Dr. Cheryl Pauls (President of Canadian Mennonite University) spoke on “Reaching for What’s Been Lost and Found and Lost Again and Again” from Isa 58:9b-14 and Mk 5:24-34. Is there hope of recovering a theological influence on higher education? CMU is a “church-related” university that partners with secular universities on academic content and voluntary community. CMU’s Menno Simons College funds the departments of Conflict Resolution and International Development studies at the University of Winnipeg. Peace and Social Justice are both religious virtues and increasingly shared societal values. Bringing out the best of two supporting Mennonite denominations helps CMU builds trust with other ecumenically-minded Christian churches. Likewise, ongoing interfaith dialog with Shia Muslims in Iran and efforts to reduce inequality in staff remuneration all demonstrate the engagement of Anabaptist ideals. She called us to help repair the breakdown of public dialog between the theological voice and the liberal arts by taking inspiration from the Book of Nehemiah’s long list of workers who repaired Jerusalem’s walls.
Dr. Pauls then gave a dramatic monologue from the dual perspective of a timeless woman she named Johanna – the one who encompassed the experience of the woman in Mark 5 who was healed by touching Jesus’ hem, and a characterization of her own internal experiences of reaching out to Jesus during two different worship services. Her “Narnia moment” was a twist of imagination that invited her to suspend judgment and drink deeply from the wellspring of grace and truth. She was transformed by a sense of courage, patience and a desire to imagine new openings to conversations that had seemed closed.
Is theological truth better than secular nihilism because it’s musical? Is liturgical practice a preparation for the performance of life, and at the same time, are the practices of life a preparation for the performance of worship? Have courage, trust, and patience in the multiple spheres of influence that span across the institutions of church and state. Hope can come from the words of Isaiah (58:9-11), who said, “If you do away with the yoke of oppression … you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” [KH]