Friday, April 13, 2007

Spring Semester's Tired Time

Spring Semester’s Tired Time

Those who serve in institutional presidencies soon learn how ours is a “sheltered existence.”  For various reasons, many in an academic community hesitate to bring everyday happenings or even news of greater consequence to the president’s attention.  In other words, I’m often the last to know, and I’m quite sure there are many things both insignificant and important that never come to my hearing or seeing at all.  In my younger years I had a greater need to be “in the know” about everything.  Now I’m quite content to let the many other capable hands, heads and hearts that surround me respond and support those whose needs escape my attention.

Since Easter Sunday I have overheard a couple of conversations relative to the current “student state” on campus.  “They’re tired,” is the synopsis.  I’m sure many of you student readers are no more tired than usual at the end of days crammed with classes, course work, commuting for some, and all the ordinary events and deeds of daily life.  But perhaps there is a collective fatigue that sets in midway in second semester.  While I don’t exactly recall such feelings in Seminary, I know that a couple of college spring times brought depression and deep struggles to press toward the goal line of summer vacation.

When I teach about conflict, students, parishioners or other hearers are always stunned to see Speed Leas’ research on the most conflict-prone times in parish life.  Number one on the list is Easter.  Easter!?  The most joyous of all days for the Christian community; how can it be the time of year when church conflict spikes?  The simple short answer: it comes at the end of Holy Week when everyone, including the pastor, is fatigued and maybe famished for rest and family time.  Besides, all those C&E (Christmas and Easter) Christians have descended in droves, upsetting normal patterns of parish life.  And the post-Easter let-down sends some into the doldrums.  A close reading of the gospels suggests it may have been so for the first resurrection celebrators as well.  “Thomas, where the heck have you been?”  “Oh, come on, you foolish women, stop telling these idle tales . . .”

Hearing or reading simple exhortations to “cheer up” or “get over it” probably are not helpful.  With your nose to the grindstone, hearing the perspective of one who finished the Seminary marathon three decades ago counsel “it will pass soon enough” likely offers little relief.  As your president, there’s probably precious little I can do—in that recognition centers my fatigue and sense of failure.  Does it help simply to know that at times I do sense and “hear” the collective sounds of silence and sighs too deep for words? 

I pray for warm sunny days, and soon—they do help many of us!  I encourage sharing one with another.  If the end-of-winter and not-close-enough-to-end-of-semester blues are of deep hue, I strongly suggest seeking professional counsel or conversations here on campus with those who can help by listening.  A bit of corporate “realized eschatological” cheerleading might be in order, too.  The end is already upon us.  Seniors, the diplomas will soon be signed and in your hands.  As for the rest of you, I can only speak of what I know from personal experience: Your 31st anniversary of graduation will be here before you know it!    

Michael L. Cooper-White, D.D.
Seminary President    

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