As some members of the Seattle Pacific University community introduced themselves at chapel for the first time, Professor of History Donald Holsinger spoke with a sentimental, reflective tone, as his address marked the start of his last year teaching at SPU.
After 27 years of service to the SPU community, Holsinger will retire in June, and upon invitation, gave his faculty address entitled, “Love God – Love Neighbor – Live ‘Samaritan,’” at the Opening Academic Chapel on Tuesday, Sept. 26.
First Free Methodist Church buzzed as the SPU community gathered to commit to a year of learning before God.
Director of the John Perkins Center Tali Hairston opened with a greeting followed by ASSP President Mary Liu, who shared ASSP Core’s vision for the year with the audience.
Following worship led by Stephen Newby, associate professor of music and director of the center for worship, Provost Jeff Van Duzer led a Litany of Commitment and then welcomed Holsinger to the podium to share his reflection and teachings.
After his transition to SPU, a piece of advice he received: to take risks, Holsinger said, “There was a lesson in that wise advice. The freedom to choose is a gift. Accept it with gratitude rather than fear.”
He referenced his experience teaching students at George Mason University, highlighting four key reasons they had to stay vigilant in their quest for knowledge.
“There is a fifth reason for us as Christians to be globally and historically informed,” he said, “Because we are called to live Samaritan.”
With this attitude in mind, Holsinger said he was pleasantly surprised by the sense of liberation in the classroom that swept over him as he became more open with his students and in discussing “concerns of the heart, matters of faith and doubt.”
“Students reciprocated, thereby fostering a deeper level of engagement with me and with each other and with their universe of ideas,” he said. This, Holsinger said, enhanced spontaneity and prompted growth in all dimensions of his vocational life – teaching, research, answers.
Holsinger encouraged the SPU community to take up the call to “live Samaritan,” and to go beyond behavior that is countercultural and to do what is counterintuitive or even unnatural if necessary.
He highlighted the importance of being globally aware, saying that , “what is near is dear, but what is far is just as dear.”
For Holsinger, as a professor at SPU, and for the community of Christ-followers, he said, “Living Samaritan means loving neighbors who are distant… but it also means loving neighbors in time.”
In regard to distance, Holsinger highlighted both distance in space and in culture, calling the community to love those in the farthest corners of the world; who believe different; who speak different; who look different; who practice different beliefs; and who are ideologically different.
As for loving neighbors in time, he described future generations who are looking to him to pass on to them “this beautiful, fragile planet in at least as good of a condition as it was passed on to [him and his generation].”
“My Christian faith and values have fused with meaning my vocation as a teacher-scholar of history and cross-cultural studies,” Holsinger said. “I had viewed my role at Seattle Pacific as contributing to two cornerstones of the Christian liberal arts education.”
He described the first as “The cultivation of a historical consciousness, developing empathy for people in the past and inevitably developing empathy for the people in the future – history is all about the future.”
Second, Holsinger named, “The ability to cultivate a global perspective is to broaden our cultural horizons so as to encompass the entire human family.”
He went on to say, “What a time to have been teaching and exploring global history,” adding, “don’t get me started,” followed by laughter from the crowd.
Holsinger closed his address with the support of SPU’s history and its mission.
He said that as a Free Methodist institution in the Wesleyan tradition, SPU has fittingly inscribed the words of Micah 6:8 on its welcoming sign next to the SUB, because that passage inspired a biography that inspired Wesley’s final letter.
With confidence, Holsinger said, “We at Seattle Pacific, are standing on the firm foundation established by John Wesley, because Wesley was standing on an even firmer, stronger foundation of scripture, tradition and its history, reason, and grace – the work of the Holy Spirit, all focused on Jesus Christ, the very incarnation of God.”