The Power of Celebration

Friday, March 27, 2015

“We are people of resurrection,” said Dr. Carolyn Weber at Tyndale’s Gather Chapel. Carolyn is the award-winning author of Surprised by Oxford (Thomas Nelson, 2011), and was the first female dean at St. Peter’s College, Oxford University. Carolyn has specialized in the spiritual autobiography and regularly speaks on faith, literature and culture. During chapel, she shared her own spiritual journey and spoke on the celebration of the Easter season.

Carolyn Weber grew up in London, Ontario, without a faith. Her family was “loosely Catholic” but she identified as an agnostic. She describes her family as “loving enough to get by but broken enough not to deserve God’s attention.” Her father, once a successful businessman, lost everything and had a mental breakdown. Her mother was loving, but worked for much of the day to make ends meet. Carolyn learned to be self-sufficient, believing that fathers could not be dependable, which included an eternal Father.

She experienced what C.S. Lewis called sehnsucht, a longing for something bigger and indescribable that we are made for. Sehnsucht “defines what it means to be human,” she said during chapel. “I have never met someone who doesn’t have it.”

While Carolyn studied English literature in university, a Christian professor submitted a scholarship application to Oxford University in England for her. Carolyn won the scholarship and travelled to Oxford to do her master’s and doctorate degrees in Romantic literature. Her studies drew her into the Bible and Christianity. The Bible made a lot of sense because of her literary training and was the “best creative non-fiction [she] had ever read.” 

Carolyn shared an excerpt from her memoir during the chapel service, telling the story of her first Easter as a Christian. One of her Christian professors celebrated her conversion with lunch and a church service. This woman, Regina, was a beloved member of the Oxford community and an influence in Carolyn’s life. As Easter approached, Regina learned that Carolyn was unable to return to Canada during the break and invited her home for the holiday. Regina exemplified for Carolyn the beauty and celebration of the Resurrection.

Carolyn read Regina’s advice to the Tyndale community: “This is a time of celebration. I encourage you to soak it all in: the service, the company, the food, the meaning, everything. Do it consciously, and with care. Pause. Rest. Reflect. Don’t underestimate the power of celebration. It should be our perpetual way of life.”

Carolyn’s memoir is available for purchase at the Tyndale Bookstore. Listen to the Gather Chapel podcast.


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