After a decade of developing Eighth Day Institute (“EDI”), I recently organized a chronological timeline that shows all the work EDI has organized since its beginnings back in 2006. It is truly an extensive chronology of endeavors promoting the renewal of culture, which includes conferences, feasts, lecture series, retreats, lecture-&-film series, formal dialogues, language courses, iconography workshops, publications, and a cloud of witnesses presented at Hall of Men and Sisters of Sophia.
I think we are onto something that is vital for the Church in what the Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor describes as a secular age. And so do others.
Dr. Ralph Wood, Professor of Literature and Theology at Baylor University, describes Eighth Day Institute as a “splendid community” that “constitutes a vital alternative to the stale denominationalism that characterizes much of contemporary church life, as well as the flaccid secularism of the culture at large.” He concludes with a bold assertion: “the work of the Eighth Day Institute is indispensable.” Rod Dreher, of the American Conservative, describes our work as an “antidote to cultural gloom and doom.” And James K. A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College, has characterized us as a “hidden gem” that is “like a metaphysical wardrobe . . . a portal to another world - a place where remembrance is at the heart of cultural renewal” (see enclosed interview to learn more about our history). We’re proud to be given such high praise. But we have so much more work ahead of us.
We are so grateful for the growth of our supporting membership base. This past decade would not have happened without their support.
EDI’s work of renewing culture, toward which all of our efforts are directed, was initiated in 2006, the same year I enrolled in a part-time, distance PhD program at the University of Durham in England. The sole reason I pursued this educational path was in obedience to EDI’s original Board of Directors. They wisely believed this would be important for the fulfillment of EDI's initial impulse, a project we’ve been calling the Catechetical Academy. The vision, which remains dear to my heart, was born almost two decades ago and was first articulated a decade ago: “Our mission is to prepare young people for college and life by reviving an authentic Christian culture through a schedule of study, work, outreach, and leisure, all integrated into a rhythm of prayer.”
After ten years of juggling the development of Eighth Day Institute, the pursuit of a PhD, and providing for a growing family, which now includes six of us (until two years ago, through teaching, construction projects, and selling roofs), the PhD dissertation has finally been written. So, with the dissertation and a decade of work and development behind us, it is time for us to look forward to the next decade. I’m extremely excited about the road ahead and I hope you will join me in forging its path.
As we transition into our second decade, I intend to lead us in three directions. Most importantly, we must first establish consistency and coherence to our existing work. This includes the events, publications, and web content listed above, as well as our membership program. In order to ensure such consistency and coherence, however, additional supporting staff will be necessary. We can no longer afford to be a one-man operation.
Secondly, we must begin putting flesh on the vision that originally propelled Eighth Day Institute into existence: The Catechetical Academy (the name is not set in stone). Our future depends on young people and it is our responsibility to provide them with an education that is classical, catechetical, and geared toward preparing them for college and life. But we also believe it must be ecumenical, which leads to the third direction of our work for the coming decade.
While serving as a missionary in Latin America and watching churches split multiple times, Christ’s prayer for the unity of His Church in John 17 became one of my primary driving concerns. During my time of employment at Eighth Day Books (1998-2006) under the leadership of Warren Farha, I experienced a healthy and vibrant ecumenism that ultimately led to the creation of Eighth Day Institute. While writing my dissertation, the discovery of Fr. Georges Florovsky, an Orthodox priest whose career was driven by an ecumenism grounded in the common ancient Tradition of the Church (East and West), further reinforced this concern. My conclusion? On the one hand, the three traditions (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) must learn to stand together in a secular age that is increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity. On the other hand, the three traditions have a responsibility to go beyond merely standing together. They must engage in a dialogue of love and truth that seeks to heal the shame of a divided Christendom so that, as Christ prayed, “they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (Jn. 17.23).
One concrete way we intend to promote such a dialogue of love and truth is through the development of a Consortium for Cultural Renewal. There are many Christian organizations just as concerned about our culture as we are. We should be talking to one another, encouraging one another, and working together toward a common goal. The Consortium would help facilitate this. But the Consortium would also seek to help other communities develop their own hub of Christian culture the way we have been able to do so in Wichita. Imagine visiting any city and being able to easily find an “Eighth Day” type of community. I receive more and more requests to help facilitate this. Making it a reality must be our hope, our prayer, and our work.
These, then, are the tasks for the second decade of Eighth Day institute: 1) consistency, coherence, and support staff; 2) The Catechetical Academy; and 3) The Consortium for Cultural Renewal.
These are large tasks. They are monumental. And they will require an immense amount of work, great sacrifice, and much prayer. And they will require your involvement, your time, your sacrifice, your money, and your prayers.
Our goal is to raise $60,000 by January 14. This will set us on solid ground for our transition into a new decade as we set out to establish consistency and as we begin developing the Catechetical Academy and the Consortium for Cultural Renewal.
Please consider making a sacrificial winter contribution to help us reach our goal of $60,000 so we can begin making these three tasks become a reality over the next decade.
Thank you so much for caring about our future and for your part in our work of renewing culture through faith and learning.
Erin “John” Doom
Eighth Day Institute, Founder & Director
P.S. I hope you can join us for our seventh annual Eighth Day Symposium in Wichita, KS on Jan. 12-14.
P.S.S. To learn more about our work, please see this interview with James K. A. Smith about the history and work of Eighth Day Institute.