The Almons are Moving to Edinburgh (and you can help)!

UofEdinburghI think most people we know are aware that C.C., Damaris, and I are headed to Edinburgh, Scotland near the beginning of September where I will be studying at the University of Edinburgh School of Divinity, New College, for a PhD in Theology with Paul Nimmo listed as my doctoral supervisor. Now, before moving on I’d like to point you to a website that we have put together (the creative genius of C.C. and Damaris) that gives some information about our move – including some of the expenses involved. Just to state it bluntly, to say a move of this sort is costly would be very much an understatement.

So, one of the admitted purposes of the website is as a fundraising effort. And one of the purposes of this particular blog post is to say we are in need of whatever help you are able and/or inclined to give … whether it be $5, $50, $500, or $5000 (I’m confessedly not particularly good at this sort of thing so I’ll stop there. I think you probably get the idea. It was either this or an infomercial. :-)) Not only will you have our tremendous gratitude but there is the chance to win a book bundle or a hand knitted (or otherwise crafty) item or several other items as one way for us to say thanks. We’d appreciate your consideration of a donation to aid in our efforts and passing this along if know of someone who might like to help fund my research.

You can find the website here: Scotland or Bust.

Moving on now, pursing a PhD has been an aspiration for quite some time now (it seems life kept getting in the way), but it’s not something that simply dreamt up on my own. The call (and for me it really is a calling) to pursue a PhD has been confirmed over the course of many years in community with professors, pastors, and the churches of which we have been a part. For this reason, we believe this is what the next season in our service to the Kingdom of God and our liberating King Jesus holds for us. Truthfully, we aren’t quite sure exactly what to expect, but we are quite sure it will be an adventure. I can say though that I am very humbled to have received an offer from Edinburgh and am eager to get started. Just briefly I would like to give a few reasons why I am excited to be moving to Scotland and studying at Edinburgh.

edinburgh-castle-hdrFirstly, I look forward to opportunity to focus and hone my calling and vocation as a theologian, in which the theologian understands that he or she must first of all pray well, that the discipline of theology belongs to the church as Christ’s body in the world, and that the work of the theologian is in humble service to the church and her participation in the mission of God. I move forward into my PhD studies with the full conviction that my proposed research holds importance not only for myself as a theologian, but for the church’s participation in the mission of triune God as well, especially as we move further into a post-Christendom context.

Secondly, C.C. and I come from a Baptist tradition in Texas and New Mexico which generally frowns on women in ministry and leadership roles – particularly the ordination of women in the church. C.C. and I were fortune to attend a seminary that was not only supportive but also nurtures women called to ministry, as well as be a part of a church that ordained us both C.C. and I in a joint ceremony – something that still carries its own unique challenges and consequences, but which is a very intimate part of our life together. We look forward to joining in with our Scottish Baptist family for whom women in ministry and the ordination of women is more generally accepted and encouraged.

Thirdly, C.C. has a very painful and debilitating chronic illness called fibromyalgia, which for a time was manageable. However, she experienced a very sharp downturn in her health while we were working as hospital chaplains in Houston, Texas – known for its terrible heat and humidity. As a result, we not only had to leave Houston but we lost our health insurance as well. Plus, those who come from Texas know that Texas doesn’t really have seasons and the weather can change wildly – changes that C.C.’s body can’t keep up with. We look forward to the much cooler, more temperate climate in Scotland, with actual seasons, which will go a long way on its own to helping C.C. feel better – as well the availability of health coverage and medical services that we simply haven’t had access to the last couple of years here in the States. Ultimately, on the most personal of levels, one of my foremost goals is to get C.C. healthy enough so she can once again pursue her calling to ministry and chaplaincy. Our move to Scotland will help with this.

New College SnowAnd finally, for my dissertation I will be researching on my favorite theologian Stanley Grenz and favorite philosopher Paul Ricoeur – two scholars who have influenced me the most not only academically but also in my own faith and spirituality, and who have helped me to weave these threads together. Utilizing my research into the trinitarian and narrative ecclesiology and anthropology of Stanley Grenz along with the narrative and hermeneutical philosophy of Paul Ricoeur I will be writing on the subject of Church, Gender, and Mission. My aim is to develop what I am calling a ‘hermeneutical ecclesiology’ in trinitarian, narrative, and missional perspectives. I’ll avoid being any more longwinded about this here and now. At present, I’ll simply say that my one main purpose in life is to spend myself on behalf of the gospel in service to my liberating King Jesus in such a way that my life is intelligible apart from the God that Christians name as the communion of Father, Son, and Spirit … and that Grenz and Ricoeur have been instrumental in helping me find my way in this. In my view, my proposed research simply flows from a natural extension of this aim in life. I plan on saying more on all this and future plans in upcoming posts; for now I’ll direct you to the ‘thesis proposal’ link on the aforementioned website.

