Spaces for Learning
Insights The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary
Lincoln • Calhoun • Cuéllar • Baker Bodman • Johnson • Rigby
The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary Spring 2013
Volume 128 Number 2 Editor: Cynthia L. Rigby Editorial Board: Gregory Cuéllar and Randal Whittington The Faculty of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary John E. Alsup Whitney S. Bodman Allan Hugh Cole Jr. Gregory Cuéllar Lewis R. Donelson William Greenway David H. Jensen David W. Johnson
Timothy D. Lincoln Jennifer L. Lord Suzie Park K.C. Ptomey Cynthia L. Rigby Kristin Emery Saldine Theodore J. Wardlaw David F. White
Insights: The Faculty Journal of Austin Seminary is published two times each year by Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 100 East 27th Street, Austin, TX 78705-5797. e-mail: email@example.com Web site: austinseminary.edu
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COVER: “Bibliophile’s Dream” by Lynda Lehmann; 24" x 30," acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas, ©2007. Used with permission from the artist. See more of Lynda Lehmann’s paintings here: http://lyndalehmann.imagekind.com/store and http://lynda-lehmann.artistwebsites.com/
Theodore J. Wardlaw
Spaces for Learning 3
Libraries: The Future of Academic Learning
by Timothy Lincoln
Timothy Lincoln Reading Room: How do libraries contribute to learning?
Search: Finding What you Didn’t Know You Were Looking For by Mary Lynne Calhoun
Archives as Space and Text by Gregory Cuéllar
Stories as Space for Learning by Dori Baker
28 Pastors’ Panel Rita Sims, Blair Monie, Douglas Shaffer
31 Required Reading
Allah: A Christian Response, written by Miroslav Volf, reviewed by Whit Bodman; Ravished By Beauty: The Surprising Legacy of Reformed Spirituality, written by Beldon Lane, reviewed by David W. Johnson
34 Christianity and Culture The Changing (Cyber)Face of Christian Community by Cynthia L. Rigby
40 Questions for Study
f all you remember about libraries is some stern person saying “Shhhhhh!” to you, then it’s time you thought some more about libraries. This issue of Insights will inspire you to think about the different roles libraries will play in these interesting years ahead. Such thoughts are timely, as a reinvigorated Information and Learning Center is on the drawing boards as one initiative of our Comprehensive Campaign, and will someday begin taking shape on our campus. Timothy Lincoln has written an intriguing article that charts the development of libraries from reader-centered to book-centered to learning-centered spaces. He imagines with us the difference between our current book-centered space and the learning-centered space it will be someday. One characteristic of a technologically fluent and flexibly arranged learning-centered space is that talking is actually encouraged! A new addition that will connect to the rear of our current original gothic library will be a four-story rectangle—a reverent modern backdrop to the existing arches and points, in which each floor provides flexible arrangements for group study, connectivity to other collections around the world, and the expectation of vigorous interactivity. “Our goal,” he says, “is to create a space that not only houses books, but gives students a place to study, interact with others, and learn and grow within the seminary community.” Mary Lynne Calhoun contributes a vision of libraries which celebrates and invites us into a universe encouraging the three values of literacy, democracy, and joy. Her essay tugs at our memories of childhood, or maybe our memories of parenthood that involved our own children going in their pajamas to a local library for story hour. Most importantly, I think, she reminds us of the dignity of libraries. Gregory Cuéllar explores the politics of archives, and the ways in which archives have often preserved distinctions between those who were privileged in society and those others—those others—who were not. Professor Cuéllar invites us to consider uncomfortable truths about the value systems inherent in what archives have organized, and what they have neglected to organize. Dori Baker channels Bill Moyers and reflects delightfully upon how our stories, and The Story, create spaces themselves in which redemptive possibilities dwell. Pastors think out loud about church libraries they have known and loved (or not), Professors Bodman and Johnson offer two recent books for our consideration, and, before this issue is through, Professor Rigby goes a little cyber on us. Speaking of libraries, one of my favorite architectural renderings from our own archives is an imagined building that was never constructed. It was a building that looked almost exactly like our chapel, connected to a building that looked almost exactly like the original portion of Stitt Library. Imagine attaching Stitt to the west transept of Shelton Chapel, and you have this rendering I’m talking about. Fortunately, this combined building became two buildings instead. But theologically, the architect was on to something: faith and knowledge belong together—especially on a seminary campus. Theodore J. Wardlaw President, Austin Seminary 2
Libraries: The Future of Academic Learning Timothy D. Lincoln1 Introduction
n May 23, 1950, Austin Seminary proudly opened its new library, built at a cost of $225,000. The building, according to the Austin Seminary Bulletin, featured a “visual education room,” another room “for persons wanting to copy notes using a typewriter,” and a study room with “a blackboard for illustrations.” Like good academic libraries built in the middle of the last century, the new library was a store of precious materials, to be carefully handled and pondered in reverent silence. The library reflected the best of its times. An important 1940 book about academic libraries asserted “A good book is a permanently valuable acquisition” (Teaching with Books, p. 4). A 1953 study reported favorably the sentiment of Gordon Jennings Lang, a dean at the University of Chicago: “Books and proper facilities for their use are what laboratories and laboratory equipment are to a graduate school of science” (The Scholars Workshop, p. 33). Fast forward to the future: October 31, 2017. A group of students and faculty have gathered in a large space in the Information and Learning Center at Austin Seminary. They are attending a lecture commemorating the symbolic start of the Protestant Reformation five hundred years earlier. The speaker projects video clips from the 2003 film Luther, starring Joseph Fiennes as the monk-turned-reformer.
Timothy Lincoln is associate dean for seminary effectiveness and director
of the Stitt Library at Austin Seminary. Ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, he earned the MDiv from Yale University Divinity School and the PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to his responsibilities for library leadership and institutional planning and assessment, he serves on the board of the American Theological Library Association.
Spaces for Learning Moments later, she shows the audience a copy of an indulgence, scanned by a German library and available on the Internet. As she talks about the influence of the Reformation over time, she invites the audience to examine a display of communion tokens from the Austin Seminary archives. The talk ends with live comments from panelists in Hong Kong and South Africa, who participate in the event through the telepresence feature on their mobile devices. After the talk, some students remain in the large space to socialize and study in groups, while others find their favorite cozy chair in a quiet part of the building and check their email. And yes, some take out books and read. During the talk, almost the same number of students that were in the library were at other locations on campus using the online catalog, databases, and the seminaryâ€™s learning management system. The two scenes sketched above highlight how academic libraries are changing in the twenty-first century. This article touches on key ways in which academic libraries, including those that serve theological schools, function differently than they did in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This is a story of changing expectations, changing technology, but unchanging need for connections between patrons and resources. The academic library continues to change as a place. The format of what people read is changing, as books are supplemented by e-books. New technology has opened up access to archives and special collections. All of these changes effect how librarians work with patrons.
Libraries as Places
he kind of library buildings that we use today have not always existed. Many of the first libraries were repositories for sacred texts. Literacy and access were primarily limited to the clergy. The physical spaces of these libraries were designed to promote monastic reflection. Texts were expensive to produce and scarce. During this era, the library developed as a reader-centered2 space, a space where one could cloister him- or herself in a carrel in order to reflect upon the text. With the advent of movable type, increased literacy, and more affordable paper, the focus of libraries shifted. As more and more books were created and stored, libraries became book-centered3 spaces, focused more on housing books and less on creating spaces for readers. Buildings created during this period left room for the future growth of collections. Libraries were primarily seen as a place to retrieve materials, not necessarily where readers would study or engage in collaborative learning. Currently, we are in the midst of a third change in library design. As more materials become more available electronically and libraries share resources, the physical space within libraries is available to provide reading and collaboration space for users. In this learner-centered4 phase, more and more libraries are moving toward information or learning commons model. Libraries offer their users more resources than ever before. Libraries simultaneously have quiet study spaces and active collaboration spaces for students to work alone or with others. In the learner-centered model, libraries are investing in flexible furniture and room configurations so the physical space can be quickly altered depending on us4
Lincoln ers’ needs and library programming. Libraries have also become technological hubs, where students can access digitized resources, do personal computing, and receive technological assistance. Academic librarians are starting to think like educators as they design services and spaces. Additionally, many academic libraries offer cafes or food-friendly spaces in order to make users feel at home and comfortable. Academic libraries are also developing virtual spaces. Now users can access the majority of library materials off site through online catalogs, databases, and digital exhibits. Reference and instruction also happens virtually through email, chat, and online tutorials. These services enable users to connect to the library and benefit from the resources without being present in person. Stitt Library also intends to change from a book-centered space to a learningcentered space. Once completed, our new library will give students access to both quiet study spaces and social spaces where talking is encouraged. Access to technology and technological training will be increased, and students will have easier online access to library resources as well. Our goal is to create a space that not only houses books, but gives students a place to study, interact with others, and learn and grow within the seminary community.
