Tenth Annual Honors Church
An exploration of stewardship and God's creation
The tenth annual Honors Church was held on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in the Seminary Chapel. The theme of this year's church service, "Hurt Not the Earth," examined the relationship between humankind and God's creation and prompted the audience to consider their role in making the planet hospitable for God's creatures. The service included three parts: Stewards of God's Creation, The High Cost of Failure and Restoring the Fellowship of God's Creation.
"The Honors officers and I wanted to use the occasion of our tenth-anniversary service to highlight a pressing global crisis—the peril of our planet's health. With so much evidence of climate change around us this year—extreme weather, blazing forest fires, the melting ice caps—we wanted to return to God's call for humans to work in harmony for the preservation of his created universe," said L. Monique Pittman, director of the J.N. Andrews Honors Program and professor of English.
Through its exploration of stewardship and God's creation, this year's Honors Church service mirrored services of past years. Beginning with the first Honors Church in 2011, the annual service aims to include a variety of subjects, including a service marking 30 years since the fall of communism, a celebration of women of faith throughout history and a service celebrating 400 years of the King James Bible. As an important part of Honors' relationship to the community, these services aim to identify major events or social concerns which allow examination of ethical values and allow opportunities for service.
"We aim to involve 30–50 Honors Scholars in some aspect of preparing a worship service for the larger community—we see this annual event as an important part of our outreach," says Pittman.
Elianna Skrikureja, a junior English major at Andrews, was one of the Honors Scholars involved in preparing this year's worship service and was responsible for organizing the instrumental ensemble. "Many people were blessed by the program, myself included," she says. "It is important that we do not just take a passive stance regarding activities that harm our earth and the people that live in it. We should take an active role in [the health of] our planet."
"Hurt Not the Earth" included material from several sources. Within each of the three parts, students read biblical passages and literary excerpts. Additionally, students in the praise team and Honors Ensemble performed musical selections throughout the service. The special music selections performed included "For the Beauty of the Earth" and "This is my Father’s World."
Some of the reading selections in the program included excerpts from Genesis 1, Nicholas Woltertorff's "Art in Action" (1980), Makoto Fujimura's "Culture Care" (2017) and Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Pied Beauty" (1918). Each biblical passage was read in English, and some were read in Korean, Bulgarian and Portuguese.
In order to adjust to COVID-19 safety guidelines, this year's Honors Church permitted a reduced number of attendees and required social distancing. Additionally, the Honors Choir performance, congregational singing and responsive readings were removed from the program's typical layout. "Our top priority was to continue the tradition in a way fully respectful of public health guidelines and mindful of the well-being of our participants and guests," says Pittman. "All participants and guests were masked at all times. We also checked temperatures and Campus Clear apps as guests arrived."
James Hayward, research professor emeritus in biology, Honors research mentor and Honors Council member, and Shandelle M. Henson, professor of mathematics and ecology, Honors research mentor and council member, shared virtual reflections during the second part, The High Cost of Failure. Hayward discussed nature's ecosystems and urged the audience to protect the quality of these ecosystems in order to maximize not only our own health but also the health of future generations. Following Hayward's reflection, Henson reflected on how nature provides humans with mental and spiritual well-being and further encouraged the audience to be responsible caretakers of the earth.
After a few more readings and musical selections, Øystein LaBianca, research professor of anthropology, associate director of the Institute of Archaeology and Honors faculty, delivered a reflection in which he considered the age of the Anthropocene and its harmful effects on the environment and proposed Sabbath-keeping as a way to take better care of the environment.
As LaBianca is retiring from full-time undergraduate teaching at Andrews, though he will continue to be a mentor in the anthropology and archaeology programs, his service was also recognized during the program. Pittman read several notes of appreciation from students who have received encouragement from LaBianca during his time as a professor.
Lauren Butler, president of the J.N. Andrews Honors Program and a junior biology major at Andrews, gave a closing prayer and dismissal.