Yesterday I traveled down to New Haven to meet with the community at St. Hilda's House at Christ Church... it was Friday morning and time for their weekly "didactic." The guest presenter was Dean Britton of Berkeley Divinity School and he was there to discuss two articles by Rowan Williams on the idea of "Vocation."
I thought that burning a few brain cells around a table in the undercroft of Christ Church might be a great way to start the day.
I was not disappointed.
Some background information: St. Hilda's House is a new program/place in our diocese that's been open for about a year. Here is how they describe themselves on the home page of their website (www.sainthildashouse.squarespace.org)
St. Hilda's House is a residential young adult discernment program devoted to spiritual formation and urban ministry while living in community. It is sponsored by Christ Church New Haven in partnership with Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University and is supported, in part, by a generous grant from Trinity Church Wall Street's Trinity Grants Program as part of the Episcopal Service Corps.
The unique setting, in the heart of Yale University and New Haven, gives interns access to a diverse range of service, educational, and spiritual resources.
Basically, St. Hilda's House is a program and place that provides an opportunity for some very smart and cool young adults to live together, pray together, think together and do some good in the world for a year or so. There are about 16 interns who participate in the program under the direction of the Rev. Robert Hendrickson, curate at Christ Church. The interns come from different backgrounds and settings and from far flung places (Idaho, California, Hawaii,Colorado, England) and work at a variety of internship placements in the Greater New Haven area: teaching, tutoring, developing children's programs at Christian Community Action, serving at the United Way, at Columbus House with the homeless of New Haven, re-settling refugees through IRIS, and at New Haven Reads, a literacy program.
They are on about God's Mission in a big way and learning alot about themselves in the process.
Yesterday's discussion included a digression into the work of Paul Tillich and his idea of "salvation."
Here's a short primer on that, from a great Tillich website. ( feel free to skip it if you are not a Tillich fan or need more coffee in the morning before thinking so existentially)
Finally, how does Tillich conceive of our salvation? What do we attain and how do we receive it? For Tillich, what we ultimately attain and what ultimately solves for our problem of meaningless existence is the New Being; the central concept to Tillich’s understanding of the solution to the human problem is the New Being. The New Being is what everyone needs and what everyone universally searches for. As Tillich says, “The quest for the New Being is universal because the human condition of estrangement is universal.”1 The New Being, of course, is the new reality that enables personal conquest over separation from that which is of ultimate meaning because of our existence. It is a saving “power” that triumphs over existence. Salvation is to be conceived, then, as the healing and saving power of the New Being right now in history.2
Though Jesus is considered the bearer of the New Being, Tillich seems to suggest he isn’t necessarily the exclusive saving power of the New Being: “he is the ultimate criterion of every healing and saving power…in him the healing quality is complete and unlimited. Therefore wherever there is saving power in mankind, it must be judged by the saving power of Jesus as the Christ.”3) In other words, while Jesus is the standard for salvation—in that he bore and represented the new reality of existential conquest—he is not the exclusive entry point into it. Instead, he stands as a model for anything that brings hope, healing, reconciliation, and love.
The question- asked rhetorically- around the table was this: What's Saving Your Life Right Now?
We didn't answer it, but it haunted me all afternoon.
And I realized that for many people in New Haven- children in school, the homeless on the streets, refugees, single mothers, the aged poor, kids caught up in gang violence- that was saving their lives right now, were the interns at St. Hilda's working in the name of Christ.
Similarly- and no less importantly- I would offer that those same people- school children, the homeless, refugees, single mothers, the aged poor and kids caught up in gang violence- are the ones who are saving the lives of the St. Hilda's interns giving them a sense of purpose and fulfillment and strength.
The interns, of course, are also saving each other's lives, by supporting each other in community... and there were more than a few nods in our conversation to the sustaining power of the sacramental life that they share, receiving nurture and nourishment in the mystery and beauty of worship.
What's saving your life right now?
It's a question that I don't find too far away from the idea of Mission and deeply connected to the reality that when we participate in God's Mission we join into relationship with the Other... and that both are deeply blessed.
What's saving your life right now?
it's a question worth burning a few brain cells over.