“So the Midwest nourishes us … and presents us with the spectacle of a land and a people completed and certain. And so we run to our bedrooms and read in a fever, and love the big hardwood trees outside the windows, and the terrible Midwest summers, and the terrible Midwest winters …. And so we leave it sorrowfully, having grown strong and restless by opposing with all our will and mind and muscle its simple, loving, single will for us: that we stay, that we stay and find a place among its familiar possibilities.”
-Annie Dillard, An American Childhood
Many of you know that I grew up in a tightly-knit, largely Dutch, Calvinist community in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I did feel nourished by that community, the people did seem completed and certain, and my mother probably saw my leaving as almost a kind of betrayal. My immediate family remains in Grand Rapids, and sometimes when I think of “home,” it’s Grand Rapids rather than Northeast Minneapolis that springs to mind. I remain grateful for that place, the people, and the identity that community helped me to create.
I hope Bethel has nourished you, but I guess I think it’s okay if our community doesn’t always seem completed and certain. And, while I miss you, I’m glad to see you leave. It would be selfish to keep all of you, with your attendant gifts, to ourselves.
Still . . . I really like it when you come back, and I hope that sometimes you inadvertently think of Bethel, too, as a kind of home.
Homecoming at Bethel this year is scheduled for October 1. We hope to see many of you on campus. In light of our tremendous losses over the past academic year, we are planning what I like to call “the Memory Project.” Come to campus, share your favorite memories of Professors G. W. Carlson and Stacey Hunter Hecht, and then join us afterward for a walk to the Royal Gardens where will dedicate a pair of apple trees to their memory. None of this will bring them back, but it does help remind us that they are an integral part of the cloud of witnesses we share.