I’m an alum of the University of the South, Sewanee, along with a number of Christwood residents who are also alums or have grandchildren or other connections with that University. Many in the south and particularly those associated with the Episcopal Church have knowledge of or have experienced that place in some way.
Sewanee has a new Vice Chancellor and President, Reuben E. Brigety. He’s a very impressive former ambassador to the African Union who arrived on campus just as everyone was beginning to deal with COVID-19. Sewanee has elected to have on-campus learning, being somewhat in a bubble, just a little bit like Christwood. It’s both connected and apart. I listened to Vice Chancellor Brigety’s address to the students regarding the risk and opportunity of on-campus learning. He made enormous sense to me, pointing out that students had sacrifices to make particularly considering that they had not asked for this harsh hand history was dealing them. Their future was in their hands and could be providing them with the chance to be a greatest generation of students. The question was not if they had the capacity, but rather if they had the will.
I found many similarities in Vice Chancellor Brigety’s analysis and admonition to those students and the situation we face here. He appealed to their mature good will and judgment. He admonished them to observe the 3Ws (how cool is that?) of hand Washing, mask Wearing, and Watching their distance. Rather than handing out yard sticks as we did, he advised that they hold out their arms and if they could touch, they needed to move away.
What is the irony or the synchronicity that we have connections of circumstance in the diversity of age as we have? We are both somewhat isolated and also connected to our local communities and find ourselves challenged to rise to extraordinary accomplishment at opposite ends of our lives.
One famous recluse of the English tradition was the medieval mystic, Julian of Norwich, who wrote the first book by a female recounting her visions of the Lord’s presence during the plague of Black Death, a global epidemic of 1348- 50. Perhaps her most famous quotation is
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Dame Julian of Norwich