Here at the Emerging Scholars Network, we often think of what we do as applying the ideas of the faith and work movement to the work of being an academic. We believe God cares about all work, and calls believers to work in many different fields as a way of engaging with His good creation and witnessing to others about His grace. We try to apply that framework to the work of Christians in the university. Today, ESN editor Hannah Eagleson reflects on a recent experience at a Redeemer Center for Faith and Work conference and offers a brief spiritual exercise for academics at the end of the semester.
I didn’t expect ice cream to be such an important part of the most recent conference I attended. In April, I participated in the Formed to Work for the Glory of God conference through Redeemer City to City’s Center for Faith and Work. On the second day of the conference, I found myself trying to decide which made-on-the-spot flavor to choose at Alphabet Scoop, an ice cream shop with a mission to hire and train teenagers as they build job skills. A waffle cone piled high with cookies and cream, dulce de leche, and whipped cream wasn’t the reason I signed up for the conference, but it turned out to be emblematic of one of the best things about it (not to mention delicious!). The conference was structured not just to share great ideas about faith and work, but to invite us into an experience that made those ideas come to life.
The conference had two well-crafted evening sessions with speakers, panel discussions, worship, and a reception afterwards. It also had a whole Saturday morning and afternoon designed to offer each participant the chance to do two things:
- Enter into an experience designed to create a sense of Sabbath rest and
- Visit a workplace or participate in a project and hear from believers there about how they find and follow God in their daily labor.
The conference called these experiences Glimpses of God’s glory. They included everything from a visit to the Goldman Sachs trading floor to a seasonally inspired lunch with local chefs to a comedy show to an inside look at the NYC Department of Education.
On Saturday morning, I joined a Sabbath experience led by author Nana Brew-Hammond. We reflected through writing on the pauses and moments of rest in the Genesis creation story, in a liturgically thoughtful set of exercises. I found that having an experience of restful reflection in the midst of a conference on work really helped me internalize the idea that God gives us rest, and our work needs to be done from a framework of finding rest in Him.
Later that day, I made my way to Alphabet Scoop, where 20-30 of my fellow conference-goers turned up during the afternoon for the ice cream shop’s grand reopening. As we enjoyed our ice cream, we had the chance to talk with the staff of Alphabet Scoop and members of a team of professionals who had volunteered their skills to help the shop modernize and create a more sustainable model for its nonprofit mission (you can read more about this process here). The professionals supporting the shop’s renovation and reopening were all alumni of Gotham Fellows, an intensive faith and work training program Redeemer started in 2008.
That evening, I found the excellent talks and liturgies of the closing session much richer for having a figurative and literal taste of how various believers seek God’s Kingdom in both work and rest. As I thought about it, I realized that every one of the conferences that has had a huge impact on my life invited me into experiences that deepen what I’m learning from the talks, and given me a taste of what it would be like to live those ideas out in practice over time.
I also found that I was able to weave more practices of prayer and reflection into my workday after the conference with relative ease—I think the experiential nature of the conference helped to make that easier. The conference helped me reshape my daily liturgies in small but significant ways. In that spirit, I thought I would offer a brief prayer exercise designed for this intense time of the academic year.
Carve out a little time—even 10 minutes—to sit with a journal or piece of paper. Say the following prayer:
Oh Lord, Where are You revealing Yourself to me in my work? Where I do I see Your grace? Where are You asking me to share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings? Where do I see You at work in the lives of students or colleagues? What are the difficult things in my work that require Your strength and mercy? What are the unexpected gifts that show Your generosity?
Write down or reflect on a few ways you are encountering God in your work. Conclude with the following prayer:
Oh Lord, thank You that You share in our sufferings and delight in our joys. Let us find hope in You in this moment. As we work to finish our semesters well or start our summers hopefully, provide for us in every hard thing: difficult conversations with students or colleagues, the struggles of the job market or tenure process or adjunct experience, the rush of details to sort through, the crushing lack of time we often face. Be present with us and give us strength and courage. And let us experience You in every joyful thing: the delight of students who have grown in their skills and interests this semester, the opportunity to see our own growth as teachers and researchers, the gift of rest after the semester closes. Be with us in all things, oh Lord, and in all things let us find You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Image courtesy of silviarita at Pixabay.com