Learning How to Listen

Experience1The culture of the United States of America is dominated by a problem solving philosophy of speaking boldly, acting confidently, and persuading forcefully.  It is deep in the soul of this culture to take the narrowest interpretation of the Genesis story of creation–in effect, that God put humans in the garden and told them to go forth and “subdue” the earth (Gen. 1:28). The spirituality associated with this approach wants to fix things, to eliminate confusion, to re ”member” disjointedness, to eradicate dysfunction.  It wants to bring order and structure to chaos and mess, and it wants to do it now.  This is an important orientation, and it has helped the human race pull itself out of many problems.

But, there is a dark side to this approach in the challenges of life.  We can speak boldly, act confidently, and persuade forcefully before we fully understand a situation, prior to having all of the facts, antecedent to exploring different options of action and the unintended effects of those actions.  We can swagger into problems and try to ramrod solutions that actually make our situation far worse.  As we can see with the U.S. Congress, our society is gradually reaping the whirlwind of this kind of unchecked thinking and acting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor centuries, many Christian leaders assumed that the faith tradition was primarily about speaking boldly, acting confidently, and persuading forcefully.  Unfortunately, churches have often created an unholy alliance between an exaggerated form of this problem-solving orientation with its understanding of missiology and evangelism. In its most dramatic forms, the alliance aided and abetted the colonization of other cultures, the domination of entire peoples in the name of God, and some of the most troublesome examples of human arrogance getting forged into public policy.

But, there is another orientation to solving problems, thankfully, though it is in short supply at this moment in U.S. history.  This orientation calls not for subduing the earth but cooperating with it and harmonizing disparate parts through a slower process of analysis, discernment, and careful action.  It resists the urge to act, even in times when others are panicking.  It sits on the human need for bringing order to chaos until the chaos is fully understood, and learns to live in messiness as a necessary step toward solutions. The operative human capacity for this perspective is listening.

earphonesOne of the proponents of this alternate perspective is Rev. Eric Law, an Episcopalian priest of Chinese-American ancestry who has dedicated a good part of his adult life to helping people of faith learn how to deal with the world’s growing cultural diversity.   Law suggests that one of the most consequential interpretations of the entire Bible has been Christianity’s tendency to interpret the events of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13) as a “miracle of the tongue.”

This interpretation of the passage seems to support speaking boldly, acting confidently, and persuading forcefully.  But, pondered Law, “what might have happened and what might churches look like today if the Pentecost event had been interpreted as a miracle of the ear?”

Law, who will join the School of Theology and Ministry’s Search for Meaning Book Festival on February 15, 2014, notes that a listening posture leads to a different understanding of the world, and different kinds of responses to the problems of the world. This orientation requires a certain level of comfort in paradox. It is guided by the principles of speaking carefully, acting sparingly, and persuading collaboratively, and requires above all else the capacity to listen actively, a skill most Americans have a difficult time mastering.

Listen2Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry has a fundamental self-identity as a listening organization. The school is grounded in the modern ecumenical movement, which tracks back to the World Missionary Council held in Edinburgh in 1910 that eventually gave birth to the National Council of Churches, and the Decree on Ecumenism from the Second Vatican Council. Like the Missionary Council and the Vatican Council, the School is constantly trying to learn to listen, to step back from the mess of our changing times, to question broadly – both those different from ourselves, and especially questioning our own hearts and minds, particularly our assumptions.  There is a deep spiritual tradition emanating from this tradition rooted in monastic sensibilities–to wait on solutions and actions by first waiting on God, waiting on the surfacing of our own deepest desires, waiting on clarity in understanding an issue, and waiting on the consultation and perspectives of others.

Listen3Like many seminaries or schools of theology, Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry spends time in class and internships trying to teach students how to listen.  But, this is a lesson one can forget easily, so since its origins the school has tried to hard wire listening into our daily operations.  We listen closely to students throughout the year, of course, not only through course evaluations but, through meal conversations, and in one-on-one discussions with faculty, faculty administrators and staff.  But, we also force ourselves to listen to each other.  Faculty members are required to have lunch together every Thursday (precisely in order to keep our practice of listening to one another as colleagues working in a complex, demanding, and rapidly changing profession).  Through the lunches, which usually do not deal with work issues directly, we re-learn each week to listen to each other as humans on a journey of faith to God and authenticity, and not just as co-workers.  In our many regularly scheduled meetings – for curriculum, formation, faculty searches, and special projects, this humanizing time together makes all the difference in the quality of our deliberations.  Staff members have similar meetings and conversations, listening to the unique perspectives and information coming to each person in his or her administrative role.

