The Work of the Spirit by Phil Harder


The Work of the Spirit

By Phil Harder


One of the least understood (and sometimes most difficult to justify in a campus ministry report to the sponsoring churches) aspects of our work is how we campus ministers weave our strands of ministry by walking and listening—yes and sometimes responding.  This style of ministry takes patience, persistence and a faith in the work of the Holy Spirit.

During one of those memorable walk and talk moments with a faculty member, whom I have known with growing trust and mutual respect, I received a “pregnant question” that has enlivened my ministry for well over three years.  This non-churched and alienated United Methodist, an African scholar and chair of our University Black Studies Department, had just returned from doing research on the West African migration in the Caribbean Islands before and after the colonization period.  The key to open up fresh knowledge about this important “lost” cultural artifact was revealed hidden in the spiritual richness of the old Aftrican religion practices still in today’s Caribbean cities and country sides.  After this friend-professor participated in one of these religious services—highly ecstatic and spiritualized—her research took on new meaning and insight.  In telling this story, her concluding remark and question to me was, “I can no longer do my scholarly research without including the place of spirituality in my search for the truth, and I wonder if there are any other faculty in this University who feel the same way?”

On a practical level this conversation resulted in finding out who those other faculty are who are integrating spirituality and scholarship; and in a more fundamental sense, the topic has led to challenge the entire epistimology and narrow ways of knowing at our University.  Under the rubric of “Expanding the Boundaries of Knowledge,” the Center for Academic Excellence and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, along with Campus Ministry, has hosted a whole series of speakers, panels, in-house discussions on the subject.  Douglas Sloan and Parker Palmer have been invited scholars to highlight the importance of this quest.  Conclusion:  nothing short of metanoia in our thinking is required for real personal and social change.


This was written in March, 1998 for another NCMA publication.

By Phil Harder, retired 1998

Portland State University 1976-1998

Southern Oregon State College 1971-1976

Willamette University 1968-1971

President of NCMA 1995-96


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