Before I go, as several have asked how they can help us make our move to Scotland, allow me to point you back to my comments at the beginning of this post and offer a reminder that information on the financial expenses involved with our move along with a Paypal button where you can make a donation if you so desire can be found here: Scotland or Bust. Also, if you know of any others who may have interest in my research or in making a donation, please feel free to pass this along.

Many thanks for your generosity, and support, and prayers as we make arrangements for our visas and plane tickets.

Until later, peace and blessings.

A Short Note on Grieving and Celebrating on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a bittersweet day for the Almons. We choose to be open and honest about this; despite the realization that sometimes, for some reason, this fact seems to make some others uncomfortable.

Yes, we acknowledge there’s cause for joy and celebration on this day for moms and motherhood. Yes, indeed celebrate!

But we also acknowledge that some women have been made to feel unloved, or less important, or forgotten, or less of a woman on this day because they are not married or do not have children (whether by choice or chance) on this day.

And we also acknowledge there’s cause for lament, mourning, and grieving on this day. The suffering and pain of miscarriage, infant loss (and yes, even abortion though most churches seem to want to steer as far clear of this as they can), infertility, failed adoption, and losing an older or adult child through estrangement or death, and other sufferings that fail to come to my mind at this time (feel free to acknowledge these in the comments below) can be especially acute on this day. Remember to mourn as well.

So, today I celebrate my wife Christie (C.C.), the mother of my children, for her love and unwavering, tenacious devotion. Today we celebrate our daughter, Damaris, for the gift that she is, and for the Jesus shaped young woman she is becoming. Today we celebrate our mothers, ‘Nana’ Jimmie (my mom) and ‘Bma’ Becky (Christie’s mom), for their love and care in raising us and being devoted grandmothers.

Yes, indeed we celebrate!

But we also grieve our babies who are not with us due to miscarriage – our little Jordan Taylor, Micah Jayden, and Noah Avery – who we never got a chance to know, but deeply love all the same. We hold on to (and celebrate) the hope of the resurrection and the new heavens and new earth when we will be able to hold them in our arms, and not only our hearts. We grieve our failed adoptions, which feel like another kind of miscarriage, particularly Kerioth Cherie who we knew for far too short a time.

There is not a day, on this side of the ‘already but not yet’ Kingdom of God, in which we cannot feel their absence. So, yes, we mourn deeply as well.

And for those churches, that have realized that Mother’s Day is not always ‘happy’ and seek in some way to acknowledge the difference of experience and pain involved for some – we sincerely thank you. But also remember that, unless the church in its everyday life and liturgy has endeavored to lament, mourn, and grieve with those lamenting, mourning, and grieving the other 364 days of the year, such acknowledgements will likely seem hollow and fall on deaf ears. Just like celebrating must extend beyond a ‘special day’, so must the practice of grieving in community with others if it is to be genuine.

Celebrating with those celebrating, and mourning with those mourning are not mutually exclusive. They mix together and are coterminous with each other. We need to learn to do both well at the same time.

To all those celebrating and grieving on this day, have a blessed Mother’s Day.

A litany for Mother’s Day…

In peace let us pray to the Lord.
Lord have mercy

For all the women of God’s church across the face of the earth, who have loved and nurtured others into the faith.
Lord have mercy

For those who are single mothers and struggle to provide for their family.
Lord have mercy

For the poor and widowed whose child has been taken from them because they couldn’t care for them.
Lord have mercy

For those held captive by abuse who fear for their children and their life.
Lord have mercy

For those who are estranged from their chlidren.
Lord have mercy

For those have suffered the loss of a child either through miscarriage, abortion or the premature death of a child.
Lord have mercy

For those who have lost their own mothers and feel the dull ache of their loss.
Lord have mercy

For those who have never, and may never, have the opportunity to have a child.
Lord have mercy

For strength in joy and hope for all women and confidence in God’s care for them.
Lord have mercy

For . . .(names of women you feel led to pray for)
Lord have mercy

For all those who call on you from their hearts.
Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy