REFLECTION: Sander Owens – Managing Editor

On the top shelf of one of the many bookcases in my family’s home sits a row of hymnals that have accumulated over my time as a church musician and over my parents’ lives as churchgoers. Sometimes I will select one arbitrarily and flip through the pages, noticing which hymns are included and which aren’t, or what tunes are used, or what is scribbled in the margins. I find hymnals to be a beautiful representation of the nature of the varied traditions of Christian faith throughout time and place, from an old Dutch language psalter to a United Methodist hymnal, or an accompaniment edition that has fallen from organ benches so many times its binding is more duct tape than anything else. And the beauty of hymnals continues into not only their constitution of hymns and other sacred songs, but the places in which they reside. Not just in the backs of pews or (heaven forbid) rows of chairs, but also sitting on organ music racks, in a pastor’s study, or on a tiny bookshelf in the transept of a small, 150-year-old village church. This serves, I think, as a particularly fitting illustration not only of the variety of the Christian tradition, but also as a representation of what The Bell Tower is trying to accomplish for the Hope community. Each one of us is our own hymnal committee: we all are compiling the hymns of our lives from different backgrounds, and different lenses through which we view the world, but all still shared through a common medium of expression and a shared faith, which will be shared to the world. That is what I believe the greatest strength of our journal is: that it will be a place for a confluence of Christian perspectives, in multiple valuable aspects: not just in terms of Christian perspectives, but also in terms of intellectual backgrounds that all come together in a melding of Christian scholarship. This, of course, has obvious close ties with the historical goals of a liberal arts education, being a blending of all the disciplines that an informed citizen should be familiar with to be the best possible participant in the life of a state. 

The inquisitive reader, at this point, may wonder why on earth this editor is blathering on about hymnals, or why on earth Hope needs yet another thing purporting itself to be the perfect mix between Christianity and a liberal arts education. Firstly, I would commend the asker of this question because it is exactly what I would be asking, and to that I would respond that they are correct. In a way, it is redundant: hopefully every piece of work Hope publishes exists within this intersection of education and faith. However, I believe that The Bell Tower will be a perfect encapsulation of this intersection, and I hope you, dear reader, will find it to be as meaningful to read as I have found it to help produce.

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