Date: August 19, 2022
As the vice president of the student body, I am frequently – perhaps foremostly – tasked with the solemn responsibility of throwing parties. The Labor Day Picnic, the Variety Show, Advent Affair (a.k.a. ‘seminary prom’), Spring Fling, and a myriad of full stops are some of the major feasts that mark the rhythm of our communal life at seminary. Much of my time in this elected office has been spent pondering the significance of these celebrations and the role of joy, exercised together, in the life of a community. Out of this pondering, I have realized that the practice of joy and celebration is deathly serious work.
Far more than an indulgent exercise in pleasant conviviality, how we gather for celebration and togetherness is often a critical indication of the spiritual wellbeing of a community. Communities that lack joy often lack hope. Moreover, celebration can be a subversive act of rebellion against the mundane forces of adversity that would have us succumb to hopelessness and blight. Communities that have been historically oppressed have long known this to be true. In The Book of Joy, the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu keenly remarks that “as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreaks without being heartbroken” (p. 12).
In short, our practice of joy through gathering for fellowship and merrymaking is an enactment of faith through the practice of resilience and hope. Our capacity for joy affirms that the Body of Christ is not only capable of enduring but of rejoicing amidst the seemingly hopeless conditions and tragedies du jour. Our Lord himself teaches us this. It takes only a cursory glance through the New Testament to see how much of Jesus’ ministry involved celebration even under the shadow of calamity – the Wedding at Cana, the Feeding of the Multitude, the Miraculous Catches of Fish.
The discipline of celebration and joy is central to the flourishing of the community of Christ. It strengthens the bonds of fellowship, it renews our fatigued souls, and it rekindles the flame of hope that we are tasked to share with a weary, weary world. This year I invite you to join and create the subversive joy that ennobles and enables us to carry out the mission of God. For when we come together for fellowship and joy, God is glorified.
Paddy Cavanaugh ’23 (M.Div.)
Bicentennial Student Body Vice-President