By Dr. Nancy Going, Director of the CYF Distributed Learning Program at Luther Seminary
I just had dinner with friends last week. I hadn't seen them in a couple of years. Most importantly, I hadn't seen their son who happens to be developmentally disabled. And when I had seen him last, I had never spent a lot of time with him. It was just a very occasional dinner at their house over the course of a couple of years. There is so much that limits this wonderful son, much that he just can't do. But he gets people and relationships and he made it very clear that he remembered me. I felt just honored. How fearfully and wonderfully we are made. Even where there are abnormalities. It was AWE inspiring.
Dr. Paul Hill of Vibrant Faith Ministries spent an amazing hour with us last week at our First Third Dialogue, unpacking the power of AWE. It's the first time I've ever thought about awe as a spiritual reality. I've experienced awe that way many times, but never teased apart what happens there. Paul made the case that a part of what happens at camps that the church can learn to live into is about AWE.
Paul said that awe fundamentally undermines all our assumptions, and allows us to experience some aspect of life as if for the first time. Awe is:
- The serendipitous, unanticipated experience of the holy.
- Reverential fear and wonder.
- The fundamental celebration of being alive.
- The interruption of all our assumptions that reveals not a thrill…But the HOLY or SACRED.
Paul went on to develop the argument that awe is both biological and psychological. He said that when awe happens it is because we have no answer or experience in our cognitive system for what just took place. And that part of what happens at camp, he believes, is that leaders "set the table" for awe. And God makes it happen.
So now I wonder about you and your congregational ministry. How awe-some is it? On a Wednesday night? On Sunday morning? Can you identify "awe moments" among the kids? Do you take time to share them with one another? With the congregation? How are you "setting the table" for AWE?
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Nancy Going is a life-long youth minister, who loves Jesus, other people learning to love Jesus, her husband Art Going, and the two new families that are her kids and grandkids.
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