November 16, 2009

Vulnerable to the Spirit

                Today’s blog is a compressed version of the “State of the Seminary” address that I offered to our board this past Thursday. I invite you to overhear what I shared with faithful trustees.

                The Spirit of God offers God’s holy nudge in the world. We do not contain the Spirit; rather, the Spirit uses us as instruments of grace to accomplish God’s mission in the world.  The Spirit helps us in our weakness, as the Apostle writes in Romans 8. In the twelfth century, the visionary poet and preacher, Hildegard of Bingen, argued that the same “airy” temperament that left her vulnerable to illness and bodily weakness also blessed her with an increased vulnerability to the Holy Spirit.  We get a sense of this as we listen to her lyrical poetry:


Holy Spirit,

      making life alive,

           moving in all things,

                root of all created being,

           cleansing the cosmos of every impurity,

      effacing guilt,

anointing wounds.

      You are lustrous and praiseworthy life,

                You waken and re-awaken everything that is.    De Spiritu Sancto, Hildegard, Abbess of Bingen, 12th century


                How the Spirit of God works has been of scholarly interest to me for several years; but how the Spirit of God works has become a more practical interest to me in these past five years as president.  How does a seminary become vulnerable to the Spirit? Sr. Joan Chittister writes: “…it is pain and need and vulnerability that lead us directly to God.” I would invite you to consider these practices:

·         We listen intently. I have a friend who likes to say: “I get ideas that I never would have thought of when I listen to the Spirit.” The Spirit surely “blows where it will” (John 3) and leads to surprising pathways. I hope you as trustees listen to the Spirit on behalf of Central. We surely need fresh ideas that come from disciplined listening.

·         We cultivate imagination. The Spirit of God is in the process of “making all things new”—which includes forms of education, congregational life, teaching methods, and leadership development. Imagination does not begin with reasons why something cannot work; it explores what faithful action the Spirit might be beckoning.

·         We embrace creativity. There are challenges in our churches and communities that require creative problem-solving that helps “make life alive.” Tomorrow you will become better acquainted with our first create cohort; these persons were selected for their keen exploration of excellence in ministry, their creative engagement of new forms of learning, and their industry in pursuing their calling.

·         We persevere in mission.  The Spirit intersects our faithfulness. In the words of Dan Aleshire: “Institutional mission is crucial because the vocation of a theological school is a corporate calling. A theological school requires a community of persons to achieve its purposes, including board members, administrators, faculty, students, donors, congregations, and denominational entities.”  It is not just individuals who are called, but communities, too.

My utmost desire for Central is that we respond to the Spirit’s prompting, who always knows the mind of God.  Molly T. Marshall


For more information about Central, our faculty, students, and community life, please visit


No comments:

Post a Comment