Visio Divina Reflection by 
Dr. MaryKate Morse,
Incoming Dean of Portland Seminary


Song of Lark


"Lifting one’s heart to God in quietness is fundamental to who I am."

- Dr. MaryKate Morse

I have on my desk a small piece of art called “Song of the Lark,” which the French artist Jules Breton painted in 1884. He respected the simplicity and honesty of the life and work of peasants. He used his art as social commentary on the inequities faced by the lower classes in France. The first time I saw this painting, I was drawn to it spiritually. This young woman was going to work in the fields at sunrise. When I look at the painting, I am reminded of 3 things that really matter to me, personally and now also as the next Dean. 

First, she is looking up to the skies. I believe she is in prayer as she begins her day. Lifting one’s heart to God in quietness is fundamental to who I am. It is also fundamentally necessary for those of us who are called to be servant leaders for God. Her stopping and looking up reminds us that this habit of turning to God at the beginning of work grounds her entire day in Christ. 

As the seminary dean this is the first thing I bring to the seminary and students. The beginning of our ‘work’ together must be centered in Christ. So it matters to me that we have a spiritual formational culture where stopping to lift our hearts and minds to God begins us and shapes us. 

Second, she has a scythe in her hand. She is going to the fields to work. My prayers and my work are not separate enterprises. One informs the other. God has called me at this time to serve as Dean of the Seminary. Everyone on faculty and staff feel the same way about their work here. We profess Christ, and we have tools for preparing, training, teaching, resourcing, mentoring, and strengthening students to work in his fields. It matters to me that we are dedicated to being and bringing our very best that our students might thrive in Christ’s fields

Third, her feet are standing in a field that is open all around her. She is not in a little garden in her backyard. She is in a field, which represents to me the wide diverse world that God created and blessed. We have then a responsibility to stand in the fields of this world and learn about them. As Dean of the seminary it matters to me that we are committed to diverse cultures and peoples embracing their identities and their challenges. We cannot be a seminary of one color or one denomination or one world view. We are a better people of God, when we trust the Spirit to lead us into all of God’s wisdom. 

The final observation of this little painting that moves me is the beautiful orange sun coming up. Despite all the extraordinary difficulties we are facing because of the coronavirus, we serve a God who brings new every morning into our lives. I am very hopeful about what we might be able to do together at Portland Seminary as we keep Christ at the center, serve our students with our very best, and embrace the peoples and world that God gave to us.  




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