Summer Alumni Institute 2007

A QUESTION OF CALLING: Reflections on the Summer Alumni Institute
How do we discern God's call and apply ourselves to it with confidence and competence while negotiating the realities of a fallen world? This question and the ones below gave shape to the conversation at the first Summer Alumni Institute June 22-24. Eleven Gordon graduates joined Greg and Laura Carmer for a weekend of discussion, partially underwritten by a grant for the Lilly Foundation, on the topic of vocation and calling:

  • "Should you commit yourself to friends and family and then look for work that allows you to be near them or do you go where your career takes you and then try to find a meaningful community?"
  • "How do you negotiate competing interests, different calls and multiple responsibilities?"
  • "What does it look like invite the input of your church in your decision process of what to do with your life?"
  • "How do you balance the demands of family, work and community?"
  • "Does it really matter what you choose to do, or just how you do it?"
  • "Where do you find places of rest and beauty when your work brings you in to constant contact with the brokenness of those in need?"
  • "How do you keep energy and vision for your work when your occupation and vocation do not match up?"
  • "Does God give us desires just to tease us?"

Discussing the Questions in Community
Dorothy Sayers writes that work ought to be viewed "as a way of life in which the nature of man finds its proper exercise and delight and so fulfills itself to the glory of God. It should, in fact, be thought of as a creative activity undertaken for the love of the work itself; and that man, made in God's image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing." Hence, "work should not be primarily a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be the full expression of the worker's faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God."

But living faithfully to the call of God is not always as easy as we might wish. Competing demands on our time and attention, financial pressures, the shifting dynamics of a turbulent economy and unpleasant work environments can leave us less than completely fulfilled and with nagging doubts about how well our work is done and if it is entirely worth doing.

And yet our work, be it in the marketplace, home, classroom, studio or laboratory, occupies a majority of our time, attention and creative effort and may be the most significant altar upon which we "offer ourselves as living sacrifices, pleasing and acceptable unto God" (Romans 12:1).

The eleven participants in the Summer Alumni Institute represented a range of ages--26 - 44--and vocational paths--mental-health counseling, nursing, teaching, law, homemaking, marketing, accounting, social-work, and gardening. What they shared in common was a desire to live faithfully in the work God has called them to and to live into the reality of being transformative agents for the Kingdom of God.

The conversation was inspiring, convicting and encouraging as individuals shared about their journeys and challenges and told stories of God's leading and faithfulness. Annie (Garabedian) Ovanessian '93 spoke of the tension of bridging worlds as she transitioned from a ten-year, successful business career in Manhattan to becoming a full-time wife and mother of two. Dominic Gouker '99, a second year law student, wondered aloud how God's concern for the poor would play itself out in his future law career. And Charea Spuler '96 was able to trace the path of God's guidance that has brought her to where she is today. She told of reading about the life of Elizabeth Blackwell (the first woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S.) at age 8, and wondering about what God might have in mind for her future, and of visiting one of the country's premier teaching hospitals, Massachusetts General, as a college student. Today Charea works on the North Shore as a nurse practitioner and teaches nursing students at Mass General!