Welcome to the week
Sunday is a day full of possibility. It’s where students both new and old arrive! We give them our core invitation: will you join us in entering Christian Adulthood?
We do this in a variety of ways. Hospitable and helpful individuals welcomed you and your students into Stewart Hall. We led you past our hall adornments of great sails of purple cloth, games of all kinds and welcoming staff members to help get your student a name tag, the academy notebook, a backpack and more.
We play music that students will hear all week. Our Academy playlists become treasures that students listen when the conference is over. Each playlist is carefully curated by our director, Peter David Gross. He picks songs that both emulate and expand our themes of uncertainty, faith and doubt. He picks from a variety of artists, mixing tempos and moods. In addition he also assembles a choral playlist for the quieter moments where we want students to focus on beauty.
The students heard from two of our main speakers today: Founder of Wheatstone and President of the St. Constantine School, Dr. John Mark Reynolds and Director of the Academy Peter David Gross.
Peter’s invitation was to tell students they won’t be treated like children here. We tell them we won’t assume anything about them: their likes and dislikes, wants or rejections, problems or passions. He invites them to understand and lean into the concept that adulthood and maturity are fantastic: much better than being a kid. Because Christ calls us to grow up again by being born again, this week is about focusing on how to do things well: love well, face uncertainty well and question well. That is how they can never stop growing up. We want to do it with them and with a few guidelines in place: we’ll have a beautiful week together.
Rules are not meant to control you, but make community possible.
Dr. John Mark Reynold’s talks act like another kind of text for students to consider throughout the week – they are free (invited even) to disagree and question the concepts in Dr. Reynold’s talk.
Dr. Reynolds started out with three propositions: there are barriers which exist between us that prevent true knowing – that is factors like age, social status, education, appearance, taste, societal pressure etc. These barriers prevent us from learning from each other which we should be doing, regardless of the barrier factors. Second, we are people that love to generalize (or judge). We assume other’s tastes, desires, behaviors and then generally hypothesize they are that thing before we have gotten to know them. Most of the time, our generalizations (judgements) can be right. But, that does not mean they are good or helpful for real relationships. Third, living among shadows is the only way to live.
Barriers and generalizations come in a variety of forms, some more pernicious than others. Dr. Reynolds used a series of examples to illustrate these propositions ranging from his deep love for his wife, which must change in response to their age and years of their relationship. He used the examples of people assuming what others want whether it’s birthday gifts or ads for toothpaste. Barriers and generalizations permeate our lives. They are examples of the shallow things we do that make us think we are relating or as Dr. Reynolds called it, “confusing the shadows for the light, thus creating only darkness.”
Shadows are not unpleasant things, indeed, we need them: cooling shade, dappled sunlight on a pond and the blessed rest of night which offers relief from the intense light of the day. Dr. Reynolds drew out a sustained metaphor of the importance of the Son (sun) when it comes to drawing sustenance and our model of love.
Darkness and light are not a good/bad binary, they are two elements that coexist in order to make a passionate and rational hole. Dr. Reynolds used pairing of faith and reason while fielding student questions about whether God wants us in shadow or light: is one good or bad? God created us to flourish and be happy. As a result, He does not need a thing from us. His joy is our delighting in how he made us, imperfect, but all the more reason to glory in the ways God works through us. He made us to like things and be good at things we like and have to work at other things. In God’s divine radiance, all shadows are put in their right places as glimpses of greater goods, more splendid beauties and deeper truths.
What do we do when those things are hard to find and we find ourselves at a loss? We can find out, a little this week, here in the shadowlands.
Pictures by: Ken Dong