My Episcopal priest when I was growing up always said that he loved getting books for Christmas, but that he wished that people could also grant him the time to read them as well. It is a blessing to serve as a school chaplain and have a bit of time to read in the days following Christmas.
Over the last few days, I have had the great pleasure to read the new book, Grounded: Finding God in the World – A Spiritual Revolution, by my friend and former professor, Diana Butler Bass. Diana is a wonderful writer, and is grounded (pun intended) as a student of history, theology, and the church. In Grounded, she describes some of the ways that we can know God that may surprise us with their apparent “newness,” even though they are also rooted deeply to the theological tradition.She speaks of the ways that people are finding the nearness of God :
Far too many people who understand God in these ways probably do not know how rich the tradition is that speaks of God with us, God in the stars and sunrise, God as the face of their neighbor, God in the act of justice, or God as the wonder of love. The language of divine nearness is the very heart of vibrant faith. Yet it has often been obscured by vertical theologies and elevator institutions, which, I suspect, are far easier to both explain and control. Drawing God within the circle of the world is a messy and sometimes dangerous business.
As a school chaplain, I loved hearing her descriptions of the ways that more and more people are becoming aware of God not as a distant and nearly absent rule-maker or watchmaker. Rather, Diana describes the plethora of ways that we can know and experience God who is nearby us, among us, and grounded in the soil, water, air, and in the communities in which we dwell.
As I make my way around campus, I find that God is present, not only in chapel services or in the midst of time for prayer and meditation, but also in the everyday moments in a school’s life. Whether it is in the athletic training room where our caring trainers help our athletes to heal, or in the lower division lunchroom where parent volunteers help our littlest ones find sustenance. God is present in our vegetable garden that our middle division director tends along with her student gardening club. God is also present in the grand performances on stage and on athletic fields, and is also present in the moments of disappointment and defeat as team members care for one another.
In this new calendar year, I am not taking on any new resolutions. However, I am praying for the gift of awareness of the ways that God is present and loving in the midst of the everyday stuff of the world. My second prayer is to help others to see the ways that God is present in the midst of us, and give thanks for this everyday gift of seeing “God within the circle of the world.”
The Rev. Peter M. Carey is chaplain at Berkeley Preparatory School, a pre-Kindergarten through grade 12 coeducational Episcopal day school in Tampa FL. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org