Disturb Us, Lord

I was privileged to spend two days at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire this past November to attend the fourth annual New England Independent School Spirituality Conference. The conference brings together chaplains, deans, heads and division heads, and faculty members from a range of Episcopal and non-sectarian day and boarding schools. It was wonderful to come together in shared purpose across a multiplicity of school setting and missions, and inspiring to reflect together on the very difficult work underway at schools around issues of equity, justice, and service.

The conference theme was Leadership through Service. The Rev. Paula Lawrence-Wehmiller reflected with us on leadership and “followership.” Bobbie Gottschalk presented Seeds of Peace, a program that brings together young people from opposite sides in conflict-torn nations to build bridges and live in community. We learned about the Jefferson Awards for Pubic Service, and I joined with Bernie Baker of Deerfield Academy to explore the distinction between charity and justice and to share approaches to community service programming.

The conference was closed with the following prayer, attributed to Sir Francis Drake. It reminded me that we must go out beyond the safety of the “known” if we are to expand our understanding of the world; that difficulty is inherent to our seeking; and that complacency can keep us from new wisdom and possibilities. In these, the dark days of winter brightened by the transformative and redemptive promise of Christmas, I share it with you here:

Disturb us, Lord when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we have arrived safely
Because we have sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision of the new Heaven dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of and,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength courage, hope, and love.