From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George

The Dean Recommends: A Baptist Pilgrim at a Benedictine Abbey

By Jack Hunter
October 12, 2015

Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the road, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16 (ESV)

It was pitch dark as I walked to Vigils at Buckfast Abbey Church on this cold, wet and windy October morning. As I passed beneath a tree, I heard and felt a sound like a giant rug was being shaken out above my head. I had startled an owl that, in turn, startled me.

Upon arriving at the medieval church, I discovered that the sanctuary was nearly as dark as the pre-dawn night. The monks were seated in opposing choir stalls where they sang and chanted the Psalms, the Holy Scriptures, and the prayers of the day. Their forms were faintly visible under the dim overhead reading lamps. Their melodic voices reverberated off the tall masonry walls and the mosaic tile floors, filling the sacred space with the sound of worship.

Our group of pilgrims had arrived the night before in time to attend Vespers at 6:30. Wanting to take-in the full rhythm of daily Benedictine worship, I attended Vigils this morning at 5:45, Lauds at 6:30, Morning Mass at 8:00, and Midday Prayers at 1:00. In order to share table fellowship with my fellows, I missed Vespers, but made Compline at 9:00 in the evening.

St. Benedict placed great importance on the communal observance of daily services—the Divine Order. He called it the work of God. He insisted that nothing must be put before it. Since its founding in 1018 A.D. during the Reign of Canute, the monks at Buckfast Abbey have organized their days around the routine of prayer, work, and study.

The monks see their monastic community as a vocation. It is their expression of Christian life in which commitment to Christ is commitment to others, through whom they enjoy the Lord’s presence and support. Read the rest at New Orleans Baptist Association.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Monday, October 12, 2015
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The Dean Recommends: Selma's faith community seeks racial healing

By Anna Keller
October 1, 2015

When Jerry Light moved to Selma to become pastor of First Baptist Church several years ago, he was surprised that only two African American churches identified as Southern Baptist.
"It bothered me because Baptists are always missions-minded -- both locally and abroad," Light said. "I know Selma has a racial stigma hanging over it but that was a long time ago and we need to move beyond it."

Light and First Baptist began making a concerted effort to reduce some of the divides in Selma, a city of 20,000 where more than 75 percent of the residents are African American.

Among the first steps: First Baptist hosted a joint Vacation Bible School with an African American church in town.

And Light met Juanda Maxwell, a member of Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Selma.

Together, Light and Maxwell spearheaded an organization named One Selma: Coming Home United in Faith, a group that began meeting last fall with the aim of lessening the Alabama town's racial divide by starting with the local faith community.

"In a conversation [Juanda and I had] one day over the phone, we hatched the idea of having a unity march," Light recounted.

The Unity Walk, which took place in March, attracted about 2,000 participants and commemorated the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," when 600 peaceful protestors marching from Selma to Montgomery were met by Alabama state troopers and a mounted group with billy clubs, cattle prods and tear gas. Read the rest at Baptist Press.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Friday, October 9, 2015
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The Dean Recommends: Francis' Visit Made Me Reexamine Myself, and I'm Not Sure I Like What I See

By Kirsten Andersen
September 30, 2015

While covering the Pope’s visit last week for Aleteia, I was fortunate enough to be sitting front and center at the USCCB Media Center in Washington, DC, where we reporters were provided with a live, unfiltered feed of many of the Pope’s activities — including, at times, his travel from venue to venue, and some of the downtime in between events. Because Francis is who he is, this meant I spent a lot of time watching him simply interact with people … all kinds of people, from some of the wealthiest and most powerful on Earth to those on the fringes — the homeless, the disabled, the young. The people the Holy Father encountered in DC were a veritable cross-section of humanity, and it was impossible not to notice his passionate love for a very specific type of person — the needy ones.

Watching Francis traverse my adopted hometown, I was struck by how the weaker and more openly helpless a person appeared, the happier our Pope seemed to be to see him. While at times he seemed to be barely tolerating the presence of some of our more puffed-up elected officials with their tailored suits, expensive accessories and perfectly styled hair — maybe even a bit exhausted by them — he found a fresh spring in his step each time he crossed paths with the lowly.

The joy on his face as he embraced unkempt people living on the streets; profoundly disabled people reclining semi-aware in wheelchairs; and tired, overstimulated children in their parents’ arms was inspiring. He didn’t just grin at them, he glowed. He showered them with kisses and blessings. Gone was the stiffness and formality of his interactions on Capitol Hill and at the White House. Out among the crowds, he could find the people he clearly preferred — and they didn’t look anything like the people who fill most of our “aspirational” Instagram feeds.

As I watched Francis pour out his love on the least-wanted people in our society, I was reminded of the Christ of the Gospels. And it made me feel terrible, because it made me wonder — what would Francis think of me? What does Jesus think of me? Read the rest at Aleteia.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Thursday, October 8, 2015
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