Listen4All in all, this is lots and lots of talking. God knows it must take a higher toll on the introverts among us than the extraverts.  But, there is another layer of listening in the School of Theology and Ministry that brings a level of energy and creativity that is rather unique.  Each year the school engages about 150 outside consultants.

From our Executive Leadership Board to the Outreach Teams of our 13 denominational partners to planning groups to degree program consultations with local leaders, to internationally famous theological experts, the school has layers and layers of people tell us what they are seeing in their parishes and organizations, their communities and the world.   We trust these people because the more we listen to them, the more we reality that they voice to us the needs of the People of God at this moment in time and place.

When you experience the programming we do at the School of Theology and Ministry, from our degree and certificate programs to the Search for Meaning Book Festival; from the Faith and Family Homelessness Project to the Faith and Values Lecture Series; from our efforts to engage the local media to our many Interreligious Dialogues and our annual State of Church in the Pacific Northwest; you are experiencing the fruit of scores and scores of conversations over days, weeks, months and years, and very careful listening.

When you listen this close you can speak boldly, act confidently, and persuade forcefully and avoid the dark side of this orientation.  But, this only works if you never forget that you have to keep listening.   Eric Law is right.  If we believed more in the miracle of the ear than the miracle of the tongue we would have a very different kind of world.

~ Dean Mark S. Markuly, PhD

The Power of New Experiences

Experience1Welcome to another academic year at the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University!  Over the next nine months we will all have many opportunities for growth in personal insight, spiritual wisdom, and the development of the skills needed to impact our world for the better.

The beginning of a “new” academic year is a great time to reflect on the impact new experiences can have on our personal life and the lives of the communities and institutions in which we live.  New experiences can scare us or energize us; they can leave us in confusion or they can give us clarity of thought about something we did not understand; they can leave us paralyzed or move us to action.   Our most profound new experiences, especially religious and spiritual experiences, re-orient us; they alter paradigms of thinking; they give us eyes to see and ears to hear many things that we did not notice in the past.  Such experiences can “awaken” us and convince us – either immediately or over time – that we need to change our ways and the ways of the organizations and structures organizing, modulating and regulating our common life.

Experience2The great interpreters of new religious and spiritual experiences have been the seers, sages, prophets, and saints of history.  These were people who were so moved by a religious or spiritual experience that they spent the rest of their lives changing their own life and calling the people and institutions around them to become something better, something more faithful to their understanding of God and to the promotion of a more human, fair, and just world.  Our great interpreters of religious and spiritual experiences left long, indelible marks on human history.  In taking to heart the observation of Jesus, “you cannot put new wine in old wineskins,” they radically transformed themselves first, and then the context around them, especially the communities and institutions framing their lives.  They made new wineskins to fit the wine of their new experiences.

Experience3One of the most profound stories of the transformative power of a new experience occurred in the life of Pedro Arrupe, SJ, a little more than 68 years ago.  Arrupe, who is often called the “second founder of the Jesuits,” had a profound experience when he was 37-years-old and the superior of the Jesuit community in Nagatsuka, Japan.  This experience uniquely prepared him for leading the international Jesuit community during the tumultuous years of 1965-1981.

During a quiet morning on August 6, 1945, Arrupe and his fellow Jesuits saw a blinding light, followed by the sound of an explosion that blew out all of their windows and shook their home.  Although they did not know it at the time, they had just experienced together the world’s first use of the atomic bomb as a weapon of war.  Their home was located on the outskirts of Hiroshima, and he and his companions were spared only because the house was nestled behind a hill outside of the city.
After the blast, the Jesuits walked up the sloping terrain and looked out over a scene of mass destruction, fire, and smoke.  Though soldiers warned them of a “deadly gas in the air,” Arrupe, a physician, and his fellow Jesuits, wandered through the rubble and debris in search of survivors.  Over the course of the next weeks the Jesuits dressed burns, treated radiation sickness, and provided pastoral care to survivors. The experience created images they never purged from their memories.  (If you are interested in reading Arrupe’s experience in his own words, see here.)

