Kenya Time

Today’s post is written by guest blogger, Michael Funston!

“We’re on Kenya time” has become a common phrase amongst our group. Upon arriving here there was a noticeable change in the timing of things. No rush through customs after we got off the plane, leisurely getting our bags from the conveyor belt and then waiting thirty minutes or so in the parking lot for another car to carry us to the guest house for our stay. This morning after breakfast we waited an hour before heading out for the day. There is no rush here in Kenya. “Things happen when they happen,” that’s what our friend and guide, Nyakio, told us last night before we all went to bed. As someone who likes a plan and to stick to that plan it has been an adjustment for me, but a welcome one.

In a way being on “Kenya time” is like being on God’s time. We started with one plan this morning and ended the day doing many things that were not on that plan. Our team drove through the center of Nairobi. Then we drove around Kiberia, a slum the size of a city park with 1.2 million occupants. At our team meeting this evening we all reflected on the humbling experience that was. There was also a stop to look at the Great Rift Valley, a beautiful and vast piece of land surrounded by mountains and a dormant volcano. We also stopped at All Saints Church in Maai Mahiu to visit with Reverend Joshua and to see the new (since last year) library we will be helping with next week. At last we were headed to where we are staying in Naivasha but along the way we saw giraffes and zebras by the road and stopped to take a closer look. All of these experiences would not have happened if we had stuck to the plan. By opening our eyes to what is around us instead of focusing on a piece of paper that says what we are to do that day, we are letting this experience into us.

I started this journey not knowing why I was going. Yes, I heard from many friends who have done K2K that it is a transforming experience. I knew that we would be working on a battered women’s shelter and that we would be helping children in the library in Maai Mahiu, but I didn’t know why I was here. I still am unsure but by opening myself up to patience, by not being tied to a schedule and really seeing and listening to all that is around me, I feel and have faith that God will reveal it to me. Perhaps by the end of our time here or maybe further along. Whenever it is it will be on “Kenya time,” God’s time.

~Michael

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Traveling on Trinity Sunday

(Typed on Sunday evening, published on Monday)

When I was in seminary, one of the things I learned about was the Trinitarian concept of perichoresis, mutual indwelling.  The argument being that the three Persons of the trinity are able to interpenetrate each other in such a way that each is able to fully experience the life of the other two Persons.  I’ve always liked this conception of the Trinity and it lead me to the development of my belief that when we say that we believe we are made in God’s image, we are called to attempt perichoresis with one another.  We are generally social beings, constantly called into communities of two or three or larger.

I was thinking about being called into community as we were traveling across the world on our way to Kenya.  We actually blitzed way faster than I would have imagined possible because our layovers were ridiculously short.  In both Chicago and London, we had to book it to our next flight!  When I’ve done international travel through Chicago in the past, I’ve always had a very long layover in Chicago… As I was thinking about this group of strangers traveling internationally together, I wondered about perichoresis and how a community seeks to model the inner life of the Trinity.

In every community I’ve participated in, there are these great moments of openness and love, but there are also moments of friction and even dislike.  I look at our group and I wonder how those moments (positive and negative) will manifest themselves.  I also wonder about the Trinity… does the each person of the Trinity ever get irritated with another Person of the Trinity?

I don’t think so, but it’s where my mind wandered during our day of travel.  Perhaps that’s what perichoresis (and therefore the Trinity) is: perfect community, each member giving and taking in equal measure.  This is the goal of community.

When community reaches this point, our inner relationships become something like a cold-fusion powerhouse, constantly renewing itself as we work toward a common mission.  The Kansas 2 Kenya College team probably won’t reach perichoresis (has any human institution ever?), but we will find ways to uplift each other as we work in mission: We’ll become the hands of the Father, the love of Christ and the comfort of the Holy Spirit to the people of Naivasha and Maai Mahiu, Kenya.

=Patrick

A Journey to Kenya Begins

As I type this post, the Kansas 2 Kenya College Team is sitting at Chicago O’Hare’s Gate K19 watching our plane being loaded with our meals.  We are going to be boarding in about an hour for our flight to Nairobi through London-Heathrow.

For the next several days, this space will be occupied by blog posts about our travels in Kenya.  Hopefully you’ll hear more voices than mine, I will invite the various members of the College Team to take some space to reflect on their trip.

