A Visit to Trinity Forum Academy

by Julia Oller, class of 2016

The spunky Texan who drove us from the airport spewed glowing facts about the post-grad program we had spent half a day traveling to. Trinity Forum Academy, she told Amy and me, is a place full of “intentional community” and “servant leadership,” a place of intensive learning and intensive fellowship.

A place that sounded a whole lot like Taylor.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. Why leave one place only to move to more of the same, minus the close friends and invested professors? My anxieties–about being the youngest person there, about feeling unqualified or ill-equipped next to the 20-somethings who came to TFA from jobs at Google or on Capitol Hill–added to the question marks bouncing around in my brain. I braced myself for an exhausting two days away.

We pulled in after dark, the lights of the Osprey Point lodge all we could see of the 15-acre property. Housing both TFA and a retreat/conference center, Osprey Point backs up to the Chesapeake Bay, where the 12 TFA students–known as “Fellows”– sail and crab in warmer weather.

Fellows and administrators flitted toward us the moment we stepped inside, handing us name tags and pointing us toward the coffee. We settled in and sat down to dinner, which, like all the meals and events over the weekend, was entirely Fellow-planned and executed. Their hospitality infused every detail, from the ever-present tray of scones to their willingness to answer my endless questions. Hospitality, it was explained to us, is one of TFA’s most defining characteristics, along with scholarship and service. On top of class hours and time set aside to work on their theses, the students work in the lodge each week cleaning toilets, making beds, and cooking meals. At Trinity, body, mind, and spirit are rightfully treated as an inseparable trio.IMG_6001

The next two days were a whirl of speakers, discussion groups, panels, tours, worship services, and interviews. Amy and I took some time to catch up with current Fellow and Honors alum Andrew Whitworth (’15), and stole away to the pier for a few moments of solitude. Somehow, despite the jam-packed schedule, I felt that my heaviness of heart, like my overstuffed suitcase, had contracted into a surprising calm. Yes, I had been the youngest applicant. Yes, I didn’t work in the judicial department of review or attend an Ivy League school. But that didn’t seem to matter. Bringing a faithful presence with a willingness to learn, give, and engage in the everyday was all that was required.

IMG_6017

And it may sound like Taylor, but I’ve decided that maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. One more year of intensive Christian community might be exactly the time of reflection I need before stepping into the wider world. Besides, the scenery itself is enough of a change.

 

There aren’t many cornstalks in Maryland.

 

Ethics Bowl Champions

ethics bowl0719I spy quite a few Honors students on the champion Ethics Bowl team!  The team won all three qualifying matches (against Duke, Santa Clara and Texas Pan American).  Then they defeated Villanova in the quarter-finals, Indiana University in the semi-finals, and Whitworth University in the championship match. You can read the full press report here.

What Happened in Ferguson?

If you eat at the Dining Commons or in the Union, you may notice flyers on your tables about the recent Ferguson protests. Here, senior Andrew Whitworth shares more information.  If you’re interested in working to combat racial injustice, contact Andrew for ways to get involved.

by Andrew Whitworth, Class of 2015

Few events have captured the attention and imagination of Americans like the recent events in Ferguson, MO and their aftermath. They have brought important but neglected conversations of race, the use of police force, and the U.S. justice system into the national spotlight. The events of Ferguson, along with several other high profile situations involving the death of unarmed black males at the hands of police officers, have provoked protests around the country.

While one can take different positions about these events, what is undeniable is the massive response that they have triggered. Compiled below are a list of links from a variety of different sources that helps provide a picture of the Ferguson events and then perspective on those events and the responses to them.

Informational

“Officer Darren Wilson’s story is unbelievable. Literally.”

http://www.vox.com/2014/11/25/7281165/darren-wilsons-story-side

“Ferguson prosecutor slams “non-stop” social media while calling for increased attention to race”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/11/25/ferguson-prosecutor-blames-social-media-for-complicating-investigation/

“Unorthodox police procedures emerge in grand jury documents”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/seemingly-unorthodox-police-procedures-emerge-in-grand-jury-documents/2014/11/25/48152574-74e0-11e4-bd1b-03009bd3e984_story.html

“Grand Jury Evidence”

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/11/25/366507379/ferguson-docs-how-the-grand-jury-reached-a-decision?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2050

“Why I believe the grand jury got it wrong and injustice triumphed”

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2014/11/26/why-i-believe-the-grand-jury-got-it-wrong-and-injustice-triumphed/

