2018 Summer Intensive at CDSP: Day 5 - Fan Girls

“Sunday morning, very bright, I read Your book by colored light
That came in through the pretty window picture.”

Part of the daily schedule is morning and evening prayer. These are important times for me as I process and synthesize all that I am experiencing. So, too, have been these times of writing my reflections.

This morning, as I sit down to write, the words of Noel Paul Stookey’s song “Hymn” come to mind.

Passing conversations where they mentioned Your existence
And the fact that You had been replaced by Your assistants.
The discussion was theology,
And when they smiled and turned to me
All that I could say was "I believe in You.

So, we’re discussing theology. I love a good intellectually stimulating discussion and yet I often find theological discussions troubling. They often feel to me like a bunch of people talking dispassionately about Someone I love deeply. I love a good intellectually stimulating discussion and yet these theological discussions often feel somewhat incomplete to me. While I want to talk about post-colonial, queer, and womanist perspectives, I also want to talk with they people that hang out on the street where I work.

In class we talked about bridging the chasm. We talked about practical theology. For me, it feels like a great chasm and it was great to see glimpses of that bridge.

I visited Your house again on Christmas or Thanksgiving
And a balded man said You were dead,
But the house would go on living.
He recited poetry and as he saw me stand to leave
He shook his head and said I'd never find You.

On Thursday, the St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry showed up, The Rev. Winnie Varghese. I think I first heard Rev. Varghese speak at Missional Voices in 2016. Since then, I have often listened to her sermons online. I was very excited to hear that she would be the visiting professor and would speak to one of the classes I’m in.

A couple of my classmates spoke about being all “fan girl” about Rev. Varghese. I don’t really do the fan girl sort of thing, so I’ll simply say that Rev. Varghese’s voice is, in my mind, one of the most important voices we should be listening to today.

Another such voice is Dean Kelly Brown Douglas. She recently spoke to a bunch of clergy in Connecticut and we’ve been reading some of her articles for class. This is where some of the differences of opinions have shown up. What should our approach be to people from other social locations?

For me, it is important to listen to people from different social locations. One part of that is because this is how we are most likely to hear something new, something challenging. As a cis-het white male, there is also the issue of equity. Voices from my social location have too long dominated the theological discussions. Giving people from other social locations equal time is not enough. It does not balance out the centuries of cis-het white male domination. Instead, we need to point to, amplify, and highlight those voices that have been too long left out of the discussion. Dean Douglas takes this further suggesting that it is the oppressed themselves who are best able to understand and speak about God’s redemptive love.

During one of the sermons this week, a preacher suggested that “every time we draw a line, Jesus is on the other side of that line”. This particularly jumped out at me.

All of this takes me back to one of my foundation stories. Back in college I had a professor who had taken a group of students on the Camino de Santiago. When they returned the students spoke at various alumni association meetings. At one such meeting an elderly alumnus got up, shook his finger at one of the young students and said, “You know what your problem is, it’s that you don’t have any goals.”

The student respond that he did, in fact, have one goal, “to live each moment more fully and more lovingly that the previous”. I have adopted that as my own goal. Too much of my life I fall short of this goal, but it is where theology becomes practical for me.

I love my classmates. It feels like at the deepest levels, they come from places closely related to where I am coming from. One of them has a quote on her Facebook page, “I have a mustard seed, and I’m not afraid to use it.” Another has walked the Camino thanks to a fellowship for John Phillip Newell’s group.

As much as I love Rev. Varghese and Dean Douglas, if I’m going to go all fan girl, it is going to be on these people whose lives feel so connected with my own.

(Categories: )