September 26, 2013
Students in the Revival and Reform: Renewing Congregational Life D.Min. track study the twin histories of spiritual revival and social reform in the United States and its colonial antecedents. We want to discover patterns of God’s renewing work in the past so that we can better dispose our ministries to renewal in the present.
Pursuing this aim is full of pitfalls. We must constantly remind ourselves that we cannot combine ingredients to re-create what God has done in the past because (a) we’re not God and (b) we cannot re-create the past: the settings of past revivals were complex, and we will never live in them again. Nevertheless, history can expand our view of present problems, which yields better solutions or at least better hope.
For example, in his monumental biography of Jonathan Edwards, George Marsden describes the dismal social and spiritual condition of young adults in Northampton, Massachusetts (where the 31-year-old Edwards was pastor) in 1734. In part because their parents were reacting against the strictness of their parents, the prevalence of premarital sex had risen dramatically, even to the point that pregnancy out of wedlock lost much of its stigma so long as the couple married following conception. This was aided and abetted by a land shortage that prevented young people from starting families on new farms and forced them to live with their parents with no immediate economic prospects. The average marriage age rose considerably. Youth were aimless, and youth culture revolved around taking advantage of days off working for their parents to hit the party scene at local taverns instead of attending scheduled church activities.
Then in April 1734 one of the young men in a hamlet a few miles away from the town center died of a sudden illness. Edwards, who himself had nearly died of illness twice, preached a gripping funeral sermon about the precariousness of life and the pointlessness of the young people’s lives in light of death and the next life. The young adults were deeply affected. Edwards returned and called a service for that age group soon after, and these young adults quickly began showing evidence of conversion: changed lives.
Soon this wave of conversion spread to young adults all over Northampton and from them to all generations, from children to the aged and everyone in between, men and women, high and low, rich and poor, free and slave. Almost the whole town appeared to be converted. People of all kinds were meeting in homes to pray and encourage each other through Scripture. During the 14 months of the revival, sickness virtually disappeared from Northampton. The revival spread to other towns along the Connecticut River, and similar phenomena appeared in New York and New Jersey. This was an intense local precursor to the Great Awakening that swept all the colonies about six years later.
Though so much of the social, cultural, economic, and technological setting of 1734 Northampton is alien to us, certain contours of young adulthood then—promiscuity, carousing, career stultification, delayed marriage, “failure to launch,” abandonment of religious institutions—are jarringly familiar to us today. Yet it would be a mistake to conclude that contemporary American young adults are like them in all important respects. For example, one asset that Edwards possessed that we lack is sound theological knowledge shared by his hearers. (See Kenda Creasy Dean’s must-read Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church for the modern contrast.)
Nevertheless, the 1734 revival does demonstrate the crucial, encouraging lesson that God can awaken young adults with the daunting troubles they have today, that he has, and that he may yet again—that that may spark transformation in a community and beyond—and that he may use a God-soaked, yearningly loving pastor to birth it.
Cory Hartman grew up in a suburb of Syracuse, New York, and serves as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hollidaysburg in the Pennsylvania county where his family has lived for generations. (Go Orange. Go Bucs. Go Steelers.) He is an M.Div. alumnus (’03), a current D.Min. student, and the author of On Freedom and Destiny: How God’s Will and Yours Intersect. Cory and his wife, Kelly, notch National Park sites visited with their four children.
September 24, 2013
Introducing Joelinda Coichy, another one of our new student bloggers! Welcome to Gordon-Conwell Voices, Joelinda!
Name: Joelinda Coichy
My dad’s name is Joel and my mom is Belinda, and that is where my name comes from. I am thankful because that blending of names could have ended much worse for me. ;)
Degree: Master of Divinity
Hometown: Medford, MA, and Savannah, GA
I was raised in Massachusetts and by most standards I am definitely a Yankee, but there is a part of me that really, really wishes I was actually from and still lived in the South—that part of me rears itself each time I visit my mom, who now lives in beautiful, slow-paced Savannah and when I am cleaning snow off of my car in the dead of winter…
Where were you before seminary? Atlanta. I worked for a social media marketing technology company where I got paid to be on Facebook all day—literally. When I was not working, I was a small group leader for an awesome group of middle school girls at Passion City Church and served as an InterVarsity volunteer at Emory College.
Favorite hobbies? Singing loudly while driving, costume design, bargain hunting, community-building, jewelry-making and admiring beauty in nature.
Favorite food? My mom’s Haitian codfish…yum. French bread and French fries!
Favorite hero of the Christian faith? My mother. An imperfect but courageous follower of Christ who has reflected the beauty of the Father in the midst of the good, bad and ugly of life through an undying, whole-hearted and fervent trust in Jesus.
Favorite book? One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Interesting fact about yourself? I am first generation Haitian-American, so I speak French and Haitian-Creole in addition to English; I also studied Spanish in college….but Biblical Greek still kicked my butt!
Issues you are passionate about? Helping youth discover the life transforming freedom that is theirs in Christ and the joy of living out their God-given purpose—not as adults but NOW!
September 19, 2013
Introducing Melissa Zaldivar, our newest student blogger! Melissa contributed a guest series on the intersection of etiquette and the gospel this summer (view her first post here, second here, third here, fourth here, fifth here and sixth here), and we're excited to officially welcome her to the Gordon-Conwell Voices team!
Name: Melissa Zaldivar
Degree: Master of Arts in Theology
Hometown: Atascadero, CA
Where were you before seminary? Prior to seminary, I was at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I did my undergrad there and graduated with a degree in Electronic Media in May 2012. I then moved back to California for the summer, working at a golf course and running around the country filming and photographing weddings before diving into seminary in the fall of 2012.
Favorite hobbies? Aside from the obvious love I have of the written word, I am a big fan of creativity. My hobbies include travel, photography, film and baking bread. I’ve been an avid golfer for about 11 years and I love all things about the culture of golf courses. I follow most sports and my allegiances are all over the map, depending on the sport. This time of year I’m following my Chicago Blackhawks & Cubs, the Green Bay Packers, Anaheim Angels and Auburn Tigers (for college football). I love watching major events (inaugurations, the Royal Wedding, the Super Bowl, etc.) and being outside.
Favorite food? Chicago was a great place for food. So I can get behind good deep-dish pizza, Chicago style hot dogs and pie. Other than that, the possibilities are endless. I believe that God gave us food and community for very specific reasons, and I love exploring both.
Favorite hero of the Christian faith? I know that this may seem strange, but I really love the story of Leah, Jacob’s first wife. She was neglected and not at all favored, but she gave birth to several of the heads of the tribes of Israel, including the tribe of Judah, into which Jesus was born. The powerful thing about her story is that God not only saw but blessed her in ways that she never lived to know. I love the fact that our stories echo beyond the grave and the here-and-now is not all there is to life.
Favorite book? I’m a big fan of Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God. It has been helpful as I learn to navigate culture and Christianity.
Interesting fact about yourself? I once met an astronaut.
Issues you are passionate about? I am passionate about theology, music, film, stories, campfires, oxford shirts, typography, humor, NASA, American History, random facts, learning, loving, creating community, and a firm conviction that I have the cutest niece on earth.
September 17, 2013
Our good and gracious Father,
Here we stand at the precipice of many good things:
Classes we have long awaited,
Community we have long anticipated,
And nothing but time for the two to sweetly mingle.
We are eager to delve into Your good things,
and fervently we stretch our hands open
to partake of Your abundant gifts.
We will sit in our classes with new notebooks
and freshly sharpened pencils.
We will open new books and make friends with their contents.
We will puzzle in the library over vocabulary and exegesis papers
and watch the leaves turn just outside our windows
with mystery and awe.
Yes, it feels we are at the door to Open Spaces
and You have opened it to us.
But before we rush through her frame,
before we adventure out into all the good You have for us,
we choose to pause here for a moment.
We dare not be a healed leper who does not think to thank.
Thank You, good and gracious Father.
Thank You, Giver of all gifts.
For all this is Your doing,
and nothing we have comes from any other hand.
Thank You, Teacher and Master.
Thank You, Companion and Friend.
Here at the beginning of good things
we turn our faces to You
with joy and gratitude.
