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"What Shall We Tell Them?"

December 2015

Advent and Christmas Greetings, Columbia Seminary alumni/ae and friends!

At 9:00 am on Monday, November 16, 2015 the staff and faculty of Columbia Seminary gathered in the Harrington Center chapel for its annual meeting. This was a first for our new President, Leanne Van Dyk, whose message to the seminary community was contained in a single word:    CHANGE! 

Acknowledging the evolving trends in the practice of theological education, she spoke of our need for innovation and renovation. For the sake of our future preparation of women and men for Christian ministry, mission strategies must be adapted to today’s fast-paced ever-changing world. President Van Dyk acknowledged the sense of loss, accompanying grief, and strong temptation to resistance that comes with change. She declared to us that success will come in our moving through this resistance while failure is virtually certain as we give into this temptation.

As we departed the meeting, my seminary co-worker acknowledged a question about what she had heard concerning the coming changes. Thinking it to be an inappropriate question to ask in the meeting, she nevertheless posed her inquiry to me. “What shall we tell them about all of this?” she asked. “What shall we say to our off-campus seminary constituents about the changes to come?” Could there be any more appropriate, relevant, or critical question for this or any community of faith seeking faithfully to navigate God’s changing world? What indeed shall we tell them?

In this season of Advent and Christmas, perhaps the most helpful response to our question is located within Luke’s birth narrative. The gospel writer declares that… shepherds were living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified (2:8-9). In response to their terror, an angelic message followed declaring these things about that which is coming:

     ...this change is not to be feared, but rather it is a source of wide-spread joy (vs.10);

     ...this adjustment is life-saving, marking the beginnings of new life (vs.11);

     ...this transformation will likely appear in unexpected, counter-intuitive, surprising 

         ways--like a King wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger (vs.12)!

With you I am delighted once again to hear and respond to the shepherds’ invitation….let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, about which the Lord has told us (vs.15). And then let’s go spread the word! If the message is good enough for the angels, the message is probably good enough for you and me. I suspect that you would agree!

Love, joy, peace, and hope to you and yours,

Randy Calvo ‘81