Books and E-Books
ntil recently, a book was reliably and solidly a book: a set of pages between covers. Now many people read e-books, which exist as files to be read on a computer or specialized e-reader. Only five years ago, a study by Ithaka, a prestigious library research organization, concluded that “neither librarians nor faculty members anticipate e-books constituting a viable substitute for print books.” Yet in 2011, millions of e-readers were sold and a 2012 survey of librarians belonging to OCLC, a company that helps libraries create good online catalogs, found that acquiring e-books were the top priority for 51 percent of respondents. Academic publishing is in flux. “Yesterday’s publishing system is dying, today’s may be quite transitory, and no one can predict the future of publishing with any certainty,” says Nancy K. Herther, of the University of Minnesota Libraries. Just as mp3s changed the landscape of the music industry, so e-books and other digital content are shaking up libraries and the publishing industry. In the future, it is likely that the number of available electronic items in academic libraries, including seminary libraries, will outnumber those in print. There has already been a preference shift to a digital format for academic journals in many disciplines, especially in the physical sciences. The same preference shift is also happening in theology and religious studies. A 2012 survey of users of North American theological libraries found that 60 percent of respondents wanted libraries to provide journal articles to them in electronic format. Libraries need to recognize the e-book’s advantages in convenience and accessibility. At the same time, academic librarians must remain mindful of a library’s purpose—to support its patron population. In a recent survey of Austin Seminary faculty, only 36 percent agreed with the statement, “Stitt Library should purchase more electronic resources than it now does, even if it means buying fewer books.” 5
Spaces for Learning Another survey, conducted in one Austin Seminary class, found that 28 percent of students regularly read e-books in their academic work, while 43 percent owned a dedicated e-reader device. The results of these local surveys are consistent with comprehensive research about user preferences for print books and e-books. Currently, many e-books sold are fiction or non-scholarly texts. Some academic book vendors do not yet sell any e-books. According to readers, e-books do offer benefits over print, including full-text searching and increased portability, though students voice reservations about using e-books for academic study due to notetaking limitations and other barriers. E-book publishers will continue to refine their products, and we anticipate that library users will become more comfortable reading e-books. In fact, it might be feasible for Stitt Library to lend e-reader or tablet computers to students. An e-reader device pre-loaded with popular commentaries and reference books is significantly easier for students to carry than a stack of books. A recent study at Queens College found that more than 70% of students would be interested in checking out e-readers pre-loaded with books from the library. A Pew Internet study found similar results, noting that 58% of young readers “who do not currently borrow e-books from libraries say they would be ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ likely to borrow pre-loaded e-readers if their library offered that service.” Pre-loaded e-readers also provide an opportunity for reference materials such as subject encyclopedias, which typically must be used in the library, to be available to students wherever they are. Stitt Library will provide access to e-books in the future. One option for e-book lending is patron-driven acquisitions, or PDA. In this model, the library catalog shows records about many e-books. The library only purchases a specific e-book when a patron decides to check it out, which means “clicking through” on a link to a vendor website that stores the e-book. Librarians often refer to PDA as a just-intime acquisitions model versus just-in-case. The PDA model is appealing because it provides patrons a large pool of titles to choose from but the library does not incur the purchase cost of an e-book unless there is patron interest. Stitt Library might also share its e-book collection with partner libraries like Seminary of the Southwest, with whom we share a joint online catalog. It is worth noting that e-book collections will support Austin Seminary’s programs of distance learning. Checking out an e-book does not require a trip to the library building. Despite the current interest in e-books, academic libraries will not abandon the printed book any time soon. According to one study, 83 percent of young Americans read a printed book in the past year. The Stitt Library will continue to explore new technology, moving toward more e-acquisitions of books and journals while serving as a hub for maintaining print resources.
Special Collections and Archives
rchives and special collections have also been impacted by changes in technology and user expectation. Academic libraries collect published materials that support the scholarship of students and faculty as well as the community at large. Archives and special collections support scholarship by collecting, preserving, and 6
Lincoln providing access to unique and rare materials that document our shared culture. These unpublished materials include correspondence, diaries, minutes, photographs, reel-to-reel tapes, 16mm films, posters, flyers, reports, and scrapbooks. Any item in a fixed form created in the course of everyday life is a possible addition to an archival collection. Papers, photographs, and other physical objects in the archives are kept in acid-free folders and boxes in a cool and dry environment to protect them from deterioration; these are not lent out. In the past, many archives and special collections were only open to scholars with official credentials and pre-approved topics. Most academic archives in the United States have opened their collections up to the public. People from a variety of backgrounds are using archives to find the answers that they need. While the majority of archival holdings still need to be used in person, scanning and digitization of selected materials now opens access to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. As a result, archives and special collections are able to reach a much broader group of potential patrons. After collection inventories are posted on a repository website, a simple Google search can connect a genealogist halfway around the world with the repository that holds material relating to his or her family. If that material has been digitized and put online, access to a view of their greatgrandfather’s handwriting can be instantaneous. Moving beyond digitized copies of physical records, archives are beginning to collect “born-digital” records: the e-mails, Word documents, digital photographs, and Facebook pages that are created every day. This type of material is just as important as the photo albums and hand-written letters that have traditionally made their way into archives, but its long-term preservation is more complicated. While century-old family diaries could sit in the attic for decades before being discovered and donated to an archival repository, the 3.5” floppy disk with a dissertation draft, or the CD with family vacation photos from 2001 may begin to lose data after only a few years. Keeping working copies of the hardware and software needed to read older files is an additional challenge for those who preserve access to such computer files. To collect born-digital records, archivists need to become involved earlier and communicate with potential donors about the formats and longevity of their documents. Archives are important because they provide a first-hand look at our shared history through the words, images, and voices of our predecessors. In a theological setting, an archival collection can provide researchers with data on the changing demographics of their congregation, a seat in the pew during a 19th-century sermon, or a view of seminary students from fifty years ago sitting under the same trees we sit under today. By looking into the history of our denomination and our congregations, we are also able to see the history of our towns, our families, and ourselves. As our civilization creates new shared stories, archivists in the twentyfirst century continue to collect, preserve, and provide access to history so that future generations can explore the past to inform the future.
Spaces for Learning
Public Services in Twenty-first Century Academic Libraries
ecently, a Stitt Library patron approached the reference desk and said something was wrong with one of the library’s databases. He said the article he wanted was not available full-text via computer. A librarian explained that not all articles in that database were available full-text; some database records simply point to the specific issue of a printed journal containing the actual text. She found that the library, in fact, had a print copy of the issue of the journal containing the desired article. The patron was still confused, because he had read journal articles exclusively on a computer. This is not an isolated incident. Many academic library patrons expect to have full-text access to all the articles that they discover in academic databases. Public services refers to the assistance that librarians give patrons so that they can find, retrieve, and use books or other library materials. Increasingly, access to materials is electronic. Libraries use online catalogs to discover books. Databases index the articles in journals, often linking directly to the complete text of the article. In some academic libraries, patrons check out their own books and can request books from other libraries without asking for staff assistance. As the complexity of technology increases and modes of access to information proliferate, one challenge for public services staff is to meet patron expectations. Users often want “one-click” access to materials, but licensing agreements or database interfaces do not always make this level of access possible. Some users also want to access resources on their smartphones; librarians need to help patrons fully understand the ability of their devices to handle the information. Looking forward, public service librarians will do more than smooth access to library resources. An important component will be to assist users with search strategies and evaluation of results. Librarians call these skills “information literacy.” A search in an academic database, like a Google search, often provides a large number of “hits” that are not relevant to the searcher’s interest. The faculty and library staff currently emphasize these skills in our master’s-level programs using the mnemonic FRAU (find, retrieve, analyze, and use). Public services work in the future will include offering instruction in information literacy through online tutorials or face-to-face. Public services librarians will continue to help patrons navigate through an ocean of information available to them in a variety of formats. Even scholars, experts in their specific disciplines, will benefit from the specialized skills that librarians have in uncovering new materials for scholarly use.
ometimes when librarians get together nowadays, there is an undercurrent of worry that in fifteen years their jobs will seem as quaint as being a blacksmith or milkman. These fears are misplaced. As we look to the future of academic libraries, many aspects of library service are indeed changing. Many journals will be read electronically in the future, as will more books. Library buildings will become less book-centered and more learning-centered. At the same time, the core functions of the academic library will persist: to create spaces where student and faculty mem8
Lincoln bers engage in the enduring conversation about the meaning of human life in its richness. Both as an idea and as a physical place, academic libraries have an assured future. As Austin Seminary plans to renovate its library, the school is embracing a flexible design that will put patrons, staff, and materials in creative relationships. Let’s return to the October 2017 Reformation event at Austin Seminary’s Information and Learning Center: Christians in Texas, Africa, and China sharing a discussion about the start of the Protestant movement. The equipment to achieve such a conversation could not have been manufactured in 1950. It is readily available today. (I imagine that one of the speakers might note that movable type, the great technological innovation of the fifteenth century, helped to spread Protestant viewpoints quickly across Europe.) In my view, this is the kind of event in the kind of building that serves the mission of Austin Seminary in our time. Just as the church, in the Reformed tradition, lives by the principle of always reforming itself, academic libraries reform themselves to make the best use of resources to continue enduring conversations. That’s why academic libraries are changing. r NOTES 1. I am indebted to my colleagues Lesley Caldwell, Deborah Hamilton, Kristy Sorensen, and Lila Parrish, who work with me in the David L. and Jane Stitt Library of Austin Seminary and who authored portions of this essay. Ms. Caldwell wrote the section on books and ebooks, Ms. Hamilton wrote the section on libraries as places, Ms. Sorensen wrote the section on special collections and archives, and Ms. Parrish wrote the section on public services. 2. Scott Bennett, “Libraries and Learning: A History of Paradigm Change,” Library Space Planning, http://www.libraryspaceplanning.com/assets/resource/Libraries-and-learning.pdf (accessed October 11, 2012). 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid.
Architect’s rendering of the proposed renovation of Stitt Library…
Interview Timothy Lincoln
Reading Room: How Do Libraries Contribute to Learning?
In your article, you talk about how libraries have changed as places of learning. Would you say, for example, that this space—and maybe even the time—of libraries has been expanded by new technologies? Libraries used to be far more monastic in approach: the texts were precious. People came to the library to read them. Now the emphasis on collaborative learning is reshaping the allocation of floor space in academic libraries because students are often working on group projects. In terms of time, until recently, if you wanted to do certain kinds of research you had to book your steamship voyage and cross the sea to Edinburgh to look at the archives there. Information technology and the Internet have obviated the need for that. So in that sense, libraries save time. Additionally, technology now connects all kinds of people in conversations in the church and in theological education. You described the learning space of the 1950s, and you compare it to the imagined space of 2017, which is coming right up on us. Is there something inherent about this future space that you think leads to better learning? I don’t know if I would pose the contrast in terms of better and worse learning. In 1950, the two reigning technologies for instruction were face-to-face and correspondence courses, where you literally wrote tests and mailed them back to a school. In 1950, academic work was more individualistic. Today, a professor will often create a project for a group of students. They need to talk to each other. They should be able to do that comfortably in the library. They also need technology, because what they produce may be PowerPoint slides with embedded video clips rather than a term paper. What are the drawbacks to research on the Internet? Some scholars argue that the hypertext of the Internet lures us away from certain kinds of deep reading. We now know that our brains like clicking on links and moving on to the next new thing that we see. So, using hypertext frequently may lure me away from reading a long, complicated article in the Atlantic Monthly or a text10
Interview book. In short, we have created a world full of wonderful things to read, but also is full of shiny objects which may distract us from focusing. On the other hand, hypertext discoveries can really add to the richness of the discussion, say, in a classroom. Certainly. Of course, the people that design webpages know that we like novelty. There is a relentless drive to change up the content so the next time you click you’ll find something you’ve never seen before.
