Over at the Chronicle for Higher Ed., Thomas H. Benton has a lovely piece about gratitude in academe. To the list of things he identifies as the reward of academic positions, I heartily concur that students are the number 1 reason to be grateful. There is nothing like the two-way dynamic of teaching wherever and however it takes place. I'm grateful for each and every class and the chance to teach and learn. So thank you, students of General Theological Seminary past and present! You have enriched my life for the past twenty five years.
I'm grateful for opportunities to teach outside the place of employment by virtue of an academic position. I've been invited to give blessings at commencements, talk to MTA employees, be on panels about same-sex relations and the Bible, join translation groups, and speak in synagogues. Every single event has been fascinating. And I never know what saying "yes" might lead to..
In addition then to all the things Mr Benton lists: scholarship and scholars, conferences, libraries and administrators, philanthropy, an office, flexibility and luck (the amazing good fortune of a tenured position which is a privilege increasingly rare and not to be taken for granted), I'd like to add the opportunity to exercise freedom of thought. Of course, all thought takes place in the context of a place of employment. I often reflect on ways my written and spoken work has been affected by the fact that I work at a seminary but I do have the freedom to explore ideas without the necessity of publication.
And another thing. In a residential seminary community, my wife and I have the opportunity to live and work in a community of like-minded people. We inhabit one of the most fascinating cities on the planet. And our seminary sits in the middle of a vibrant community of New York City. We are encompassed by the High Line and art galleries; churches, synagogues and places of worship people have never heard of; Irish, French, and Puerto Rican communities plus tourists and we have access to culture that is endlessly fascinating. We can be in conversation with people from every single walk of life right out of our doorstep.
All of this is an immense privilege and I give thanks for it every day.