It’s been several months since my last post. Margo (my wife) relapsed with TTP May 7th. We hoped this disease was behind us. Margo had two hospital stays and daily visits to the cancer center (4-5 hours a piece) in Chicago from May 7 until July 1, when moved from to Lamoni, IA. Her treatment initially transferred to Des Moines, then to Decatur County where we now live. The transition, itself, holds a wonderful testimony.
Remarkably, Margo found a doctor in southern rural Iowa who has been treating TTP since 1974. Chance or not, this is some kind of miracle. Statistically, TTP cases are 3-4 per million people per year. That means all of Iowa should have only 9-12 cases of TTP annually. The odds that a doctor with thirty (30) years of experience with this disease would come to Decatur County (pop. 8500), where we live, two days a week is a blessing no one could plan. Margo feels she is in great care, and we feel as if we are meant to be here.
The transition from Chicago to Graceland University and Campus Ministries has been an adventure. Many things are as I anticipated. The campus is incredibly busy. There are several questions that hang over my new position: Is Graceland a Christian institution? What does it meant that it was established as “non-sectarian?” How does Graceland’s 100+ year relationship with Community of Christ shape the university and my responsibilities? Would there be a “Graceland experience” without the church’s faith and historical influence? These are fascinating and important questions that deserve time and good answers.
Graceland is a liberal arts school with freedom of academic inquiry, dedicated faculty, and a palpable sense of community. The majority of students, over forty percent (40%), identify as Community of Christ at Graceland. So do many faculty. However, Graceland also has a significant Catholic student population, as well as other Protestants, non-denominationals, Mormons, Restorationists, and many others who do not identify or prefer not to be identified with a particular faith. Graceland also has about 12% International students, who identify with other faiths, including Jewish and Muslim.
With Graceland’s unique heritage and diverse environment, what does it mean to do campus ministry here? Whom do I serve? What should be my mission and goals?
Popular thinking about identity lays traps to avoid in answering these kind of questions. America’s politics and religious tribalism could easily run these questions aground. Starting from a defensive position, some feel that a diverse campus like Graceland’s would put its history with Community of Christ and its identity under threat. Of course, the opposite is likely more true.
We learn more about our faith, our history, who we are, what we practice and what we confess, by interacting with others different than ourselves. This is true across ecumenical differences and interfaith groups. It’s equally true with the diverse perspectives in any church community. Intentional interaction and a disposition for learning actually strengthens self-hood, faith and conviction. Moreover, the Community of Christ is a world-wide church with members of diverse cultural backgrounds across many nations. It is important to think of Graceland as a microcosm of what a global people really experiences, interacting with diverse people everyday.
Alot more can and should be said about these question. At this point, I only want to name them and touch on how to approach good and faithful answers. If you want to read more about my view of Graceland’s relationship to the Community of Christ, see my page Graceland and Community of Christ Share a Mission.
Back to campus. 🙂