Lori E. Varlotta

A Call to Community

Dear Campus Community,

 

In the final days of September, we are at the focal point of the academic year: students are in the midst of completing homework assignments and taking tests (but not quite midterms), and events are ramping up engagement with community celebrations. I too have been doing homework and had the privilege of participating in community-building activities recently at a theological conference in Utah.

Last week, I participated in the Rocky Mountain Synod (RMS) Theological Conference, Region 2 of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Churches and leaders in this synod are significant and well-established friends and contributors to Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) and Cal Lutheran. It felt good to be able to thank Bishop Jim Gonia, in a face-to-face gathering, for the support we have long received from the RMS over the years. It was also illuminating to be in proximate community with over a hundred pastors who came together to contemplate and further imagine the conference theme of resiliency in the midst of trauma. 

The topic was a heavy one. And what our particular delegation (Sara Wilson, Desta Goehner, and I) saw and heard throughout the conference is that everyone present had personal stories of both trauma and resilience. Neither the conference participants nor the churches (and in our case, the university) we represent are immune from experiencing both the hardships and the joys of the grey area that emerges as middle ground on that spectrum.

Our small delegation spent some of our “team process” time pondering how we might continue to build resilience around the collective trauma that many here have experienced. How can we simultaneously acknowledge the grief, anxiety, and loss of Borderline, the wildfires, racial injustices, the impacts of COVID-19, and even some of the campus and societal changes, and still move forward? One of our brainstorm ideas was to invite administrative, faculty, staff, and student leaders to work together with Rev. Scott in seeing our weekly Chapel Hour as a “Call to Community.”

We know that Cal Lutheran is one of the few universities in the country that sets aside an hour each week as a “paid time” for worship, reflection, prayer, bonding with colleagues, enjoying nature, and other restorative activities that soothe the soul and foster inclusive community at the same time. Rather than take this for granted, we are hoping that all of us can begin to consider that designated hour in a special way—as not merely a gift of time to the individual but as a deliberate call to engage with our beloved community that Rev. Scott has eloquently described on several occasions.

Starting next week, will you please join me in using the 11:15-12:15 hour in exactly this way? Will you receive the gift of being “Called to Community” in any way you see fit? Will you help others respond to the call?

As I mentioned at today’s Faculty and Staff Town Hall, we are in community, period. The type of community we imagine and co-create is up to all of us together. No single person at any level of the institution can build community alone; it takes the entire village. I relish the call to engage with and strengthen our beloved community. I suspect many of you do as well. For all who do, please join me in using our weekly Chapel Hour to help build the community you want to see and have at Cal Lutheran.

 

Sincerely,

 

Lori E. Varlotta, Ph.D.
President

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