It is the calling and the joy of all Christians to love God with all their minds, as well as with all their hearts and souls and strength. It is also the particular calling of scientists, because the life of science is a life of the mind; scientists seek to know better what they already love, and come to love better as they know more deeply. Just as continued practice and reflection feed their life-long growth as scientists, so also regular reading and thought allow the growth of deeper knowledge and understanding as Christians. The short selections in the handbook span many of the topics most salient to scientists seeking deeper understanding and a conscious union of their lives as Christians and scientists. The selections reflect the whole heritage of the church, and may serve as introductions to the longer works from which they are drawn. An annotated bibliography lists the sources of the selections and other works which may be helpful.
All Christians are called to witness, but the form and circumstances of that witness are always particular. For a scientist, the occasion to speak on matters of faith may arise in discussions of evolution or ethics, commentaries on students, or any of a number of situations. Speaking our thoughts may often take courage, because the conventions of science implicitly exclude religion, even when they do not explicitly address it. The conventions of silence can give scientists an apparent but false appearance of being irreligious. For an example, in one research university science department, thirteen of twenty-three faculty members are active members of worshipping communities. Because they are spread among several communities, the character of the department appears secular.
Discretion is also needed to discern whether those we address are likely to hear what is said and to find shared language in which to express these concerns. Using overly formal or traditional language to speak about matters of faith or religion may not be intelligible to those unfamiliar with such language, and create barriers rather than bridges. Whatever is true can be said in several ways; it is incumbent upon us to find ways of speaking that can be understood by those who do not already know what we are offering to share.
The laboratory becomes an oratory when a scientist plans, executes or analyzes experiments in the frame of mind that led one scientist to say when he went to plan an experiment, "I'm going to ask God a question." The Franciscans showed this when they spoke of the physical world as bearing "vestigia Dei," the fingerprints of God. These are a few of the ways to appreciate and express the experimental process as an encounter with the contingent reality which in its clarity, openness, coherence and intelligibility reflects its Creator.
This approach to the created order leads to humility in the encounter, a humility that sees experimental colleagues as equally engaged in the approach and valued as fellow witnesses to the created order. A scientist who accepts with gratitude the leading of the Holy Spirit to engage in this way with universe and colleagues may walk through the laboratory door and "pray without ceasing."
In the Eucharist, we thank God for all that God gives us: life, reason, the universe itself, and the love through which all this comes to be. In the Eucharist, we offer to God all these gifts, that what we do and are may become a form of service and love. In the Eucharist, we receive the strength and grace by which we can undertake such love. How better, then, to thank God for the gift of reason and vocations as scientists? Where better could we offer these gifts to the whole family of humankind as God's children and to God himself? What other source offers so steady a stream of love and support with which to undertake this task?
Of all feasts, Pentecost is the most appropriate one at which to make such a conscious intention. At Pentecost, the Spirit came upon the church, filling it with the courage to proclaim the truth. It is always the Spirit that fires a desire for truth and provides the willingness and strength to pursue the truth, whether in Christians or in others. Therefore all true scientists practice science through the gifts of the Spirit, and this day is the most appropriate to rededicate those gifts. Preparation for communion at Pentecost might usefully take the form of reflecting on the undertakings of the Fellowship and renewing one's commitment to them.
Members may find other undertakings, specific to their own circumstances, that also reflect their vocations as scientists. Such undertakings might include science outreach projects to elementary students or high school students, mentoring projects, writing popular presentations of science, offering their scientific expertise to the church for consultation, shared Eucharists at scientific meetings, involvement in developing science curricula for public schools, environmental activism, or a wide variety of other possibilities.
Associate membership is open to all interested individuals who are not eligible for full membership and to individuals eligible for full membership who wish to try out the form of practice.
Anyone who would like to become a member or an associate may do so by
writing (by either paper or electronic mail) to
The Fellowship of Scientists
Trinity Episcopal Church
320 East College Street
Iowa City, Iowa, 52240
Your note should state which you would like to be (member or associate), how you meet the requirements for a member (if that is your request), and an expression of the intention to follow the form of practice. Include a mailing address (and an e-mail address, if available).