Prayer for Unity
I continue to believe that most important goal of a liberal education is to develop the skills to address our world’s most complex problems. We are surrounded by challenges made ever more insoluble in the face of pernicious divisions and a growing, radical mistrust of each other. We face cultural, economic, political, and scientific problems on a global level, and there are significant sociological impediments allowing those problems to escalate more quickly than we can engage in them collectively.
As many of us strive to build inclusive communities, we will be challenged by a variety of perspectives and lived experiences that may seem irreconcilable. That is why we are called to places like Susquehanna to have difficult conversations, foster compassion, and sow seeds of mutual respect. During the 18 months I have been at the University, it is the difficult conversations we have had as a community that have distinguished us as a living-learning community. It is my hope over time that this will lead us to become a model of inclusive excellence, which will require much hard work and moral courage.
Last Spring, Leymah Gbowee, recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, spoke on our campus. During the Q&A, someone asked her about the 2016 presidential election. Her response was nonpartisan and revelatory. She said the United States needed that election to learn how truly divided the nation is about so many issues, and that until we address those differences with courage, we will never truly be united. Those are the kinds of conversations we need to have as a nation and world, and that we will continue to develop in our community.
My father was a church organist. Many of my best holiday memories stem to that: turning pages and singing in his choir. Lately, I have been recalling passages from the “Prayer for Unity” in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, which was sometimes read on Christmas Eve:
…Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord … so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity…
As we prepare to welcome in a new year, it is my hope that we will all strive to take away whatever may hinder us from union and concord.
May you all have holidays filled with meaning, memories, and kindness.