My husband and I are back to Durham, NC after a summer in our hometown in northern Michigan. It seemed strange to unpack the car Sunday evening after three days on the road and then bike to seminary the next morning without the usual back-to-school preliminaries. No shopping for folders or pencils or sharp new crayons. No new haircuts or pictures taken. I wondered if I was supposed to get an updated student ID or what. (Apparently not.) It was as if I hadn't left, hadn't stopped making hourly trips to the library, snarfing lunch between classes and meetings, battling crowds at the e-print stations. Gone for three months, yet nothing has changed.
And meanwhile I'm back to attending morning prayer at the chapel in the divinity school. It's amusing and poignant to see all the first year students there, so hopeful about their spiritual journey in seminary and eager to attend everything, but who will slowly drift away from daily prayer before the end of the semester. Our robust group of 50-60 will shrink to 10 or less. But that doesn't change the liturgy, or the lectionary, which I suppose illuminates the wisdom of a structure that doesn't rely on the emotional energy of a critical mass. I remember one morning during exam week last year, when my husband and I were the only two people in the chapel, and then shuffling up the aisle came Stanley Hauerwas, world-renowned theologian. And it didn't matter what sort of personalities were or were not in the room. The litury--the prayed Word of God--remained the same.
And I suppose that if the three of us hadn't shown up, the flagstones of the floor would have--if not cried out--at least whispered the praises of the Lord.
And then when the flagstones are gone--indeed, when heaven and earth have passed away--God's word will still remain.