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Beyond Asking or Imagining

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My good friend and colleague, Debra Rienstra, and I have already used our blogs in the recent past to talk about our excitement about the upcoming (next week!) Festival of Faith and Writing. But this biennial event is just so fabulously fabulous.  And this year’s line-up is truly impressive.  All of which to say–you have until this Friday (April 8) to register. And if you’re already planning your trip for next week, we can’t wait to see you.

For me, the Festival is always deeply nourishing. As someone who spends her life teaching literature and writing, it’s incredibly energizing to be around 2,000 book people.

But this year, there’s more. As financial realities have shaped priorities at Calvin, we in the English department have had to think about a new model to run the Festival. If you had spoken to me a year ago, I would have said I was confident we were going to find a way forward, that we would figure out how to save the Festival. We’d been working to develop a proposal for a new Center for Faith and Writing–and dreamed big about how we could both make the Festival sustainable and begin to work on long-dreamed of projects, like more opportunities for our students, more programming for a number of communities, more publications and podcasting and media productions. But who would help us–and where the money would come from–wasn’t as clear to me.

We like to think that we believe in providence. I love to talk to my students about a God of plentitude. But if we really believe this, I wonder why I was so surprised when donors appeared who were the perfect fit. Donors who were book people, vocationally and avocationally.  Donors who loved students. Donors who had been to every single Festival ever.  Donors who were extraordinarily generous.  To say I was convicted and humbled and blown away by such provision would be an understatement. Ephesians 3:20-21 has been ringing in my ears ever since–“immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”  Indeed.  (If you want to read more, check out this and this)

So next week, we’ll be dedicating the brand-new Calvin Center for Faith and Writing and praising our extravagant God. If you’re in town, do come join us for a short service on Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m. in the Calvin Chapel. If this is the beginning, what exciting things must lie ahead–we are grateful to see what’s next!

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). I also do various administrative things across campus. As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids. I count myself rich in friends and family. I enjoy kayaking and hiking. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” Which is true.

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