The Nourishment of the Vine

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The Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle

Dean and President

During Orientation for this new term, I was listening to our faculty introduce themselves to new students and explain their unique areas of interest. Prof. Michael Battle described his way of life in teaching and scholarship as “amphibian.” I loved that great new way of looking at our very Anglican “both/and” view of addressing life. Prof. Todd Brewer made his point simply: “I want to make the Bible exciting for you!” A classic Jesus Movement attitude. Adjunct Prof. Miguel Hernandez told the assembled students how Latino culture is shaping the new generation of our church. I’m pretty sure he convinced everyone that all new priests should take his “Liturgical Spanish” course.

As the rich descriptions of what we offer at General soaked in, Prof. Clair McPherson’s description of his scholastic research really struck me. This year, he’s teaching a host of Ascetical Theology and Christian Spirituality courses. But for his scholarly research, he is translating a little-known early church writer, Nilus of Ancyra, from the original Greek into English. As Prof. McPherson explained, the translation project was not just to make someone formerly unknown known; but rather, to bring out of treasure what is new and what is old. In fact, one of the quotes McPherson gave from the ancient writings was so on-point for what we do to educate and form lay and ordained leaders for the church in a changing world—our Mission Statement. I want to share it with you.

Nilus wrote in 410 CE that “History is not a chain holding us back. Rather, it is a vine, nourishing us into the future.” How true, wise scribe.

We are living this out 1,600 years later at General. History is so important to an institution like General, but sometimes it can feel like a chain. Still, we embrace deep roots—to continue analogies, to keep us from swaying too much. But, as Nilus would tell us, there is so much more to history.

As good Anglican amphibians, we embrace the both/and of history. History is a nourishing vine, propelling us forward, often into journeys we have never before trod. The same roots which provide strength and stability also provide a well-balanced 10-10-10 organic fertilizer—constantly coaxing new growth from existing trunks and branches. History is our food, not only for the pleasure of the eating, but for the joy of the energy it creates.

Just like Nilus’ “Letter to Philip the Lawyer,” the almost-200-year history of General nourishes us from—not shackles us to—the past. For example, with the arrival of Boone Porter Liturgics Chair, Prof. Kevin Moroney, the renewed position of Director of the Chapel is included in his portfolio. This loyal son of General—clearly nourished directly from our past—has already begun new growth in our worship life. The continued reformation of our collegiate chapel neither abandons nor eliminates any component of our almost-200 years of Chapel life, the past 142 years in the same location! Rather, a reformed collegiate chapel, like ours, serves the needs of church leaders, lay and ordained, for the 21st century.

Another example of the nourishment of the vine is a return to the past of much more intensive student advising. Many of our older alumni will recognize the renewed rhythm of regular, planned, weekly student advising sessions, now every Wednesday morning. Everyone is included. So, instead of periodic or occasional advising focused solely on the academics, the totality of life—mind, body and soul—is addressed each week with intentional faculty advising.

The work of Dr. Michael DeLashmutt, our new Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs, will certainly add to this nourishment. Get to know Micheal and his contributions through the extensive interview in the Fall 2016 issue of GTS News Quarterly.

The list of anchoring nourishment elements goes on. I suspect Jesus would agree with this nourishment stuff. I know our sponsoring dioceses and bishops do; they told us.

Orientation was a super week. Not just to welcome a great new class of students, but to experience first-hand how our history continues to inform and nourish us.

If you have not been back to General, drop in sometime. We’d love to say, “Welcome home.”  You can see for yourself the roots and vine in action together.

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