There are Eight of us on the trip:

4 young women and 4 young* men (I am almost 30…)
7 Kansans and 1 Adopted Kansan
4 Wildcats, 1 Kangaroo, 1 Jawhawk, 1 Hornet & 1 Cougar
2 couples (one married, one dating), 4 single or traveling without partner

image

Right now, we’re all on our various smart devices, sending off our last emails and texts to those who love us; searching around on Facebook and updating our Instagram with photos of the plane and the airport.  Though we are all sitting at the same gate, not much conversation is happening.  Having been on mission trips like this before, I’m aware of this happening because I know that in less than 24 hours our relationships will begin to change dramatically.

In less than 24 hours, we will be in Nairobi, Kenya and our phones won’t work any more.  Only a couple of us have computers, but our internet time will reduce drastically.  Most of our days will be spent in rural villages working with Kenyans on community development and construction; praying as a group and with our Kenyan brothers and sisters.  In less than 24 hours, we will stop being strangers and we’ll start becoming a family.

We’ll eat all our meals together, we’ll work together, we’ll pray together.  Each night we’ll gather intentionally to talk about our day, to rejoice in each others’ powerful moments of God’s presence and to suffer each others’ hard moments.  By the time we return home, we will have bonded.

I’m excited for the journey.

Please keep us in your prayers as we travel and as we work and as we pray:  Charmetra, Taylor, Tyler, Taylor, Emily, Caitlin, Michael & Patrick

=Patrick

Transitions; Chaplain’s Corner, 5/8/2013

Last Sunday, I was driving on the Turnpike through the mist and fog of the early morning on my way to Emporia for a couple church services.  I was thinking about my sermon for the day (which I would be giving in less than an hour), but was looking all around me at the beauty of the Kansas landscape.  And for the first time this year, I was shocked by the transformation I was able to see.  It seems like only last week that all the grass in our pastureland was brown from a dry winter and the trees were still bare.  But, even though it was pretty chilly on Sunday, I was looking out at a brilliant green landscape.

I don’t know about you, but this winter has seemed like the longest I can remember.  We had snow just days ago!  The cold and ice has just dragged on and on!  But the weather seems to have finally turned!  We’re even getting rain, a welcome surprise after such a long period of drought in the midwest.

Meteorologically, we are in a transitional moment.  Just last week, with our snow, we were able to see that even when the trees were starting to bud, winter was sending its final gasps of breath our way.  As my wife was starting to do our packing to move to Manhattan, she was telling me how stressful moving in the early Spring can be.  Can you pack away all the sweatshirts and sweaters, or should you keep them out?  Can the majority of the long pants be put away in favor of shorts?  Transitional moments are hard because we are pulled in two directions at one time.

Everyone at school is in a time of transition.  It’s about this time of year that teachers start reminding students that next year they will be in a new grade with new teachers and new expectations.  The seniors have been in transition for months now; most of them finally making their college decisions in the last couple weeks.  Teachers are faithful to the classes they currently teach, but are looking forward to next year and the tweaking we need to do to refine our classes.

Jesus talked a lot about transition.  It must be because he was constantly aware of the fact that his time on earth was very limited.  He reminded us not to worry about what is to come (“Consider the lilies of the field”), he prepared his disciples for his death by promising to send the Holy Spirit as an advocate and aide, and he seemed both excited to return to his Father and resentful of the fact, clinging to his earthly existence.  There were several readings I could have selected to talk about this period of transition, but instead of choosing to hear from Jesus, I chose to hear from Paul in his letter to the Galatians:

 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.    (Galatians 6:7-10)

Whenever I find myself in transition, I am always surprised how true I find Paul’s advice that we “reap whatever we sow.”  The image here being one of a farmer scattering seed in a field and waiting for the harvest to come.  The harvest that comes will be whatever the farmer had scattered in the field.  If good seed was planted, good crops; if bad seed was planted, bad crops.

It’s the same thing in our lives, when we are in a time of transition, we become keenly aware of what we have sown and whether we are reaping good crops or bad.  If we haven’t been diligent about study and work, we can expect lower than stellar grades.  If we haven’t invested in developing relationships with our friends, we can expect distance.  If we choose not to study for a final, we can expect to fail.  Transition brings out the truth about how we have lived.

But there isn’t only bad news for those of us who haven’t sown good seed and developed good habits.  The renwal of Spring and Summer teaches us that we always have another opportunity next year or with our next friendships.  The earth continues to blossom even in the midst of drought.  With each green field or budding tree, we are invited to assess our lives in this moment of transition and to make some resolutions about how we will choose to be on the other side.

How have you experienced transition in your life?  Was it a transition which revealed good seed or bad?  When have you resolved to plant better seeds?

