Westmont Magazine A Time to Pray
Ecclesiastes reminds us “There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to harvest … a time to be quiet and a time to speak up.”
The college has entered one of those times right now as we seek county approval of our updated campus master plan. This approval is not only a prerequisite to obtaining building permits for two facilities already funded (Adams Center for the Visual Arts and the David K. Winter Hall for Science and Mathematics), but it will become the basis for completing the campus in the years ahead. In the words of Ecclesiastes, this is a “time to plant.” Bluntly speaking, it’s an important moment. Indeed, from a human perspective, the future of the college hangs in the balance.
The fact is that it won’t be easy. In spite of many years of careful preparation. In spite of numerous and ongoing conversations with neighbors, community members and a host of others. In spite of the numerous changes we’ve made to accommodate their concerns. In spite of the diligent and careful work of the county planning department, not to mention our own extraordinary staff. Indeed, in spite of the wonderful support that we regularly receive from the entire Santa Barbara community, this will not be easy. That’s the nature of things these days with building projects of any kind. But it’s especially true in environmentally sensitive areas such as Montecito. A few critics can have a significant impact — and they know it.
The question is, how do we handle such a moment? Given all the preparation that has come before. Given the goal that we have set not just to build buildings but to lay the foundation for a better education that will impact the lives of students (and thus our world) for years to come. What do we do?
Two things come to mind, and they were both prompted by Ecclesiastes. The first is to understand the moment and to respond appropriately. This is a time to plant. So we’d better get at it. And it is a time to speak up. So we had better lift our voices. As a farmer, I can tell you that you don’t get a harvest without the investment of lots of toil on the front end. And as a scholar, I can attest that your students won’t get an education without at least a few well-chosen words delivered at the right moment. In other words, this is a particular time in the life of the college, and it calls for action. Good work, on our part. And lots of vocal support from those who love and appreciate this college.
But Ecclesiastes reminds us of another reality, which is made apparent by its absence from the text. This is also a time to pray. With confidence as well as perseverance. That’s because ultimately this moment — like this college — is in the hands of God. Interestingly, you will not find that particular admonition in Ecclesiastes 3. No “time to pray” in verses 1-8. And for good reason. The poem is about seasons of life “under heaven.” It’s about what we can expect and are called to do at various times on earth. But prayer is about the intersection of heaven and earth. Indeed, it’s about seeking God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. There is no one single season for prayer because there is no time not to pray. It is something we are to do, in fact, without ceasing. Why? Because every season belongs to God. Just like this college.
And so we plant with confidence at Westmont in this season. And we pray without ceasing in the same Spirit in all seasons. Knowing the Lord of the harvest — both in this season and the one to come. And knowing, too, that there is nothing better.