From the Dean’s Desk

Harold W. Attridge

It is perhaps fitting that this issue of Reflections should be on the theme of vocation, since the imminent change in my own status – I am stepping down from the deanship to resume full-time teaching – has given me occasion to reflect on what I am now called to do.

The essays in this number offer a broad range of perspectives on the topic, ruminating about the various ways in which our Christian traditions have treated the theme. They also capture, in the reminiscences of theologians, pastors, writers, activists, alumni, and friends, the varied paths that people have taken to find their ways to meaningful engagement. Sometimes these paths have been guided by a clarion call to service. Just as often they have been discerned through a messy process of eliminating unsatisfactory alternatives. 

These reflections, and the wonderful illustrations that editor Ray Waddle has chosen for the issue, remind us too of the social dimension of vocation. Our varied and sometimes strange paths to disciple- ship are not simply our own personal privilege, but part of a larger whole, the calling of the Church to its ministry in the service of light and truth, justice and peace.

Reading these articles, interviews, and poems gives me the opportunity to be thankful for the calling I stumbled into ten years ago, to lead, serve, and nurture this rich ecumenical community of faith and intellect. It has been a calling that I could not have clearly discerned in the Catholic schools of my youth, where “vocation,” as some of our essayists note, had a more restricted sense. It was a vocation, nonetheless, in every sense of that word. Supported by many other women and men of profound faith and commitment to the service of the Church, I, and my wife Jan along with me, have found in the call to this place enrichment and joy that we could not have anticipated.

As I step down from the deanship, I hope that I correctly hear the call to return to a life of teaching and scholarship. That at least seems to be the way that the serendipitous process of vocational discernment is pointing. In any case, I look forward to continuing to work with our many colleagues and friends on the Quad and around the University to help our students discern their callings for many years to come.

Harold W. Attridge Dean