=Fr. Patrick

A Last Supper; Chaplain’s Corner, 5/1/2013

When I was in high school, I first started to get the rumblings of what I would later understand to be a call to ordained ministry.  In my tradition we call the feeling that God is telling you that you are supposed to go into a specific ministry a “Call,” recognizing that the action in the moment isn’t our own, but a God who is asking us to commit our lives to His ministry in the world.  The way that I remember my Call first manifested itself was in daydreams I would  have in which I would see myself standing behind an altar doing a Eucharistic service (Holy Communion).  (Eucharist comes from the Greek and means “thanksgiving.”)  There were several other aspects of my Call, other moments when I heard God’s Call to me, but those first ones have stuck with me.

The issue of Call is one that comes to the forefront of our minds as a school around this time of year.  Each of our students is finishing the year and wondering what next year might be like.  For the sixth graders, it may be just more work next year as seventh graders; for the eighth graders, it may be a new identity next year as upper school students; for the seniors, it’s a radical change into college students.  Each of these movements can be moments of surrendering to God’s Call in our lives, or moments when we fight against the Call.

Today in chapel, we took part in the ritual I first imagined myself doing while I was in high school.  As an Episcopal School, part of our Identity is structured around the Eucharistic Table/Altar.  Christians believe that the night before he was killed, Jesus (knowing how things were about to go for him) gathered his disciples together for one last meal together.  During that meal, he told his disciples that this meal was something they were supposed to do regularly… it was a symbol to the rest of the world what their status as Christ-followers was about… coming together without class distinction to have a meal together.  Today we did that in a formalized, religious way, but Eucharistic theology is a major part of our identity as a school.

eucharist

When I’ve traveled to other Episcopal Schools or met chaplains from other places, most have been shocked to hear that we don’t have a chapel set aside for worship.  How can you do Chapel without a chapel?  But I tell them that I love not having a space set aside for worship.  I love that we do Chapel, Morning Meeting and Lunch all in the same place.  We don’t celebrate The Eucharist every week (heck, we only did it this one time this year!), but every day when we gather together for Morning Meeting and everybody is allowed to make an announcement or when we gather for lunch and we sit at tables with members of other classes, we are living in Eucharistic moments.  Jesus’ call to come together as equals and to BE together is a major part of who we are as a school.

God certainly works in our lives through these times when we are together, but God also works in our lives in the times that draw us apart.  The seniors are beginning to feel this and will explore it in more depth at their retreat week after next.

I, too, am being called away from Seabury at this time and will not be returning next year.  I have accepted a call to be the rector (head priest) of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan, KS.  While I’m sad about leaving Seabury, I’m also excited about the new ministry I’ll be starting this summer in Manhattan.  It’s been a great couple years!

Thank you for letting me spend this time with your students!  I’ll continue to pray that the Seabury community continues to reflect Eucharistic ideals as I remain a part of the community from a distance.

=Fr. Fun

Cruz y raya; Chaplain’s Corner, 4/24/2013

As we spent Lent learning about the Lord’s Prayer, one of the things that was coolest about that series of chapels was hearing from different members of the faculty about their faith and their conception of the Our Father.  Right before Spring Break, Dr. Eicher was going to be our presenter for “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” however, illness kept her from being able to join us for chapel.  Having put forth the effort to create a homily for chapel, she told me that she’d be willing (and wanting!) to give her homily anyway.  Today was the day!

Dr. Eicher shared a family story about some conflict among the people of her grandmother’s generation.  She told us that her father had told her that a conflict between his mother (Dr. Eicher’s grandmother) and his aunt had led to his mother telling him at a young age (9 years old) that his attitude toward his aunt should be one of “Cruz y Raya,” literally “cross (out) and strikethrough.”  A Spanish idiom, the idea of Cruz y Raya (when applied to a person) is that you cut somebody off… the American English equivalent would be “You are dead to me.”  Taking his mother’s advice for awhile, Dr. Eicher’s dad kept his aunt out of his life until, at the age of 17, he became a Christian while suffering with Tuberculosis in a sanatorium.  When he recovered from TB, he set about amending his life along Christian lines and decided that he was going to forgive his aunt and open a relationship again.

Dr. Eicher’s Aunt

EicherAunt

Dr. Eicher made the point that in American culture we think it’s really hard to say “I’m Sorry.”  But it really isn’t hard to say that we are sorry.  Once we teach kids that this is what they are supposed to do after doing something to hurt another person, it becomes a rote response.  “I’m sorry” loses its meaning when we strip it of any emotion.

I’m sorry isn’t difficult… what’s REALLY difficult is being on the receiving end of an “I’m Sorry.”  Most of us love to be mad.  We get to feel self-righteous… We were wronged and we get to hold it over somebody else’s head for awhile.  But when that person tells us that they are sorry, we have the choice to forgive or to hold onto our anger.

