We are grateful for this report from Paula Puckett, GFM Faculty Minister at William & Mary. It models faculty members encouraging each other in following Christ as well as the strength of partnership between Christian study centers and on-campus ministries.
The past three years at William & Mary have been particularly exciting. Two streams of ministry converged to more effectively serve faculty and students. The first is the growth of InterVarsityâ€™s traditional Faculty Ministry. With more than 70 faculty and professional staff now on the mailing list, and a part-time InterVarsity staff who serves them, faculty are regularly invited into fellowship and to events that foster their spiritual formation such as lunchtime Sacred Space gatherings.
Meanwhile, Cambridge House Christian Study Center, part of the rapidly-growing Consortium of Christian Study Centers, was established next-door to William & Mary, with the vision to â€œset a table with the riches of the historic Christian tradition, for the moral, spiritual, and intellectual flourishing of the W&M community.â€
When partnering together, Cambridge House and InterVarsity Faculty Ministry co-sponsor various events which invite W&M faculty to envision Cambridge House as a place that both ministers to them and that allows them to minister to others.
One such shared initiative is the new monthly Faculty Fellowship Dinner series launched this Fall. The first one took place on September 22nd over a home-cooked meal of Moroccan chickpea stew. Professor Aaron Griffith of the W&M Philosophy Department shared briefly on the intersection of faith and academic vocation. He poignantly offered his reflections on what it means to love within the Academy, asking,
â€œAre we here as Christian faculty only to create â€˜safe spacesâ€™ for Christian students, where they can be shielded from a â€˜dangerous secular culture,â€™â€¦Or are we to encourage our students to love their neighbors on campus and in Williamsburg? How can we model and propel students to see and respond to those who are suffering around themâ€”the least, last, and left out? How do we promote the self-emptying love of Christ (Phil 2:7) in our students? How do we turn enemies into neighbors? How do we, in other words, encourage our students to have their focus outward on those around them and avoid promoting an inward, fear based protective attitude.â€
Griffith then shared from the writings of Aristides, a 2nd century Christian philosopher:
â€œChristians love one another. They never fail to help widows; they save orphans from those who would hurt them. If a man has something, he gives freely to the man who has nothing. If they see a stranger, Christians take him home and are happy, as though he were a real brother. They don’t consider themselves brothers in the usual sense, but brothers instead through the Spirit of God. And if they hear that one of them is in jail, or persecuted for professing the name of their redeemer, they all give him what he needs. If it is possible, they bail him out. If one of them is poor and there isn’t enough food to go around, they fast several days to give him the food he needs. This is really a new kind of person. There is something divine in them.â€ [The Apology of Aristides the Philosopher, Texts and Studies 1 (1891) pp. 1-34]
He then asked the gathering: â€œWhat would it look like for Christian students and faculty on this campus to have a witness like this?!?â€ What followed was a rich discussion that left us challenged, inspired and longing for more such conversations in the years to come.
About the author:
Paula Puckett serves as an Associate Regional Director for InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministries in the 17-state South Central Region, and in Faculty Ministry at William & Mary, her alma mater. She holds an MA in Leadership from All Nations Christian College north of London. Paula is passionate about prayer, spiritual formation and helping scholars both young and old to flourish. Paula and her husband, Blake, currently own the home where Cambridge House, the Christian Study Center at William and Mary, is located. She serves as Secretary of the Cambridge House Board.