Kay Spiritual Life Center
April 4, 2018
Leviticus 19:2; Guru Granth Sahib Ji; Qur’an 3:104, 110



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Every once in a while, I get a song stuck in my head. Sometimes, it’s a good song, like “What’s the Buzz?” from the production of Jesus Christ Superstar that I saw Sunday night. Or a meaningful song like the Taizé song “Stay With Me” that we sang at the prayer vigil on Monday night. But most of the time it’s an “earworm”—one of those songs that just gets stuck in your head for no good reason.

One such song likely got lodged in my head after I’d seen something incongruous online or on television. You probably know this song. It’s from Sesame Street:

One of these things is not like the others
One of these things doesn’t belong…

I am reminded of that song—and am risking re-inflicting upon myself that same earworm—because of what it says about belonging. Because it seems to me that we think about belonging most when something doesn’t belong. Continue reading


Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Kay Spiritual Life Center
February 7, 2018
Deuteronomy 16:18-20, Romans 12:1-21, Matthew 5:9, Qur’an 49:13, 8:61; 25:63


By one count there are currently 54 conflicts raging around the world right now:  [1]

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    Internal conflict in Burma/Myanmar

  2. Moro conflict in the Philippines
  3. Oromo conflict in Ethiopia
  4. Somali Civil War
  5. Communal conflicts in Nigeria
  6. Insurgency in the Maghreb involving Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, Niger, Tunisia
  7. War in Darfur
  8. Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad
  9. The Libyan Civil War
  10. The Yemeni Civil War
  11. The Sinai insurgency in Egypt
  12. The south Kordofan conflict in Sudan
  13. The south Sudanese Civil War
  14. The Central African Republic conflict
  15. The Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan
  16. The insurgency in Balochistan (Pakistan and India)
  17. The insurgency in north east India
  18. The Columbian conflict
  19. The Maoist insurgency in India
  20. The Kurdish Turkish conflict
  21. Sectarian violence in Pakistan
  22. The insurgency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  23. The Kivu conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  24. War in northwest Pakistan
  25. Insurgency in the North Caucasus in Russia
  26. Sudanese nomadic conflicts
  27. The Syrian Civil War
  28. The conflict in Northern Mali
  29. The insurgency in Egypt
  30. Ethnic clashes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  31. War in Ukraine
  32. Unrest in Burundi
  33. Kamwina Nsapu rebellion in the DRC and Angola
  34. Oromo-Somali clashes in Ethiopia
  35. Arab separatists in Iran
  36. Kurdish separatists in Iran
  37. South Thailand insurgency
  38. The west Papua conflict in Indonesia
  39. The conflict in Israel and Palestine
  40. The CPP– NPA – NDF rebellion in the Philippines
  41. The Qatif conflict in Saudi Arabia
  42. Internal conflict in Peru
  43. The Casamance conflict in Senegal
  44. The LRA insurgency in the DRC and to the Central African Republic
  45. The nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Armenia and Azerbaijan
  46. Xinjiang conflict in China
  47. Internal conflict in Bangladesh
  48. Border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia
  49. Insurgency in Ethiopia
  50. Ituri conflict in The Democratic Republic of the Congo
  51. Conflict in the Niger Delta
  52. Insurgency in Mozambique
  53. ISIL insurgency in Tunisia
  54. Turkey ISIL conflict

Fifty-four conflicts. With estimates ranging between 3,969,812 and 5,590,594 people dead as a result. And those are the wars that are continuing. That’s not to say anything of the wars that have come and gone in the last century: WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the Balkan War… Continue reading

A Prayer for the Class of 2017

Winter Commencement, December 17, 2017

O Source of all Life,
The days of our lives seem to slip past
with ever increasing speed,
Too easily falling into the shadows of the past.

For that reason, we pause at the milestones of our life’s journey
that we might reflect,
that we might give thanks
before the day is consigned to memory.
And so, today we give thanks
for all that has been,
all that has led us here to this season.

For the families and friends
who helped to form our graduates
as they set out on this adventure years ago.
For the learning they have undergone in this place,
for the faculty who brought instruction,
for the staff who supported them in their need,
for their willingness to be open to new experiences,
new understandings.
For the friendships and the relationships that sustained them,
the times of joy and sorrow,
of triumph and defeat.
For all the threads of experience
that have been woven into the tapestry of their lives.
For all this and more we give you thanks.

O Source of all Light,
we gather this day
on one of the shortest days of the year,
when the night is long
and the darkness deep.
When worries about the world
and the troubles of an anxious time seem to weigh heavily upon us.

