I started the new year at an institute for college presidents, listening to my own heart and to many other leaders in higher education. The gist from the opening session was: “It’s going to be a rough year. Keep your board chair close.”
My word for the year is faith because it’s what I need. Faith is such a familiar word that it can sound bland, and so I’ll try to explain what I mean. Faith for me is the belief that God is love and that God is at work in the world and in me. In these times, I need to feel a deep confidence in the marrow of my bones that love is the most powerful force in the world.
We do not know what the year will bring. As I read New Year’s editorials and essays describing frightening scenarios, I need faith as the apostle Paul described it: the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1-2). I want to actively seek and get my hands into the substance and evidence of love in action.
Such faith requires moral imagination. I have been moved recently by the writings of Mitri Rabeb, pastor, theologian and founding president of Dar al-Kalima University in Bethlehem. In the epilogue of his book Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes, he writes:
We must live with our feet firmly grounded in the reality of this world with its empires, yet, at the same time, be engaged with our own hands in a foretaste of the kingdom to come. . . . For we lose the future the moment we lose our capability for imagination. Without faith, there is no imagination; without imagination, there is no innovation; and without innovation, there is no future.
Such faith requires a discipline of mind. Paul’s words to the Philippians (4:8) are a powerfully transformative intention:
“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Such faith gathers strength in community. Communities of faith dream and imagine together, in fellowship, hymn-singing, scripture-reading and preaching. Worship is the opposite of doom-scrolling. I am grateful to be in a community that is full of imagination and full of things ‘excellent and worthy of praise.’
A few days ago Kevin and I gathered around a table with friends and reflected on the epiphany story. We read a poem by pastor and poet Jan Richardson, Blessing for Epiphany, which echoes the intentions of my heart for this year:
to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize . . .
Here’s to the next step, whatever that may be. Be open, my heart, to imagination and dreams! May 2024 be a year of faith, for me and for you.Rebecca Stoltzfus
P.S. Curious about my prior words of the year? You can read those posts here: