Rev. Dr. J. Henery
University Chaplain; Director of Communications
21 Sept. 2018
As do many St. Andrews faculty and staff, I wear a few different "hats" on campus, but the one I am now sharing is my role as your university chaplain with a pastoral message for our community.
Too many years ago and in seminary in Chicago, I briefly studied with an extraordinary woman who had developed a five-stage theory about how we deal with death or suffering or loss. She was Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her theory was that when we lose someone or experience tragedy, we go through behavioral dimensions starting with denial leading to anger, bargaining, depression and last, but hopefully, acceptance of our situation. We slip and slide through these stages and often repeat and sometimes stay too long in one of the first four but the goal is to move to acceptance and deal with what happened.
In a very real and painful way, what has just happened on campus and throughout our region fits that description: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and now, slowly inching our way toward acceptance.
Simply put, a number of spaces on our campus were damaged and beyond denial, we are now challenged with numerous questions and uncertainty about returning/catching up, etc. No longer about denial, it happened and we must cope.
And somewhere out there is that final, almost elusive stage of acceptance. It's the hardest one to achieve. Experiencing acceptance doesn't mean we have to be happy or content about it or forget what happened. It means dealing with what we have, appreciating whom we have and doing our best with what we have.
And that, my friends—faculty, staff and students—is where we are.
Now, the sermon. We have been beat up and many are hurting about loss, even those who are not here, miles from Laurinburg with their own problems. But for the past week in Laurinburg on this campus and elsewhere, I have seen myriad examples of people who passionately care about St. Andrews who have been here cleaning, trying to fix or save something, the emergency shelter that was set up in the gym, townspeople who have come to help, alumni who have reached out. Our campus staff has been amazingly involved, doing all they can, considering that these same people also endured power outages and water damage. So much kindness and interest in this place that is an essential part of Laurinburg and Scotland County.
It's about acceptance: we are a real place with real people who are invested in what we are doing here. We can be upset about missing our games or classes, but we have to move on and reclaim the future of our community and once again, be with each other.
Scriptures and all faith traditions are full of verses relating to tragedy or loss but all resonate with a clear message: tomorrow comes and when people bind together, they will overcome and goodness will prevail. And yes, even whining a bit, but truly focused on celebrating that which is still to come.
Now is the time for us to move from denial, leave anger and "what ifs" behind and carry on.
Habakkuk (3:17-19) describes our situation thus: Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.
That is my idea of acceptance. Please, when we reopen and you return to make us whole again, join us as we continue to affirm our purpose to do our best to make a difference at St. Andrews. Like it or not, we are all in this together.