Our faculty held its annual retreat over the past few days. It is a time when we prepare for the academic year and renew our charge as teachers who help form students for effective ministry. We journeyed to Conception Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in northwestern Missouri for the retreat. Interesting, the two days we were there corresponded to two special memorial days in the worship cycle—the memorial to St. Bernard which honors the “Doctors” of the Church, and the memorial to St. Pius which honors the “Pastors” of the church. I thought it was quite appropriate that our retreat bridged these two emphases, for it is the vocation of our faculty to embody both of these identities.
School was starting at the college there, and the grounds were humming with activity as young men were finding their way around their new home for the next 4-5 years. On Friday, as a part of their orientation they attended the hours of prayer with the monks. I went a little early to vigils (6 am) and soon was surrounded by sleepy young men smelling of tooth paste and after shave lotion, arriving just as the last bells were calling to prayer. I was sitting in the reserved seminarian section (by mistake), and so I simply sat with them for the orientation to opus Dei (the work of God in corporate prayer). Thankfully, they were too polite to ask what I was doing in the midst of a class preparing for priestly formation! They wore their new school shirts and pressed khakis, clearly putting their best foot forward as they began this new epoch in their lives.
Paul writes in Ephesians 6 about “suiting up” for the work of God. The “whole armor” consists of truth, righteousness, salvation, faith, the Word of God, and the gospel of peace. To serve faithfully as Doctors and Pastors, faculty members rely on these tools granted by God, enlivened by the Holy Spirit. As we begin our 108th fall semester at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, may we be “strong in the Lord,” as the apostle exhorts, and offer our best gifts to our students.