I have spent the last couple of days at Conception Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery in northwest Missouri about 100 miles north of Central Seminary. For the last 15 years I have been a regular visitor/pilgrim to this place of prayer and contemplation. I have brought students, faculty, and several board members with me here, for the Abbey unfailingly offers hospitality, a peaceful environment, and spiritual prompting. The vocation of this monastery is to "seek God together." Indeed, this is the vocation of all Christians--to put ourselves in a "posture of receptivity" (Foster) that we might receive God's gifts of mercy, forgiveness, and re-direction. I came this time in order to plan for my responsibilities as President as we move into a new academic year; truly, I came mostly to pray for our seminary's future and those wise members of the leadership team and board who hold the seminary in trust. We cannot be faithful to our mission apart from supplication to our Providing God. Most clear in my mind is that the work to which I am called requires utter reliance on the Triune God. God does not call us to tasks that we can accomplish in our own strength.
As human beings we are deeply hungry for the presence of God. Too often we do not recognize this true hunger, and we attempt to fill our emptiness with "perishable bread." Over the years of sojourning here, I have observed an older man who always sits in the same place--not too far from the entrance to the small chapel that houses the tabernacle (the place that honors the Eucharistic presence of Christ.) He is there at 6 AM Vigils; he is there at 7:15 PM Compline; and he is there at all the times of prayer in between. In our time, he emulates the biblical characters of Anna and Simeon who always were to be found in the place of worship, which is perhaps why they recognized the Christ when brought by his parents. It is only when one seeks God faithfully that one can receive the ways in which God may come. As this man keeps vigil at the Abbey, I am reminded of how formative are these practices of paying attention to the presence of God.
This coming year is a time of opportunity and challenge for Central as we seek God As we complete the construction of our chapel and library, we are filled with gratitude for those who have shared so generously of their resources with us. We give thanks, also, for the varied ways in which our partnership with Myanmar (Burma) progresses as we conduct classes for pastors from that beleaguered land at Central at the end of August. We give thanks for those who honor God by their faithful giving to Central, especially the Central Region of American Baptists and those who belong to the President's Circle. Members of the of this select body are those who have given more than $12,000 in a calendar year. At this point, there are a dozen members. They hail from Hong Kong, Bangkok, Boulder, CO; San Antonio, TX; Laramie, WY; Kansas City, MO; St. Louis, MO; Taylorsville, IN; Atlanta, GA; and a couple of anonymous donors.
As persons being formed into the likeness of Christ, we are prompted to seek God. Thankfully, God desire our seeking. As the tenor aria from Elijah resounds: "If with all your heart, you truly seek me, you shall ever find me...thus says our God." (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:29). Seeking God will never disappoint.
Molly T. Marshall, Ph. D.
To learn more about our perichoretic seminary, visit our website at http://www.cbts.edu/