Dr. Eicher’s dad chose to forgive.  However, many years later after Dr. Eicher was born, she remembers a big fight her dad had with her aunt at the end of which he said, “I should have listened to what my mother said about you.”  Dr. Eicher never saw her aunt again.

So what’s the point?  Dr. Eicher suggested that for forgiveness to become a natural part of our ethical and spiritual expression, we have to start early and we have to start small.  Her dad failed at his first attempt to overcome Cruz y Raya partially because it was so big!  We are daily presented with thousands of different opportunities to hold grudges or to forgive.  Forgiveness takes practice!

How can we model good forgiveness practices with our students?

Enjoy today’s beautiful sun!  Winter is almost conquered!

=Fr Patrick

Modern Slavery; Chaplain’s Corner, 4/17/2013

Several weeks ago, one of our seniors came to me to discuss a troubling darkness of the modern world that she had begun to explore.  Having watched the movie Taken about a young American woman who is kidnapped in Paris to be forced into a life of sexual exploitation, she asked her dad if it was a true story and did her own research and found out that, though the details of the Taken story are fiction, the epidemic of modern human trafficking are unfortunately real.  She asked if she could take some time during a Morning Meeting or Chapel to share what she had learned.  Today was the day that senior Sarah McDermott talked to us.

Taking most of her research from the book and documentary series Half the Sky, Sarah told us that human trafficking is the largest growing industry in the world and that there are more slaves now then there ever have been in the history of humanity.

Trailer for documentary Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Trailer for documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls

On September 25, 2012 in a speech to the Clinton Global Initiative, President Obama began by saying:

I want to discuss an issue that [. . .] ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name—modern slavery. (Source)

Sarah also made us aware of some of the mechanisms by which modern traffickers prey on their victims: Deceit, Seduction/Romance, Being sold by family members, Recruitment by other victims, and Abductions (the least common, but most reported way).

Certainly, we can quote statistics and the President all we want, but the real question before us is “So what?”  Sarah tied her presentation into Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, the story of the wayward traveler who was beaten by robbers, told to a crowd after a lawyer asked him “Who is my neighbor?”  Sarah said, “When we learn about the plight of another person, that person becomes our neighbor.”  Jesus said to Love our neighbor as our selves.

There are thousands of people who are forced into slavery around the world, but even in our own backyard here in the Midwest.  Caring people around the world are called to, as today’s chapel reading from Proverbs states,

Speak out for those who cannot speak,
for the rights of all the destitute.
Speak out, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31.8-9)

Sarah lived out that commandment by sharing the horror of human trafficking with us today.  Now that we know about our neighbors, what are we going to do?

=Fr. Patrick

Poetry Month; Chaplain’s Corner, 4/10/2013

During the month of April, Seabury has been celebrating Poetry Month.  Each morning at Morning Meeting, we close the meeting with a poetry reading.  Sometimes we hear an old standard, sometimes we’ll hear something new, we’ve even heard a few student-composed verses!  As I was thinking about chapel this week, I thought it’d be fun to look at some poetry in the Bible!

Poetry is all over the Bible, but it’s most concentrated in the Psalms: 150 poems directed in prayer to God.  The Psalter is regularly used in most Christian and Jewish worship, for example in the Episcopal Church we always hear, sing, or say one of the Psalms between the Old Testament reading and the readings from the New Testament.  Specific Psalms are used at various points in worship or at various times of the year.  For example, we always start our Chapel by saying Psalm 100 together:

Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands; *
serve the LORD with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.

Know this: The LORD himself is God; *
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise; *
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

For the LORD is good;
his mercy is everlasting; *
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Psalm 100 is one of the Thanksgiving Hymns, a shout to Israel (and Christians) to worship the Lord for all the wonderful things he does.

But the poetry of the Psalms doesn’t always sound so much like worship.  A lot of the time it sounds like complaining.  There is even a full set of Psalms called “Lament/Complaint” Psalms.  One of my favorites is the opening lines of Psalm 69:

Save me, O God, *
for the waters have risen up to my neck.

I am sinking in deep mire, *
and there is no firm ground for my feet.

I have come into deep waters, *
and the torrent washes over me.

I have grown weary with my crying;
my throat is inflamed; *
my eyes have failed from looking for my God.

Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs
of my head;
my lying foes who would destroy me are mighty. *
Must I then give back what I never stole?

The Psalms are some of my favorite poetry because they use this figurative language to describe feelings we all may experience.  There are certainly times when we feel like being “Joyful in the Lord” and we feel as though we are the beloved “sheep of His pasture.”  But there are also times when we feel as though “the waters have risen up to my neck.”