It’s helpful when trying to teach people something new, to do that with a variety of tasks. If, for instance, I’m learning how to work within a congregation, role playing or group assignments that make me work with others may be the best approach. Technology per se doesn’t help people learn better.
How does the physical library serve learning in ways that are unique as compared to other learning spaces? A well-designed library can help students learn. There’s a lot of research that shows that simply getting up and moving from your study carrel to another part of the library and sitting down on a couch for awhile helps you remember things better; it resets your brain. We can be positively affected by good spaces. And since printed books are not disappearing anytime soon, being in a well-designed environment near the books makes libraries valuable to students.
Spaces for Learning I was especially struck by the story you tell about the patron who wanted to have full text access to every article. It made me wonder if maybe we’ve gotten to the point where we feel overly entitled to information. If we live in relatively wealthy countries, we simply expect that we can find large amounts of good information for free via the Internet. That entitled world of information is the only one that Austin Seminary students in their 20s have ever known. How do we learn, and how do we come to know even better? My reading of the current research about how we learn, and especially about how people learn the kinds of things we teach at Austin Seminary, suggests that it is helpful when trying to teach people something new, to do that with a variety of tasks. If, for instance, I’m learning how to work within a congregation, role playing or group assignments that make me work with others may be the best approach. Technology per se doesn’t help people learn better. A lot of educational research concludes that having a variety of learning tasks (not simply reading books or hearing lectures or taking tests) promotes long-term learning. Can you say more about how you understand the relationship of libraries to learning and to spiritual development? How do libraries create learning spaces that feed both our souls and our minds? Libraries are spiritual warehouses where you can find out about all the topics that are not being taught at a seminary in a given semester. In that sense, libraries provide infrastructural support for spiritual development. How is Stitt Library at Austin Seminary trying to serve pastors and members of faith communities? A lot of area pastors use the library, often for sermon preparation. Christian educators use the library as well. The Seminary also provides access to full-text articles to our alums through a program called ATLAS for Alums. Our graduates can search the American Theological Library Association Religion Database at no charge from anywhere with an Internet connection. What do you see on the horizon for academic libraries? By 2020, academic libraries will stop spending most of their money on printed materials and start spending it on electronic resources. That’s due to a couple of reasons. First, patrons increasingly prefer to read electronic versions over print. They are easier to carry around, and you can search inside the document easily. Second, publishers are learning how to sell academic e-books profitably to individuals and libraries. Vendors are coming up with models akin to a metered usage of a book, sort of like when you’re in a cab—if you drive five miles it’s less than if you drive ten; the cost to the library depends on how frequently people consult a book. r 12
Search: Finding What you Didn’t Know you were Looking For Mary Lynne Calhoun
any of us have had the experience of serendipitous discoveries in the library. We look up the call number of a desired book, go to the correct bookshelf to find it, and discover right next to the sought-after book a more interesting or more relevant volume. We find something we didn’t know we were looking for. Browsing through children’s books about libraries can lead to discoveries about why libraries are important to children and young people. Let me share three of these books with the insights they offer.
Literacy. That Book Woman by Heather Henson is inspired by the true story of the Pack Horse Librarians who were known as the “Book Women” in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky.1 The Pack Horse Librarian Project was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration and was designed to bring books to remote regions where few schools or libraries existed. A Book Woman would travel by horse or mule and deliver books-on-loan at no cost to isolated rural families and then return in two weeks to trade those books for new ones. The central character in Henson’s book is a boy named Cal, about eleven years old, who does not know how to read and has no interest in reading. His sister Lark, however, is an eager reader and rejoices in the delivery of Book Woman’s books. The bravery of the Book Woman’s mountain journeys in winter inspires Cal to investigate what reading is all about:
Mary Lynne Calhoun is dean of the College of Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where over 3000 students are preparing for careers in education. She earned the AB from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Virginia and the MEd and PhD in special education from the University of Georgia. An ordained elder, she is interested in strengthening the Presbyterian Church’s historic commitment to public education.
Spaces for Learning I pick a book with words and pictures, too, and hold it out. “Teach me what it says.” And Lark, She does not laugh or even tease but makes a place, and quiet-like, we start to read. Access to books has made Cal a reader. There is an established body of research that finds that children’s access to print materials through book lending and book ownership programs improves children’s reading performance. Access to print materials causes children to read more and for longer periods of time and also improves attitudes toward reading. For almost all children, the more time they spend reading, the better readers they become. As we struggle in our society with concerns about American students’ standing in the international rankings of achievement and worries about the persistent achievement gap between children impacted by poverty and middle-class children, it is important not to overlook the contributions libraries can make to student learning. Libraries are an important tool in our efforts to improve educational outcomes for all children. Children and young people can be advantaged by libraries in three important domains of their lives. The community public libraries, usually tax-payer-funded, offer extended evening and weekend hours, access to technology, and a rich array of materials for specific homework assignments and for reading for pleasure. Such libraries often offer group experiences which can foster reading such as story hours and book clubs. School and classroom-based libraries provide opportunities to explore materials related to classroom study, and with the guidance of teachers and media specialists, can point students toward deeper understanding and higher levels of thinking. Church libraries offer great potential for supporting literacy as well, particularly in those churches which offer preschool, summer, and after-school programs.
Democracy. Libraries support a well-functioning democratic society by promoting free access to ideas and reducing disparities between the resource-rich and the resource-poor. The American ideal of an informed citizenry is supported by access to information that is not censored but is instead juried in terms of quality. Libraries offer a strong public example of a democratic institution. Struggling neighborhoods can use libraries as a community gathering place. Young people who do not have Internet access at home can overcome that disadvantage through the use of library resources. Publicly funded libraries welcome all regardless of age, status, or condition in life. The value of libraries to a democratic society is perhaps best illustrated by the struggles to create and maintain libraries in societies that do not experience demo14
Calhoun cratic freedoms. The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter tells the true story of Alia Mohammed Baker, chief librarian of Basra’s Central Library.
Her library is a meeting place for all who love books. They discuss matters of the world and matters of the spirit.2
When war comes to Basra, Iraq, Alia secretly moves and hides over 30,000 books so that when the library burns down during the conflict, the books remain safe. Alia now dreams of a new library for the books which are to her “more precious than mountains of gold.” This librarian’s passion to protect her country’s written heritage and to provide a forum for the discussion of matters of the world and matters of the spirit offers an unexpected glimpse of heroism in a time of war. Additionally, this story reminds us that libraries can be dangerous places in societies that limit access to ideas.
Joy. The enchantment of story time and the opportunity to explore lots of books are celebrated in Bats in the Library by Brian Lies, which tells the story of the great fun these nocturnal creatures experience in their night-time library visit:
But maybe a librarian will give us bats this chance again— and leave a window open wide to let us share the world inside! For now, we’ll dream of things we’ve read, a universe inside each head.3
It’s not just access to rich materials that makes libraries such joyful places for children and young people. The talented librarians who help each child find just the right book, the story hours for young children and their parents that introduce new words and new worlds, the safe gathering place for teenagers who work together on school projects, all contribute to the well-being of children and youth, to their joy. Literacy. Democracy. Joy. These discoveries about the importance of libraries for young people should convince us of the importance of libraries in promoting the optimal development of young people. The value of libraries is not reflected, however, in the current policy and budgetary climate. In seems, in fact, that libraries are under siege. In my own community of Charlotte, North Carolina, the once award-winning public library system has experienced deep cuts in funding and services during the recent period of recession. The budget went from $41.2 million annually to $25.4 million. The cuts led to some branch closings, the layoffs of close to 200 employees, and reduction of hours of operation by as much as 50%. The reduced hours and services impacted different parts of the community in different ways. While no neighborhood that was happy with these reductions, fragile neighborhoods or neighborhoods in transition were impacted most directly. 15
Spaces for Learning Early literacy initiatives were protected during the cuts but services for adults and teenagers, including book clubs, were cut back substantially. The reduced hours reduced access to technology to support unemployed workers in their job searches and space for teenagers to do their homework. Many residents of fragile neighborhoods do not have private transportation to get to other library facilities. During this same time period, the public school system was experiencing significant budget cuts as well. The school system response to the budget situation led to some school closings in some of the same fragile neighborhoods that experienced reduced library services. Staff cuts in the school system included the reduction of a number of media specialist positions. Both the library and the school system in Charlotte-Mecklenburg have now emerged from the most difficult of the recessionary years and are moving toward a better future. The deep cuts, however, are likely to have an impact for many years to come. Similar stories of loss of funding for both schools and libraries can be found across the country. Our young people are experiencing the double-whammy of reduced access and support in libraries at school and in their neighborhoods. Literacy. Democracy. Joy. These great benefits for our young people are at risk when library and school resources are restricted. We need to pull together to increase rather than restrict the benefits of library resources for children and youth. In addition to our efforts as citizens to promote the quality of life in our communities through advocating for library services, we in the faith community can make sure that our church programs offer some of the benefits of libraries. Reading areas in church school classrooms and reading rooms for children and their families in churches should mirror what we know about great library experiences: a large array of books at various reading levels, comfortable spaces for settling in with materials, and computer access. These elements can promote literacy and the free exchange of ideas through all the programs offered by the church. For churches which offer after-school or summer programs for school-age children and youth, the formation of book clubs and opportunities to discuss what’s being read can support these same benefits. In places where access to public libraries has been restricted, churches might consider offering supervised and welcoming spaces for study in the late afternoon or early evening. We can all extend the invitation to children and young people in our care: “Come, let’s read something together.” Together, I believe that we will discover things we didn’t even know we were looking for. r NOTES 1. Heather Henson, That Book Woman. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008). 2. Jeanette Winter, The Librarian of Basra. (Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2005). 3. Brian Lies, Bats At the Library. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008).
