theological education

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I wrote a very thoughtful essay about a week ago on teaching social justice as a theological value.  It centered on a chance meeting my spouse and I had with the CEO and Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Westchester, Jim Killoran. In that piece, I wanted to make ...

In a low and pensive voice, the young woman student posed her question to the all-women course. Her question sent a gentle shockwave through the room. After some far ranging discussion, my response to her question was this – “Black women all over the world make passionate love all night long, ...

One of the most critical skills theological school deans need, arguably now more than ever before, is that of problem-solving. The challenges facing theological schools continue to become more technologically complex, socially entangled, costly, and multi-faceted. It is evident that most deans are not just dealing with programmatic, administrative, and ...

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How Youth Ministry Can Change Theological Education - If We Let It

Dean, Kenda Creasy, and Hearlson, Christy Lang, eds.
Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2016

Book Review

Tags: formation   |   theological education   |   youth ministry
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Reviewed by: Sunder John Boopalan, Episcopal Divinity School
Date Reviewed: March 29, 2017
Acutely aware of the North American religious landscape, the editors introduce the volume by noting two ironies – a vast majority of young people subscribe to a superficial understanding of self, God, and the world, and those who are more complexly informed are often mistakenly considered by youth ministries to be “already won” (8). With this awareness, the editors bring together a diverse set of essays that intentionally make an effort to ...

Acutely aware of the North American religious landscape, the editors introduce the volume by noting two ironies – a vast majority of young people subscribe to a superficial understanding of self, God, and the world, and those who are more complexly informed are often mistakenly considered by youth ministries to be “already won” (8). With this awareness, the editors bring together a diverse set of essays that intentionally make an effort to overcome this irony. By making critical references to High School Theology Programs, the different authors weigh in on the matter by treating high school students as full persons who desire and invite serious mentorship, challenge conventionally held notions, and are ready to hit the spiritual formation ball out of the park.

Several authors highlight how young people are often liturgically formed by dominant social conventions that impact their behavior and their ability to articulate the meaning of self and world. If young people are thus culturally tutored, how can those in youth ministry enable a different way of theologically framing lived experiences? How can they creatively disrupt unhelpful naming systems, for example, that young people are enculturated into in such a way that naming the issue could become a means to rethink and rename ways of being in the world? What would this take and what would it cost?

Each author presents arguments and perspectival interventions that are based on hard evidence and long-term work with high school students. Work with youth, in the end, affects youth and those who work with them. The book argues that such giving and receiving offers grounds for holy friendship and mutual companionship that can and will positively change self and world. Faculty members in theological schools are encouraged to actively seek out for themselves and others opportunities to teach age groups that they may not otherwise readily engage. No age is “too young.” While the difficulty of the task is not underestimated, the rewards, the authors argue, are many. Church workers are called to focus not so much on saving churches but rather on “saving lives” (275). Both may eventually be saved in the process.

The subtitle “If We Let It” captures the philosophical framework of this book. Readers interested in learning how youth ministry can change theological education – if we let it – will learn a great deal from this work that serves as a well-researched handbook, an indictment of theological malnourishment, and a mirror that poses hard and important questions to those interested in more than a cosmetic makeover of theological education today.

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Reimagining the Academic Library

Lewis, David W.
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2016

Book Review

Tags: digital libraries   |   librarianship   |   theological education
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Reviewed by: Bradley Widstrom, Denver Seminary
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Technology and the digital age are rapidly changing the landscape of education. Theological institutions are not immune. Even though these changes can be difficult and painful, the fulfillment of our mission is enhanced and expanded when we embrace and lean into them. One big current issue is the future of our libraries – what the digital academic library looks like and what it will take to get there. Even though significant ...

Technology and the digital age are rapidly changing the landscape of education. Theological institutions are not immune. Even though these changes can be difficult and painful, the fulfillment of our mission is enhanced and expanded when we embrace and lean into them.

One big current issue is the future of our libraries – what the digital academic library looks like and what it will take to get there. Even though significant change is necessary, a discernable path forward does exist (viii). This includes a substantial change in the role of library staff and the roles libraries play in their institution. As digital technologies replace print as the primary means of access to nearly everything, libraries will “move from using technology to do old things in new ways to using technology to do new things” (vii, viii). This will require new technologies, strategies, values, and even a new culture (xv). It is encouraging that Lewis writes this as an academic librarian with forty plus years of experience. He is a digital immigrant who has learned to accept and navigate the changes. Instead of holding onto the comfortable past, he is excited about the future!

This book reminds me of a well-written backcountry trail guide. It is divided into two sections. The first, “The Forces We Face,” describes the landscape, including the history and background; the second, “Steps Down the Road,” is the practical description of the trail ahead, including landmarks along the way. Whereas my backcountry guides discuss the flora, fauna, geology, people, and events significant to say Olympic National Park, Lewis takes us on a historical journey of academic libraries. The central theme is that libraries have always done three things: (a) kept documents for the long haul, (b) provided the knowledge and information that the communities and institutions that fund them need, and (c) assisted individuals in finding and using information (xi, 153). Libraries of the future will continue to do these same things, but how they do them will look different. The focus has been and will continue to be their role in research and preservation and distribution of scholarship.

As with any trail guide, section two is the most important: the trail descriptions are found here. My backcountry guides list waypoints, elevation, mileage, landmarks, campsites, and other important information needed to successfully navigate the trail and arrive at the destination. Lewis in like manner describes important steps that need to be taken to arrive at his destination: an academic library, relevant and effective in the digital age. The trailhead is the library of the past, a place that builds local collections and staffs them with people who organize and know how to find the documents and facts in them (153). The destination at the end of the trail looks much different. Collections will be streamlined and library space will be utilized differently. Staff requirements and roles will not be the same. You will be uncomfortable with some of Lewis’ ideas, but you will be stretched and prompted to thought and healthy conversation. We are using the book for this purpose at Denver Seminary.

I heartily recommend this book. The price may be high for a paperback, but this is a unique book that should be read by key members of every institution that wants to be proactive in moving ahead into the digital age. If nothing else, get ahold of a copy and read the Conclusion. This provides a quick summary of the major premises and practical steps.

 

Wabash Center