Confession, community form foundation for academic year

Union's faculty, staff and students gather together to begin a new school year. Convocation chapel was lead by Dr. David S. Dockery, Union University president, describing the importance of the upcoming year. | Photo by Ebbie Davis


By Amelia Krauss, News Editor

A 1620 English edition of Augustine’s “City of God” rested in front of the podium as Dr. David S. Dockery, university president, spoke of the importance of confession and community in the Christian intellectual tradition at the annual fall Convocation chapel held Aug. 26.

Using Augustine’s work to emphasize the importance of Christian community and learning from antiquity, Dockery encouraged the Union community, which gathered in the George M. Savage Memorial Chapel, to commit to one another and to confess together faith in the one true God.

“Union University is an academic institution that is grounded in a bedrockbelief in a creator God, in Jesus Christ our redeemer (and) in the Holy Spirit, the giver of life,” Dockery said after a time of the congregation’s public confession of the Apostles’ Creed. “We raise our voices together in a time of rededication as we begin this new year. … We gladly confess today the person, nature and work of Jesus Christ as central to the identity of this Christian university.”

He reminded Union students, faculty and staff that no forgivensinner stands alone, but that they are each part of the communion of saints, a community of believers that knows no bounds. The community is “wide and long,” stretching across all geographical, denominational, social and racial bounds, he said. But beyond that, this community “stretches deep into the past,” a mystery that is the  framework of the Christian intellectual tradition, Dockery said.

The Christian community stretches from       generation to generation, for all forgiven sinners are united in Christ, Dockery added.

Using Augustine’s work as an example of the wisdom that can be garnered from Christians from earlier centuries, Dockery encouraged Christian intellectuals to never forget or ignore the wisdom of saints past.

Instead, all Christians  should cherish and study those who have gone before them, understanding that they too are part of this extensive Christian community.

Saints and scholars such as Augustine who are part of such a rich Christian intellectual tradition help believers realize their academic end is not to simply earn good grades or get a job, Dockery said.

“Our mission calls for a different end…,” he said. “While Union University gladly, willingly, happily participates in the larger academic community … we do so first and foremost as those who are called to the community of God, in the worship and service of God, enjoying one another in God.”

Because the end of Christian education is of eternal worth, Dockery encouraged Union students, faculty and friends to gather in unity and grow as a community of believers.

“Let us set out to study and learn together this semester with a fresh reminder of the powerful resources that are ours within the communion of saints,” he said.

He encouraged the Union community to participate in activities, clubs and relationships and to draw strength from this communion, serving one another and remembering that such participation holds eternal significance and that each engagement in the communion of the saints helps reclaim and preserve “the best aspects of the Christian intellectual tradition,” he said.

Michael O’Malley, junior English major, attended Convocation and reflected on Union’s commitment to this vital part of Christian academia.

“Union is really consistent in its strong commitment to the (Christian intellectual) tradition … but also it’s forward looking,” he said. “We’re not just committed to rest on the past, but we make a point of engaging the world where it is now.”

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