Happy New Year

In Canada, we are closing in on the end of the Labour Day weekend.  Most people make use of this weekend to ready themselves for the real New Year, the start of school and the relaunching of program etc.  Of course, this year, everything is a mess and much muddling seems to be the order of this Labour Day.

My wife and I spent a good bit of the Labour Day weekend digging out the polymer cement between our flagstones on our patio.  When this cement is in good shape, the individual stones are bonded together and a safe, welcoming space is created.  As the cement breaks down, the flagstone shift and annoying (and dangerous) lips are create.  So every now and then we need to repair the space by replacing the cement.  It is not an especially enjoyable job, spent on our knees picking away at cracked and crumbling bits of adherent.  My efforts this year were rewarded by a wasp bite that leave my left index finger swollen with resentment.  But wasps, too, have a place in creation.

The new polymer will be applied when it looks like we will have at least 24 hours of dry weather, which is not necessarily going to be for a while.  So after yesterday’s time on my knees, today was a typical Labour Day for me, getting ready for the start of school.  Classes at Luther will all be remote this fall, as they were in the spring, so I am trying to learn from successes and failures as I get ready. 

Tuesday will be orientation, and it too will be online, with some asynchronous activity.  My colleagues have worked tirelessly to prepare what we hope to be a welcoming and revitalizing start to the new year.  One of my colleagues, Sherry Coman, as invited us to use the word “mediated” rather than virtual to describe our gathering online.  I like this very much.  Virtual implies that this coming together is not a real coming together.  Mediated helps us to imagine that it is different, but no less real.

I also like that the word mediated shares the etymology of the noun “means” with both pointing to what is in the middle, between this and that and enabling a relationship.  This use is informed by the Lutheran notion of the means of Grace – Word and Sacrament.  Here concrete earthly elements become the meeting ground between believers and between believers and the Divine, who makes space for our gracious reception into Love. 

Hopefully this mediated space will in some way approximate such a welcome.  From my experiences with Zoom, and Teams, and other technology, they can be likened to the polymer that links stone to stone.  Sometimes there are cracks, and crumbling, and the odd wasp that bites.  But in the end, with some loving care, it can do what needs to be done to bridge the distance between people who are eager to learn, and ready to grow.  I have seen it happen in ways that are different from face to face meeting, but significant all the same.  This New Year will be unlike any other, but then again, so is every New Year.

8 thoughts on “Happy New Year

  1. shoreacres says:

    Our school system is already in session, and in-person classes have been the choice of most families: albeit with provision for those who prefer other means of instruction. I happen to think that kids (of every age!) need to be physically in school; the sound of laughter on our playgrounds now is a reminder that education is more than the simple transmission of information, especially for the younger ones.

    I suppose most of my opinions about how this pandemic has been handled are counter to official pronouncement. Sometimes I wonder how much of my attitude has been shaped by my time in Liberia, where malaria was endemic. We all took prophylaxis of one sort or another, but even so, everyone got malaria. It simply was part of life, like the flu or the common cold. No one obsessed over it, or was fearful of it. We simply took precautions, and went on with life. We could do with a little more of that today, I think.

    All that aside, best wishes for the new school year, and all its unusual challenges. I hope things do go well!

    • agjorgenson says:

      Thanks for your well wishes and comments. I agree that it really is best for children to be with one another… hopefully when it comes in a week or two (here it has been postponed due to some last minute government decisions), it will be without a rapid shutdown, but time will tell. This roller coaster ride will one day end, and alongside of this will be an inevitable learning to live with this present menace. Humans are resilient, and that will finally rule in our favour, I think.

  2. arlavergne says:

    Very nice. Not as resolved as you are re “mediated”. Unsure. Wish it were not thus. “Virtual” also problematic. Finding myself uncomfortable whatever the locution and wherever I turn. I long for community, an assembly of believers, in a fully-embodied, tactile sort of way. My colleagues at seminary graduation would have thought this unlikely. Still, it is what it is. Very nice.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Yes, it is what it is and I would jump at the chance to welcome our 46 new students with a handshake at the Bricker entrance. But we will make do, and important starts will be made tomorrow. And one day this will pass.

  3. Rebekah says:

    God’s blessings on your school year! May He bless the work of your hands.

  4. good luck with the start of term, and I hope there are not too many cracks and splits, for any of us!

  5. Elsie Millerd says:

    Thank you, Allen, for your thoughts on mediated relationships. We have actually been accepting them through use of social media, e-mail and even snail mail for some time. To me video media just helps them to be more real. We also have to rely on the Spirit of God to mediate for us so many times as we relate to one another. Maybe this time can be a time to become more aware of the various aspects of our relationships. May you and your students find great blessings through relationships during this new term.

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