“It’s not just Ferguson: America’s criminal justice system is racist”

http://www.vox.com/2014/8/14/6002175/its-not-just-ferguson-americas-criminal-justice-system-is-racist

“Indictment and why black people have a good reason to mistrust”

http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2014/11/ferguson-verdict-0?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/blackandwhite

Perspective

“When Justice Does Not Admit a Moderate Response”

http://www.sharedjustice.org/when_justice_does_not_admit_a_moderate_response

“Violence of Whiteness”

http://austinchanning.com/blog/2014/11/violence-of-whiteness

“Black moms teach white moms about having the talk with their sons”

http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/black-moms-teach-white-moms-about-having-talk-their-sons

“Sin’s part in the system and vice versa”

http://christandpopculture.com/sins-part-system-vice-versa-thoughts-voddie-bauchams-thoughts-ferguson/

The Ferguson grand jury has given us our marching orders

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2014/11/25/the-ferguson-grand-jury-has-given-us-our-marching-orders/?utm_content=bufferb72b3&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

“Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid”

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/11/barack-obama-ferguson-and-the-evidence-of-things-unsaid/383212/?single_page=true

“The terrifying racial stereotypes laced through Darren Wilson’s testimony”

http://www.vox.com/2014/11/25/7283327/michael-brown-racist-stereotypes

“America the Beautiful, America the Violent”

http://www.christianitytoday.com/peter-chin/2014/november/america-beautiful-america-violent.html?&visit_source=twitter

photo credit

Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College

By Malinda Patterson, Class of 2016

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing Anne Lamott speak at the Festival and Faith and Writing. I read my first Anne Lamott book this year, and her words quickly began helping shape the way I approach life.   I was thrilled by the opportunity to hear her speak.  I love Annie because she makes me feel like everything might be okay in the end, without brushing past the fact that life can still be horrible to us.  She tells me how bad everything will be, but that there can still be joy in the midst of that.

In her keynote address, Annie talked about a lot of things, but to me, the most memorable thing she talked about was the importance of showing up.  In the midst of pain and confusion, sometimes this is all we have the capability to do.  I worry so often about being capable or qualified for the things life requires of me, so concerned that I won’t be enough.  Annie reminds me that I don’t have to be enough.  But I do have to show up.

Anne LamottAnne Lamott

     This can be applied to so many areas in life.  Be it writing, helping a grieving friend, or a approaching a task that I feel completely inadequate to complete.  This idea stays with me because I am uncomfortable with it.  I wish I had answers, I want to feel capable in a situation, I hate making mistakes.  I am bad at sitting in pain with another person.  I am bad at feeling helpless.

But then I remember the gentle words of Annie: “Mary and Mary didn’t have a good
answer at the foot of the cross.  But they didn’t leave.”

I don’t always need a good answer.  Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalene sure didn’t have one.  But they stayed anyway.

When I find myself at the foot of the cross, I want to run.  I ache with discomfort and helplessness. But these are the times when I need to stay.  I need to sit at the foot of the cross, even though it doesn’t make any sense.

To show up without answers is an act of faith.  It is trusting that God has them, even if all I can see is death.  It is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, believing the one who brought me here knows why.  It is knowing I am not enough and so believing that God will have to be.

Annie’s words serve as a reminder that beauty is found in the moments when we embrace the pain, and refuse to look away.

Silent Retreat at St. Meinrad’s Archabbey

By Leah Blachaniec, Class of 2016

Throughout the past year, God has really brought the idea of resting, or simply being in His presence to the forefront of my mind. The past semester especially, I have encountered Psalm 46:10 in more ways than any other time in my life. I have heard this verse throughout my life so many times, I can recite it in a heartbeat – “Be still and know that I am God.” But, I have never really understood what it means to truly be still. I have had countless reminders to take time to rest, yet I do not place enough priority on this concept given I have so much to do. However, this past weekend on the silent retreat at St. Meinrad’s, I had a glimpse of the rest my heart has desired, rest long overdue.