Forged and tempered in the fires of Hiroshima, 20 years later the Jesuit community called Experience4Pedro Arrupe to become the Superior General of the Society of Jesus.  Under his direction the Society implemented the vision and teachings of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), a worldwide council held by the Catholic Church that made profound changes in this complex international community.  Under Arrupe, the Society of Jesus discerned a new articulation of its mission – one expecting all Jesuits and their institutions to commit to the “service of faith” and the “promotion of justice.”  Within this commitment the Jesuits discerned an even deeper call from God to promote dialogue and collaboration among all people of faith and good will, to learn how to seek and find common ground with others even though separated by deep differences, and to learn how to stand together in the protection and promotion of all humans as made in the image of a common Creator.

At the 32nd General Congregation, a worldwide Jesuit gathering in 1974-75, the Jesuits formally accepted their mission to serve faith and the promotion of justice. Arrupe supported the effort, but warned his fellow priests that linking faith and justice could result in the martyrdom of some of the Society’s members and friends. In 1989, this prediction came true with the gruesome murder of six Jesuit priests and two lay women at the Jesuit house on the campus of Universidad Centro Americano (UCA) in El Salvador.  The Jesuits had been serving as advocates for those living on the margins of society in the troubled Central American nation, and had dedicated their scholarship to publicizing the challenges and oppression faced by the poor.  Immediately after the multiple homicides, Jesuits began volunteering to take the place of their fallen comrades.  Instead of silencing the commitment of the Society of Jesus to serve faith and promote justice, the murders deepened and amplified this Jesuit commitment.

Experience5One of the first people to volunteer was a young Jesuit named Dean Brackley, who rather quickly developed an international reputation as an advocate for the poor, and a spiritual guide for anyone seeking to leave a mark on the world.  Brackley died of cancer in October, 2011, but touched nearly everyone he encountered.  As a man of deep faith, commitment to intellectual rigor and service to the poor and marginalized in the world, he embodied the new Jesuit charism.

Pedro Arrupe’s experience changed him and inspired him to cooperate with God’s grace in changing the Society of Jesus, its more than 100 institutions of higher learning throughout the world, and all of the people, groups and communities impacted by those institutions.  His experience helped to change the six Jesuits killed at the UCA, and they inspired Brackley, who, in turn, inspired others.

Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry is an “intentionally ecumenical” school, engaged deeply with 17 religious denominations and organizations.  Our ecumenical foundation is built on the Jesuit commitment to create a place of hospitality and vibrant theological and personal discourse for all people of faith so we can encounter and learn to dialogue and collaborate with one another, even while we learn to live out our own faith tradition at deeper, fuller levels.  This requires for us to return again and again to the roots of our own religious and spiritual traditions.  In this grounded place of encounter and dialogue, we cultivate a spirituality that allows us to find common ground in the promotion of justice.  Without ignoring or diminishing our own difference, we learn from each other, and we learn more about ourselves in the very act of encountering others who think differently

The school is a kind of place commited to what Brackley called “genuine education”. Read more here: Brackley Article

04202012-  Spring on CampusGenuine education … must engage students personally at the level of experience and practice, challenging their commitments and value-priorities. Authentic formation leads to wisdom which, we know, involves a kind of knowing that engages the whole person … an experiential knowledge, involving intellect, will and the “affections”. This kind of knowledge transforms the person.

The School of Theology and Ministry is about creating new learning experiences because new experiences change us, and when we are changed, remarkable things can happen to us, the communities and institutions in which we live and work, and the world.

May this new academic year bring all of us life transforming experiences that leave us more authentically ourselves, more grounded in our religious and spiritual traditions and each other, and especially closer to God.  And, in the spirit of Pedro Arrupe, may this result in all of us becoming even more committed to the promotion of a more just and humane world.