Archives as Space and Text Gregory Lee Cuéllar
ince the late nineteenth century, scientific biblical criticism has propounded a documentary notion of history. In Shirley Jackson Case’s essay “The Historical Study of Religion,” this notion of history is expressed thus: “When specific documents or other similarly tangible evidences from the past are lacking, no sound historical knowledge is obtainable.”1 That is, only by accessing official documentary evidence within designated archival spaces can research claims move into the “assured results of criticism.”2 In their 1881 introduction to the Greek New Testament, renowned Cambridge scholars Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort give a telling statement on the high value the discipline placed on official documentary evidence: A just appreciation of the wealth of documentary evidence now accessible as compared with that enjoyed by any previous generation, and of the comparatively late time at which much even of what is not now new became available for criticism, is indeed indispensable for anyone who would understand the present position of the textual criticism of the New Testament.3 Within this value system, documentary evidence and material objects are given the greatest priority, which, in turn, plays out in the market of knowledge. Yet that which is indispensable for modern critical biblical research does not necessarily lie in the documents themselves but in the archival spaces that house them. For modern biblical criticism, the archive has served and continues to serve as the governing space for accessing raw data. In Gurminder K. Bhambra’s words, “The
Gregory Cuéllar is assistant professor of Old Testament at Austin Sem-
inary. He served as curator of The Colonial Mexican Imprint Collection at Cushing Memorial Library and Archives at Texas A&M University. He earned the MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the PhD from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. He is the author of Passages in the New World (2006) and Voices of Marginality (2008).
Spaces for Learning nineteenth-century historiographical turn from narrative chronicle to documentary record had established the archive, and the documents that constituted it, as the repository of truth.”4 More than a repository of truth, however, the archive is as Thomas Osborne claims, “a center of interpretation … through which all other points must pass.”5 Archives do not simply exist as spaces from which historical truth can be discerned, they are part of the very constitution of knowledge that determines how “truth” is to be known.6 Hence, it is assumed that without an adequate amount of observable empirical facts by which to compare, no “truth” can be ascertained from the biblical text.
The Politics of Archives
tymologically, power and control are fundamental to the word “archive.”7 As Jacques Derrida explains in his book Archive Fever, the meaning of archive comes from the Greek arkheion, which referred originally to a house, a domicile, an address, and the residence of the superior magistrates.8 There the archon himself, the magistrate, exercised the power of those documents of procedure and precedent, in his right to interpret them for the operation of law.9 Consequently, this particular establishment of state power and authority becomes for Derrida the fever sickness of the archive.10 As he rightly argues, “there is no political power without control of the archive.”11 In turn, for researchers, the politics and ideology inscribed in the archival space often evades their critical gaze. As Osborn reminds us, “It would be a mistake ever to think that there could be an archive without a politics of the archive.” Indeed, the modern archive is itself premised on occidental cultural conceptions of what is deemed worthy of being organized.13 Often the size of an archive, both in terms of collections and space, can convey the illusion of totality of knowledge, hence rendering unseen the exclusionary mechanisms in the archival selection process. As Elisabeth Kaplan has argued, “the archival record doesn’t just happen: it is created by individuals and organizations, and used … to support their values and mission.”14 As Derrida’s perspective suggests, these individuals and organizations come to represent those who hold and signify political power, which, in turn, is not just confirmed and justified through the archival holdings, but embodied in the spatial order of the archive.
The Voice of the “Other”
rchives, therefore, emerge as not just beneficiaries and stewards of raw data, but spaces that fashion histories and readers of histories. Indeed, these histories are shaped by the values and perspectives of those governing each particular archive institution. Through the archival process of appraising, collecting, and preserving documentary evidence, certain forms of knowledge are prioritized above others. For example, what were the views of the local laborers used to exhume and extract the countless monuments, sculptors, and earthenware from ancient sites in the Middle East? How did they define the role and function of the material culture discovered in their homeland? The construction and subordination of the voice of the “others” is couched in specific historical contexts wherein the archive is central. 18
Cuéllar In the words of Elizabeth Hallam: Representations of cross-cultural encounters are understood as part of processes unfolding within and structured by socio-political relations, dominant intellectual frameworks, and established codes, conventions, and values which work to constitute representational forms.15 The dismissal of “Other” experiences and voices from the archival spaces comes about by what Albert Memmi refers to as a series of negations: “They are not fully human, they are not civilized enough to have systems, they are not literate, their languages and modes of thought are inadequate.”16 Linda Tuhiwai Smith evinces that the texts of the “Other” are “dismissed as irrelevant, ignored, or rendered as the lunatic ravings of drunken old people.”17 Thus, if the archive is the place in the academy through which all other points must pass, can other voices that lie outside of the purview of the archive be included in the research experience?18 As Tuhiwai Smith indicates, the text of the “Other” are stored within genealogies, within the landscape, within weavings and carvings, even within the personal names that many people carry.19 Their value lies not in their “exotic” otherness but in their ability to re-orient the researches toward a perspective that sees the polyvalent nature of all texts and contexts. Indeed, the voice of the “Other” embodies elements of ritual, hybridity, and migration—all of which are able to spawn liberating ways of thinking about world.
Interrogation of the Archive
n her essay, “Archive Stories: Gender in the Making of Imperial and Colonial Histories,” Antoinette Burton writes, “The more deliberately we acknowledge the impact of our archival experiences on our research and our teaching, the better we are able to historicize.”20 As a biblical scholar, how has the ordering of space and knowledge in the archives informed my approach to the biblical text? In other words, how does my scholarship embody the political and ideological ethos of the archives I use as a researcher? Discovering how governing procedures within the archive create categories of arrangement, languages, and concepts of the “Other,” which are therein reproduced in scholarship, requires a critical analysis of the archive as both space and text. It necessitates looking at the social context and genealogy of the archival spatial order and archival collections to expose its latent “othering” mechanisms reproduced in scholarship. Imperative is an analysis of the inscriptions in the archive’s spatial order wherein the proposed stance is one of critical awareness of the social forces that control the research experience. The object of inquiry is not just the specialist’s disciplinary interest but the mechanics of the research experience. How do race, gender, and class effect a researcher’s access to archival holdings? Is the mode of surveillance equal for all patrons? Who are the cherished patrons of the archive and where are they seated? Such questioning is certain to bring to the fore the reality that the conceptions of history and culture in the archive often conspire to construct negative forms of “otherness,” which, in turn, are transferred osmotically to the researcher. Hence the interrogation of the 19
Spaces for Learning archive is a sifting through the archive’s mission statement, admissions policies, acquisition philosophy, and cataloguing nomenclature. In terms of spatial order, it is considering closely the arrangement of furniture, configuration of aisles, bookshelf placement, wall décor, and room shape. In both the archive’s textual identity and spatial order is a rhetoric that is culturally embedded and historically specific. Interestingly, the implications of interrogating archival spaces can form the basis for alternative ways of doing things in the church.21 Such a posture does not, as Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza states, “understand historical sources as data and evidence, but sees them as perspectival discourses constructing a range of symbolic universes.”22 Hence, rather than perpetuate perspectives that silence other voices, the stance proposed here seeks to contribute to a more democratic research experience by giving currency to texts that are excluded from the dominant discourse while, at the same time, speaking to global realities.
owhere is the power of knowledge more evident than in a library or archive. In these spaces, texts are put on display awaiting discovery. Distracted by the accessibility of these texts and their knowledge potential, patrons fail to notice the arrangement of space and ordering of texts. Unchecked are the value systems informing the processes of selection, containment, and arrangement of knowledgebearing texts. Indeed, no library or archive can possess all knowledge. The issue is that in the larger libraries and archives of the world this reality is not always made explicit. The impression patrons are led to have in spaces like the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute is the sense of a totality of knowledge and encyclopedic learning. With biblical scholarship, for example, a significant locus of reception is the church. In this public/sacred space, leaders and laypeople ascribe a high degree of authority to the scholarly production of theologians, biblical scholars, liturgists, church historians, Christian educators, and homileticians. In book form, this readership is not privy to the research experience of their revered theologian or biblical exegete. The acknowledgements at the beginning of a book may express the scholar’s appreciation for the help received at a particular library or archive, yet little is disclosed about the ways in which spatial arrangement and ordering of knowledge in the library or archive shaped the scholar’s theological or exegetical argument. Inadvertently, the authority ascribed to a biblical commentary or theological dictionary is extended to the research process and experience of the authors; after all, “they are the experts.” Perhaps, the best place to begin in indentifying ways the particular ordering of knowledge and spatial arrangement affect communities of faith is with the church library and archives. What books are privileged? Whose story of the church’s history is preserved? How does that privileging inform church outreach and membership? With these questions in mind, a possible first step for communities of faith is to reexamine democratically the spaces churches have designated as repositories of truth. Like secular archives, these spaces not only contain the documents, 20
Cuéllar books, and material culture that each community of faith deems worthy of preservation, but they also embody particular value systems which, in turn, are transferred to church users. As the church’s repositories of truth, the church library and archives can fundamentally transform the community by including other voices both in terms of book collections and spatial-ordering. Indeed, this is integral to the church’s Christian witness, which has been divinely mandated to be the space that welcomes both a diversity of knowledge-bearing texts and readers of texts. r NOTES 1. Shirley Jackson Case, “The Historical Study of Religion,” The Journal of Religion 29 (1949): 6. 2. Driver, Samuel Rolles, “The Old Testament in the Light of To-Day,” in The Higher Criticism Three Papers (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1905), 40. 3. Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek: Introduction, Appendix (London: Macmillan and Co., 1881), 14. 4. Gurminder K. Bhambra, Rethinking Modernity: Postcolonialism and the Sociological Imagination (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 26. 5. Thomas Osborne, “The Ordinariness of the Archive,” History of the Human Sciences 12 (1995): 53-54. 6. Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 52. 7. Ann Laura Stoler, “Colonial Archives and the Arts of Governance: On the Content in the Form,” in Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory, eds. Francis X. Blouin Jr. and William G. Rosenberg (Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 2006), 271. 8. Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 2. 9. Carolyn Steedman, “‘Something She Called a Fever’: Michelet, Derrida, and Dust (or, In the Archives with Michelet and Derrida),” in Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory, Francis X. Blouin Jr. and William G. Rosenberg, eds. (Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 2006), 4. 10. Derrida, Archive Fever, 2. 11. Ibid., 4. 12. Osborne, “The Ordinariness of the Archive,” 55. 13. Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 52; Bhambra, Rethinking Modernity, 26. 14. Elisabeth Kaplan, “We Are What We Collect, We Collect What We Are: Archives and the Construction of Identity,” American Archivist 63 (2000): 126, 147. 15. Elizabeth Hallam, “Texts, Objects and ‘Otherness’: Problems of Historical Process in Writing and Displaying Cultures,” in Cultural Encounters: Representing ‘Otherness,’ Elizabeth Hallam and Brian V. Street, eds. (New York: Routledge, 2000), 260. 16. Linda Tuhiwai Smith, “Imperialism, History, Writing, and Theory,” in Postcolonialisms: An Anthology of Cultural Theory and Criticism, Gaurav Desai and Supriya Nair, eds. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005), 102. 17. Ibid.,104. She also argues “The critique of Western history argues that history is a modernist project which has developed alongside imperial beliefs about the Other.”
