In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben describes how “trees of the same species growing in the same stand are connected to each other through their root systems.”  He calls trees “social beings” who share food with their own species and sometimes even with their competitors.  Why?  “The reasons are the same as for human communities:  there are advantages to working together.  …. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate.  It is at the mercy of wind and weather.  But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity.  And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old.”[1]

Humans, also, are created to live in community.  Humans, like trees, need one another in order to flourish. 

In 1968, Saint Paul School of Theology welcomed Jack from the deep South to its Midwestern community.  Seminary is a place of beginnings: first appointments, the celebration of marriages, the birth of babies.  But for Jack, his first year brought disorientating challenges to Southern and family politics and, in the spring, the death of his fiancée.  Through this year of loss and change, the Saint Paul community supported him, encouraged him, called him back to life and purpose.

In 1970, Saint Paul welcomed Marilyn, an Iowa farm girl, to its mostly male community.  The six unmarried women on campus lived on the second floor of Schoellkopf under the watchful eye of a housemother.  Marilyn had a degree in math, but no classes in history since being a junior in high school.  And she had convinced her major professor that she would never need to speak publically and so got excused from the speech requirement at Iowa State.  (God must laugh at us sometimes.)  In spite of the lack of fit, the Saint Paul community challenged her, encouraged her, finally convinced her she was called to ordained ministry.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.”[2]  Community is a gracious gift of God.  We do not create community; we are allowed to share in the life-giving blessings of community.  We do not create community; but we are called to be stewards of the community in which we live; the community to which we are appointed; the community that God has given us.  We do not create community, but we are responsible for its care.

It seems to us that it is the stewardship of community that Jesus describes in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7):  Do not act in anger.  Be faithful in relationships.  Say what you mean and do what you promise.  Love those who are difficult.  Love the enemy.  Be generous.  Pray and pray together.  Do not worry.  Do not judge others.  Seek the will and purpose of God. 

Saint Paul School of Theology continues to be a place of God-given community, where students and faculty, together, grow in understanding and in discipleship…. and in the ability to care for the communities in which they will serve.

Revs. Marilyn and Jack Gregory

 

[1] Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees, (English translation by Jane Billinghurst) © 2015 Greystone Books, Vancouver and Berkeley, pp. 3 and 4.

[2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, (English translation by John W. Doberstein) © 1954, Harper and Row, p. 30.

2 Comments

  1. Janice Johnson Hume on February 4, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    Dear Marilyn and Jack,
    I enjoyed reading the devotional you wrote and the article written about you shared ministries. I am grateful for your faithful service. I, like you, continue to be grateful for my time at St Paul.

  2. Judy Atwood on February 5, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    Thanks, Marilyn and Jack, I remember sharing those days at St. Paul and others along our ministry paths. You have been a blessing to many!

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