The Glen Lennox Community

At Duke Divinity School, the word “community” is a staple in the vocabulary of theologians-in-training. Ethics professors Stanley Hauerwas and Samuel Wells form seminarians with wisdom of the gathered and scattered community. As a graduate of Duke Divinity and one formed by their writing and teaching, I have experienced that community is indeed a word that extends well beyond the degree program.

Recent news surrounding the fate of Glen Lennox cottages in Chapel Hill has prompted many citizens to think about their own notions of community and home. In the months since Grubb Properties announced their intention to develop Glen Lennox cottages in Chapel Hill, I have discovered the ever-growing meaning of the word for myself and many.

My first reaction is primitive and selfish: “Where will I live in Chapel Hill that’s affordable?” Now on to thinking beyond myself: “Where will the other 439 households find affordable housing?” In some portions of the United States, this number of households constituents an incorporated town. For example, Dana, a small town in Western Indiana that I’ve written about before has 252 households according to the 2000 Census.

Theologically, I know that community is about the gathered people, and not bricks and mortar. As a theologian, I struggle with this development on many levels: personal, sociological, and even Biblical (think the displacement of peoples in the Bible!). While the Christian sense of community suggests that we are not to be tied to material things (or places) of this world, I still think that these precious Glen Lennox bricks have fostered a community spirit in Chapel Hill unlike any other.

Still, I’m amazed that in a world where we are always plugged in, claiming we are lonely and longing for community, we tear down well-established single story communities rich with history, green space, and side streets (all conducive to relationship building), to produce larger, shiny, mixed-use, multi-story buildings for the sake of convenience and progress.

No matter what the outcome, I am confident that the process will be parsed out thoroughly by all of the interested parties, and that the spirit of this community will live on. I am thankful for the opportunity and privilege of being a part the Glen Lennox Community.

Photo credit:

© 2008 J. Dana Trent

To have and to hold …

The sun setting on Belews Lake made for a stunning September wedding day. A gentle breeze complimented the scene as family and friends gathered at “the Point,” a wide strip of land forming a perfect apex at the water’s edge, where the bride and her father docked and processed together.

The heat of the evening in my heavy black clergy robe seemed completely tolerable in the presence of this powerful occasion. Vows were exchanged and promises made, and in the warm shadows of a setting sun, we (God, community, bride and groom) ushered in their new life together.

Life can’t get much better than this …

Photo: Sunset at Belews Lake
Photo credit:

© 2008 J. Dana Trent

9/11 at Salem College

Seven years ago today (9.11.01)

Sitting in the Office of the President at Salem College Office, I tapped my feet impatiently as I waited for my Tuesday morning meeting with Dr. Julianne Still-Thrift. Our agenda: to review my plans as the 2001 Fall Fest Chair. Fall Fest, the decades-old Salem College tradition, was less than two weeks away.

Fall Fest is a day of competition among classes that begins with a lively breakfast in the Refectory, lasts all day (with classes cancelled) and ends with skits and songs in the Hanes Auditorium. As chair, I had begun planning for the event since May of the previous academic year, when I was ceremoniously tapped by my schoolmates to carry on this Salem tradition.

That Tuesday morning, I was missing Dr. Errol Claus’ American history class, and it was one of those “I remember where I was when …” moments, because I recall vividly the president’s assistant (and the president herself) frantically running out of her office in the old Moravian home on Salem Square and asking, “Has anybody got a TV?” Radio? Anything?” These were the days before YouTube, and instantaneous Internet feed, and the word of the two planes hitting the Twin Towers in New York City was now falling on the nation’s eyes and ears.

Given the chaos, I walked back to Dr. Claus’ class to find that he had dismissed our class so that we could return to our dorm rooms and be tuned in. This was, after all, American history was unfolding …

In the days that followed, we mourned the loss of family members and friends of Salem students, and as a school, we asked how and if our Fall Fest celebration should go on. Fall Fest was one of the most important days of the academic term, and often set the tone for sisterhood and community for the year. Could we and should we balance the recent tragedy of 9/11 with the day of celebration of our sisterhood? Would people want to laugh and celebrate again? Was it too soon?

People often ask me what it was like to attend a women’s college. This day, and the ones that followed seven year’s ago demonstrates the experience. Attending a women’s college is about community, sisterhood, and being present with one another – both in joy and sorrow.

We did choose to celebrate Fall Fest that year, though with a very different tone. We chose to celebrate the lives of loved ones lost, and our common life together.
NB: Established by the Moravians in 1772, Salem College is the oldest educational institution for women in the United States. Celebrating over two centuries of educating women, Salem demonstrates a proud history of fostering independence in women.

© 2008 J. Dana Trent