The poet and environmentalist Wendell Berry has written, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.” That makes “Where am I?” one of the richest of spiritual questions.
After a year or two in this place, it’s possible to start hearing it as an easy question. Where am I? I’m here.
But three years in this place, or more, starts to be enough to make it a more complicated question again. Ah, but where is here?
Today is a day for noticing, again, the power of that question – and its implications.
Here is where the satisfaction of what we have mastered meets the consternation of what still defies our understanding.
Here is where the peace of the beloved valley feels the cold shadow of distant war and the blistering outrage of hateful violence.
This is the place we have come to feel, at least in some ways, at home; and this is the place where the stories of migrants and refugees insist that until all of this world’s peoples can be at home, none of us is truly at home.
Here is where four luminous seasons mark the hills and fields with beauty and bounty – and where a parched and flooded earth is trapped in an expanding bubble of colorless, odorless gas.
This is where, in our work, the vivid present meets the open future. Here is where, in our play, joy touches responsibility. This is where, in our hope, challenge meets courage.
Who are we now? Who will we be?
Standing here in this rich moment, with a fresh clean sheet of time spread out again before us,
May we rise to the questions that our work puts to us.
May we rise to each other in the building of community.
May we rise to the summons and the cry of the world
with compassion, wisdom and knowledge.
May we rise to the best of our hopes, our convictions, our prospects
in learning, afresh, where we are, and who we are –
In the name of all that is sacred to each of us alone,
And all that is sacred to all of us together. So be it.
The Rev. Richard E. Spalding,
Chaplain to the College
Lord of Mercy and Compassion; Source of Light, Peace, and Wisdom; Creator and Sustainer of the Heavens and
the Earth –
We close our gathering this luminous day in gratitude for Your gifts and blessings upon us;
From Your gifts is the reassembly of this Williams College community for a new academic year, and we pray that the health, creativity, athleticism and brilliance of this community is renewed and revitalized to its full radiance, and potential;
God, fill these days and months ahead with the experience of awe at the wonders of existence, and we ask for inspiration with every new discovery and insight;
Help each of us bring to this community, openness of heart, mind and hand, so that, collectively, we can apply our hearts, minds and hands to addressing the greatest challenges affecting our community and our world;
God, reveal to us our shortcomings so that we can amend them; help us repair relationships where we have been blinded by our stubbornness and pride;
We ask You to sharpen our minds, while softening our hearts, so that intelligence is guided by wisdom, success is grounded in humility, and falling short is accompanied by the confidence to try again, and even, the courage to ask for help;
God, make kindness and compassion the foundations from which we engage with one another, all people, all creatures, and the earth entirely.
And may the peace and blessings of God encompass us all.