Today was the first day of our classroom experience, as we undertake theological learning across cultures. Our cohort is grateful for the vision and support of the Luce Foundation, an organization that shares the passion and vision of CBTS for transformative education and religious dialogue across cultures.
We began our class session with a discusion of the Spirit that hovered over the face of the deep at the dawn of Creation. The ancient image was most appropriate. What we are doing in Myanmar is a new beginning. After two hundred years of Christianity in Myanmar, our new Burmese friends are teaching us what it means to do pastoral care and service as a minority religion in a pluralistic culture.
Whether we have been with our fellow Doctor of Ministry students from the Myanmar cohort or visiting a school for children founded by a Buddhist monk, we have been greeted with food, refreshment and a friendly smile. In a country where the average daily wage pales in comparison to what most Americans make in one hour, hospitality is more than merely being polite. Hospitality is a way of life in Myanmar.
The enlivening Spirit of Liberty is stirring in Myanmar. Our Burmese cohort can sense the Spirit’s work in the emgergent democratic changes. Their cautious optimism is contagious. It is my prayer that the Spirit will guide us deeper into all truth through our studies, dialogue and fellowship.
Our learning is not only taking place in the stories we are exchanging and exploring in class, but also in our drinking and breaking bread together. Our fellowship and shared sustenance is being transformed into a Spirit-filled cross-cultural communion. Myanmar is teaching us how the open table reaches across the altar and even beyond our means to do more than we might ask or imagine.
. . . Listen. God is doing something new. The old things are passing away. All things are becoming new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
–Bart McNiel, D.Min. Student