Saturday, October 17, 2009

But will it preach?

I'm preaching tomorrow at St. Peter's -- come on down if you're in Conway -- and it's a particularly challenging Sunday. The Old Testament text is Job, and it's the start of the church's stewardship drive. Begging for money is no exactly what anyone wants to do from the pulpit.

Luckily that's not my job (although our wonderful vicar Teri give me the green light to mention stewardship if I so desired). And luckily I'm fascinated by the book of Job.

I only occupy the pulpit three or four times a year, and that only because of the kind permission of the vicar. But I have many friends who are both clergy and university faculty. For me, getting a chance to speak out of my faith is a clarifying and refreshing break from my academic pose. Some of my colleagues (especially those who teach in church-affiliated schools) wear both hats every week.

It's gratifying when some of my students come sit in the pews while I'm preaching, but beyond their show of support for me, I'm glad they get to see a public university professor speaking in the arena of faith. There's a stereotype about us academic types out there, and there's another stereotype about people with religious confessions. Professional intellectuals can value their church communities and their prayer lives, and clergy and laypeople can value scholarship and intellectual rigor. Some of my students have never seen those two worlds occupying the same time and space. To them, I say: The doors of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Conway are always open to you.

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