Attentiveness: Faculty Retreat - Gordon Conwell

Attentiveness: Faculty Retreat

Dr. Scott W. Sunquist

Gordon-Conwell seeks to maintain high academic standards and deep spirituality. Together. Both/And. Interwoven. Double helix. Warp and woof.

Choose your image, but such integration must first be lived and modeled with the leadership of the seminary: faculty and the Board of Trustees. The faculty had an overnight retreat this past week, and the Board of Trustees will have their retreat this coming February.

This was our second retreat in three years, and once again a pandemic was “in the air.” One of our faculty members, who had met with others two days before the retreat, tested positive for COVID-19 even though he had been vaccinated. This is the strange world we live in, making decisions each day, sometimes hour by hour. We live on the edge of embracing and refraining from embracing, living and dying, weeping and laughing; it seems to be an Ecclesiastes chapter 3 time.

So, some faculty, knowing that others may have been exposed, refrained from attending. Wise, but painful decisions. Months of planning, but all plans are held lightly and conditionally.

What do faculty do on a “retreat”?

It is not a faculty meeting with notes, votes, and debates. This was a time to worship together, pray together, and draw near to the cross as a community of scholars.

I think most of the faculty who attended would agree God worked healing and wholeness in our time together. If you know any of the people in the picture above, call them and ask.

We intentionally try to include some adjunct faculty every year. This year we included some from CUME (Boston), Hamilton, as well as Charlotte. Many had not met before. The value of including some adjuncts each year is hard to measure. Most adjuncts are involved in ministry on a weekly basis, and, thus, they bring the reality of local church ministry to our discussions. Tragic is the seminary that is training students for ministry with few of the faculty actually involved in ministry. Our discussions were deeply enriched by the presence of adjunct professors.

But it works the other way too. Adjuncts were challenged to think about research and writing as they listened to the scholarship of the core faculty. I myself was challenged when I heard about the research and writing our faculty are engaged in.

Here are some snippets from our retreat to guide your prayers of thanksgiving:

  • Faculty come from varied and often difficult backgrounds: being raised under communistic governments, alcoholism, and in racist environments.
  • Our faculty are publishing in Chinese, Korean, and Spanish. We hope to expand this.
  • Twelve faculty on the retreat have served as overseas missionaries.
  • Eleven faculty on the retreat have a special concern for urban ministry.
  • Two of the key themes on this retreat were community building and humility.
  • I observed that we naturally gathered with our friends and also sought out new colleagues.
  • Finally, I realized that I love working with this faculty.

Scott W. Sunquist, the President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, writes a weekly blog, “Attentiveness” which is posted each Tuesday on the Gordon-Conwell web site. He welcomes comments, responses, and good ideas.




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