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Wednesday I heard a miracle. Twice.
Twenty-seven singers from La Sierra University, in California, had found their way to Kettering, Ohio. Under Director Earl Richards, they sang a lunchtime concert for Kettering College students, faculty and staff, and later sang a “devotional” for Kettering Medical Center leaders.
The singers asked, “Who’ll Be a Witness?” They prayed, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” These songs befit the healthcare environment the way mercy befits a bedside.
Considering Western culture’s swift swerve toward cynicism and self-regard, songs of faith stand out for me like come-from-behind victories on the sports field, or marriages climbing back from a funk or a fall. As I was admiring the grace and sublimity of the performances, I was also telling myself: “This is miraculous.” Here was hope, defiantly alive and beautifully expressed.
But why here? Why were these Southern Californians singing at a Medical Center in Southwestern Ohio?
Well, that takes us to the part about the deep sadness. The choir’s spring-break tour was meant, at first, to go through Michigan, where more than one Adventist Academy would have welcomed a visit. But La Sierra has become famous in Adventism for challenges associated with straightforward science done in the context of straightforward faith. These challenges are difficult for believers of every stripe. Questions that trouble Adventist scientists—even where such questions are suppressed—leave us all scratching our heads and praying for insight.
Precisely because it cannot abide teachers who engage in honest struggle with regard to these matters, the leadership of the Michigan Conference saw fit to shun La Sierra’s singers. It forbade performances at Michigan venues that were at first ready to extend them a welcome.
Was what happened is a sheer vulgarity or an easily forgiven lapse in judgment? Either way, it left me with a deep sadness. How could a sense of spiritual superiority culminate in such disregard for the beauty of Adventist singing from an Adventist university?
Only a few who heard the music knew the full story of why the choir came to Kettering. Those who did know the story, and thought of it the way I did, felt as if a miracle had trumped a deep sadness.
Perhaps it was a small miracle, but these days good news a cynic might wave off for having little consequence can still heal the human heart—and advance the Reign of Christ.
—Charles Scriven is president of Kettering College and chairs the Adventist Forum board.