Spaces for Learning 18. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, The Power of the Word: Scripture and the Rhetoric of Empire (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), 253. 19. Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (New York: Zed Books, 2006), 33. 20. Antoinette Burton, Empire in Question: Reading, Writing, and Teaching British Imperialism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), 104. 21. Tuhiwai Smith, “Imperialism, History,” 109. 22. Schüssler -Fiorenza, The Power of the Word, 253.
Find back issues of Insights by visiting our website: AustinSeminary.edu/insights Click on “Go to Back Issues” “Honoring Ismael García,” Fall 2012 “The Church Faces Schism,” Spring 2012, Theodore J. Wardlaw “Preaching Out of Place” Fall 2011, Kristine Saldine “Honoring Ellen Babinsky” Spring 2011 “Reading Sacred Texts” Fall 2010, Whit Bodman “Confession,” Spring 2010, Allan H. Cole, “Word and Sacrament,” Fall 2009, Jennifer Lord “Immigration,” Spring 2009, John Ahn “Reading Scripture,” Fall 2008, Cynthia Rigby “The Vocation of Youth,” Spring 2008, David White “Resurrection,” Fall 2007, John Alsup “Globalization,” Spring 2007, David Jensen “Spirituality,” Fall 2006, David Johnson “Debts and Debtors,” Spring 2006, Monya Stubbs “God and Suffering,” Fall 2005, Ellen Babinsky “Left Behind,” Spring 2005, J. Andrew Dearman “Politics and Faith,” Fall 2004, Ismael García “Women in the Pulpit,” Spring 2004, Carol Miles “Global Christianity,” Fall 2003, Arun Jones & Whitney Bodman “Youth,” Spring 2003, Theodore J. Wardlaw “Tolerance,” Fall 2002, Michael Jinkins “All God’s Children,” Spring 2002, C. Ellis Nelson “The Christian Scholar,” Fall 2001, William Greenway “Worship,” Spring 2001, Stanley Hall and Kathryn Roberts “Books,” Fall 2000, The Austin Seminary Faculty “Atonement,” Spring 2000, Cynthia Rigby “Fifty Years of Christ and Culture,” Fall 1999 “Healing and Wholeness,” Spring 1999, Ralph Underwood “Human Dignity,” Fall 1998, Ismael García 22
Stories as Space for Learning Dori Baker
In this article, The Rev. Dr. Dori Baker imagines being interviewed by her idol, PBS icon Bill Moyers. Moyers’ interviews with thought-shapers and activists created a reporting niche at the intersection of theology, culture, and emerging thought during the latter part of the 20th century. That niche today is best exemplified by the work of Krista Tippett and her staff at onbeing.org. If you don’t know who Bill Moyers is, you can imagine Krista as the interviewer: different hair, different voice, but very similar approaches. Bill Moyers: Dori, good to meet you. Tell me about your work. Dori Baker: Bill, thanks for this opportunity. I’ve always admired your work, in fact, when I went to seminary at the age of 22, after a brief career as a journalist, I dreamed of someday working for you. I never got your resume. What happened? Along the way, I decided to become a pastor. What drew you? As a reporter during college and afterward, I wrote stories I believed to be true. I constructed an image of the world I thought was impartial and accurate, based on careful research and interviews. But I encountered a problem: the persistent myth
Dori Baker is a writer whose work focuses on the power of story, young
people, and the future of the church. Ordained in the United Methodist Church, she earned the MDiv from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and the PhD from Northwestern University. She works with the Fund for Theological Education and has published three books including Greenhouses of Hope: Congregations that Nurture Young People who will Change the World.
Spaces for Learning of the unbiased reporter. I was trained as a journalist to believe it and, for a long time, I did. When I went to seminary to prepare to be a member of your staff, I saw that we construct reality. I lost the ability to pretend that I was unbiased. I came to see that I was thoroughly a product of my environment—which happened to be white, middle class, Protestant, and heterosexual. And reporting lost its appeal? Well, I started to wonder about the power of storytelling. Your interviews with Joseph Campbell had a long-lasting effect on me. At the same time, I was drawn by human suffering—particularly the suffering I had witnessed as a reporter. One humid Florida afternoon, I arrived at the scene of the murder of a young woman named Angie: her body lay naked in a ditch, strangled by her leggings after sexual assault. That kind of suffering—and particularly the months of conversation I had with Angie’s brother during the search for, arrest of, and trial for her murderer— made me wonder if maybe reporting was not my calling. Maybe I was in some way supposed to help people make meaning out of deep suffering. Seminary seemed to be the place to go. Was it? Was it ever. It was 1987 in Chicago. I found at seminary a community of people with whom to question everything the Southern Baptist culture in which I was raised had taught me. I became friends with Tapiwa, a man who had just witnessed the violence of civil war in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and came to Chicago to study pastoral care. I drove to O’Hare one day to pick up Stephen, a man who had just left apartheid in South Africa. I remember his surprise when I opened the door for him and offered to help carry his bags. I listened as my classmate Louise told me she was gay and Christian. I attended a United Methodist church that worshipped in a circle, had talk-back after the sermon, and openly welcomed gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons (this was before we added TQ.). Thanks to Facebook, I am still in touch with all of these people. How did those experiences change you? I began to question everything I knew. My husband, to whom I had been married for less than a year, was a CPA in a conservative accounting firm. Most nights, we had to stay up late, making up after a long, wordy, tear-filled fight about my changing ways of seeing the world. So how did you come to know what you were coming to know? Through having conversation partners who cared passionately about the places they had been, the sufferings they had witnessed firsthand, and the vision for God’s reign that was birthed through those points of view. So these new meanings were communally constructed? I came to rely on a community of meaning-makers. I came to believe my life would 24
Baker be impoverished without a diverse circle of trusted friends with whom to try out new ways of thinking—even ones that seemed to challenge the very ground beneath my feet. So how did that follow you into pastoral ministry? How did it shape your work? It took a while for that to manifest. I spent a year doing hospital chaplaincy at a trauma hospital in downtown Chicago. I chose a place that happened to specialize in ministry to the then-burgeoning population of gay, mostly-white men who were HIV-infected. We were only just beginning to realize the new face of HIV-AIDS would be children, people of color, and IV drug-users. This center attracted young men and women who were called to pastor to families affected by this devastating illness. I was afforded the gift of spending time with gay and lesbian people who were called to ministry. I needed some time to get comfortable with that element of human experience before I could move ahead with ordination in a denomination that does not affirm the call of “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.” And did you move ahead? I did. I found that the wedding ring I wore was a luxury that afforded me to speak the truth to power from within an institution that is slow to change, slow to see the signs of God’s surprising new work in the world. At times, I felt like jumping ship. But the Christian story made sense to me. It works, especially the life and teaching of Jesus himself—what Marcus Borg calls the pre-Easter Jesus. Does it still work for you? Yes. But I get by with a little help from my friends. Ha! Me, too. I have needed friends—real and literary—at every step of my adult life to help me keep knowing what I know about my faith tradition. We are living in tumultuous times, religiously. Phyllis Tickle explains brilliantly the rummage sale Christianity is undergoing. It’s hard to stay faithful when family heirlooms are being hauled away to be disassembled and turned into kitschy art. Lovely gothic sanctuaries make phenomenal brewhouses in places like Pittsburgh. Yes, I’ve visited that one! It is important to gather with others—over beer, wine, coffee, or tea—to talk into the early hours of the morning, refitting the meanings that undergird a life worth living. And what about the post-Easter Jesus? Does that work for you? Ahhh. Yes. This question brings us to the core of my work. The post-Easter Jesus works best for me when I am in a circle of people doing what I originally called Girlfriend Theology and write about in my book, The Barefoot Way. While I was a chaplain at that hospital in Chicago, I encountered a Quaker woman named Beth 25
Spaces for Learning Burbank who taught a method of reflecting on life’s meaning and purpose that made total sense to me. She called it “story theology,” and it got into my bones.