Honestly, about a week away from the retreat I was not looking forward to it at all. I was not sure about giving up that much time of my weekend, and I would also be missing my wing retreat. However, as the retreat grew nearer, I started to realize that it would be such a great opportunity for rest and I looked forward to being able to set everything aside and embrace stillness, silence and solitude. During the retreat, I was able to push everything out of my mind and truly be present with the Lord, which I have not consciously done for a while. The silence was not uncomfortable, and I actually wish it could have been longer. I was able to read my Bible, journal, pray and listen to God without regard to time or other commitments and responsibilities. I was able to see that a relationship with God does not always require words, and that sometimes He wants us to just stop and Listen.

saint-meinrad_archabbey_goulding-wood_lgThroughout the year in pondering the theme of vocation and calling, I have realized that my calling it not something I do, but rather it is who I am. Each and every day I have the opportunity to become more and more who God is calling me to be. I have realized, that part of that calling is to enter into God’s presence in stillness, and to listen to His still small voice so that I can discern where He is leading me. The retreat provided time out of my busy life to put into practice the concept of stillness and understand how it truly relates to calling.

Silence and solitude are both important disciplines that I wish to incorporate into my life more. Even just in general, I seek to be more disciplined spiritually. I would consider myself a disciplined person in most areas of my life, yet Henri Nouwen’s words challenged me as he said discipline is “the effort to create some space in which God can act.” After reading that shortly after my silence began, I made the conscious effort to create space in which God could act during the retreat. During my time of silence, I was able to enter deeper into myself and deal with pain and struggles that I have pushed aside with lack of time to really engage myself. Although it was hard, it was not unmet with a greater understanding on the importance of dependence on God.

imagegen.ashxThrough silence and solitude, I was able to see that God is enough for me – He is my Shepherd, I shall not want. By going away to the monastery and retreat center at St. Meinrad’s, physically leaving Taylor helped to remove me from the distractions of my busy life that keep me from creating space in which God can act. Although I cannot physically distance myself from my life here in coming back to campus, I have intentionally started each day with a brief time of silence and creating space in which God can act by getting up earlier and spending time in His word. I have tasted and seen that He is good, and I have a greater understanding of what it means to be still and know that He is God.

 

 

CPAC 2014 – An Once In a Lifetime Experience

By Sam Hill, Class of 2016

March 6th-8th came around last month, and for myself instead of spending the week here at Taylor University in class and in the normal routine of the week, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). CPAC is an annual conference held in our Nation’s Capital, which brings speakers from all over the country and all walks of life together to address the current political atmosphere of the country. All three days of the conference were filled with speakers and events to attend; all of these opportunities stretched my beliefs and opinions on politics, religion, and morals.

This year was the 50th anniversary of CPAC, so they pulled every string they could to make it a memorable event. This years speakers included Dr. Ben Carson, Eric Metaxas (Author of Bonheoffer), Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Paul Ryan, Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Rick Perry and so many more! If you can think of a Conservative politician chances were that they were in attendance. The opportunity to hear all of these men and women of such respect and success was completely eye opening. Being one interested in holding public office someday, who’s ultimate goal is to bring honor and glory to the Lord through practicing Christian politics in whatever level of government God blesses me with the opportunity to serve in, hearing these leaders speak about their faith, families, and work helped me to get an even greater sense of vocation and calling for my life.

Meeting so many of these great speakers and having the opportunity to talk to them about my career goals and dreams was really a God-given gift. From meeting Eric Metaxas and getting to talk to him for a good fifteen minutes just about his life and what I want to do someday was exhilarating. Attending a private premiere of former U.S. Senator Rick Sanctorum’s new film and getting to get talk to Senator about his faith and motivation in politics based off of his biblically based views was an experience I will never forget. The opportunities to shake the hands and say hello to Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, Ben Carson, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Rand Paul, Rick Sanctorum, and Eric Metaxas proved to be an once-in-a-lifetime meeting that will have an impact on my life for years to come.

Regardless of your political views and positions on issues facing this country, it is important to note the amazing direction that the Lord gives to each one of us when it comes to our calling and vocation. A few years ago I would never have said that I was even remotely interested in politics, but through my life experiences that has completely changed and had you asked me three years ago if I even cared about government and politics my response would be a definite no! God does some crazy things in each one of our lives to show us what he has designed us to do with our vocation and careers. CPAC gave me opportunities to network and connect with some many who share my passion for Christ-centered politics. God is good all the time and He used CPAC this year to lead me even closer to my career path and to see what God has in store for my calling and vocation someday soon.