Though ancient, the Psalms of the Jewish Bible speak to the heart of human experience and emotion.  The Psalms can then become useful for those of us seeking a way to pray when we can’t find the words.  In his book Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality, Episcopal priest and author Richard H. Schmidt says, “It is not that every sentiment expressed by a psalmist is admirable, but that in praying the Psalms, we confront ourselves as we really are. The Psalms are a reality check to keep prayer from becoming sentimental, superficial, or detached from the real world.”

Prayers of safety and blessing as we enjoy our Form Trips this weekend,

=Fr. Patrick

Resurrection Moments; Chaplain’s Corner, 4/3/2013

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

The forty days of Lent are over!  Spring is on the horizon and Easter Day has come and gone.

Today in Chapel we celebrated Easter and wrapped up our Lord’s Prayer series with my reflections on Easter and the end of the Lord’s Prayer: the Doxology.

Doxology comes from two Greek words and literally means “Glory Saying.”  Doxologies tend to come at the end of hymns and prayers and might sound formulaic:  In the Episcopal Church, a lot of our prayers end with something like: “who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.”  In a way, doxologies are the “Sincerely” at the end of our prayer-letters to God.

The doxology at the end of the Lord’s Prayer is missing from the original text and Jesus probably never told us to say it.  Instead it was added later.  But even if Jesus didn’t include it in his version of the Lord’s Prayer, it is still an interesting component of the prayer we say today.

Every time we say the doxology at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, we are making a pretty shocking assertion: we are saying that God (and no one else) is the ruler of our kingdom and that God has all the power and receives all the glory from our lives.  It’s shocking because most of the time we live as though we are members of somebody else’s kingdom, or we live as though we give glory and power to others beside God.  To whom or to what do you give power and glory?  It might be drugs and alcohol, a celebrity who you will never meet, a relationship that holds you hostage.

Last Sunday, Christians around the world celebrated the most important holiday in the Christian year: Easter.  Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his death on the Cross.  The Easter miracle is the primary example of the fact that we live in God’s kingdom.  God chose to resurrect his Son and because of his resurrection, we can be certain that the same resurrection waits for us.  But our resurrection from the dead isn’t the only way that God’s kingdom becomes manifest in our lives.  Our resurrection isn’t the only way we can see that God’s power is deserving of all the glory we have to offer.  Each and every day we witness “resurrection moments,” times when God’s power shatters the darkness of our world.

Have you ever experienced a resurrection moment?  It could be as simple as a time when you received an unexpected thank you.  It could be the moment when you see the first flower of spring budding.  Whenever light, hope, and joy break through the darkness we are experiencing a resurrection moment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I was in seminary, I worked for a summer as a chaplain in a big hospital in Washington, DC.  When you work as a hospital chaplain, you are assigned specific floors and units where you visit people in their rooms, sitting with them and praying with them.  My three floors were the oncology floor, the general post-operation floor, and the Alzheimer’s unit.  I picked the Alzheimer’s unit because my maternal grandmother died from Alzheimer’s disease back when I was in middle school and I wanted to learn more about the disease and the people affected by it.  One of the most shocking things I discovered while visiting Alzheimer’s patients was that when I would sit with them and pray with them, they’d mostly just listen to what I was saying, but whenever I launched into the Lord’s Prayer, the majority of my patients would say it with me.  Even amidst the degradation of their minds, the simple prayer stayed with them.

When I could hear my patients join with me in saying the Lord’s Prayer, THAT was a resurrection moment: a moment when God’s power and glory broke through the darkness of Alzheimer’s to wink at me and show me that my patient and I were part of God’s kingdom.

When have you experienced a similar moment?

Happy Easter to you and to your families! May you find resurrection moments as Spring begins!

=Fr. Fun

A very not stoop-id reflection on the day.

lost in wonder, love, and praise...

We have arrived at the day for which we have been preparing for the last 40 days.  It is Easter Day, the day of Resurrection, the day when we remember and celebrate the fact that the women went to the tomb and found it empty.  And yet, despite the season of preparation, despite our disciplined efforts to make room for God in our lives, despite the fact that we have been looking forward to this celebration for weeks, we may still feel unready.  We may still feel unprepared for this celebration, because the Resurrection challenges our assumptions and transforms the way we look at the world.  Even as we celebrate the fact that Christ has been raised from the dead, we may have lingering doubts.  After all, people do not rise from the dead in our experience.  In spite of all our preparation, we may feel unready to proclaim that…

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