News & Events Archives

Opening Convocation Focuses on Spiritual Authenticity

Lainey S. Cronk, September 29, 2008

There are two events at Pacific Union College that add a whole new element to fashion on campus — velvety caps, drapey sleeves, and billowy hoods. These unusual garments come out each year when the faculty don their regalia for graduation and also for the opening convocation at the beginning of the year.

On September 25, the faculty marched into the PUC church in their regalia for the first of the weekly all-school colloquys. But the program was about much more than pomp: Following a welcome from president Richard Osborn and his wife, family ministries pastor Norma Osborn, three speakers shared compelling personal insights into spiritual authenticity on our campus.

As PUC has sought to refine its standing as "academically outstanding and spiritually authentic," questions about how that plays out have been a big part of campus dialogue.

Charlene Bainum, professor of psychology, told of her struggle as a professor to integrate spirituality in the classroom — did she need to pray before every class, or tell more stories of her own spiritual experiences? She began to see, however, that "authenticity was declining in proportion to my attempts to manipulate it." Now she sees that spiritual authenticity is the by-product of something else: "Spiritual authenticity is having a genuine experience rooted in what Christ  considered central: loving God and loving people."

Robert Kurtz, assistant dean of men, talked about how spirituality is "our itch to reach beyond." He looked at a different aspect of the word "authentic": "Against what do I authenticate my spirituality?" he asked. "Jesus – the 'author and perfecter of our faith.'" Kurtz suggested that we "decide to be each a genuine holy person — transform even your most common regular action into a sacrament, by being still." He talked about how "being still" is admitting that we don't know; really looking and seeing, listening and hearing, and loving people one at a time; and meditating for real – pressing the pause button to foster connectivity.

Assistant professor of education Tom Lee, a former high school science teacher, brought his thoughts home with chimes from the physics department. As he talked about cause and effect, he demonstrated by setting one chime ringing, setting it on top the second, and then lifting and silencing the first so everybody could hear that the second chime was now ringing. "The second [chime] responds to the first when they're attuned," he explained. Carrying the analogy to spiritual things, Lee explained that we come by what we believe from three sources: authority (someone who knows more and we give them credibility), reason (we make new connections among things we already know and the logic is clear), and experience. "The acquisition of this knowledge then requires a response from me." In the end, Lee suggested, "I think that's a measure of authenticity — when my heart is totally open and honest with God, what sets it ringing will be the voice of God."