Our Best Laid Plans

Plans1In the higher education calendar, August is a time of last minute planning for the academic year.  Of course, it does not take too many cycles of planning for a school year to realize that things often do not work out the way we painstakingly plan.  Indeed, one of life’s most difficult learnings is  that the future often ends up different than we planned.   One of the most poignant pieces of American literature wrestling with this human challenge is John Steinbeck’s 1927 novella: “Of Mice and Men”. The principal characters in Steinbeck’s story, you may  recall, are George and Lennie, two migrant field hands with a powerful dream of purchasing their own farm someday.  The book ends tragically, with the reader taken into the heart of the greyness of some moral situations, as well as the sadness and disorientation of witnessing  human plans getting crushed in the mortar and pestle   of life’s challenges and disappointments.

Plans2The title of Steinbeck’s book comes from a famous Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1786: To A Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough. The poem is written in the voice of a farmer who accidentally ploughs up a mouse nest and speaks to the mouse of his regret and his realization that the situation is a reflection on the tenuousness of the planning cycles of all mortal beings.  Says the farmer to the mouse:

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [you aren't alone]
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promised joy.

Garden Design Blueprint SketchingPerhaps the master of discernment (or “spiritual planning) in the Catholic tradition is the founder of the Jesuits – Ignatius of Loyola – who  developed discernment into a high art form, one that remains as psychologically astute in our own day as it was in the 16th century of his times. Ignatius discovered the art of spiritual discernment has as much to do with the events and circumstances in life as it does with our prayer, attentiveness to the subtle movements in our consciousness, and study.  Yet, despite his commitment to the careful planning of what he believed God called him to be and do, Ignatius rarely had his plans work out.

He wanted to take his Society of Jesus into the mission fields of Africa, but instead laid the foundation for the largest private educational system in the world.  He wanted to live out of a suitcase, responding to the special needs of the church of his day, but instead spent most of his ministerial life in Rome, embroiled in the details and politics of launching a new religious community.

PLans4Ignatius had so many plans dashed on the rocks of reality that a Jesuit friend of mine, Fr. Jerry Fagin, SJ, once wrote a journal article he originally named: Plan B (later published under another name*).   Jerry taught at Loyola Univeristy New Olreans in a ministry education program for mostly Catholic lay ministry students. An Ignatian scholar, Fr. Fagin noted in his article that Ignatius was dreamer and an optimist and always had a Plan A. Often, and certainly with some of the most significant decision-making times in his life, Ignatius had to move to Plan B.  (You’re welcome to read Jerry Fagin’s originalarticle here in a PDF.)

In moving often to Plan B, Ignatius came to realize that planning, preparation, implementing, and on-going discernment in response to changing circumstances are part of a continuum of discerning God’s dream for our lives.  In the implementation of a plan, the doors to the future open into a mystery of what comes next; and, as one steps into this mystery, new, unimagined opportunities open him or her. This interpretation thrwarted plans helped Ignatius to never see failed dreams as God willing or orchestrating obstacles. Rather, as Jerry Fagin notes, Ignatius came to believe that in each dashing of a plan “God used the circumstances to place a new path” under his feet, one leading to “great good for others and achievements far greater than Ignatius ever envisioned.”  Once more, unlike Robert Burns, who saw “grief ‘an pain,” rather than the “promised joy” of the original plan, Ignatius found profound meaning, purpose, and yes, joy, in following Plan B.

Plans5Sometimes we can only see a Divine hand in our life when we look through the rearview mirror.  But, the process itself often leads us to a place we could never have imagined unless we were first on the path to implementing different plan.

As we begin a new year filled with our “best made schemes,” perhaps we can remind each other that our plans wil point us down a path that may change direction into something unforeseen.  Should this happen, may we hold to our original plans gently enough to make room for a greater Plan that may break into our life.

~ Dean Mark S. Markuly
   Seattle University, School of Theology and Ministry

*Rev. Gerald Fagin, S.J., “Surrendering to God’s Plan for Us,” Human Development. Vol. 26, No. 2, Summer 2005

What Travel & Rest Can Do

“Welcome to summer, and its annual invitation to Shabbat, a fundamental concept of the Jewish tradition that emphasizes the importance of a time of rest and reflection, a time of restoration and healing from the bruising we take in the demands of our lives, a time to make room for God and community, and listening to the rhythm of our one, true heartbeat.

