She's also a senior at the University of the South in Sewanee. And a native of Pasadena who will pursue a Master’s degree in philosophy at Oxford University, with a focus on social work that improves the lives of seniors. And she's a member of All Saints Church.
This afternoon I was delighted to be among those celebrating Carrie and her accomplishments at a tea in her honor hosted by her proud family here in Pasadena ... and to hear her eloquent words of thanks for their support to those gathered. She concluded by saying that rather than words she was going to put her thanks into action by "living a life committed to leadership and social justice."
And so on this 12th Day of Christmas I want to share the gift of Carrie Ryan. She's a Rhodes Scholar. And she's also a member of All Saints Church in Pasadena. And here's an excerpt from the sermon she preached in the Sewanee Chapel earlier this year:
What are we, as humans, called to do in the world?Just like God made Carrie Ryan. And all of us.
This is a question that I have been thinking about intentionally for many years now, but quite in depth in the past few months. As a senior at Sewanee, my mind has been full of questions about my future: where will I go from here? How can I use what I have learned at Sewanee in the world? How can I be of most use?
Of course, I don’t think there is one answer. And my several applications for scholarships, graduate school, and fellowships suggest just that. But I do have a general sense of how I want to go about living in the world. It is a sense that I have been developing my whole life. And it is a sense that has been hugely influenced by my faith. There have been experiences in my life that have taught me things about the world and my place in it. My faith has been shaped, re-shaped, and shaped again by these experiences.
It is only right, and logical, to begin my story of faith at its beginning. When I was thinking about my childhood the other day, I came to realize just how heavy of a presence the Episcopal church had in it. Some of my first memories of my childhood have me standing in my church choir room, in an angel suit with wings on my back, singing “This Little Light of Mine.”
Other memories have me sitting in a desk at my Episcopalian elementary school, drawing pictures of Jesus and the disciples and learning about neighborly love. This foundation, for which I thank my parents, set in me a tradition of religion I have come back to again and again as the years have gone by. But most importantly, this foundation – through my church and my school – began to dramatically shape the way I saw the world: that I was of God and that everyone and everything around me was, too.
My faith is a faith in action; it is social justice. What do I believe we, humans, are called to do in the world? I believe we are supposed to be of service. I believe in what Bill Moyer said: “The best way to live in the world is to imagine a more confident future and then get up every morning and do what you can to help bring it about.” What is the world calling you to do? How are you going to answer its needs?
I close with a beautiful story from the Suffi tradition that my Muslim best friend told me two years ago. It perfectly answers my initial question: what are we, as humans, called to do in the world? Each time I think about it, it stirs up in me a call to seek justice, community, and peace.
On a foggy afternoon, a holy woman sat outside the temple. She watched as tides of people passed, a river of human need. She saw the destitute wandering alone. She saw the wounded limping by. She saw the drunk stumbling and the lame struggling to continue on. And, on the outskirts of the tide were the outcast, trying to connect, but being scoffed by others. In the sight of this human need and despair, she prayed and she cried out to God, ‘how can a loving creator see so much suffering and do nothing to help them.’ And God said, ‘I did do something to help them: I made you.’
Merry 12th Day of Christmas! (Epiphany, here we come!)