It was sticky? Yes, it stuck. Such simplicity—a four-step method! Listen to a story. Enter into the feelings. Look for God in it. Wonder about next steps. And yet it leads—over and over again—to deep, messy, stirring around in the stuff of who God is and who we are becoming and how we know what we know. In the middle of this process, you can almost feel God entering the space, asking us to take off our shoes, because we are standing on holy ground. Did you adapt the method? Only a little. With the help of friends at The Fund for Theological Education, I gave it the acronym L.I.V.E. I first used it with girls and women, attempting to see the ways it might help transmit the hard-won understandings of adult women’s knowing to adolescent emergence. That was reported in my book Doing Girlfriend Theology. But time and again, when I presented to groups of women around the country, they had one complaint: What about our boys? What about our husbands? They need Girlfriend Theology, too. So you expanded it? A friend suggested I write a sequel and call it Bubba Theology. But you took the high road. Right. With the help of male students, mostly youth ministers I encountered during adjunct teaching at various seminaries, I learned that boys and girls, men and women—all of us—are looking for ways to make meaning, to know what we know and learn to know differently. And it really helps to have friends along for that ride! You collected the stories. You held onto your favorites, and you share them in The Barefoot Way. Some of the stories are heartbreaking. But a few made me laugh. What’s your favorite? They are all my favorite. They’re like my children. But you asked about the postEaster Jesus, so let’s go there. Addie told a story about comforting a Sudanese orphan whose father had violently beaten his mother to death after learning she was HIV-positive. The first step of the method is L. We LISTENED, enraptured by the details of this joyful child unravelling as he retells the painful story at the core of his existence. The second step of the method is I. We IMMERSED ourselves in the feelings the story evoked in us. The third step is V. We VIEWED it wider, wondering where scripture, tradition and Christian practices show up in the story. The fourth step is E. We ENACT the next faithful step. We speak out loud an action to which we are called because of the story and our encounter with it.
Baker And Addie’s story? Where did it take you? It took us to the tomb. At the end of our time together, Addie articulated that for her God was not like the American woman who comforted the child. God was the child who was shattered by the brokenness of his world. But God was also present in the mystery of resilience. When the child’s story was over, when his sobbing finally subsided, he took a few deep breaths, regained his composure, and glanced back at Addie before leaving the room. His smile returned. That smile, Addie said, that joy—that was exactly like the moment when a few friends went to the tomb and found it empty. You got to relive the moment, there in the circle? Yes, that’s it. In Addie’s story, we don’t just recite the story of Christ’s resurrection—an event that was reported to have happened 2,000 years ago. We relive it in the corner of a tearoom in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Our lives are like fifth Gospels. Our lives are the pens with which God is writing fifth Gospels. That’s a favorite of yours, isn’t it? Yes, I quote Judith Siqueiera often. I love that idea. God isn’t finished revealing God’s self to us. But it’s absolutely necessary to have companions in discerning where these truths hide out. We need trusted listeners who can hear us into our own truths. That for me is the secret to staying faithful in the midst of massive change. r
Pastors’ Panel We asked religious leaders to reflect on the role of church libraries. Here is what they told us.
What has been your experience with church libraries? The Reverend Rita L. Sims, Pastor, St. John’s United Methodist Church, Rockdale, Texas My experience with church libraries has been varied. Every church I have served over twenty-eight years has had a church library. One forty-member church library even had some writings by renowned ethicist Stanley Hauerwas, as his parents were members of the congregation. The best library I remember was one at Marvin United Methodist in Tyler, Texas. The volunteer librarian did a great job of keeping the library filled with current and long-time Christian classics as well as resources for the study of scripture. She would often include a brief book review in the church newsletter and ensured that the library would be open for folks’ use. The Reverend Douglas Shaffer, Lead Pastor, White Rock Community Church, Dallas, Texas When I first joined the staff, the library was moved from its location right off the parlor to the far periphery of the campus. Years later, it was relocated to the opposite edge of the facility during a renovation. These distant locations where used for small group studies and meetings and became depositories of books no longer wanted in people’s personal or inherited libraries. Few people used the books in these locations. The Reverend Dr. Blair Monie, Pastor, Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church, Dallas, Texas I have been privileged to serve a number of churches with excellent libraries. Just out of seminary, I served the Neshaminy of Warwick Presbyterian Church in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Bernie Dietrich was our librarian and served as an officer in the Church and Synagogue Library Association. If a member of the church wrote a review that was included in the Association magazine, the church library received a free copy. We had many members who gladly wrote thoughtful reviews, and Bernie grew the church library significantly by that method. What is the role of the church library in the life of your faith community? Douglas Shaffer The church library acted as a symbol of the importance of study in the process of 28
Pastors’ Panel personal discipleship; but its location on the edges kept it out of the presence of church life, resulting in little practical use. We have recently begun plans to return the library to the heart of activity; just off the parlor once again. It has caused us to evaluate if books are a mere backdrop for other activities or functioning tools for personal growth. Rita Sims In my current setting, the church library does not have a prominent role. Occasionally, Sunday school teachers or Bible study leaders consult the commentaries, Bible dictionaries, concordances, or video series as they prepare their lessons. Blair Monie Our library was named the best church library in the nation last year by the Church and Synagogue Library Association. It is large, comfortable, and well-stocked with all kinds of resources, including periodicals. Located just off our atrium gathering place, the library is a popular spot for browsing and visiting on Sunday mornings, as well as other times of the week. An interesting feature is a “vacation paperback” section that gets a lot of use, and serves to draw the saints in for more substantive theological and biblical material—from Robert Ludlum to Karl Barth, you might say! How has that role changed during your pastoral tenure? Rita Sims Organizational work has been done on the current church library. A number of contributions were made from the previous pastor that included some books on biblical studies as well some inspirational readings and self-help from a Christian perspective. In addition, a few other inspirational books have been added. A number of books that were not related to Christian studies were discarded. It has become more user-friendly. Blair Monie When I first came to Preston Hollow, the library was in a small former classroom space. Since moving it to its new location near the flow of busy traffic to and from the Sanctuary, it has grown, both in use and in size. We also developed a children’s library with wall murals from The Chronicles of Narnia and other children’s stories, complete with big pillows conducive to lounging. Finally, we have computerized our catalogue, which is available online. Our long-time librarian, Shirley Rollins, and her successor, Barbara Rhodes, have been highly instrumental in these improvements. Douglas Shaffer As I became the lead pastor of the church, my personal library expanded significantly, and the Pastor Study became a place of sermon preparation, small group 29
Spaces for Learning study, and pastoral care. These books I know well and lend often. In response to intentional study or personal need, these resources became active and useful. Guiding people to connect to relevant books that speak to individual interests or needs is important to creating a flow of information rather than a stagnant pool. How would you compare the space in the church library to other sacred spaces in your church? Douglas Shaffer Moving our library is bringing it back into focus, and it will again be in the middle of congregational life. Like the sanctuary, it will be visible, vital, and tended! Any space in a church building becomes sacred only as it is utilized as a place where people experience a connection to God. If we believe the mission of the church is to create disciples, we live this by having a dynamic library that impacts individuals’ spiritual growth. Rita Sims I have found it to be true that churches do not generally respect the space of the church library compared to other parts of the building, which is true in my current setting. Often books are left in disarray. Books are not always returned in a timely fashion. The books often need to be dusted. Currently, there are a couple of volunteers working to restore the sacred element to the church library. Blair Monie It is one of our warmest, most inviting spaces. I think our library encouraged members and friends of the church to read thoughtful works and grow in faith and understanding. Anghaarad Teague Dees (MDiv’01): Ours isn’t sacred space it is used space—when you have children eating goldfish in there regularly I can’t call it sacred. We have a wonderful library committee that purges books never used, orders new books frequently, advertises to the congregation and hosts programs for the children and the church. They rotate art done by congregation members regularly, have a summer reading program for the children, and read weekly to the preschool children. A church library is a wonderful thing if the church has members willing to invest in them with their time and money. Phyl Stutzman (Mdiv’05): I’ll echo Anghaarad. My last church used the library very well, regularly purchasing and promoting thought provoking & theologically sound books, encouraging use of the kids’ book & shelves, also meeting space for book groups, committees, etc., and rotating art by members. My current church is so small that books are simply scattered among the pews (especially for the kids). The kids read stories and color Bible story pictures during worship (no nursery, either), and to me that is truly sacred library space. r 30
Required Reading Books recommended by Austin Seminary faculty Allah: A Christian Response, Miroslav Volf, New York: Harper Collins, 2011, 262 pages, $25.99 (also available in paperback, Kindle, and Nook editions). Reviewed by Whit Bodman, associate professor of comparative religion, Austin Seminary.