Christians inherited the concept of Sabbath from the Jewish tradition, and it is recognized in Islam and other traditions as well.  Summer offers many of us a chance to invest in Sabbath time more seriously than just a once a week endeavor.  All of us at the School of Theology and Ministry encourage you to find creative ways to do so.

Rest1Our hectic times demand that we periodically play a tune at a different tempo than the one we sing day-in and day-out.  Frankly, our tempo at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry through the year feels like presto most of the time (168-208 ticks per minute on a metronome), even though we know that in the life of the Spirit it is sometimes important to sing at larghetto (60-66 beats) or largo (40-60 beats).  If God is indeed found in the gentle breeze and the whisper, sometimes we need to slow down enough to feel and hear God’s voice.

Unfortunately, in our technology-driven, information saturated, postmodern age, slowing our tempo is often easier said than done.

Rest2Taking a break is not something advised; it is something essential for all of us.  I had a friend, Rev. Rich Buchheit, who pastored a church in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of St. Louis.  Every year Rich took a retreat for a week and a half.  He spent the entire first three days sleeping, only rising to go to meals, beginning his prayer and regular meetings with a spiritual director on the morning of the fourth day.  The years of a grueling, unending ministry in a violent neighborhood convinced him that entering into God’s rest required for him to first force himself to rest.  He was so tired at the end of a year, he noted, that he could not recognize God’s voice if it “bit him on the rear end.”

In the Pacific Northwest, we are blessed with one of the greatest resources for resetting the metronome of our lives – the wonders of Gods’ nature. From the breathtaking vistas of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, to the majestic heights of Mount Rainier or Mount Baker, to the sacred silence of forests like Hoh National Forest, nature shifts our tempo naturally.  If given half a chance, the wonders around us return us to our primal setting, a place with much more room for seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, feeling, and, oh yes, breathing in and out in long breaths more in harmony with the universe from which the Master Conductor formed us.

It is almost impossible to overemphasize how important Shabbat breaks are to the health of our souls.

Rest3For more than 100 years, intellectuals trying to understand the challenges of the rapidly changing world brought on by the Industrial Revolution have recognized anxiety as a defining characteristic of the age.  Neurologist George Beard saw it clearly as far back as 1881, with his book American Nervousness: Its Causes and Consequences.  Others in his generation recognized the symptoms as well, as Tom Lutz has described so well in his book American Nervousness,1903 (Cornell University Press, 1991), which tracks some of Beard’s peers as they wrestled with the meaning of the same observation – people like William James and others who played a role in setting the table for some of the so-called New Age or Emergent Spiritualities that are now so popular.

Lest we think we have overcome the anxiety brought to us in the Industrial Revolution, consider some of the more recent installments on understanding our divided, fragmented and anxious hearts.  From Edward Shorter’s, How Everyone Became Depressed: The Rise and Fall of the Nervous Breakdown (Oxford University Press), to Jeffrey Kahn’s, Angst: Origins of Anxiety and Depression (Oxford), to Dana Becker’s One Nation Under Stress: The Trouble with Stress as an Idea (Oxford), we are a people strung as tight as a violin string.   Ann Cverkovich, a professor of English and Women’s Studies, has even written an entire book, A Public Feeling (Duke University Press), which explores what she considers the “culture of depression” that constitutes the academic life.  That one cuts a little too close to home!

One of the school and university’s foundational Jesuit values is that of being “contemplatives in action”. The value calls us to engage the sacred in the world holistically, working actively towards good, but grounding ourselves in God’s Spirit and intentionality.  Loyola Press has a great article that talks about this value alongside others and is accessible online here.

The world’s rapid pace and constant change keep us all on a treadmill through the year.  May we put aside our anxious ways this summer and truly enter into Sabbath time.” Dean Mark S. Markuly, PhD
Dean
Seattle University, School of Theology and Ministry

Celebrating our 2013 Alumni

“The primary reason the human race has endured over the centuries is because each generation gives birth to leaders with the passion, perseverance, and courage to make the world a more just and humane place.  This is tough work, requiring a lifetime of commitment and the endurance of mind, heart and soul. Based on a critical reading of history, the last– soul –is the most important factor.  The majority of the quantum leaps we have made in humanity have been initiated by people grounded in some form of faith, usually one rooted deeply in an historic tradition that has spent centuries trying to engage notions of the transcendent and absolute in a creative dialogue with the here and now.

