Whitworth Theology Department Annual Newsletter 2017
Haley Goranson (2015-present) Assistant Professor of Theology
Thursday-morning chapel services at Whitworth are dedicated to celebrating communion together. As the students stand in line to receive the elements, I intentionally wait in my seat and spend time in prayer for each student that I know. At the final chapel of the year, I was struck by the fact that nearly every student standing in the line near to me was a student that I have come to know and love. Last year at this time, I knew what felt like very few students; now, one year later, I am moved to tears by the love I feel for so many students who have grown dear to me and who have become my joy. It was a special moment of recognizing God's goodness to me at the close of my second year at Whitworth.
The goodness of this second year started last June, when I travelled back to Scotland for graduation from the University of St. Andrews. It was a sweet time of celebration and a wonderful chance to reconnect with Scottish friends and those who have become like family. During the same trip, I participated in a conference at Durham University on the theme of the glory of God – a topic that has captured my attention over the last six years. Between the two events was a weeklong trip to Spain, enjoying the warmth and color of the Mediterranean climate and culture. Last summer I was also able, for the first time in several years, to spend some quality time with friends and family in the great states of Minnesota and Montana. The summer months were a gift in so many ways.
But the last nine months of school have been no less of a gift. In contrast to last year, when knowing only a few students was in its own way a gift for that season of lecture preps and Ph.D. completion, this year was entirely about building relationships with students. It was an immense joy to teach my Philippians, New Testament, and Genesis in the Letters of Paul courses. Each was characterized by daily discussions that would induce laughter and tears, sometimes simultaneously, and each was filled with students eager to learn and to be challenged. Now and then students write to say how much they appreciated their time in a course. One representative student wrote, "As I was thinking back today over all that we discussed and struggled through this semester, I was blown away by how much I have received. My whole life is different because of this class. I see God in an entirely new way and interact with Him so differently than before. My spirit has been so hungry for truth and being in this class was like feasting on Thanksgiving." What a gift such students are.
I have also had the joy of mentoring and being in relationship with students beyond the classroom. Students invited me to countless rounds of coffee, to their homes for dinner and celebrations, to their late-night gatherings at local restaurants, and even to their family's homes (one of which I took up over Easter on Orcas Island!). How could such eager students not be a joy to teach and mentor each day? And with such a second year as this, I can only look forward with great excitement for year number three – after a long summer's rest, of course!