A Heart Full of Gratitude

Feast of the Entrance of the Holy Theotokos into the Temple

ON THIS Feast of the Entrance of the Holy Theotokos into the Temple, on the eve of Thanksgiving in the year of our Lord 2018, I want to express my gratitude.

I’m thankful for the Mother of God, particularly for her participation in the work of the Incarnation. For, according to St Nicholas Cabasilas (d. 1392), “Without the consent of the all-pure one and the cooperation of her faith, this design would have been as unrealizable as it would have been without the intervention of the three Divine Persons themselves” (Homily on the Annunciation).

Vladimir Lossky reminds us that all Mariology is Christology. Thanks for the Mother of God therefore necessarily implies gratitude first and foremost to our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ who by His nativity, baptism, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension has trampled down death and bestowed life upon those in the tombs. Thanks be to Christ our God who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life for a secular age that has lost its way, rejected truth, and embraced a culture of death.

I’m also thankful for Warren Farha and his family. The sacrifice and work they have given to build Eighth Day Books is remarkable. And it is the foundation upon which all of the work at Eighth Day Institute has been built. My vocation would not exist if this man had not pursued his vocation. There will never be enough words for my gratitude.

I’m thankful for Becky Elder and her family. The sacrifice and work they have given to education in Wichita is also remarkable. I was fortunate to spend a great deal of time with Becky while teaching at Northfield School of the Liberal Arts. The academic freedom she extended to me in terms of both content (e.g., the Fathers and the Great Books) and form (free inquiry dialogue, teaching Greek while skateboarding in a toga, the history of monasticism at a Catholic monastery, the development of other retreats at Dogwood Mudhole, TN, etc.) was truly exceptional.

I’m also thankful for Becky's son George Elder. George arrived in Wichita in 2008 with a 12-foot table that he had built for the original Hall of Men meetings in his garage at Clemson University. The Hall of Men in Wichita was thus born and has been going strong ever since. It also proved to be a turning point in the development of Eighth Day Institute.

I’m thankful for Eighth Day Institute’s original Board of Directors: Carol Adamson, Dan Brooks, Steve Buxton, Jon de Jong, Philip Elder, Warren Farha, Gene Herr, Keith Malcom, Kent Murray, Fr. Paul O’Callaghan, and Joshua Sturgill. They helped establish Eighth Day Institute. And they gave me the freedom to create and develop its work.

I’m thankful for my parish priest Fr. Paul O’Callaghan. It was his idea to launch the Eighth Day Symposium, or more specifically, to carry on and develop a conference he had started years before at St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral. It was also his idea to change our name from St John of Damascus Institute to Eighth Day Institute. His wisdom and influence have been beyond measure.

I’m thankful for Chris Farha and the Cathedral Choir. They have been such a huge part of the annual festal banquet for the Symposium. Chris’s culinary skills and her direction of the Cathedral Choir have made the banquet truly a one-of-a-kind event. If you don't believe me, you should listen to James K. A. Smith: he has called it the stuff of legend.

I'm thankful for all of the speakers who have participated in our featured Eighth Day Events. They have made our events more successful than I could have ever imagined. They have always been so kind and gracious. Many of them have become good friends and have actively promoted our work: Hans Boersma, Rod Dreher, Alan Kreider, Joseph Pearce, James K. A. Smith, and Ralph Wood. Three of them are even Eighth Day Members: Hans Boersma, Kenneth Howell, and Ralph Wood.

