President Parkyn's Personal Journey of Faith
I have been part of the Church since childhood. My earliest affirmations of faith in Christ were shaped by influences at home and at a private school I attended as the child of missionary parents. Since that time my understanding of the Christian faith, my commitment to it, and the manner in which it is expressed in my life have been molded by a variety of contexts and individuals beyond those of my early childhood.
My understanding of the Christian faith begins with the Holy Scriptures. The Bible demonstrates the work of God in nature and history, and proclaims the life and teachings of Jesus. Inspired by God, the Bible serves the Church as a reliable guide for faith and practice.
Since the time of the early Church, Christians have drawn from Scripture their fundamental assumptions about God and the created order. In this context I affirm what the Church has set forth, as demonstrated most cogently in the historic creeds. While I do not understand all that these statements mean, they express for me the basic formulation of faith in God through Christ.
From Scripture Christians also affirm that faith in Christ should be expressed “"not only with our lips but in our lives".” The Christian faith should be articulated in formal statements and the spoken word, but it must also be expressed in a lived reality. We are intelligent; we go to the moon and beyond, and we build expensive and sophisticated weapons. But how do we feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for the aging and the ill, liberate the oppressed, work for justice, and promote peace? To be Christian means, in part, to respond to these questions in a manner consistent with the nature of God and to live accordingly.
Faith is also shaped by experience. Three broad experiences have influenced how I understand and express the Christian faith. First, early in my life, as a young toddler and through adolescence, I lived in Guatemala, in small villages in the Cuchumatane Mountains. There I spoke a language foreign to my parents, lived next to people who were indigenous, poor, and politically oppressed, and worshiped God with people whose culture was distinct from my own. During the past twenty years I've returned often to Guatemala, both as one visiting a childhood home and as a scholar studying the assimilation of ethnic identity and seeking to know the changing face of the church in that country. This experience - from childhood to the present—- has been the impetus for me to become sensitive (1) to the church's responsibility to those who are victims of hunger, fear, injustice, and oppression, and (2) to the ways in which an individual’'s expression of the Christian faith is shaped by one's social and cultural environment.
Second, since entering college as an undergraduate I've lived most of my adult life in the academy of the church - at two Anabaptist colleges, an evangelical seminary, a Catholic university, and most recently a university founded by the Covenant Church. In these settings I've developed a profound respect for the mission of faith-affirming colleges. Central to this setting is the commission to address, illuminate, and realize the relationships between the intellectual, spiritual, and social dimensions of life, knowing that each of these is part of God's good creation. God is honored and Christians are nurtured when the Community of Faith in the academy, corporately and in its individual members, contributes to this pursuit in a manner that is intellectually coherent, spiritually sensitive, and socially alert.
Third, as an adult my journey embraced the worship of God through the traditions of the Episcopal Church. This context helped me to reflect on the dynamic relationships between Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience, and to observe how these converge in the culture known as Christianity. Here my faith was enriched. I learned anew to listen to and observe all of Scripture, to respect the practices and traditions of Christians throughout history, to engage reason in understanding faith, and to recognize the experiences of life as gifts from God. Most particularly, however, this church tradition was a setting in which to foster my worship of God, both individually and corporately.
These three venues have been both guide and mentor. Through them I have remained close to the God whose message of love and salvation I first heard from my parents. Through them I have been taught and have come to own the traditions of the Church and the understanding of faith which have guided Christians since the days of Jesus. And through them I am daily prompted to live by those principles which are important for the life of faith in the Christian academy: a humble attitude toward learning; a reverence for all of life; a respect for the uniqueness of individual persons; a global vision; an engagement in acts of service, peacemaking, and reconciliation; an exercise of wise and careful stewardship; and an active life of worship and prayer.
Since coming to the University in Chicago, I worship at the North Park Covenant Church, a congregation shaped by historic Christianity and by the great awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries in America.