The Symbol of God Functions
There are many memories from my time at Wake Div that I will never forget. I have now joined the numerous students (from Wake Div and elsewhere) who have sat in lecture and saw Dr. Leonard throw a student’s pencil out the window, Dr. Tupper reflect on the tiny pen dot he places on the wall, and Dr. Walls read erotic poetry. I will always remember the warm spring day we stopped class a few minutes early to communally pray for our classmate who chose to serve time in prison the week before finals as a way of living out his commitment to justice. The cold and dark December night we gathered in Davis Chapel to pray for the children and families of Sandy Hook Elementary School. And the autumn Sunday afternoon many from this community prayed over me as part of my ordination. But above all, there are five words that will continually guide me, ground me, and haunt me after I leave this place: “The symbol of God functions.”
I was once told that every student who has ever graduated from this divinity school has read Elizabeth Johnson’s She Who Is. I think this is fabulous and should continue as long as possible! Within this powerful and transformational text we find a calling to redefine our understanding of God by listening to and observing how we communicate about and with the Divine. Johnson explains that what humans know of God is mystery mediated through evolving discourses (6). Through our language and actions we find the most clear portrayal of the one who created us, calls us, and sustains us. God is woven into the experiences of our lives, individually and communally.
Our community has many symbols for God, some we have brought from our various faith traditions, some that we have found within books and articles, and some which have taken form through our time together. The symbol of God functions within our desire to respond to that which we are called, to walk alongside others as they hear their calls, and hold one another when the voice calling is too faint to be understood. God is experienced as the mother who is great with child and the mother who welcomes surrogate kin into her empty nest. We have found the Divine in unruly crackling bowls of fire, calm basins of cool water, and green leafy plants rooted in the moist earth. God has emerged through our care for others and the care we have received as tired, sick, and lonely ones in need. The symbol of God functions in this space and will continue to function in ways we cannot even imagine.
As I prepare to leave this community I will take with me as many of these symbols as possible. They are in the beautifully crafted prayers of Dr. Crainshaw, the reaffirming call by Dr. Miles to “Preach, preacher,” and the example from my classmates to let my voice tremble in order to speak the truth and justice of my heart. With these words I will always remember my time at Wake Div but also my call to relentlessly seek God through that which surrounds me.
Abby Pratt is a third year student from Kansas City, Missouri. Upon graduation she will serve as the Minister to Youth and Missions at Central Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia.