August 4
August 4 E-mail

Monday

Despite the historical setting, magnificent architecture, and stimulating lectures, there are still aspects of an aging body that demand attention.  Most of the lectures and concerts in Cambridge were held at Great St. Mary's Church, built in the late 15th century (or about the time Columbus discovered America).  The pews are narrow wooden benches with a back at a 90-degree angle with the seat.  By the end of last night's session, I had pain shooting up my spine.  Clearly, I would not make it through the week without intervention.  Bev's neck cushion was my salvation.  She lent it to me so I could sleep (or what passes for sleep) on the plane.  This round cushion with a hole in the middle protected my tailbone from too much pressure.  A balled up sweater brought relief to the small of my back. 

All of these accoutrements helped me manage the pew, but not the disadvantage of ONE toilet.  To remedy that situation, I familiarized myself with restrooms in Marks & Spencer down the street.  Feeling a bit guilty for using the facilities as a non-customer, I purchased a set of handkerchiefs for my husband and several lunchtime sandwiches.

Wilfred McClay gave the keynote address for the Cambridge week.  His topic was "On Losing and Saving the Self."  There is much here that requires further thought so I bought the CD.  Among other things, McClay made the point that not killing someone (via abortion or euthanasia) falls short of loving and caring for someone.  Many Christians lobby and vote for prolife candidates, but fewer are involved with caring for the least of these.  Unwittingly, our attitude becomes, "Let the baby be born, keep the elderly alive, but let the government shoulder the cost and provide for their care."  Perhaps the best way Christians can stand against the cultural tide of self-centeredness is by caring for elderly parents.  McClay observed that the "sandwich generation" is the whiniest generation.  These thoughts quickly become more than academic as Charles and I deal with aging parents. 

Colleen Carroll Campbell was the second speaker of the morning.  I had read part of her book, The New Faithful, earlier in the year.  She discussed her research into the younger generation's return to orthodoxy upon becoming disillusioned with the postmodern substitutes for God.  After hearing several speakers talk about the dangers facing our society, it was uplifting to hear about a positive trend, albeit only among of minority of young people.

mathematical bridge

The Mathematical Bridge at Queen's College Cambridge

In the afternoon, we had a new set of workshops to choose from.  I selected  "The Well Educated Soul: Forming a Whole Self in the Classical Tradition" led by John Mark Reynolds.  He is a caffeine-charged, live wire who prefers a dialectic to a structured lecture format.  Initially, this seemed random to me, yet when I reviewed my notes, I was surprised by how much content he had covered.  One attendee, herself a professor, was there in part to observe Reynolds' pedagogical style.

He captured my attention with his contention that the church focuses too much attention on the troubled teens and ignores the kids who enjoy church and follow God.  Fearful of being labeled elite, the church directs its resources to the prodigals.  The Torrey Honors program at Biola, which Reynolds directs, is an attempt to do something for the good kids. 

I resonated with this because I was one of the overlooked good kids who occasionally debated whether I should act out in order to get more attention.  Has the church neglected the 99 sheep in the fold in its eagerness to rescue the one wandering lamb?  Jesus' parables seem to indicate that we should target our energy on the wayward teens and adults.  What is the right balance between evangelism and making mature disciples?

In the evening, we boarded a bus to Chilford Hall in Linton, Cambridgshire for an English Country Dinner and Dance with the Mellstock Country Band.  Dinner was an hour late being served, although it was delicious.  I sat with several philosophers who were totally engrossed in their conversation to the exclusion of others at the table.  I never got to see the country dancing because they announced an early bus back to Robinson.  I, and others, ran for it.  There were more takers than seats.  Because of the delayed meal, many people were exhausted and ready to turn in.  On the way back, I sat next to an archeologist.  I told her I would have an afternoon to fill at the British Museum on Friday.  What did she suggest?  First off, she referred me to a book in the gift shop called The Bible in the British Museum.  Then she recommended Sennacherib's panels.  Having just finished Nahum in my Bible study, I am eager to learn more about the Assyrians.  After talking with her, the museum became something to anticipate, rather than a way to kill time.