Mourning With Hope For Charlottesville

Dear Parents, Alumni, and Friends:

It’s been a dark and harrowing week in Charlottesville and the University. Coming five weeks after the Ku Klux Klan rally in late June, the white supremacist rally this past weekend erupted in hate, violence, and three tragic deaths. With so many others, the Center for Christian Study condemns this virulent racism, deplores the violence, and deeply grieves the harm and loss of life on Saturday. We have been mourning for our city and university.

We also find ourselves in Move-In Day week, looking forward to the arrival of new and returning students and busily preparing for their coming. This Friday and Saturday we expect to host over five hundred guests for our annual Move-In Day Lunches. Next Wednesday we will provide a Welcome Lunch specifically for returning students as well. It will be our joy once again to welcome these first-year families and returning students to the Study Center and the Christian community at UVA.

The apostle Paul once said to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn. That’s what many of us, including many of you, are trying to do this week. Still, how do you attend to last weekend and this weekend at the same time? I can’t say we have that figured out here at the Study Center, but we’re trying to do justice to both the darkness and the light. This came home to me in a conversation with a student who, in the face of last weekend’s darkness, was tempted to despair both for himself and for our world.

My first response was to affirm his sense of the darkness. In fact, I may have deepened it, since Christians of all people should be clear about the ugliness of sin and the evil powers of darkness arrayed against us. There’s just no papering over the evil of what happened last weekend. Then I reminded him that our Lord Jesus is presently reigning as the human and divine king, that he disarmed the principalities and powers on the cross, and that he will finally destroy them at his second coming. Indeed, his resurrection power is already at work in us to help us love others and battle evil. In short, I tried to fix his eyes (as I have been trying to fix my own) on the crucified, risen, and ascended Christ in all he is for his people and the world.

That hasn’t really alleviated the tension I’m (and perhaps you are) feeling this week, which is part and parcel of living between the first and second comings of our Lord. We are still called to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. We’re still called to pray that God will enable us to love others and fight evil as we should. We need the particular wisdom and courage to do so in Charlottesville and at the University of Virginia.

You may also be sure that we will be doing our best at the Study Center this year to give students a vision of their crucified and risen Lord and an experience of his power and presence in the midst of the confusions, hurts, and joys that will inevitably frame their lives in the coming year. Will you pray for them and us that, by the power of the Spirit, that’s exactly what will happen?

Yours in our Lord,
Bill Wilder