sufficiently similar for us to claim that they speak of the same entity. He notes that God is not identically described within each tradition. Points of agreement that he finds are, briefly: that there is only one God, who created all that is not God and is different from everything that is not God; that God is good; that God commands that we love God completely and love our neighbors as ourselves; that we worship God (but what does “worship” entail?); and that deeds disclose what people truly worship. This leads to the second, vexing, question of the Trinity. Muslims have difficulty understanding how Christians can claim to worship one God, and yet claim that three are fully and equally divine. Christians claim that the essential nature of the deity is Trinitarian, and that to deny this is to deny the right and true God. Volf notes that this creates a problem with Judaism, which clearly worships the same God and clearly does not accept the Trinity or even the importance of Jesus Christ. Muslims give more prominence to Jesus than Jews do. Volf argues that what is rejected in the Qur’an as a threefold God is not what Christians hold to be a Trinitarian God. In the next portion of the book, Volf explores more problematic issues. He concludes that there is a significant difference between the Christian claim that God is love and the Muslim claim that God loves. He also notes that the Christian teaching of love of enemies is more resolute and perhaps extreme than the Muslim teaching that one most love all except those who assault you. Are these two disagreements enough to establish that Muslims and Christians worship different Gods? Volf does not believe so. In the last portion of the book, Volf tackles other issues such as mission, the morality of monotheism itself, the possibility of pluralistic societies and, necessarily, the issue of extremism. This is a hopeful book. The inclusion of the author’s own story in Eastern
n October, 2007, Prince Talal bin Muhammad of Jordan delivered a document, “A Common Word,” to Christian leaders around the world. This unprecedented encyclical was signed by 138 political, religious, and cultural leaders throughout the Muslim world. The document proposed that the fundamental principles of love of God and love of neighbor are essential to Christianity and Islam, and are held in common. Miroslav Volf coordinated the “Yale Response” to “A Common Word” and subsequently helped organize conferences and consultations to continue the dialogue face-to-face. Allah: a Christian Response is one of several books that have emerged from this dialogue. Volf takes up a fundamental question: Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? His answer comes at the end of a careful theological argument interspersed with personal anecdotes. He begins by relating the arguments of Nicholas of Cusa, a 15th-century theologian who tried to avoid yet another crusade by inviting the Ottoman caliph to a dialogue, and Martin Luther, reacting to the threat of a Muslim conquest of Europe. Both of these theologians argued that there is one God, the Trinitarian God, which Muslims worship, but worship and understand imperfectly. Volf continues by setting out his own foundations for an answer to the question. After rejecting alternative starting points, he settles on an approach that compares the content of what Christians and Muslims say about God to determine if they are
Required Reading The present work, Ravished by Beauty, turns to the kataphatic, the tradition that sees creation as the manifestation of the glory of God. Whereas the apophatic stresses God’s transcendence and the inability of the human mind—and human language—to comprehend or adequately express the nature of God, the kataphatic emphasizes God’s immanence and omnipresence in and through all things. Lane documents this stream in the history of Reformed theology in chapters treating John Calvin, Puritanism in England and America, Jonathan Edwards, and nineteenth-century theologians and religious writers who were inspired by the beauty of the American landscape. Woven in between the chapters of this exposition are “Landscapes of Desire”—Lane’s own experiences in visiting Taize in France and Iona in Scotland, canoeing in Missouri, walking in a park near his own home, exploring the Connecticut River, and taking a group of students to a polluted creek (“Dead Creek”) that runs through East Saint Louis. His project demands this: one cannot write convincingly about the concrete in the abstract, nor treat personal matters impersonally. The theme of Ravished by Beauty is desire–the desire for God that is awakened by the beauty of the natural world. This desire can result in joy, awe, and wonder at the manifestation of God’s glory through all of nature, but it can also lead to the need to possess, exploit, and—finally—destroy the natural world. Consequently, a theologically grounded ecological ethic must involve the healing of desire. Lash argues that the Reformed tradition offers such a healing. Calvin’s celebration of the divine beauty in the natural world, the Puritan demand to treat the world with justice, and Jonathan Edward’s willingness to see the beauty of God in the beauty of nature are themes that can guide us now as we seek ways to protect and restore our environment. Is it truly surprising, as the subtitle of the work claims, to find this celebration of the beauty and wonder of the world at the heart of the Reformed tradition? It
Europe, where Muslims and Christians have both fought and befriended, makes the theological argument personal. The theology itself is carefully constructed, exploring the alleys and corners of possible dissent. There are places where he relies a little heavily on the views of one Muslim theologian to represent the whole, in particular Ibn Taymiyyah, but in general he cites al-Ghazzali, arguably the Muslim St. Augustine, and a good choice. There are, of course, many critical issues left to be disentangled, most notably the issue of salvation, but this work does not claim to be a resolution of all important issues, just a capable analysis of one. For those unsatisfied with kind assertions of interfaith commonality and icy claims of contradiction, this is an inviting start and a good model for interfaith dialogues to come.
Ravished by Beauty: The Surprising Legacy of Reformed Spirituality, Belden C. Lane, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, 328 pages, $29.95 (also available in Kindle and Nook editions). Reviewed by David W. Johnson, assistant professor of church history and Christian spirituality, Austin Seminary.
elden Lane is cultivating a style of theological investigation that is simultaneously academic and autobiographical. Usually, one of these alternatives excludes the other: that which is personal is not academic, and that which is scholarly is methodologically impersonal. The assumption is that objectivity is compromised any time the word “I” appears beyond the opening acknowledgments. Lane refuses to abide by this convention. His last book, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, was a presentation of the apophatic or via negativa traditions in Christian spirituality, interwoven with accounts of his own travels and the illness and death of his mother.
Required Reading and ethics: “Making the world beautiful—and just—is the proper ‘work’ (the liturgia) of giving glory to God” (239). With that claim, the deep logic of Lane’s entire approach becomes evident. This book is a monument to the claim that we dare not separate theological tradition from lived experience. When we do so, the result is not just anemic theology. The result is the extinction of species, the poisoning of the environment, and the impoverishment and diminishment of human lives. This book provides a corrective to our view of the Reformed tradition that is also an indictment of the way we are living our lives. The time seems increasingly short, and we need to listen. r
may well be. At least some of the reviews of Ravished by Beauty have expressed surprise (partly at the notion that John Calvin or the early Puritans could be ravished by anything at all). But the surprise does not come because the theme is elusive or obscure in the Reformed tradition. The theme is there, not consistently there, perhaps, but it is there. The surprise is that people have read Calvin and his successors so badly they scarcely noticed it. The careless exploitation of the natural world is not only unwise and dangerous, it is sinful. It is blasphemous to treat the theater of God’s glory (Calvin’s phrase) as if it were our personal plaything. It is blasphemous to separate aesthetics
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Christianity & Culture
The Changing (Cyber)Face of Christian Community Cynthia L. Rigby
here is a growing concern in academic institutions these days: some students sitting in class are far more apt to “twitter” their insights than to share them with the person sitting two feet away from them. There is growing concern in churches, these days, that a certain demographic of very active participants have not the slightest interest in “entering into membership.” Understandings of communities are changing. And it is freaking some of us out. We can no longer take for granted that we are all talking about the same thing, when we talk about “creating a community” in the classroom. We can no longer assume people agree with us when we suggest that “receiving the right hand of fellowship” solidifies commitment to a particular church community.
Cynthia L. Rigby is the W.C. Brown Professor of Theology at Austin Seminary. Educated at Brown University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she has edited two books and written more than forty articles and book chapters. The author of The Promotion of Social Righteousness (Witherspoon Press, 2010) and Renewing Grace (WJK, forthcoming), she is working an introductory theology text and reflecting on how to share belief in God with the “Nones.” 34
Rigby What possible response might we have to these changes? It is easy to react, in fear, by accusing these twitter-happy, membership-free, didn’t-know-how-to-drive-much-before-the-turn-of-the-millenium persons of being unwilling to make a commitment, or having too great a need to control their environment, or being oblivious to the need to develop basic communication skills (such as looking you in the eye, when talking). The rub is, these folks ARE committed. They are engaged enough, in class, that they want to twitter about it. They are more present to what is happening in the life of the church than scores of many church members. They work—they constantly work—at being connected. And not to their devices, but through their devices to others. What do these non-membering twitterers have to teach us about Christian community? I texted a few of them to find out. While I was sitting across from them at lunch (just kidding!). As I suspected, they are not against becoming members of a church. What they are against is putting forward “church membership” as a way of differentiating those who have made a “real” commitment to being part of community from those who are merely “active.” Certainly, they object to becoming members simply for the sake of institutional convenience—so their donations can be more efficiently tabulated or so they fill the chairs at a session meeting. And as I suspected, they are perfectly willing to invest in the formation of a community in the seminary classroom. What they are unwilling to do is to assume that a community that presents itself for a twelve-week semester, meeting three hours each of these weeks and dissolving at the end of that time, automatically overrides the communities they continuously commit to, build on, and plan on having for the long-term. Think about it: these folks care so much about their communities that they carry them around with them. They are linked to them by way of smartphones, laptops, and tablets. They nurture them and are nurtured by them by way of life updates, fun pictures, theological insights, book recommendations, and shared “likes” of all kinds. What is happening on Facebook is, in many ways, what we have always wanted to be happening in small group Bible studies and during “fellowship” coffee hour. Remember telling people in our congregations that the community goes with them wherever they go? That they are surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses? Well—in all seriousness—I think the “cloud” might help us understand the “Cloud.” While we haven’t quite figured out how to stay connected with the dead in Christ by way of cyberspace, we certainly do have a literal connection both with living friends who have moved to other cities and countries, and to “Facebook friends” whose flesh-and-blood faces we have not yet actually seen. To illustrate this last point: a couple of weeks ago I was speaking in Oklahoma City alongside another (ahem: younger) speaker who, in the course of a question and answer period, responded to a participants’ comment first by saying: “Hey! It’s 35