The abolition of slavery, appreciating and tending to the mentally ill, laws forbidding child labor and allowing for unionization, the early work for women’s rights and creating a safety net for the poor, the end of Jim Crow laws, major movements for peace … these movements and many more began with people of faith trusting in their God-given, God-inspired and God-sustained abilities to make something more of themselves and our world.  These movers and shakers knew they could become more because they could imagine themselves and their world as more, and they knew that in this complex and difficult work they were not laboring in the vineyard alone.

There is nothing quite as thrilling as making the world a more merciful, thoughtful, caring, just and authentic place
, even if it is only in your own little corner.  If we all grew up believing that this is really how you “make something of yourself,” the human race would experience a lot less heartache and suffering.

If you are interested in keeping your eye on future leaders who are truly trying to “make something of themselves,” who are formed in the mold of the people who have created the kind of positive change that has made the world more like God originally intended it, look to alumni of the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University.  Our graduates have been educated in an environment that requires them to stretch their potential, to find their voice and mission, and the courage to pursue ‘a road less traveled,’ in Robert Frost’s famous words.  And, along with these lessons, they have learned how to build bridges across the kinds of divides that keep humans from solving our most difficult problems. These women and men are what they call in Yiddish– ‘mentsches’—filled with admirable qualities, honorable, decent and authentic.

We are a little more than one month past the NFL Draft, but if you want to watch something truly exciting, forget about Tony Gonzalez on the Kansas City Chiefs or Maurice Jones Drew on the Jacksonville Jaguars or Bo Jackson on the Oakland Raiders.  If you want real excitement, watch our graduates.  They are going to change the world.

School of Theology and Ministry graduates flooded into Seattle Center’s Key Arena near the Space Needle on Sunday, June 16, to recognize the completion of their education at Seattle University, and to take a bold step into a future that will bring many blessings to others.  These are the kinds of people who will leave trails of grace behind them.  They have already left a mark on the region through their ministries and efforts for community and social change, but you can bet they will do even more amazing things with the rest of the time they have on this earth.

Congratulations to all graduates, current and past.  We celebrate your contribution to our world!  Thanks for giving the world a real gift of the magi–yourself!”

Lorenzo Herman, SJ receives the Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen Award (received by Joe Cotton, MAPS in our school last year), as all of the School of Theology & Ministry graduates give a standing ovation.

LorenzoHerman

Live at the Key Arena, President Steve Sundborg, SJ addressed the graduates about what SeattleU offers its new alumni.

SeattleUGraduates

Larry Walls, MDIV just closed the ceremony with the benediction.

LarryWalls

Dr. Guardiola-Sáenz, Dr. Eppler & Dr. Davis

LeticiaAndrewChristie

CommencementGallery_cjt_011-WEB

What Faculty are Reading & Watching

FacultyReading“In a world with an avalanche of information and the potential for experiences coming at us at any given moment, it is important to learn to create filters and discernment processes for the kinds of things we are going in ingest into our souls. Throughout history, the printed word has served as a ferry for all kinds of conversion – intellectual, emotional, spiritual. All of the arts can have this effect as well, and this is an important dimension of all of our spiritualities.

I had a very good and young friend who was diagnosed with stage four asbestos cancer many years ago. Rich Pankowski knew this truth in a different way. “I’m on borrowed time,” he once said, “I’ve pared down my library to only those books, movies and music that I feel confident will help me on my final journey.” Rich had led a rough life as a teenager and young adult, had a profound religious conversion while working as a parole officer, and was now at a point in which he considered the time he had left too precious to spend on literary, visual and auditory cul-de-sacs. I often reflect on his insight from time-to-time, since all of us are on borrowed time.

