Chaplain at WWU Receives Grant for Spiritual Renewal

The Rev. Travis Tamerius, William Woods University chaplain, has received a $15,000 grant intended for spiritual renewal. He plans to focus his sabbatical reflection on “recovering a life of wonder.”

He explained, “I anticipate that the sabbatical will afford me time to consider more carefully those matters which are easily neglected through busyness and distraction. The sabbatical will create space to explore my life and calling while prayerfully attending to God.”

Money for the 2005 Sabbatical Grant for Pastoral Leaders program came from the Louisville Institute. Founded in 1990 as a center for research and leadership education on American religion, the Louisville Institute is funded by Lilly Endowment and is based at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Tamerius was one of 61 selected from a pool of 295 applicants from the United States and Canada. He will take the sabbatical this summer, from mid-May to mid-August.

“During that time, I intend to explore what is involved in recovering a life of wonder and work on a book presently titled ‘Hearing the Grass Grow and the Squirrel’s Heartbeat: Recovering the Life of Wonder,’” he said.

“The idea traces to a passage from George Eliot’s novel ‘Middlemarch,’ where she writes: ‘If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.’”

To achieve his goals, Tamerius plans to read those who have written on the subject, visit with individuals who have attempted to “hear the grass grow,” and “keep the rhythm of a weekly Sabbath.” He also intends to lead retreats on the subject of wonder.

For this sabbatical he plans to stay close to home.

“While it is possible I might take a one-week class, attend a weekend conference or retreat to a community of prayer somewhere,” said Tamerius, “it seems important to the project that I attempt to be deliberately local. My contention is that God is often revealed to us in that which is most manifestly present to us.”

He explained that “much of my aim would be to create enough silence and allow enough time to notice the places I already inhabit and the people I already see.”

In addition, he plans to learn something new.

“Parker Palmer (‘To Know As We Are Known’) suggests that learning something new is a discipline which can foster humility and awaken a sense of wonder. . .During the sabbatical, I would like to explore a subject that is entirely unfamiliar to me, perhaps astronomy study or equine care or pottery work,” Tamerius said.

The Sabbatical Grant for Pastoral Leaders program is designed to enable pastoral leaders to have the opportunity for a sustained period of reflection and study apart from the weekly rhythms and tasks of their work.

According to the Rev. Dr. William F. Brosend II, associate director of the Louisville Institute, “It is the hope of the Louisville Institute that such time apart will strengthen and deepen the habits of heart and mind so crucial to the faithful practice of pastoral leadership—habits that all too often become marginalized by the daily and weekly demands of parish and congregational life.”

He said that this level of pastoral reflection will contribute significantly to the ongoing efforts of the Louisville Institute to identify the particular challenges facing pastors and congregations in the midst of American cultural life.

Tamerius has been the pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church for more than six years and has been chaplain of William Woods University for the last two years. He also is the director of the Office of Faith and Services at WWU.