Letters to the Editor 2011 Fall


Fall 2011

A comforting lesson

Thank you so much, Glenn Triezenberg, for the gracious and deftly humorous little story in the last issue of the Spark, “And You Don’t Pitch a Fit” (summer 2011). In a troubled, high-anxiety world, Glenn’s column was a tender example of Christian thankfulness, contentment and patience. Glenn packed a big, comforting lesson into a very few, well-chosen words.

Keith Mannes ’85
Marion, Mich.

A grateful reply

Dear Dr. Patterson,

Thank you for the letter you wrote to your past, present and future students in the summer issue of the Spark. In typical fashion, your Ghana group students have banded together to write you a little note back.

You wrote in your letter: “… on some days [in Ghana]—when some of you students were ill, travel plans fell apart, and no one wanted to eat fufu yet again—it was hard to see God’s plan for the Ghana semester.” Well, we couldn’t agree more. We had our rough moments (remember that 14-hour bus ride to the North, or the times when we went out and did exactly what you had just warned us not to do?), but to look back and not see God working through you and us during that trip would be impossible.

You went on to write: “My daily interactions with you students convince me that God acts not just in our big decisions, but more importantly, in the small details of our lives.” Since our semester in Ghana, we’ve come to your office to talk or get advice, babysat Isabel and Sophia, and run into Neil around campus. You’ve had us over for dinner and had some of us in class again. And this whole time, you still haven’t accepted anything less from us than our best—and that’s to say that sometimes gently, and sometimes more directly (like that time in class when none of us had done the day’s reading), you’ve prodded and encouraged us to keep learning and to keep pushing forward, even if we haven’t known where exactly we’re going.

Now a little further on in our careers and callings—more than two and a half years since that shockingly cold night we touched back down in Detroit—we can look back on our time in Ghana and draw a line to where we each are today. Through your commitment to your work, your family and your faith, you’ve not only taught us, but shown us each to embrace what we love, follow our convictions and give our lives to a vision of which now we may see only a poor reflection.

For your letter, your work and the time you’ve invested in each of us: thank you!

The Ghana Semester, fall 2008 (Alissa, Amy, Anna, Becca, Becky, Calvin, E, Emily, James, Katie K, Katie S, Kelly, Libby, Maria, Ross, Sarah and Steph)

Grad year corrected

This is just a brief note to correct a mistake in the article about the Calvin archives (summer 2011). The writer states that many books are received as donation from retired ministers’ libraries “including those of Johannes Hoekstra, a graduate from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1857.”

I am the grandson of Johannes Hoekstra, and I knew him well. He rewarded me often by allowing me to review his library with him—for me a very proud event. Rev. Hoekstra did not graduate from the seminary in 1857 for two reasons: first, he was born in 1855, and second, the Calvin seminary did not exist until 1876. His graduation year was actually 1887.

Philip Hoekstra ’53
Grand Rapids, Mich.

Harvard hospitality

When interviewed on television by Charlie Rose, the Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes, former pastor at Harvard’s Memorial Church, once said, “It is so hard to love other people. They are so unlovely, so unlovable.” That statement provided the background of my reading of your editorial (“The Concert That Almost No One Heard,” summer 2011), condemning Harvard University for not showing up in greater numbers for a March Calvin College concert, but I will try to keep my friend’s memory alive by trying to be as loving as possible in the following comments.

Let me see if I have the correct theological interpretation of your statement: A poorly attended Thursday night concert by a seven-member Calvin College gospel choir signifies that the “symbolic center of Harvard’s spiritual life” is a hollow core and is just another example of the secularization of American colleges and universities. As a Calvin College grad and a long-term member of the Harvard Memorial Church, I must strongly object to such abuse of the hospitality of our church. If poor attendance at a religious concert or a church service means that people who don’t attend are spiritually depraved, then should I conclude that I am a lost soul since I taught a class on that Thursday night? Might there be other reasons for poor attendance: Poor publicity? A competing choir concert? A meeting to find a suitable replacement for our recently deceased pastor, the Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes, about whom Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of the university, said at his memorial service, “Over the past 40 years, under Peter’s guidance, spirituality has flourished at Harvard.” 

I hope your choir was not disappointed by our church’s welcome and that they appreciated our attempts to greet them with warm, Christian fellowship. I regret, though, that Dr. Gomes could not have been there to have thanked you, since he loved gospel music so much. You and your readers might get a better understanding of Harvard’s religious life by looking at the Harvard Memorial website and by listening to one of Dr. Gomes’ sermons (try “Religion for Smart People”).

Unfortunately, based on your editorial, Calvin College has used the choir concert to unlovingly denounce the center of Harvard’s religious life, which continues to be vibrant, active, tolerant and strong.

Loren Hoekzema ’69
Arlington, Mass

Mr. Hoekzema, the intent of my editorial was not to chastise Memorial Church or members of the Harvard community for not attending the concert in larger numbers. I was trying to point out the challenge of Calvin’s mission to remain both academically excellent and distinctively Christian. Although I know there are Christians to be found on campus, and Memorial Church seems to be a spiritually vibrant place, the university as a whole has long since left a Christ-centered perspective behind.

In fact, Memorial Church was an excellent host, making the 40-voice Calvin Gospel Choir feel welcome and at home. (The picture in the magazine pictured just seven of the members.)

Editor