When Johannes Gutenburg created the printing press in the 15th century, the decision-making process for what we spend our time reading reached a new level of complexity.  Suddenly the printed word became available to anyone who could read.  Humans found a new freedom and responsibility in this gift; they also highjacked the technology to spread destructive ideologies with an unprecedented speed and thoroughness.   We now live in a time of technologies that carry superior levels of both the promise and potential destruction of the printing press. The effect of the information immediacy brought to us by Nooks, Kindles, Galaxies, Tablets, iPads and other eReaders is really yet to be discovered.

When it comes to discerning what to read, watch or listen to in the precious time we have, it is always helpful to have the suggestions of people who read and experience new information as part of their living.  Consequently, this e-newsletter will offer you the beginning of a new tradition at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry.  Some of our faculty will inform you of the books they are reading, as well as the electronic media they are listening to or viewing.   Most of us have a stack of books at our bedside, while some of us have stacks near our reading chair, our cocktail table and any other horizontal surface capable of supporting weight.   Most of us also have long lists of films we want to see or music groups we hope to experience.  When it is possible, some of the faculty will give you a few words of evaluation of what is occupying their leisure time.

In a world with too many options for reading and watching, we hope faculty suggestions will help you in your discernment process about what to read on your journey, especially as we move closer to the months of summer.”

~ Dean Mark S. Markuly, PhD

Dr. Sharon Henderson Callahan
“I’m reading ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg, a new attempt to talk about women and leadership, and ‘Entering The Shift Age’ by David Houle, a futurist who is looking ahead at how the world is shifting and undergoing an “earthquake” in creating new realities. I’ve just finished two novels about Scotland by Susan Fraser King: ‘Lady Macbeth: a Novel’ and ‘Queen Hereafter: A Novel’ (about Queen Margaret, the first queen of the Scots). The novels are set in the 1000s and create an understanding of the immigration and migration between European countries–including Norwegian Vikings, Saxons and Normans. They also consider the religious formation of the Celtic lands as they merge Celtic spiritualities with Roman demands and indigenous practices.”

Rev. Dr. Dick Cunningham
Books:
Schofield, Brian. Selling Your Father’s Bones: America’s 140-Year War Against the Nez Perce Tribe. Simon & Schuster. New York, 2009.
Part historical narrative, part travelogue and part environmental plea, this book recounts one of the most astonishing journeys in the history of the American West and the leadership of Joseph, the chief or the peaceable Nez Perce.
Hugo, Victor. Les Miserables. Signet Classics, New York. 1987
Melton, Glennon. Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts On Life Unarmed, Scribner, New York. 2013
Flohr, Caroline, Heaven’s Child: a Mother’s Story of Tragedy and The Enduring Strength of Family, Book Publishers Network. 2012
Theater:
Assisted Living by Katie Forgette, Directed by R. Hamilton Wright.  At the ACT Theater.  A must see for anyone engaged in Pastoral Ministry.  With 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching the age of 65 every single day this  play takes on health care and aging.  It is poignant, fast moving and very funny.

Dr. Andrew Davis
“Far from the Tree”, by Andrew Solomon
“The Ecstasy of Influence” – by Jonathan Lethem
“The Best American Short Stories 2012″ – edited by Tom Perrotta

Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon
“As part of my course at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry on “Literature from Around the World”, I have developed lists of recommended novels from various continents and am happy to send those upon request.  Since teaching that course in the winter quarter, I have read a very unusual novel entitled ‘Urmia in the Shadow of the Owl’, by Ora Jacobi, which deals with the Armenian, Assyrian, and Jewish communities in eastern Anatolia at the time of the First World War (i.e., the Armenian Genocide). In the field of ecumenical studies, I have just finished a newly-translated book, ‘Wounded Visions: Unity, Justice and Peace in the World Church after 1968′, by a bishop in the Swedish Lutheran church, Jonas Jonson.  It offers a comprehensive look at the work of the World Council of Churches over the past half century, and I recommend it for people interested in things ecumenical. The two best books I have read in the past couple of months are not specific to my areas of teaching: ‘From the Ruins of Empire’, by Pankaj Mishra, and ‘Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights’, by Marina Warner.  The former examines the work of Asian intellectuals, such as Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Rabindranath Tagore, who attempted to provide an intellectual basis for resistance to Western colonialism.  (We read work by Tagore in the school’s literature course.)  The latter is an astonishingly erudite discussion of Western encounter with the ‘Arabian Nights’ (the literary antecedent for contemporary writing in the Middle East, which we also read in the literature course). I highly recommend both, but they are not easy reading.”

