Aldon Hynes's blog

2018 Summer Intensive at CDSP: Sabbath - Lepers on Camino

Saturday evening, I walked down to St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Berkeley. It is a small Russian Orthodox church without any pews, but has a few chairs on the side. There is a nice collection of icons, but the walls and ceiling are not covered the way they are in other Orthodox churches I’ve attended. Attendance at Vespers services are often fairly light and I was one of the first people there. The priest came out and welcomed me, asked if I was Orthodox and where I was from. I told him a little bit of my story. It turns out that he went to seminary with the Orthodox priest at the church I attend in Connecticut.

The service was familiar, except much of it was in Church Slavonic. Remembering listing to Rachmaninoff’s All Night Vigil on Memorial Day weekend, I found a few words coming to me during the service. I thought of my studies in Hebrew. Maybe learning Church Slavonic isn’t as remote an idea as I had once thought.

After the service I walked back through Berkeley, past the tents of homeless people and into what felt like downtown with nice restaurants. I met some of my classmates there for dinner.

Sunday morning, I slept a little later than usual, but got up with enough time to make it to All Souls for their 7:30 service. It was a small quiet nourishing service with interesting reflections about being the mustard seed. It was interesting to think of mustard seeds as an invasive species and there is perhaps some interesting ecclesiology there.

I went back to the dorm, had breakfast, chatted with a couple classmates, and then set out on the next leg of my journey. I walked across Berkeley to the east side where I attended Good Shepherd. I passed a dog park and a group of people taking Spanish dancing lessons in what seemed to be the parking lot of an abandoned gas station. I passed more homeless enclaves and eventually ended up at the church. It was also a small service and I chatted with people for whom life seemed a constant struggle, elderly people, offspring of elderly people, people without stable housing.

I thought of going to Good Shepherd with some of my classmates and the scene from Brother Sun, Sister Moon came to mind where St. Francis recoiled at seeing the lepers and Sister Claire said, “Yes, lepers”.

Perhaps we are all lepers on camino.

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2018 Summer Intensive at CDSP: Saturday, Game Day

When I was a child, I used to enjoy doing cryptography with my father. We would read the latest issue of “The Cryptogram” together and trying to decode the various messages. Another fond childhood memory was treasure hunts. We would try to find something hidden, whether it was in Highlights magazine, a small silver tea pot that would hide somewhere in the room in plain side, or these complicated treasure hunts where one clue led on to the next. Years later, I became interested in gamification in education.

For me, yesterday was game day at seminary. While one of my professors was busy watching the World Cup, I was busy trying to decode various passages in Hebrew. Later, I went on a great treasure hunt at the library to find texts for my research paper.

I did find some time to also participate in non-schoolwork related gaming, and participated briefly in the Pokemon Go community day.

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2018 Summer Intensive at CDSP: Day 5 - Fan Girls

“Sunday morning, very bright, I read Your book by colored light
That came in through the pretty window picture.”

Part of the daily schedule is morning and evening prayer. These are important times for me as I process and synthesize all that I am experiencing. So, too, have been these times of writing my reflections.

This morning, as I sit down to write, the words of Noel Paul Stookey’s song “Hymn” come to mind.

Passing conversations where they mentioned Your existence
And the fact that You had been replaced by Your assistants.
The discussion was theology,
And when they smiled and turned to me
All that I could say was "I believe in You.

So, we’re discussing theology. I love a good intellectually stimulating discussion and yet I often find theological discussions troubling. They often feel to me like a bunch of people talking dispassionately about Someone I love deeply. I love a good intellectually stimulating discussion and yet these theological discussions often feel somewhat incomplete to me. While I want to talk about post-colonial, queer, and womanist perspectives, I also want to talk with they people that hang out on the street where I work.

In class we talked about bridging the chasm. We talked about practical theology. For me, it feels like a great chasm and it was great to see glimpses of that bridge.

I visited Your house again on Christmas or Thanksgiving
And a balded man said You were dead,
But the house would go on living.
He recited poetry and as he saw me stand to leave
He shook his head and said I'd never find You.

On Thursday, the St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry showed up, The Rev. Winnie Varghese. I think I first heard Rev. Varghese speak at Missional Voices in 2016. Since then, I have often listened to her sermons online. I was very excited to hear that she would be the visiting professor and would speak to one of the classes I’m in.