The F-Word: Defined

By David Chiu, Class of 2014

When I came to the F word defined, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that the subject was feminism but I didn’t know to what extent the panel was going to discuss feminism. I was pleasantly surprised to see who was on the panel and I was glad that I attended the event. There was nothing really new that was discussed at the event that I had not heard before but I think it was a good start to beginning a conversation about feminism on campus. Personally, I grew up in a household and attended a high school where there were plenty of strong women. So, if you acted in a condescending manner toward a woman in a conversation, you would get destroyed because they wouldn’t take any of that kind of attitude. So, the idea that women should have be by and large on an equal playing field as men does not bother me. The only area in particular that there is tension is in the realm of the church and gender roles. I am a Catholic and go to mass on Sundays. I am not exactly sure what I think about women not being able to be priests. I am not bothered that women preach in other faith institutions, but I am also not particularly concerned that women cannot be priests. So, there is some level of tension in my life in that area.

There were a couple of things that really stood out to me. First, I appreciated that defined feminism on the most basic level. The panel, particularly Amy Peterson defined feminism as the belief in the political, social, and economic equality of the sexes. Also, the panel clarified that there is not a singular feminism and there are actually many feminisms. I think that this idea of multiple feminisms was an important framework with which to view Feminism with a capital f. Not every person who calls themselves a feminist believes in the same brand of feminism and it is unfair to attach certain labels to a person that calls themselves a feminist. Another idea there has really stuck in mind is the idea of males and feminism. Dr. Moeschberger said that we, as males, should have a call to activism. In other words, if you, as a male, are aware of issues regarding gender issues, then you have an obligation to do something about it. I’m not totally sure if I’m at that point yet, but I think it is important to view activism as an ultimate goal. While gender roles and feminism may not be the sexiest topic, it is a prevalent problem in this country and throughout the entire world. Lastly, one statistic from the panel discussion will stick in my mind for a while. The statistic reveals that 1 in 4 women on college campuses are raped. I knew the percentage was not negligible, but that number is astounding. If this statistic is not a call to action, I don’t know what is. I hope that this event gets people talking on campus because this is an important issue.

Marilynne Robinson: “You Have a Gift”

By Lena Baker, Class of 2014

Marilynne Robinson is the author of three highly acclaimed novels—one of which earned a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction—and the recipient of the National Humanities Medal. She is one of my favorite authors and it was a pleasure to listen to her speak on Taylor’s campus.

Marilynne began her talk with a line that she tells her students every year; “You have a gift, which means you have work to do, so take care of yourself.” The Midwest is often viewed as a cultural wasteland with little intellectual or artistic pursuit. Marilynne Robinson’s books are so brilliant because she views the beauty and the dignity in living in a small town in the Midwest. She observed that when she travels around the country she sees pockets of intellectual curiosity and community which contradict the stereotype of ignorance in America. Her talk tonight focused on cynicism and the Hermeneutics of Suspicion in America. This distrust of others stems from the “assumptions that interesting people are up to no good.” We no longer believe that human beings do good things with no ulterior motives. She claims that intellect is now seen as being pompous, courage is just recklessness, and loyalty is naivety. When we view the virtues as a mask for selfishness, narcissism and even cruelty, we stop striving to be good. Robinson stated that this is particularly evident in success. People who strive for success are sometimes seen as narcissistic for believing they could be great. This discourages us from trying to achieve major goals.

Marilynne Robinson’s doctoral work focused on William Shakespeare, and she has since returned to this study. Critics often question William Shakespeare’s authenticity and authorship. It is difficult for people to believe that a man with little education and no gentlemanly status could be such a prolific writer. Some believe that the Earl of Oxford wrote his plays, because only a man with noble blood could be so gifted. This goes back to Marilynne’s appreciation for the Midwest. While many assume that the real work of intellectual and cultural pursuit is taking place on the coasts, the rest of America is achieving great things.

 

photoMarilynne Robinson meeting with Honors Guild students in the Great Room

            Shakespeare’s character is sometimes called into question as well. His views on marriage, his faith, his virtue, are all reviewed and speculated upon. Robinson claimed that the overall arch of his life demonstrated his love for his wife and his faith. In England it was dangerous to claim to be Catholic or Protestant because so many were being killed for their denomination. However his plays show how valuable he considered marriage to be. In his writings, people who betray their spouses come to terrible ends. Good marriage is seen as happiness itself. His character was evident in the way he treated his audience with respect. It is easy to try to tear apart someone who is successful and ascribe ulterior motives to them. This is another effect of the Hermeneutics of Suspicion.

Marilynne’s talk was, in some ways, a call to excellence. A call to stop focusing on the bad in the world and focus instead on using our gifts. Marilynne ended her discussion by reminding us that a lifetime of excellent work—in whatever form—is a gift to the world.