By Jonathan L. Walton
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I think about the above question a lot. Here I find faith, inspiration, and moral challenge. The Memorial Church will continue to explore the theme “Redefining Success: Living a Life of Service and Sacrifice” this Term. How shall we answer the unrelenting call to address the pains and problems that plague our community, nation, and the world?
Anticipate hearing from those who are answering the call in their own unique ways. For instance, Sarah Rosenkrantz ’14 and Sam Greenberg ’14, co-founders of Y2Y Harvard Square, the nation’s first student-run homeless shelter for young adults, will visit the Faith & Life Forum. Their youth-to-youth model provides a clean, safe, and affirming environment for homeless adolescents. By addressing the particular needs of this population — which include a disproportionate number of LGBTQ identified young people who have fled violent situations — Y2Y is developing viable pathways to future success and security.
We will also meet someone who is reimagining the ways spiritual values might transform the public sphere. Connecticut College Professor David Kyuman Kim MDiv ’93, ThD ’03 is a founding member of an interfaith group known as The Love-Driven Politics Collective. This collection of artists and intellectuals travel the country encouraging conversations which draw on a range of religious traditions. They aim to develop ethical responses to politics and policies that promote unemployment, state-sanctioned violence, and international conflict. Prof. Kim believes that appeals to prayer and love are far from hyper-spiritual rhetoric but instead can supply us with viable moral resources that can positively impact national politics.
In this vein, few topics evoke more emotion today than gun control. Thus, we will hear from Dr. Caroline Light, the Director of Undergraduate Studies and Lecturer on Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard. She will discuss her most recent book Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair with Lethal Self Defense (Beacon Press, 2017).
These are a few of the speakers whom will visit the Memorial Church this Term. They all share a commitment to the ideals of serving others and sacrificing in the present to secure a more sustainable future. More importantly, they live out the demands of faith by refusing to concede to cynicism and despair or embracing hyper-spiritual yet ineffectual velleities. They each put their faith into action.
What is more, our music program, under the direction of Gund University Organist and Choirmaster Edward Jones, continues to serve as a much-needed salve for these tumultuous times. After a January tour of Montreal, the Harvard University Choir will hold a special Evensong service in February with guest conductor Dr. Barry Rose, former Director of Music at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. March will feature a performance of Tobias and the Angel, the acclaimed church opera by Jonathan Dove to a libretto by David Lan, and a Holy Week musical meditation of Brahms’s A German Requiem. And be sure to mark your calendars for an ARTS FIRST performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers (1610) on Saturday, Apr. 28.
During times of uncertainty, the Memorial Church continues to provide the spiritual and intellectual resources to confront life’s challenges with courage, empathy, and an ethic of love. As we embark on the New Year ahead, I encourage you to become a part of this space of grace at the center of Harvard Yard. You can join us in prayer and critical reflection, as we consider this most urgent and pressing question together: How will we put our faith into action?
Jonathan L. Walton
Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church of Harvard University
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