Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF): Ending Well

The Graduate Christian Fellowship invites you to:

Ending Well:
Marking Our Transitions Together,With Gratitude and Prayer

An End-of-Term Potluck Celebration
of eating, reflection, discussion, and prayer with the GCF community

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Chaplain’s office, Wycliffe College (basement)

6:00 – Dinner
7:00 (or so) – Something After Dinner – discussion, etc.

Dear Friends,
This week at GCF we’ll be revisiting some themes that have emerged in the months since September: Sabbath, gratitude, rest, and the ways we mark the milestones of our lives. We want to create a deliberate opportunity to reflect on what has happened, what’s been accomplished, and what we’ve learned, both individually and together. We want to

Share food.
Thank God.

Thursday is the last GCF of the semester, and in the past I would have been inclined to call this the end of the year. We’ve often marked these occasions with farewells and blessings for those who are graduating or otherwise leaving us.

But that’s not actually where we find ourselves right now. Hardly any in our regular GCF community are graduating (please let us know if you are), and we’ve already been discussing and planning our continued summer gatherings for the past month. So what do we say at the beginning of April, with the flurries and the buds battling for dominance (fortunately we know who will win that struggle), classes ending, deadlines and exam marking looming, theses moving along (or just beginning), work continuing?

Life goes on. What do we say?

As we started planning for Thursday in our staff team, and considered the situation I’ve just described, we found ourselves reflecting on how we mark transitions. How do we suitably honour our comings and goings, beginnings and endings, especially when they can be hard to remember, or even recognize?

Over the last 12 months I’ve become increasingly aware that there’s a different “year” starting almost every month. The calendar year starts in January, the grant funding year in April (e.g. if your or your supervisor’s research is funded by SSHRC, NSERC, or CIHR), the university fiscal year in May, the employment year in July (e.g. if you’re applying for academic jobs), the academic year in September, the Christian liturgical year in December … you get the idea.

In the midst of constant busyness and change, it’s easy to lose the sense that anything ever really gets finished or completed. We just keep making more transitions.

So let’s at least learn to do transitions well. That’s part of the reason we need to honour Sabbath – as an opportunity to pause and reflect on the larger currents of our lives and what God is doing in the world. We need to help each other cultivate habits of gratitude, so we can avoid slipping into endless patterns of acquisition, dissatisfaction, and feelings of entitlement. As noted in our discussions of singleness, we need to mark significant moments of our lives – turning points, accomplishments, rites of passage – and allow them to become part of the framework around which we see ourselves, God, and each other weaving the narrative of our lives.

This Thursday is the last GCF of the semester, and we want to make it an occasion to name and celebrate what God is doing within us, among us, and around us.

As an exercise in spiritual preparation, I offer you the following poem by Wendell Berry

A Purification
by Wendell Berry

At the start of spring I open a trench
in the ground. I put into it
the winter’s accumulation of paper,
pages I do not want to read
again, useless words, fragments,
errors. And I put into it
the contents of the outhouse:
light of the sun, growth of the ground,
finished with one of their journeys.
To the sky, to the wind, then,
and to the faithful trees, I confess
my sins: that I have not been happy
enough, considering my good luck;
have listened to too much noise;
have been inattentive to wonders;
have lusted after praise.
And then upon the gathered refuse
of mind and body, I close the trench,
folding shut again the dark,
the deathless earth. Beneath that seal
the old escapes into the new.

Source: Teaching With Fire


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