In my previous military life as a radar navigator/bombardier on B-52 bombers, I constantly assessed the accuracy of my navigation system, as it was “prone to wander.” My main responsibility centered on providing the most accurate platform for navigation and bombing (prior to the advent of GPS) and that was a complex and time-consuming art and practice.
Gyroscopic compasses naturally precess (wander) and had to be repeatedly corrected through the use of known radar significant aiming points to update compass heading. Left unchecked, our aircraft’s navigation systems could wander to the point they were unusable. The 1-in-60 rule of thumb for air navigation states that each degree of error (or displacement) over a distance of 60 nautical miles (NM) will result in 1 NM off course. For example, if traveling at 360 knots per hour with 1 degree of heading error, in one hour you would be 6 miles off course if left uncorrected.
I recently had the privilege of sharing two thought-provoking days with 16 fellow administrators at CSI’s most recent CEO Roundtable event in Seattle. Dr. James K.A. Smith was our facilitator as we explored the topic of faith formation in a changing landscape. We discussed the importance of establishing ritual and liturgy in the lives of our students and ourselves. In his book Desiring the Kingdom (which I highly recommend) Jamie defines liturgy – both sacred and secular ones—as practices that “shape and constitute our identities by forming our most fundamental desires and our basic attunement to the world. In short, liturgies make us certain kinds of people, and what defines us is what we love.”
He goes on to state that “Liturgies shape the way we approach the world, and teach us to be a certain kind of person.” In a sense, liturgy and ritual become those known radar significant aiming points that correct our natural tendency to wander. Establishing a regular time of study and meditation in God’s transforming Word is my most central “liturgy,” but it’s also unfortunately a liturgy that doesn’t always come easily for me. I can testify to the correcting and aligning effect of God’s Word as I recognize where my heading is different from God’s heading. There are also other rituals and liturgies that contend for my affection, whether it is regularly checking emails and texts or watching my favorite TV show about Alaskan homesteaders. Not bad things in and of themselves, but rituals nonetheless.
What are the liturgies and rituals that fill your life? Do they define for you what you love? And how do we help establish liturgies for other educators and for students? The practices that we establish can provide lifelong guidance in their lives.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart; O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.
— Joel Westa, CSI President/CEO