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Doing the New to Create the New: Kayaking and Course Creation

We get that email from the library staff asking for our book selections for our upcoming course. We have taught the course before, so the library is kind enough to send the list of books we used the last time. In most cases we use the same books, but from time to time we add a new selection. Our courses look the same, they sound the same, and in many instances we teach the same books that we were taught. We can become complicit in petrifying the canon. Even if it is a new canon, it becomes constrictive and many of our courses privilege reading. We start with “books.”

What if we started with the visual, sound, and look of the course? What if we were bold enough to do something we had never dreamed of doing in a course, designing experiences that were inherently transformative? I propose that if we are to do the new, the challenging, the daring, the unusual, we have to expose ourselves to the new in our daily life and practice:  my wife and I dared to kayak! We had never kayaked before but as our practice is to do the new in the schools that we serve, we are doing new things that will make us new. Things that will expand us and transform us.

We took an REI Class on kayaking at Sweet Water Creek State Park in Atlanta. The park is only thirty minutes from our home but when we’re on that lake it feels like we’re miles away. In doing the new, we are becoming new. Becoming new naturally pushes me to try the new, to experiment and develop classes that take students out to kayak with me. While we might not literally kayak, we will do the new, the different, the exciting. The more we do the new, the more we will try the new. Try something new and exciting that takes you out of your comfort zone and see how these experiences transform your teaching!

Ralph Basui Watkins

About Ralph Basui Watkins

Ralph Watkins is the Peachtree Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth at Columbia Seminary. His work focuses on building bridges between young adults and the church in order to develop future leaders for the twenty-first century church who work for justice. As a scholar, professional photographer, documentarian, pastor, sought after speaker and workshop leader Dr. Watkins seeks to help the churches live into the new networked world. He is known for being a leader in teaching with digital media.

With over 20 years of pastoral, teaching, and administrative experience, Watkins is an active teaching scholar with over 250 publications and conference presentations to his credit. He is the author of The Future of the African American Church (co-authored with Justin West) (2014), Hip-Hop Redemption: Finding God in the Rhythm and the Rhyme (2011), Leading Your African American Church Through Pastoral Transition (2010), From Jay-Z to Jesus: Reaching and Teaching Young Adults in the Black Church (co-authored with Benjamin Stephens) (2008), The Gospel Remix: Reaching the Hip Hop Generation (2007), and I Ain’t Afraid to Speak My Mind (2003). He is presently working on his next multimedia project Stratline: My Atlanta.

Dr. Watkins is television producer and documentarian. His show Talk it Out with Dr. Ralph Basui Watkins was one of the top rated show on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting network for over four years. He is also the producer / director, cameraman and editor of three full length television feature documentaries: She Is The Pastor (2012) and Our Journey to Palestine: A Story of the 43rd Delegation of Interfaith Peace Builders (2013) and Africana Theology and the Roots of Our Faith: A Journey Through Egypt (2018). Dr. Watkins’s has had two solo photography shows and his photographs have been published in numerous publications.

In recent years, Watkins has received an artist in residence at the Velvet Note and St. James Live, both nationally recognized jazz clubs. He has received Governor’s Teaching Fellowship, Lilly Teaching Fellowship, Fulbright Hayes Fellowship for study in Ghana, a Wabash Teaching Fellowship, and various awards and grants to study the African roots of African American theology in Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, Ethiopia, Senegal, and Ghana.

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