Almost 12 years ago I purchased a copy of Rowan Williams’s On Christian Theology. I can still remember reading the chapter ‘Between the Cherubim,’ in which Williams compares the empty tomb in John’s Gospel with the empty mercy seat in the temple. Something about these two images of God’s presence in the face of divine absence deeply resonated with me.
Many of my hopes are being realized now. When I began work on this topic during my doctoral studies (in the early 2000’s), there were very few published books that engaged the topic of children in the Bible. Slowly resources began to emerge, but over the past ten years publications have proliferated at an unprecedented rate.
The Sunday following All Saints was an occasion for a special lesson in a parish where I was recently serving in Manhattan. The reading for that day was John 11:32-44, the story of Jesus raising Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus from the dead. The older children read the passage out loud while the younger children listened. I had questions about how that passage related to the lesson on saints that I had prepared that day, but kept silent about them.
Studying theology is one of the great joys and challenges of being in seminary. When will I have the time to engage the great theologians again at this level? Once I’m in a parish (good Lord willing), how will I be able to carve out the time to read Tanner, Coakley, Farrer, and…Williams? And, if I do find the time, how will I struggle through difficult concepts and challenging ideas without sitting in a classroom with my peers and faculty? With these thoughts in mind, I was hugely comforted when Rowan Williams stated during the Paddock Lectures on February 11th that Thomas Merton, Karl Barth, and Austin Farrer helped keep him sane during his early years of learning theology.
The Chapel of the Good Shepherd was packed with dignitaries, faculty, the Board of Trustees, current seminarians, alumni and friends. The 2019 Paddock lectures were concluding not only by conferring Honorary Doctorates to former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry. Anticipation was building to witness a sermon by Curry, whose preaching has made him beloved to a worldwide audience.
Two primates of the Anglican Communion made a historic visit in New York City yesterday on the campus of General Seminary. The Most Reverend Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and the Most Reverend Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church both attended the seminary’s Convocation, receiving the degree of honoris causa. Williams lectured to the community earlier in the day and Curry preached at Evensong.
A few years ago, I saw a woman falling down on her knees in a church’s thrift shop as she found a pair of trainers on sale. She cried loudly, “thank you Lord! I needed a pair of shoes and here they are! Oh thank you, thank you Jesus!” seeing this, another woman shopper said, “I used to be able to pray like that.”
Nobody about to be baptized promises to make regular retreats. Neither does anybody about to be ordained. The annual parochial report wants to know your Average Sunday Attendance, the number of children in your church school, how your number of baptisms stacks up against your number of funerals, and the vector of your balance sheet, but it does not demand to know whether or not the parish schedules retreats or quiet days for its members, or keeps them informed about opportunities for these experiences in other communities.
Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, will lead “45 Years of ‘Being Christian’: Rowan Williams at General Seminary” in the seminary’s annual Paddock Lectures. The presentation will feature his bestselling catechetical work, Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer in addition to his reflections on a life of ministry, academia, and ecclesiastical leadership.