Hi, friend. I'm Amy. Mostly, I’m just another twenty-something trying to figure out the stuff of life. I am a nerdy seminary student who loves the smell of old books and early mornings in the library. I am an artist wanabee, a liberal to the conservative and conservative to the liberal, guilty social justice groupie, and a recovering Bible know-it-all with the unreal ability to put my foot in my mouth an astonishing number of times each day. I am a sister to eight of the most hysterical creatures ever created. Good theology, used book stores, and autumn make me giddy. I preach passionately, think deeply, and ask too many questions. I write prayers, poetry and prose. I write about preaching bad and good, gender roles in the Church, the sacraments, stupid things we do on Sunday, politics, and almost everything else that you are not supposed to discuss in polite company. I also blog at oneyellowbird.blogspot.com. Welcome to the journey.
September 12, 2013
This past Sunday, I took a trip across the Intracoastal to one of my favorite spots on the planet. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I still lived in Atlantic Beach, and the season’s turn to fall makes the nostalgia all the worse. But this particular day, I took the trip for a very different reason than “I wanted to feel at home.”
You see, one of my favorite things about Atlantic Beach is that it’s the best of both worlds: lush, loamy trees and greenery stand only a few short steps away from endless ocean. I have a little nook that gives me a view of both. Both can be counted upon to kindly remind me how small I really am.
It’s always an appropriate posture to be in before the God who is bigger than time. But that day, it was especially so. I took up space on the corner of the deck of the place I used to live and took a deep, full breath of the morning. I needed Him to know I was there, open and willing to listen. I needed Him to know I was ready to be small again. Clearly after the weekend, I had forgotten Who was in charge of this deal and He had been quick to remind me.
It came unexpectedly, despite the fact that I can look back through the past few weeks and see where I had been ignoring His leanings on things that would come up and pushing Him to the side of an extremely busy schedule. It truly is amazing how naïve we can be when he finally shuts us down to get our attention. It’s almost like we shrug our shoulders—“What? What are You so mad about? I have no idea where this is coming from.”
Call it bricks. Call it lightening. Whatever it was, it nailed me in the middle of one of our back, less populated hallways here on campus as I was in route to class. Suddenly, He was there. His presence was so tangible that I actually stopped walking completely. It was with divine clarity that the situation at hand was thrust before my eyes. Everything stopped.
You’ve been ignoring Me. You’ve been ignoring this. And here are all the ways that it is hurting you. You will stop.
I can’t describe what it was like to face what He wanted to show me. It was ugly. The details aren’t important to my point. My point is I denied Him. I got busy, I got complacent, and I took Him out of the picture because I didn’t like what He said. I committed the ultimate no-no: I “relied on my own understanding.” And the Sunday afterward, I gave it to Him straight:
I’m soooooo sorry.
I’ve been a believer a long time. I’ve heard things and know things about God’s discipline of His children. I’ve heard us try to understand it and make it easier for non-believers and new believers to swallow. The fact is we do them a great disservice in this. God’s discipline is sometimes bone crushing, and that fact is something we’re often shy about.
But His Word is quick to bring us back to reality. If you scour the texts on “discipline,” it’s almost overwhelming how many times it’s brought up. Now, it’s nice to know we aren’t alone in our experience of God finally taking us to task on something. But they’re quick to tell us not to ignore it. They’re also quick to tell us something far more powerful.
It’s from His love. He disciplines from His immense and immeasurable love for us.
Solomon says we’d be stupid to ignore His correction. I’ll tell you we’d be stupid to ignore the leanings that lead to a correction.
I thought about all of this as I sat and stretched my gaze into the horizon. They say His affection for us stretches more than the depth and expanse of the ocean. I was trying to swallow that unfathomable truth…
Kate Hightower is writing to you from the middle of her Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Christian Thought pursuit at Gordon-Conwell—Jacksonville, where she is also a Byington Scholar. She’s an avid Bob Dylan fan, and can always be counted upon for decadent French cooking. And she’s madly in love with her giant, brilliant golden retriever, Stella.
September 10, 2013
Happy first week of classes! After a brief summer sabbatical, it is time to start blogging again. My name is Tim and I am a 3rd year M.Div. student, which essentially means that this blog is part of a carefully crafted scheme to avoid studying for my language competency exams coming later this week. Being a 3rd year also means that I am officially in my last year as an M.Div. student. Accordingly, I feel it is my obligation to start off this year with some thoughts that might serve the incoming first years well.
