Three days ago I poked my head out of my office, up above the stack of books I’ve been living under the past two months of graduate school and realized the Festival of Faith and Writing would start soon. Er, yesterday, to be exact. I scrambled through some last minute work, threw underwear and t-shirts into a suitcase and drove up to GR.
To say I’m part of the Calvin writing community has always felt a bit of a stretch. I’m from out of state. I’m short, not at all blonde, and I didn’t know what the CRC was until I took “Prelude” class freshmen year. I came late to the English major the way people come late to church—sneaking in the back, slinking into the empty end of a pew, and skimming the bulletin for free cookie events. After school I took off and went to Korea and haven’t been back since. Anyway, I’m not really one for community: I’m allergic to nostalgia and immune to synergy, which can really be a downer for everyone else.
I tell you, I felt sick with joy coming home to Calvin. At first I attributed it down to my morning coffee and the sudden influx of Vitamin D that the current Not-Winter season has brought on. Then I listened to Professor Rienstra introduce Gene Luen Yang at the Festival’s opening plenary session. Alternately laughing out loud and scrambling for a pen to take notes as both she and then Gene Yang spoke, I remembered.
Well, I remembered several things yesterday. One was the smell of North Hall and how hard it is to get a parking spot. Another, more pleasant, reminder was the thought-provoking power of metaphors. Professor Reinstra spoke of the tree at the end of Revelation, whose leaves were intended for the healing of the nations. Being a pessimist, I was reminded first of all the divisions my writing has sparked before—rifts in a church, arguments within families—and second of the sheer audacity of what we do. Writing for reconciliation in a world of division is daunting.
Because it isn’t only the world that is divided; it’s us. We strive for balance between so many things: solitude and solidarity, celebration and mourning, money and passion, tradition and renovation. No one can serve two masters, surely, but neither is anyone free from conflicting responsibilities.
I also remembered what this little family was like—this community of faithful writers. A community of self-deprecating inquirers, afraid but brave enough to ask questions that matter, to live with ambiguity, but to bring forth truth and speak it with style. It’s a beautiful community, and it’s one to which I belong.
I write this because I want you, too, to feel sick with joy when you remember how wonderful this community that embraces you truly is. Thus, from us here at the Festival of Faith and Writing,
To those that are near, remember, and those who are farther away, never forget:
We are a unique community—a wise, sassy, and loving community. A community of people who listen, who strive for depth, and who care about what is right, good, selfless and true. We are a community unified, contending in one spirit to understand and communicate the glories of God made real in our lives.
Grace and peace be yours in abundance, my friends. Strive on.
Elaine Schnabel (’11) spent her twenties traveling, blogging, and earning various master’s degrees. Now earning her PhD at the University of North Carolina in organizational communication, Elaine researches and writes at the intersection of religion and communication. You can find her blogging at Religious (Not Crazy).