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Summer 2004 | Volume 26, Number 7 | From the President
Let It Shine

We Seek to Build a “City on a Hill” Infused With the Light of the Gospel

President Eaton congratulated new graduates at the June 11 Ivy Cutting ceremony. “One of the commitments on which we stake our reputation is graduating people of competence and character,” he says.

A FRIEND OF MINE approached me recently and asked if I would be willing to meet with a group of his friends to talk about ethics and integrity in business. He said something like, “You know Seattle Pacific University has a reputation for being concerned about such things.” I wholeheartedly agreed, and I told him that I would be delighted to engage with his group and would suggest any number of our faculty who could contribute as well.

Since then, I got to thinking how proud I am that Seattle Pacific has this reputation, that we are known to stand for things like ethics and integrity and character. And I thought about other things we might stand for in the minds of the people in our community. We talk a lot, for example, about graduating people of competence and character. We talk about grace-filled community. We talk about racial reconciliation, and we always talk about engaging the culture and changing the world. These are huge commitments on which to stake our reputation.

I have always loved that text from the book of Matthew where Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” I remember singing as a child, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine … let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

Jesus is saying, first of all, to make sure your vision is infused with the light of his person and his teachings. But then, when you’ve taken hold of a vision that shines this real light, you’ve got to get it out there. In other words, step up and put yourself on the line. Build your city on a hill so everyone can see what you are doing. Build a reputation.

In 1630, John Winthrop set off across the Atlantic Ocean for New England seeking to build a new kind of community in a strange and mysterious land. This little band of some 700 Puritans had experienced severe eco-nomic depression in England and had been subjected to religious persecution — so they set out with a grand, idealistic vision for a new kind of life. What kind of a city would they build? How were they going to live, what values would be at the core of their community, and would their city shine real light for the rest of the world? In his marvelous little treatise called A Model of Christian Charity, Winthrop reflects on just these questions.

Look to the history of the church “in all ages,” Winthrop said, and what we find is “the sweet sympathy of affections which was in the members of this body one towards another, their cheerfulness in serving and suffering together. …” From the best of the history of the church, we can find founda-tional values on which to build a new kind of community.

Winthrop knew how idealistic this vision was, but he continued to press, against skepticism and enormous odds, about how it might be possible for a group of people to let love become a “habit in the soul … framing these affections in the heart.”

But he knew as well that “shipwreck” was very possible. They were putting it all on the line, in radically idealistic ways, and to see this experiment succeed, he wrote, “[we must] entertain each other in brotherly affection, we must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of other’s necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience, and liberality. We must delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together.”

Winthrop’s great hope was that this new city on the hill would shine light so brightly that others off into the future would say, “The Lord make it like that of New England.”

Now there’s a reputation that could shine some light in the world. But what if we fail, Winthrop asks? What if we “shipwreck”? And then he says something critically important in this business of reputation: “For we must consider,” he says, “that we shall be a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” If we fail, “we shall be made a story and by-word through the world.”

In other words, if you stand for some- thing bold and visionary and idealistic and noble; if you plan to build your city on a hill, where everyone can see what it is you are trying to do; if you put it all on the line, you have to understand that failure will “be made the story and the by-word through the world.”

As we move into the future at Seattle Pacific University, we are trying hard to imagine building a “city on a hill.” As we go about the task of drawing up the blueprints, we want to assume all the responsibilities of such a building project. For example, we are trying to make sure the vision we articulate is infused with the light of the gospel, through and through. And then we must make sure we shine it around, boldly building our city on a hill for all the world to see.


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Equipped for Success
An endowment helped 2003 graduate Vickerie Williams gain the confidence to become a key employee with Philips Medical Systems. [Campaign]

Honor Roles
A President’s Chapel in May honored five faculty and staff members for their individual excellence. [Campus]

Three Faculty Say Good-Bye
As they retire, three professors mark the completion of their remarkable careers at Seattle Pacific University and beyond. [Faculty]

The 2004 Medallion Awards
Alumni awards spotlight 10 Seattle Pacific graduates who have engaged the culture in various ways.[Alumni]

Attack of the Big-Screen Clones
Response reviews some of Hollywood’s film portrayals of cloning and related topics. See which ones may be worth your time watching. [Books & Film]

The Heritage Mile
Before her hip-replacement surgery, Doris Heritage and 200 of her students and friends ran a final mile together — and raised money for the Heritage Scholarship Endowment. [Athletics]

My Response
Debra Prinzing, 1981 SPU alumna, helps readers find God in their gardens. “… I think the pursuit of beauty in the garden is a pursuit to know God better,” she says.