But here, today,
in this season of lights in the darkness,
and on this fifth day of Hanukkah,
we kindle another light.
For before us, robed in blue,
stands a bright light of hope,
shining out into the world.
And as it is with the turning of the year,
so too will this light only increase.

O Source of all Hope,
We pray your blessing upon our graduates and give thanks for all that will be.
For the difference our graduates will make,
For the creativity they will offer,
For the gifts they will share,
For the wisdom they will continue to acquire,
For the passion they will bring,
For the imagination they will employ,
For the fearlessness with which
they will face the future
For witness they will make
to justice, to peace,
to inclusive community;
For the way they will change the world itself.

And now, O Most Gracious, Most Merciful,
we pray that
in the times of injustice,
they may be just,
in times of fear,
they may sow love,
and in times of darkness,
they may be beacons of light.
And let us say: Amen.

A Light in the Darkness

Rev. Mark Schaefer
Kay Spiritual Life Center
December 6, 2017
John 1:1-18, Qur’an 28:83-88


Some years ago, I was involved in the process of finding a rabbi for a wedding. My then fiancée and I were looking to put together the perfect team of rabbi and minister to officiate our wedding. We wound up meeting with a rabbi who had had a lot of experience with interfaith weddings and interfaith couples. We enjoyed his wisdom and his reflections on the ways our children might find meaning across religious traditions. He noted, for example, that Jewish children could find a lot to admire in Santa Claus, who, he claimed, possessed a number of Jewish virtues. But then he continued by saying how much he himself enjoyed Christmas.

We were surprised by this but he explained: he’d grown up in New Haven, Connecticut and nothing was drearier than winter in New Haven. But when Christmas came along, suddenly the gloom of a New England winter was pierced through with light—there were lights everywhere!

That simple experience of seeing light in the midst of the darkness as a kid, some brightness to pierce the gloom, had had a lasting emotional impact on this man, such that Christmastime would always generate fond feelings in his heart. Continue reading

Made With Our Own Hands

Remarks delivered at “Critical Conversations: Gun Sense,” convened at the Baltimore-Washington Conference Mission Center by Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, October 17, 2017.

Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe has spoken already to the policy and advocacy side of the question here today. I have been invited to address a theological perspective. As any good Methodist, I am naturally drawn to using the Quadrilateral and so, began my own reflection with the scriptures.

Scripture does not make explicit mention of firearms, of course, but it certainly has a lot to say about violence. And the scriptures are replete with references to swords—there are 407 verses that reference swords in some way, with the highest number in Ezekiel, followed by Jeremiah and 1 Samuel—books relating the story of Israel and Judah at war.

If one is to look for a consistent ethic, it is not always easy to find. There are certainly verses where God commands violence. There are verses in which violent retribution for some offenses is affirmed or tolerated. And of course, there are verses that counsel another way forward: Continue reading


Rev. Mark Schaefer
Kay Spiritual Life Center
October 4, 2017
Exodus 1:15-17; Acts 5:27-35, 38-42; Romans 8:31-38; Qur’an 3:172-180


Fear is hard-wired into us. It is a function of biology that we should be afraid. Very often, the things we are afraid of are the kinds of things that can kill us.

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We dread the dark for fear of what predators might emerge from it. We jump at sudden noises for fear of the danger that seeks to surprise us. We feel our hearts race as we move toward the edge of a precipice, sensing our lives are in danger. We grow anxious when we lack certainty about our surroundings, because unfamiliarity and uncertainty often bring danger and death. Continue reading

Lessons of the Past

Kay Spiritual Life Center
September 5, 2017
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Hebrews 11:32-12:3, Qur’an 27:67-73, 22:39-48


A classmate of mine in seminary once told me that there’s a peculiar way that Southerners give directions. He was from eastern Tennessee and had observed this peculiarity having grown up in that region. He said that Southerners tended to give directions like: “Go down to where the Johnson farm used to be and turn left. Then when you get to the store that Mavis Williams used to own, take a right…”


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These are not directions that someone new to the area could possibly understand. They relied not just on good spatial reasoning and a good sense of direction, they relied on a personal experience of the history of the place you were in, which, if you think about it, would obviate the need for directions in the first place.

But I suppose I should not be quick to judge our Southern brothers and sisters, at least not as long as I keep referring to the East Quad Building as “the Old SIS Building” or struggle to avoid calling the American Café in Ward “Wagshal’s,” which it was called about a decade ago. And while we’re on the subject, it’s no longer the Ward building anymore, is it? It’s Kerwin Hall.

I suppose we all have an attachment to the way things used to be. We all have some relationship with the past. But do we have an honest relationship with the past? Continue reading