Discover more from Ben Simpson's Faith & Formation Newsletter
Back to School
"Well, here goes nothing."
I’m glad to say that summer is over, and I’m excited to say that school is here. Last year’s update from around this time documented my school supplies, which included a university issued water bottle, a thermometer, and a handful of masks.
I won’t conduct daily temperature checks as fall begins. Not this time around. But I will be wearing a mask in the classroom, as will students.
While Baylor has a relatively high percentage of people who have received the vaccine, the delta variant has increased the number of cases in McLennan county, and with students coming to Waco from all over the country, we can anticipate contagion will spread. COVID remains with us, but we’re not in exactly the same circumstance we faced last year.
There’s a vaccine and this variation of the virus is slightly different. There are reasons for concern, but the concern should fit the circumstance. As a friend recently said, the virus is real but the fear is optional. Be courageous, but not stupid. Be wise, not foolhardy.
My school year begins on Monday, though Truett has welcomed new students this week at orientation proceedings. We may have our largest entering class in our history this year, combining our MA, DMin, and PhD in preaching programs. I’m overseeing three courses, Spiritual Formation I, III, and IV, and ten sections in all.
That last detail may cause some to worry, but several of my sections are smaller, independent study units, and the majority of the work in our third semester courses is done in smaller groups led by mentors, adjunct instructors who have been tasked with leading group formation work within each larger cohort.
The kids are already underway, and both came home happy on their first day. We’ve managed our evenings. The first week of school always wears us out, with the schedule adjustments and the increased demands on our attention. This weekend we’ll do our best to find rest.
Every year at this time I think of Billy Madison, waiting for the school bus. Billy went back to school to prove to his dad he was not a fool. As far as motivations go, there are better ones out there.
My job as a teacher and administrator in a seminary is a dream come true. It’s a small role, in the grand scheme of things. But I’m clear on who we (and therefore I) serve: Jesus first, the student second, and, as would logically follow those first two commitments, the church.
I read through the Bible each year, and a few weeks ago I reached the conclusion of Revelation. The next morning, I turned back to the beginning and started again in Genesis. I read four chapters from the Bible each day. This morning I will finish reading Exodus 24, and tomorrow I will continue on from there.
I finally finished William Zinsser’s Writing to Learn. I have begun Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. I enjoyed the former; I’m riveted by the latter.
Next on the stack is a book called The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl R. Trueman.
Sights and Sounds
I’ve continued watching Kevin Smith movies (Clerks, Madness in the Method), but I’ve sprinkled other selections into the mix. I watched the 1984 science fiction film Scanners, the 2014 action movie In the Blood starring Gina Carano, and a 2020 documentary of the life of Clarence Thomas called Created Equal.
My latest blog posts include a quote from the aforementioned Coddling of the American Mind and reflections on principles that can make the classroom a healthier forum for open discussion.
Before I go, standard copy.
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Be well this week. Bless others.
P. S. - Kids on the first day.