I think that’ll get you started. I look forward to meeting all of you! I’m the loud one during lunch and dinner, so feel free to stop by.
Tim Norton is a born-and-raised, small-town Southerner with the sweet tea addiction to prove it. He comes to Gordon-Conwell as a Kern Pastor-Scholar and plans to pursue pastoral ministry in the U.S. after graduation. Tim is a big personality with a strange affinity for the color orange. Currently, he attends GENESIS Church, an Acts 29 church plant in Woburn, MA.
September 06, 2013
Melissa is contributing a series on the intersection of etiquette and the gospel. You can view her first post here, her second here, her third here, her fourth here and her fifth here. This post is the last in her series.
As I traveled to Minnesota, I was reading what Emily Post had to say about travel etiquette (I took a car, a train and a few planes to get here for a wedding), which, ironically, was the last section in Etiquette. And as the commuter rail brought me from Minneapolis to the suburbs, I finished the book. Dusk was settling in (and if you’ve never gotten to experience the vesper light of the Midwest, you may not have truly lived) and I had arrived, quite literally, at the end of a journey.
The last 300 pages are about celebrations, giving gifts and weddings. These are all traditions that have been passed down. (I’m not the first person to come up with bringing flowers to dinner.)
The essence of tradition is the fact that it is passed down from generation to generation. Someone said to me, “I think it’s good to know the rules of etiquette, but it just doesn’t exist anymore. People pass on fewer and fewer parts of etiquette until it is just gone.”
At the start of this series, I mentioned that our generation has a skewed view of etiquette, believing that one can be pretentious by abiding by rules of conduct. But the last five weeks have proven to me over and over again that it only betters my ability to love others.
So why is it that I had a skeptical view going into this? Why is it that others have had reservations about this project as a whole? The root of our pessimism may very well be self-preservation. It’s simpler to do my own thing. Putting forth effort to write notes and extend hospitality is something that feels forced at times, but I’ve not been able to shake the feeling that when I do those things, I am carrying on a great tradition. I’m writing notes because my mother did and because her mother did.
And there lies our problem: Letting go of etiquette means losing our connection with past generations. And what we think is making our own lives better is actually distancing ourselves from those who have gone before. Those who neglect history are doomed to repeat it. Those who disconnect will be isolated.
And therein lies the solution that Paul puts forth. If theology is the great tradition, and so much of Israel’s honoring of the Lord involved remembrance, perhaps there is a trace of the gospel in every act we undertake to love others that has been passed down to us.
The Jewish New Year was this week. The year 5774 is upon us. And while I’m one of the only Jewish people on campus, I knew that I needed to celebrate it with others. Because it’s been passed down and if I neglect it, making some excuse like “I don’t have time,” it will be forgotten.
So, in the 10 minutes before I left to catch my train to Boston and get on a plane to Minneapolis, I invited some friends to join me in welcoming the New Year. And we dipped apples into honey and I asked the Lord to let this New Year be a sweet one. And I stumbled awkwardly through Hebrew prayers, and in that moment I understood why I love etiquette. Because when you start living a life under these traditions, it does feel awkward. And it’s like slowly reading Hebrew. And just when I think that it might not be worth it, I finish the act and breathe deeply, knowing that thousands in years past and even in that moment whispered the same prayers. And asked God for a sweet New Year. And I am united to them.
Paul reminds us about our unity through conduct when he writes, “And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body…Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything to in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Phil. 2:14-16a, 2:17).
Emily Post wrote in 1922, “Good taste or bad is revealed in everything we are, do or have.” Friends, we have been given the gospel and we are called to pass it down to future generations. Let us teach them what good conduct is. Let us remind them what proper etiquette looks like. And may they know because of our actions that they are loved by the One Greater than us.
Melissa Zaldivar is an MATH student from California. She loves golf, theology, Jewish holidays, people falling in love, Jonathan Edwards, chocolate chip cookies, her adorable niece and telling stories. When she's not filming and photographing weddings, you can find her reading news articles, watching Parks and Recreation or playing Super Smash Bros.