I’m thankful for what I’m now calling the Phase 2 Board of Directors for Eighth Day Institute (since it’s impossible to do justice to each director here, I’m listing the directors and then restricting shout outs to the officers plus one): Fr. Joshua Burnett, Steve Cohlmia, Jeri Holladay, Alex Kice, Martha Sturgill, Deacon David Sebits; and Warren and Father Paul who have been in on it for the long haul, serving both Phase 1 and 2. Now for the shout outs, in alphabetical order:

  • Fr. Geoff Boyle has helped me think more strategically about our annual calendar of events, he has been a vitally important listening ear for me, and he has been a huge ambassador for our work among his Lutheran colleagues and parishioners.
  • Daniel Brake has given countless hours to website development and strategic thinking about technology, helping us move into the 21st century.
  • Steve Buxton single handedly handled all of the accounting and taxes for almost a decade!
  • Jeremy Koci helped put together our first strategic/operating plan and has helped bring our accounting systems into the 21st century
  • Jim Logan was key to inaugurating a push to begin thinking strategically, and the grants from his family’s foundation were instrumental in keeping our doors open
  • Nick Pohlenz helped us clean up all of our legal records, has kept the board on track for monthly meetings, and has been a work horse of a volunteer with so many EDI events, including the Round Table which he spearheads.
  • And finally, Tom Rhein is hands down the all star. He has carried the weight of Phase 2 as the President of the Board for this transitional period. Simply put, we would not be where we are today - and we probably wouldn't be here at all - without his wise and steady leadership, not to mention his sacrificial investment of both time and money.

I’m also thankful for the newest board members who stand at the beginning of the third phase of Eighth Day Institute's Board of Directors: Warren’s two sons, Nathan and Tim Farha. They have already proven to be instrumental in the planning for Eighth Day Institute to bring back the famous Eighth Day Books catalog.

I’m thankful for all the other volunteers who have given so freely of their time over the last decade. I wish I had the space to list you all by name…but with the count well over 100 I’ll have to refrain. But I will single out four of you, in alphabetical order: Ben Davis, for helping organize the Eighth Day Colloquium, for faithfully leading the Cappadocian Reading Society, and for organizing noon prayer on Wednesdays; John Gleason for bringing much needed assistance in all things related to strategy, marketing, and technology - he's helped put together a series of REALLY GREAT videos on EDI, which you'll be seeing early next week; Keith Malcom for being available at almost every single featured event to handle registration; and Shailesh Mark for his listening ear and leadership with the yet to be named Reading-Writing-Thinking group. To everyone who has ever volunteered, our events would have been total flops without your service. Thank you so very much!

I'm especially thankful for my wife Christiane and my four children - Caleb Michael, Hannah Elizabeth, Elijah Blaise, and Esther Ruth. The sacrifices they've made and continue to make on a regular basis humble me. The time and energy Christiane has poured into so many Eighth Day events is almost completely invisible and unrecognized. Thank you, my love.

And last but most certainly not least, I am eternally grateful to all of the Eighth Day Members. It’s not been an easy decade to survive. But because of you, with God's grace and provision, we have weathered the many storms.

  • Because of you we have been renewing culture through faith and learning for over a decade.
  • Because of you we have been presenting heroes of the faith twenty times a year at the Hall of Men – we’ll be celebrating the 200th hero this December.
  • Because of you we’ve been doing the same thing ten times a year at the Sisters of Sophia.
  • Because of you we have been able to organize eight Symposia, bringing in world-class speakers for fruitful dialogues of love and truth.
  • Because of you we’ve been able to organize four Inklings Festivals, celebrating the lives of one of the most important literary groups of the twentieth century.
  • Because of you we were able to launch the Florovsky Week this summer, promoting the early Christian Fathers as the source for a robust ecumenical dialogue on the issues that divide Christians.
  • Because of you, we have a great website that provides timely and timeless content on a regular basis…and we’ve been hard at work this year preparing a new site that will be even better.
  • Because of you we have a space for all of our local events and office space for all of the planning and administrative and technological work that goes on behind the scenes on a daily basis.
  • Because of you Eighth Day Institute is a thriving organization that is moving into its third phase of operations.
  • And because of you Eighth Day Institute is, in the words of T. S. Eliot, redeeming the time by preserving the faith alive through the dark ages before us and renewing and rebuilding civilization, so as to save the world from suicide.

My heart is so full of gratitude on this eve of Thanksgiving for all of the friends who have made Eighth Day Institute a reality.


In Christ, 
Erin John
Aka Director Doom

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