Monday, April 23, 2012

Go Forth: An Update on the Religious Institute

I had the privilege of hearing Rev. Dr. James Forbes preach last week at the 175th anniversary of Union Theological Seminary.  He chose Genesis 12 as his reading, and using God’s command to Abram to “go forth”, he inspired us to reflect on Union’s faculty and graduates impact on the world.

The sermon touched my soul – not just as a proud Union alum and adjunct professor – but because of the journey I have been on for the past two months.  Rev. Forbes reminded me that Abram set out on his journey because God called him to make it, without experience in the destination.  So did Moses, so did the Israelites in the exile, so did Jesus and the disciples.  Called by God, to go first into the chaos or the wilderness, they went forth because they had no other choice but to obey God’s call.

When we discovered just 8 weeks ago that all of the monies of the Religious Institute had been used by its fiscal agent without our knowledge or permission, we were plunged into the darkness and the wilderness.  I had no idea how or if we would survive, but I did know that the ministry of the Religious Institute was too essential, too unique not to try.  I knew deep in my bones that I would have to work harder, be stronger, be more resilient, be braver and be more faithful than perhaps I had ever been before.

God’s yes, God’s go forth, was louder than any internal desire on my part to just give in or give up.

And so here we are, two months later, with 90% of the money for 2012 raised or committed. We have not been alone in the wilderness.  More than 550 individual donors and eight foundations have become part of our re-birth.  We are a newly incorporated organization with its own board of directors, on our way to becoming an IRS recognized 501 c 3 organization.

In a way that I could not begin to imagine on that terrible day when I learned about the betrayal of the Religious Institute, we now know that we have survived this financial tsunami and we have emerged as a stronger organization, with greater support than ever before.  We are reborn because of all of the people who have stepped forward to make sure that we would.  Your prayers, your donations, your volunteering, your cards and notes have kept us going through the wilderness. 

We are far from done, but we are on our way and we can see the other side of this journey.  I have felt the Holy Spirit’s presence in the darkest moments and in the signs of spring that have also emerged during these two months.

I have reminded myself often of Goethe’s words:  "Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it.”
Because of your support, we have once again begun to blossom and we hope, indeed, we know, we will once again blossom.  Thank you for being part of our rebirth. 

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