “opt out” form early saying they do not want to receive solicitations from military recruiters. Some schools have not been familiar with the opt out form, so it may take some work. Copying this form and putting that in your Constitution Objector file is more evidence for dating a claim before being subject to the draft.

3. Next get the  “Who Is a CO?” and “Registration and Basic Draft Information”  publications of the Center on Conscience and War:
The Quaker House in Fayatteville North Carolina has a video describing what needs to be done to establish a CO claim: http://quakerspeak.com/how-to-become-conscientious-objector/

4. In the “Registration and Basic Draft Information” publication there is a step-by-step outline that helps a young person start to think about their beliefs about war. This resource, “What Do I Believe About War?” will take you through the current form that would need to be completed and submitted to the local draft board, if a draft were re-instituted.  There the applicant must describe their beliefs and whether or not those beliefs would permit them to serve in the military, but as a noncombatant; they must describe how they acquired these beliefs; they must describe how your their beliefs affect the way they live and work they do.

In conclusion, it is very important of establishing a verifiable date that a young person is saying they are a CO and beginning the process of creating their own conscientious objector file. However, even if a draft does not come, the exercise of talking to our young men and women about conscientious objection is vital. In Quaker history we can see that young people were not often prepared for the fascination of war and the strong nationalistic urges for going to war.

As Trueblood Chair of Christian Thought, Lonnie is engaged in projects related to Quaker war tax resistance and process theology. He earned a B.A. from Raymond College, University of the Pacific in 1970; a B.A. from University of California at Irvine in 1975; an M.A. from Earlham School of Religion in 1983; and, a Ph.D. from Emory University in 1989. Lonnie joined the ESR faculty in 1989.

Monday, June 19, 2017

New student introduction: Mebin Mathew

We are excited to begin introducing to you some of our incoming students for the fall 2017-18 entering class. Our first introduction is from Mebin Mathew, who joins us as an MDiv Cooper Scholar from Bangalore, India. She shares some thoughts on coming to ESR below:



My full name is Mebin K. Mathew. I am basically from South India. Kerala is my home state but I was raised in Bangalore, India which is also called the Garden city of India. I speak four languages including my mother tongue. During my childhood days, I have also been in many North Indian States like Punjab, Bhutan, Delhi because my dad was working with the Indian Army. My mom was working as a nurse in military hospital. They both took voluntary retirement from their jobs and dedicated their lives for serving the Lord. My dad is a pastor and my dad and mom are working among the Indian unreached people group.

I did my basic schooling in one of the English medium schools in Bangalore and finished my Bachelor of Arts (B.A) specializing in Journalism, Psychology and English Literature. I got married to Binu B Peniel. My husband Binu just finished his Doctorate from United Theological Seminary specializing in Pastoral Care and  Counselling and his research was in Human Trafficking.

We are blessed with a daughter (Keren) who is 7 years old now. She brings so much of joy to our lives. Especially I just want to thank God for bringing us here in this wonderful country and to this great school. We truly believe Earlham School of Religion is a great opened door for us. I am so grateful to God for giving me this opportunity to study here and to answer God’s call upon my life.

I am looking forward to get to know each and everyone one of you in person. Really excited about it.

Thank you.
Blessings,
Mebin Mathew

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Reflections on a Sojourn in Switzerland: Time, Friendship, and Faith

In this reflection ESR MDiv student Anne M. Hutchinson shares about her recent visit to Switzerland: 
It’s hard to conceive of Switzerland without thinking of chalets, cheese, chocolate, cleanliness, and clocks. There are indeed chalets with their wide roofs and elaborate exterior wood carvings. However, La Chaux-de-Fonds, the town in which I stayed, is famous for its Art Nouveau architecture and design. Cheese was plentiful, and is essential for traditional dishes including raclette and fondue. Switzerland is a chocolate lover’s dream: grocery stores offered every kind and flavor of it. And then, cleanliness. An acquaintance once told me that her mother instructed her to clean the house as if Jesus were to visit. Whether the Swiss believed the same or not, homes were impeccably clean and tidy and subject to regular dusting and arranging. Messiness was simply unimaginable. If cleanliness is next to godliness, the Swiss meet the criteria.

And as for clocks: When I spent two weeks with a friend in that historic watchmaking town, it was well-nigh impossible to not be conscious of time. Clocks were everywhere, on public buildings, in the window displays of watch shops. The museum of horlogerie showcases a dazzling display of all kinds of timepieces: miniature painted pocket watches, an outdoor carillon clock, talking clocks, a Turk on a flying carpet clock, and numerous other timekeeping devices. Several of the large timepieces featured the figure of the Grim Reaper, a memento mori of the ephemeral nature of life. At one time, the three churches in the town center all rang their steeple bells on the hour and the quarter hours, but they did not ring in synchronicity. One church’s bells would stop only for the second to begin ringing, and the second barely ceased before the third began. It was a real challenge for anyone in the neighborhood around them to sleep amid that joyous cacophony.