Dr. Mark Lloyd Talor
Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s book “Van Gogh: The Life, a biography of 19th century painter Vincent van Gogh” (New York: Random House, 2011).

Dr. Christie Eppler
Not a book or a film, but a monthly event at Seattle University: “De-stress with Dogs”!
DogStress

A Reflection on Bob Dylan & Change

Bob_Dylan_-_The_Times_They_are_a-ChanginIn 1964, singer-activist Bob Dylan released his first album of all original compositions, “The Times They Are A’Changin’.”  The title song gave lyric and melody to a basic fact of human existence that was first articulated by the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus: change is a constant of life.  Or, as he put it, we never step in the same river twice.  You can run from change, but you can’t hide.  As Dylan put it, giving a nod to the famous metaphor of Hericlitus:

Come gather ‘round people
Whereever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone

Some of us deal more comfortably with change than others.  For those conversant in the categories in the personality inventory called the Myers-Briggs, you can even find a designation for your personality type’s capacity for dealing with this easily.

As the world changes in every generation, so must theological education adjust and alter, embracing new problems and learning new ways to go spelunking into the sacred mysteries of religious faith.  This reorientation includes finding new concepts and terminology, learning new methodologies for speaking about and exploring the heart of one’s religious tradition, creating new structures to support the effort, and finding new resources to pay for all of it.

In the late 1770′s, Congregationalists and Baptists picked up the nickname of “New Lights” when they started embracing some new ways to live and articulate the Christian tradition.  The New Lights became locked in conflict with the more established denominations and perspectives during the First Great Awakening in the 18th century.   The same terminology was used in the Second Great Awakening in the early 19th century to describe the changing ways of looking at the life of faith in the Presbyterian tradition.

When times change, perspectives change, and some people do not know how to deal with the shifting sand.  At Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, we are committed to keeping all of the lights on as much as we can – old and new.  We live in this space of tension because we believe this is where God calls us to stand.   A purple space in a red and blue world.

But, old light or new, change is a comin’ and this means we all need to make room for new perspectives and new ways of being children of God.

All this quarter the School’s core faculty are wresting together with how to do interreligious dialogue.  We are going to school together and wrestling with the concepts and methodologies of the people who have struggled with this essential skill-set for the 21st century.

In our seminar this week, we had some very interesting visitors.  The first guest was Fr. Peter Phan, a prestigious Vietnamese theologian who has written compellingly about the Asian perspective on Christianity’s encounter with other religions.  Later in the day, Jim Wallis, the prolific Evangelical writer who founded Sojourners Magazine, joined our seminar.  Rev. Wallis had profound stories to share about his interfaith work, many of them captured in his latest book, On God’s Side.   He is known best for bringing social justice back into a central feature of an Evangelical Christian faith.

As a first year seminarian in 1980, I wrote a letter to Jim Wallis asking if the Sojourners Magazine could use a summer intern.  As someone who had been trained as a journalist, was committed to social justice, and now found himself as a student of theology and ministry, I told him I wanted to know how they were integrating these three factors that did not fit together very easily.

Jim wrote back with a very nice note, informing me that they discussed my offer at great length in one of their meetings, but came to the conclusion that they were not organized enough to even know what to do with an intern, and too broke to offer room and board.   When Rev. Wallis showed up at the School, he was accompanied by a young man who lives in intentional community with eight other Sojourners interns.  He is learning how Congress works, how laws are passed, and how he as a person of faith can leave an indelible mark on world, even if in just a small way.

From no interns to nine, and from an Evangelical start-up to a Sojourners organization that has become a focal point for faith-based political action in the nation’s capital.  For Jim Wallis, these times have been a’changin’.

In this newsletter you’ll see how they are changing at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry.   But, expect a lot more in the next few months.  At the School we are aware that we are rooted in historic faith traditions, and the vibrant spiritual energies of our world of believers and seekers.  But, we also know that we never put our foot in the same river twice.

~ Dean Mark S. Markuly, PhD
Seattle University
School of Theology and Ministry