A couple of my classmates spoke about being all “fan girl” about Rev. Varghese. I don’t really do the fan girl sort of thing, so I’ll simply say that Rev. Varghese’s voice is, in my mind, one of the most important voices we should be listening to today.

Another such voice is Dean Kelly Brown Douglas. She recently spoke to a bunch of clergy in Connecticut and we’ve been reading some of her articles for class. This is where some of the differences of opinions have shown up. What should our approach be to people from other social locations?

For me, it is important to listen to people from different social locations. One part of that is because this is how we are most likely to hear something new, something challenging. As a cis-het white male, there is also the issue of equity. Voices from my social location have too long dominated the theological discussions. Giving people from other social locations equal time is not enough. It does not balance out the centuries of cis-het white male domination. Instead, we need to point to, amplify, and highlight those voices that have been too long left out of the discussion. Dean Douglas takes this further suggesting that it is the oppressed themselves who are best able to understand and speak about God’s redemptive love.

During one of the sermons this week, a preacher suggested that “every time we draw a line, Jesus is on the other side of that line”. This particularly jumped out at me.

All of this takes me back to one of my foundation stories. Back in college I had a professor who had taken a group of students on the Camino de Santiago. When they returned the students spoke at various alumni association meetings. At one such meeting an elderly alumnus got up, shook his finger at one of the young students and said, “You know what your problem is, it’s that you don’t have any goals.”

The student respond that he did, in fact, have one goal, “to live each moment more fully and more lovingly that the previous”. I have adopted that as my own goal. Too much of my life I fall short of this goal, but it is where theology becomes practical for me.

I love my classmates. It feels like at the deepest levels, they come from places closely related to where I am coming from. One of them has a quote on her Facebook page, “I have a mustard seed, and I’m not afraid to use it.” Another has walked the Camino thanks to a fellowship for John Phillip Newell’s group.

As much as I love Rev. Varghese and Dean Douglas, if I’m going to go all fan girl, it is going to be on these people whose lives feel so connected with my own.

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2018 Summer Intensive at CDSP: Day 4 - Coffee Before Hebrew

“Coffee before Hebrew,” she said as we left the chapel. The title of various books came to mind, Snow Falling on Cedars, I Know This Much is True, Like Water for Chocolate. Somehow, everything feels heavily laden with meaning in the middle of a Summer Intensive at seminary.

I knew that she was simply saying that she really needed a little coffee to help her wake up before heading off to Hebrew class, but my mind went to parsing different possible meanings. Perhaps she was using the word ‘coffee’ as a verb meaning something along the lines of “to become caffeinated, to get an adequate level of caffeine in the system to function as a normal human being. Perhaps she was making a statement about priorities. In the greater scheme of life, coffee comes before Hebrew. It is more important to enjoy simple pleasures of life, than it is even to learn human languages. Perhaps it was a statement about the order in which things most happen. First you must have coffee, then you must attend your Hebrew class, just as there is a natural order to the days and seasons.

There is a natural order to the day here. The morning waking up rituals, morning prayer, coffee before Hebrew, the morning Hebrew class, lunch, the afternoon ministry class, evening prayer, dinner, studying and unwinding. It is all good. The poem for the day yesterday was “i thank You God for most this amazing” by e. e. cummings. This too, is coffee before Hebrew.

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2018 Summer Intensive at CDSP: Day 3

They call it the Wednesday Wall. After orientation and two days of classes, you’ve settled into the rhythm: Morning Prayer, class, Eucharist, lunch, class, evening prayer, and then time for dinner, fellowship and studies. It almost has a monastic feel.

The amount of work yet to be done becomes more apparent. You see the stress starting to crack the faces of some of your new-found friends, some to the point where they start leaking around the eyes.

After my afternoon class, I headed back to my room to drop off my books and computer. I was very tired and was trying to decide whether to just go straight to bed, find something to eat, or find someone to eat with. I really just wanted to sit, surrounded by classmates, in prayer.

Then, the chapel bell tolled. I had forgotten about evening prayer. It would be starting in fifteen minutes and was exactly what I needed. I walked over to chapel. I saw the wearied faces of some of my friends who had already arrived. Behind me, I heard a body collapse into a pew with a giant sigh. I let the whole service wash over me, cleanse me, nourish me, and sustain me.

Afterwards, I walked with friends to get food, to share friendship, and to just simply walk. I do my best studying and writing in the mornings, so I went to bed and slept deeply.

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