Spaces for Learning great to meet you! I know we’re Facebook friends, but I’m glad finally to meet you in person. At the break, let’s get together and talk about that issue we were discussing, the other day.” The two thought it completely normal to gain a true friend by way of social media, before ever actually meeting them. (The reason they acted this way, of course, is because for them it is completely normal … which means, again, that I/we others might be missing something). The closest I have so far come to relating to this little episode is by remembering that I had a French “pen pal,” back when I was in elementary school. Our letters were spaced by weeks of time, as well as distance, and it was impossible to establish any kind of day-to-day interaction. I think we talked by phone once—in the couple of years we wrote each other—but calling regularly was too expensive. I wonder … if I had had Marianna as a “Facebook friend,” would our friendship have developed more richly? I bet it would have. In addition to carrying their communities along with them, nurturing them and being nurtured by them along the way, and using social media to make (as well as maintain relationships with) friends who are not in physical proximity, the non-membering twitterers struggle, along with the rest of us, over whether or not their communities have to be, at least in some small measure, exclusive. Some argue “no,” accepting every “friend request” sent to them and bragging about their numbers. Others are more selective about who they let into their circle, but not without registering the concern they are behaving too narrowly. Leaders of Christian churches and organizations recognize it is a real challenge to figure out how to form a particular community with a particular mission without shutting out those who may not seem a “perfect fit,” but might have something constructive to gain and/or contribute. Along these lines, many of us have tried to make (or re-think) arguments about how the Table is open to “all,” it’s just that “all” means “all the baptized.” And this is still a real “all,” we insist, in the face of skeptical inquirers. It is real because we would not turn anyone away; there is not, in our actual practice, any “barring” of the Table. Still, we admit, the Table is set and the meal prepared specifically for the baptized. It is not intended for just anyone who happens to wander over and partake, even if they wouldn’t be refused. It is the Table, hosted by our Lord, for all the saints. If communities are weakened by having too many requirements, rules, or expectations (taking on the ethos of an exclusive, well-mannered club rather than a growing, struggling, thriving family), they are also damaged when they become an add-me-to-your-listserve “free for all.” Some among us, fearful of becoming too open, find easy relief by pointing to the non-membering twitterers (particularly those who boast hundreds and hundreds of Facebook friends) and saying, “See? That’s just what I’m talking about.” But we who view Facebook more as a destination we occasionally visit than as the hometown we live in are only kidding ourselves if we think the rites of passage required for participation in our non-virtual communities necessarily serve better to honor and protect these communities’ particular identities. It may actually be the case we are weakening our communities by conforming unthinkingly to the patterns of how things should be done, as if people are made for the rules, 36
Rigby processes, rituals, or sacraments; instead of the rules, processes, rituals, or sacraments made for the people. It might be, for example, that becoming a member of a church simply because one is a cooperative person who is willing to take the next expected step actually diminishes the particular (living, breathing, shaping, changing) character of the community. Ironically, given the critique of each “side” toward the other, a parallel might rightly be drawn between entering unquestioningly into church membership and clicking “accept,” undiscerningly, on every and all “friend” requests. Both the member-filled church, seen by many participants in virtual communities as “too exclusive,” and the Facebook network, seen by many church members as “too open,” might well fail to nurture communities that testify to and participate in what they claim matters most. What is needed for both our physical and virtual Christian communities to thrive, at the moment, is perhaps neither greater inclusivity nor carefully explained exclusivity. What is needed may not be, even, new and creative ways for balancing our openness to others with our specific self-understandings (though moving back and forth at this interface is something Christian communities will always be wont to do). What is needed most, at the moment, is for Christian communities—virtual and physical—to be more mindful. To be more mindful of who we are, where we have come from, what we are called to become, and why we are doing what we are doing. Kathryn Tanner makes this point in the first sentence of the introduction to her 2001 book, Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity. “In order to witness to and be a disciple of Jesus Christ,” she insists, “every Christian has to figure out for him or herself what Christianity is all about, what Christianity stands for in the world.”1 Over fifty years earlier the teacher of Tanner’s teachers—Karl Barth—had made an even more radical point. Sick and tired of the fact that Christians in Germany baptized their children automatically, as a kind of rite of social passage, he had begun advocating for adult baptism. Barth said that infant baptism, as it was practiced, “was one of many symptoms that the church is not alive and bold, that it is afraid to walk on the water like Peter to meet the Lord, and it therefore does not seek a sure foundation but only deceptive props.” Barth insisted that, if the emphasis was taken off the baptism of children, “every individual would then have to decide whether he or she wanted to be a Christian.”2 The language of “decision,” “want,” and the church “walking on the water … to meet the Lord” might seem quite jarring, coming from a theologian who thinks God, and not humans, initiates and funds every revelatory moment. But Barth was not turning away from a lifetime of commitment to the sovereignty of God, in what he did. On the contrary, he recognized that the God known to us in the One who is fully human as well as fully divine includes we who are human in the very act of God’s own self-disclosure. The Word is made flesh, and we enfleshed ones—in and through Jesus Christ—are exalted as “genuine subjects” in the revelatory event. Our decisions and our wants in the face of God’s living, challenging Word shape the kinds of people we are and the kinds of communities we form. It is because Barth and his colleagues decided to be Christians; because they acted mindfully, 37
Spaces for Learning intentionally, and habitually in relation to this decision, that there was a Barmen Declaration, a confessing church movement, a neo-orthodox renewal of the church. At best, changing understandings of “community,” determined to open the doors of our churches and our seminary classrooms ever wider, are also challenging us to ask ourselves, again, whether we have really decided and want to be Christians, and what Christianity is actually all about. Since the relationship between being a Christian and being a member of a church can no longer be taken for granted, we ministers should be ready to make a case for it—or a case against it—thinking through what membership (and maybe the baptism “required” for it, and the eldership for which we are “eligible” after it) has to do with being Christ’s disciples. Insofar as the community formed by a classroom full of students in a semester course doesn’t override the communities these students are linked to by virtue of their devices, we seminary teachers have the opportunity to reflect, theologically, on how and why the communities formed in virtual learning spaces differ from those that form in physical spaces. Related to this, another productive question provoked by increasing commitments to virtual communities is: Why, and how, and to what degree do physical bodies matter to the formation and health of a community? One case study that might be reflected on, along these lines, is that of the lifechurch.tv phenomenon. Lifechurch.tv is an international church that broadcasts worship services at regular intervals, on their website, 24/7. There is an interesting history to this church, as I understand it. As participants became more deeply involved in virtual worship, they grew in their desire to meet, as bodies-to-bodies, with other worship participants. As a result, the church now assists worshippers who have the desire to gather together physically by helping them build or buy “God boxes”—simple, inexpensive buildings where they can gather to watch lifechurch.tv on a wall of what they call “The Assembly Room.” I visited one of these boxes—in Tulsa, Oklahoma—and talked with the staff. All very clear and upfront about the fact that they have made the decision to be Christians, the personnel were fairly ambivalent on the question of whether physical bodies matter, all that much, to the formation of community. They did concede “there are people who just need to be hugged,” saying, “that’s why we make it possible to enter into the worship experience of lifechurch altogether, here.” But they seemed to view the desire to gather physically as more of a need related to the weakness of some than a need related to the weakness (and beautiful creatureliness) of all. I thought (OK, predictably) of Calvin, who insisted the bread was there to chew, and the cup was there to drink, so that all of us with our weak bodies could be sustained as souls who cannot be separated from bodies; who will, in fact, be bodily resurrected. On another Internet site—secondlife.com—churches invite avatars to take communion by way of virtual bread and virtual wine. This raises some concerns, on my part: Couldn’t “remembering Christ,” in such a disembodied forum, actually encourage us to forget our Lord’s pierced body? Might it not suggest we would do better to dis-embody, rather than allowing the Spirit to re-member us (put us back 38
Rigby together) as the body of Christ? If so, what are the implications of this in light of our charge to do justice in a broken-bodied world? But (lest I end this article sounding like I’m dissing virtual understandings of “Christian community,” after all), I need to note how amazing it is, to me, that there are so many crazybusy people—maybe those who have to work on Sunday mornings and hardly have a minute to themselves—who take the time to log in at lifechurch or to create avatars and attend church services and Bible studies at secondlife. If we think about them in relation to the Tanner and Barth insights, one thing is clear: they have made the decision to be Christian, and are being very intentional about figuring out what Christianity is about. If these are also the people who tirelessly post and twitter, who endlessly update and share, it just might be that the communal web being formed, strand by strand, will eventually be able to r hold us all. NOTES 1. Kathryn Tanner, Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity (Fortress, 2001), xiii. 2. Karl Barth, The Heidelberg Catechism for Today. trans. Shirley Guthrie (John Knox Press, 1964), 104.
Coming in the Fall 2013 issue:
Professor Suzie Park on “Story, Interpretation, and Identity” 39
Questions for Study Here are some study questions to help you or your group reflect on this issue of Insights 1. Timothy Lincoln describes how learning spaces created by libraries today look very different from those of the 1950s. How are they different? What do you miss about “old” libraries, and what do you appreciate about the new ones? 2. How do libraries help us learn, according to Lincoln? How can we take advantage of what libraries have to offer, so we can learn more? 3. In our interview with Lincoln, he comments that there are both drawbacks and strengths to doing research on the Internet. Do you do research on the Internet? If so, what is your experience of its hazards and its benefits to your work? 4. Mary Lynne Calhoun thinks people of faith should support public school education. Drawing from her article, reflect on why she thinks this. Do you agree or disagree, and why? 5. Summarize, in your own words, what Gregory Cuéllar is saying about “others” being left out—or kept on the “lower shelf”!—of archival spaces. Had you ever noticed this, before? What is one thing a community of faith might do to make sure the voices of “others” are welcome in spaces of learning? 6. Dori Baker understands life itself to be a space for learning, with the particular stories of our lives teaching us and forming us along the way. Do you think of life as a learning space? If so, which stories of your life do you remember as most significant for forming you as a person? Spend a few minutes either silently reflecting on one of these stories or sharing them briefly in the context of group discussion. 7. Members of our “Pastors’ Panel” reflect on their church libraries and the role they have for members of their congregation. What is your experience of church libraries, and how they have mattered (or not mattered) to your learning? 8. Cynthia Rigby argues that understandings of “Christian community” are changing, and that the influence of social media and the ubiquity of connecting devices has something to do with this. Have you noticed any changes to how we understand “Christian community”? If so, how are these r changes encouraging, and how are they problematic? 40
Theodore J. Wardlaw, President
Board of Trustees Cassandra C. Carr, Chair Karen C. Anderson Thomas L. Are Jr. Claudia D. Carroll Elizabeth Christian Joseph J. Clifford James G. Cooper Marvin L. Cooper James B. Crawley Consuelo Donahue (MDiv’96) Jackson Farrow Jr. Elizabeth Blanton Flowers G. Archer Frierson Richard D. Gillham John Hartman Walter Harris Jr. Roy M. Kim James H. Lee (MDiv’00)
Michael L. Lindvall Jennifer L. Lord Lyndon L. Olson Jr. B. W. Payne David Peeples Jeffrey Kyle Richard Teresa Chávez Sauceda (MDiv’88) James C. Shaw Lita Simpson Anne Vickery Stevenson Karl Brian Travis John L. Van Osdall Sallie Sampsell Watson (MDiv’87) Carlton Wilde Jr. Elizabeth Currie Williams Hugh H. Williamson III
Trustees Emeriti Stephen A. Matthews, John McCoy (MDiv’63), Max Sherman, Louis H. Zbinden Jr.
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