Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Reviewing Calvin while viewing ancient pyramids

The seminary held a weekend retreat Sept. 21 to 24th for all of its undergraduate students and I was invited along with the graduate studies students I work with. Someone was available to translate for those of us who spoke no Arabic. The undergraduate program is in Arabic, since pastoral ministry will be conducted in that common language. English is also encouraged and tutoring is provided so that students can read from the English language resources in the library and some of them can be prepared for graduate studies in the program I oversee and to attend other learning institutions in the U.S. for advanced degrees. (More about that next time when I describe my work in more detail).

We were at a hotel/retreat center when what should appear out of the midst while a student was reviewing the "Institutes of the Christian Religion" by John Calvin but a view of the ancient pyramids of Giza. One of the purposes of the retreat was to connect this generation of students with the valuable resources of past generations. (but not that far back!) The presentations stressed the value of the French/Swiss reformer for ministry today, along with the study of scripture, done at the seminary in both Hebrew and Greek. Several students spoke about their summer experiences (a requirement) in parishes, retreat centers and institutions which care for the ill and people with addictions. Another purpose if the retreat was to build community and to welcome new students to this four year program toward ordination (the student body totals over 120). Although students may be married, the majority are encouraged to remain single until they have finished their studies. Reminded me of some of that history in the U.S.

I was asked to be one of the preachers and to base my sermon on the theme: Ephesians 4:13 (grow into) "unity of the faith, in knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, in maturity and into the full stature of Christ." I mentioned the struggle of people in El Salvador to forgive their enemies for their terrible crimes at time of war, but finally they were pray with such fervor "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us", that the image of the fulness of Christ would appear in the place of that of ones enemy. Our church has talked about how the struggles and the experiences of peoples of the lands to the south of Europe and the United States should be shared with others in that region of the globe, and I hope to contribute something of my experiences from El Salvador to encourage that dialogue to increase in future years. Some students expressed interest in this. I take my meals in the seminary dormitory and there have been requests for an English language table, and a chance to share informally as well as in the classroom. NEXT TIME: THE GRADUATE STUDIES PROGRAM.... Roger

No comments: