Sunday, December 13, 2009

Santa's on MY naughty list

Had two stories of Santas being naughty this week. One from a friend, and one that I experienced w/ my daughter. The first one is simple: my friend in Iowa saw Santa taking a smoke break in plain view of everyone (at Jolly Holiday Lights for ye DSM-dwellers).  My daughter, who is 9, and I went and saw Santa in this little plywood cabin yesterday at the public library in Harrisonburg. Breaking Santa protocol, Santa asked my daughter what she wanted to be when she grew up. Being a good sport, she told him she wanted to be a teacher.

Santa then proceeded to criticize this career move because teachers "don't make very much money." So he asked her again. Still being a good sport, she suggested a desire to perhaps be an artist. Santa grumbled and suggested she come up with "something better," suggesting being a scientist because they make a lot of money (itself a dubious claim).

As someone who recently left a relatively lucrative career in Information Technology to go to grad school and study theology and peacebulding, I was aghast at the nerve of this guy in the Santa suit, but was polite while we were in his presence. As soon as we were in the car, though, we had a discussion about why that encounter was a load of crap. She agreed, even commenting later in the day that she really didn't like that Santa.  I assured her that despite what Santa said, she could choose to be whatever the heck her heart, spirit, and mind are telling her to become. A teacher, or an artist, or an art teacher, or a teacher who is artistic, or whatever. Mid-stream changes are okay, too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Did I accomplish my goals?

About two weeks ago, with just over a week to go in my project for "Research as Art & Transformation," I had a quick discussion with my professor-adviser, Howard, and asked him for a bit of advice on how to finish out my project, which was still in fairly nebulous shape at that point. In Howard's office, unloading what I had learned so far but was still wondering how to put the finishing touches on, he sat and listened intently, as is his way. Howard's advice is always so simple and common-sense. In some ways, I think restorative justice, the field he helped envision and begin articulating is also a no-nonsense/back-to-basics/common-sense innovation (revolution?). But his advice here was just what I needed to hear: "go back to your initial project goals."

[slapping forehead]

This helped focus me in the final days and get the thing wrapped up and ready to go for the class presentation this past Tuesday in class. But I forgot to include any reflections on goals in my summary post. So here's a little postscript to tie the whole project in a bow, connecting it back to what I envisioned way back in September, which was distilled in this post from early Oct.: A (hopefully) modest proposal.

What I didn't list in that post, though, were these two goals I had for the project:
  • To deepen my understanding of how theology and peacebuilding intersect and interact
  • To facilitate a dialog along these same lines, hopefully building bridges in the process
So did I accomplish these goals with this class project? Read on after the break as I attempt to answer. A note on audience: I'm essentially writing this to anyone with familiarity with EMU and its Seminary and CJP, the two programs I'm studying in.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Smart people wrestling in church

The title of this blog post essentially describes what I've learned through the analysis process of this long project for class. After interviewing four EMU faculty members, asking each of them to essentially tell me the story of their spiritual-vocational journey, it's come to that assessment: "Smart people wresting in church."  The phrase is basically an interpretation of the top 5 themes that emerged from analysis of the interview transcripts. More about that process later, but here is the top 10 in a pretty pie chart:

Read on after the break for (a lot) more...

Lisa Schirch: Make it walk

Lisa taught the first class I took at the CJP in the fall of last year: Analysis - Understanding Conflict. While I was new in the program, there were other students with me who were not only new to the program but also new to American culture in general. Yet somehow the class quickly formed its own identity that was very close-knit, familiar, and friendly. In the midst of learning all sorts of conflict analysis tools, using them to analyze case studies such as post-election violence in Kenya in late 2007 (with two men from Kenya who had experienced it themselves), Lisa presided over all this with a wisdom and intelligence that flowed seamlessly into the classroom and the students, in the elicitive manner that I've come to understand as distinctly CJP. I knew from this class and from this instructor that this was not a typical graduate academic program.

Later that academic year, this past spring, Lisa and I participated in a facilitated round-table discussion on the topic of theology and peacebuilding, in which she made her case for the deep level of resonance that her faith has had in her peacebuilding practice and the deep overlap and common ground she sees between the two. (Aside: Mark Thiessen Nation and Peter Dula were also participants in this discussion.)

It was for these reasons that I wanted to interview Lisa as part of this project: my deep respect and admiration for her, as well as her continuing efforts toward integrating theology in her work as a peacebuilder. She is the only faculty member that I interviewed who isn't dealing specifically with theology in her role at the university. In this video, Lisa reflects on the joys and trials of being in a multi-faith peacebuilding program connected to a Christian, Anabaptist, Mennonite university:

To borrow terminology from Stuart Murray's excellent book, "Biblical Interpretation in the Anabaptist Tradition," I see in Lisa a strong focus on the very Anabaptist quality of a "hermeneutic of obedience," where how well someone is interpreting Scripture is measured by how they're living their life. This is a bit of an oversimplification of both Murray's book and Lisa's theology, but it's a helpful analogy for me.

Thank you, Lisa, for such an honest and even (at times) emotionally challenging interview, as well as good encouragement for the challenges of my "dual citizenship" here at EMU.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Heidi Miller Yoder: Gotta serve somebody

My first encounter with Heidi here at EMU came in my second semester last year while writing a term paper on the theologies of baptism for John Calvin and a somewhat recently-discovered 16th century Anabaptist figure, Pilgram Marpeck. Heidi's dissertation covers Marpeck, so a classmate and I sat down with her to get some help with sources for our papers. Her sharp intellect and clear articulation of theological concepts quickly struck me.  Later that spring, EMU hosted popular Christian thinker, writer, and speaker, Brian McLaren, and Heidi was coordinating the events for his time on campus, and I was asked to play guitar for a few songs during an evening speaking event.

When I sat down with Heidi for this interview in late October, I knew it was going to be a great conversation, and it was. What particularly stood out in this interview is how she immediately named her family and life in the church as pivotal starting points for her faith and spiritual formation. At the end of the interview, when talking about theology in a conceptual sense, she tied it all together with her early childhood experiences, bringing us full circle in the discussion. This was in the midst of talking about Anabaptist particulars in theology, and what it can offer the broader church (something she works at). Here's a video that offers some of her reflections:

There were other themes not explored in the video that were significant, such as the strong tie of theology to an education and early vocation that wasn't primarily theological (largely social work in various forms), but to which Heidi quite intentionally brought her faith and practical theology to bear. At various points through the interview Heidi named bridge-building as something she's been doing in various ways and to varying degrees much of her life. This is where I really level with her, as I see much of what I'm doing here at EMU, studying in both the CJP and Seminary, working toward those two degrees, as a theological experiment in bridge/peace-building.

Thanks, Heidi!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mark Thiessen Nation: Revival

The following video is the edited form of an interview I conducted with my theology professor at EMS, Mark Thiessen Nation. Mark is one of the leading scholars of John Howard Yoder, an influential theologian-ethicist from the latter third of the last century, who was also Mennonite. The first time I had Mark in class at seminary was one of my very first classes, "Christian Tradition," which he co-taught with two other wonderful professors. I was immediately drawn to Mark's sharp intellect and his clear articulation of theological concepts. As I've gotten to know him better, I've also come to appreciate his sense of humor.  He's a smart alec like me.

In this 15 min. video, Mark is essentially telling the story of his spiritual formation, which has led him to where he is now, vocationally: a theology professor at a seminary.

I enjoyed having this conversation with Mark. We laughed frequently and it felt very natural, even though there was a camera sitting there, pointed at his face the whole time.  I also enjoyed analyzing it. One thing that I came to appreciate is the centrality of the church in Mark's journey. Doing a simple word frequency analysis of the transcript showed that the word "church" came up more than anything else. Despite his vocational situation in the academy, Mark is still very much involved in the life of the church, and it continues to be where he situates his work. This is important for me to consider, as I'm in the midst of constantly discerning where my spiritual journey will take me next, vocationally.

Don't read into this deeply, but I laughed out loud when I saw this little statistic from the word frequency analysis of the transcript: the word "Jesus" and "Yoder" were mentioned the same number of times in our conversation. Again, I'm not trying to make any sort of critical statement by pointing this out, but my fellow students - or anyone familiar with Mark - will get a chuckle out of this. He is, as I said, a Yoder scholar. (e.g. a new book of Yoder essays he helped edit: The War of the Lamb: The Ethics of Nonviolence and Peacemaking)

Mark is also my neighbor. Last year, he and his wife, Mary, invited my family over for supper. I was immediately struck by how many books this man has. We entertained my daughter during discussion after supper by having her go through his shelves of biblical commentaries in the adjacent room and find ones that were out of order.  When she found one, she'd show it to Mark and he would reshelf it correctly.  So here's a picture to show you just one corner of his office and the bookshelves. But there are two other walls that you don't see...

I also get a kick out of the pictures hanging above his computer monitor. There are other family and personal pictures in his office, but these are the folks that are looking at him from the wall as he's working on his computer. I recognize John M. Perkins, Stanley Hauerwas (with whom Mark shares a friendship with), and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

I really like Mark, and I hope that came through in this post. He's a neat guy and I'm thrilled to be studying under his tutilege and it's a bummer that he's on sabbatical this year (although I'm sure he doesn't asses it this way). You might see some footage from the interview repeated in subsequent posts, as I'll be working with material from all four interviews I conducted with EMU faculty in a more collage-like fashion, exploring the similarities and differences in how these conversations went with more or less the same line of questioning.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

10 Ways to Live Restoratively

My professor, adviser, and friend, Howard Zehr, just posted something worth reading over at his Restorative Justice blog on the EMU site:

10 Ways to Live Restoratively

A few things jump out at me:
  • Interconnection
  • Awareness/Sensitivity
  • Taking responsibility
  • Respect
  • Deep listening
  • Compassion
Since encountering them, the values of restorative justice have resonated deeply with me. Obviously, the field they seek to sustain inspired the name of this blog, and at some point I would love to start articulating what I think the name of this blog actually means, and it will likely be adapted from material like this and given Christian theological language. Indeed, there is already a chapter in Howard's landmark book, Changing Lenses, that deals with biblical justice, as well as there being a book in the Little Books of Justice & Peacebuilding series called The Little Book of Biblical Justice. So I'm not treading on fresh ground here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Restorative Church Government?

Found a great discussion on church governance this morning over at the New Ways Forward blog, and it got me thinking (uh oh).

I might end up rehashing some of what I posted there in the comments section, but wanted to throw it out to anyone who may see this on the blog or on F'book. The conversation there was about governance models (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational) but seemed to start morphing into a commentary on the decision-making process in a congregation. These two aren't necessarily the same thing, but neither are they so cleanly delineated.

This also came up for me in my "Formation in Ministry" class at EMS this fall, while watching case study videos on how church leaders can keep themselves from getting sucked into the emotional vortex that can sometimes (often?) be congregational change and/or decision-making. The focus of these videos was on the leader themselves, using a systems theory approach, but I kept asking myself "Yes, but what could have been done to keep the congregation from forming into sub-groups around special interests?"

A few options come to mind:
It seems to me that these kinds of approaches, which aren't common at all in congregations, would go a long way to eliciting broader participation without jeopardizing or changing the existing church structures. You don't have to get rid of elders or leaders or even committees. There is still a need for clearly defined leadership in organizations. But there is also a need for the wider body to have a voice (and they must feel it, too). And these methods can help with that, mitigating the chaos that can happen if you just let everyone speak at once with no clear process in place to facilitate order.

Another potential resource:
Promise and Peril: Understanding and Managing Change and Conflict in Congregations by David R. Brubaker (one of my professors at EMU's Center for Justice & Peacebuilding)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cheap book alert and a wish

Thx to Nate Myers for pointing this out: "The Myth of a Christian Nation" by Greg Boyd, is only $1.99 (hardcover!) before shipping from  My copy showed up in the mail today and I just read through the introduction. No comments to put here yet, but I do know some quite patriotic (and intelligent) Christian brothers whom I love dearly that I would LOVE to sit down with after all having read this book for some good discussion.

Aside from a high degree of nonresistance/nonviolence/pacifism, my religious tradition, Anabaptism, has always been highly suspicious of governments because of our collective memory of persecution at the hands of states married to state churches as early as the 16th century in Europe.  It's that experience which had a profound impact on our modes of biblical interpretation and ethical practice.  Boyd doesn't come from this tradition, but he and I agree on this argument of his.  Therefore, I'd love to sit down with someone who does not share this tradition nor agree with Boyd's argument.

One thing I loved in the intro: while Boyd acknowledges the focus of his argument was intended for those on the political right, he made it clear that those on the political left need to hear it just as much, for different reasons.  As a perpetual political moderate, this was music to my ears.

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Riding the waves of an elusive reality"

Just got back from lunch with a CJP-Seminary dual-degree prospective student, who was on a campus visit to EMU from Ohio.  I love the opportunity to meet with prospective students in the two programs.  First, it hopefully helps them in discerning a very significant, life-changing decision.  Second, it helps me figure out why I'm here in these programs, studying for four or five years, with no strong sense for what/where comes next.  Last, and perhaps most important: the lunch is free (to me).  Through stimulating discussion that went by in a flash, my discussion with him helped me see some of the things that are really great about living in two academic worlds simultaneously, and what's not so great.  So after the jump, there's a quick three-each list:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What does it mean to be faithful?

During worship planning this week for church, the guiding question for our scriptural discernment became: "What does it mean to be faithful?"  Moira Rogers is a professor at EMU, in the Language & Literature Dept. and came up with a beautiful reflection to share this morning:
[Faithfulness is] accepting God’s invitation to partner with him in the creation of His New Jerusalem: a city of beauty, a city where all are welcome, a city that does not need to close its gates with fear of who may enter.

Faithfulness means raising our sight, opening our hearts and minds to God’s powerful vision for creation and for all humans, and being willing to become agents of wholeness and restoration.

Faithfulness requires of us the capacity to accept surprises that upset our orderly views of the world and become artists who ride the waves of an elusive reality gracefully, empowered by his love and guiding Spirit.
The last line is what grabbed my attention in worship: becoming "artists who ride the waves of an elusive reality..."  Wow!  What an amazing description of the almost-but-not-quite Kingdom of God!  Phew.  I threw this YouTube video together, using these words as well as music from a composer in our congregation, Jim Clemens, and some fair-use-friendly visual art from my favorite Lectionary site.

Hope you like it!

[UPDATE: Had to remove the YouTube video for some copyright concerns from Moira.]

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Research as Art & Transformation - class reflections

Yesterday in research class we were supposed to pair up and interview each other on how the class was going, and report back to the instructors, Howard & Paulette.  My friend, Ryan, and I grabbed the camera, ran outside, and took our 15 minutes filming our reflections...and a few other things.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Project update: 3 interviews in the bag

For Howard's research class tomorrow morning, I'm supposed to provide a report on the first interview for our project.  Well, I've completed three interviews since I last posted here, so I'll use this space to talk about the process and the progress.  Read on for more!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Project update: interview requests sent

Last night, I sent off interview requests to four EMU faculty members, along with the interview guidelines document, which I will re-print here.  This essentially is a schedule for each interview session:
  1. Briefing
    1. Talk about the recording equipment, how recording will be used
    2. Talk about the photography at the end of the session
  2. Interview
    1. Question: Tell me about the earliest experience you can remember where you thought about God.
    2. Question: Tell me about when you started to become interested in theology in the formal, academic sense.
    3. Question: What is theology to you now? How do you think about it? How do you practice it?
  3. Debriefing
    1. Make observations about themes I heard in responses, and ask for clarifications or elaborations
    2. Ask if there's anything else they'd like to share
    3. Promise that transcripts will be delivered and approval asked for
    4. Promise that final product will be made readily available to them
    5. Thank them for the interview, prepare again for the photography
  4. Take Photos

My prof, Howard, also suggested that I be ready with a list of follow-up questions for each listed above, so I still have to get those ready before I do the first interview.  I haven't heard back from any of them yet, but read on if you're interested in who they are...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In these scant few verses...

This morning, I sat down to write a reflection paper for my biblical interpretation class.  It is the culmination of over a month spent in just six verses of the Gospel of Mark, 14:3-9.  Here is the text, from the NRSV (with verse numbers removed):
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.

But some were there who said to one another in anger, "Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they scolded her.

But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her."
What follows is the last of seven papers I wrote for this class, on this text.  It is the final step in the exegetical process: theological reflection.  For the non-seminary crowd, "exegesis" can simply be defined as "close reading."  Seven or eight weeks on six verses of scripture certainly qualifies as that.  Read on to see what conclusions I came to...

A note on integration

While I have been an active participant in an online virtual community for almost ten years, I didn't hop on the blog bandwagon once they came around earlier this decade.  I certainly have followed a ton of blogs over the years, but had never started one of my own until this one came along.

But there's also another blog that I've been contributing to this fall, and that is the one listed on the right in "The Well" section: The Table.  This is the blog for my church, an experimental Mennonite fellowship/congregation that meets on the EMU campus.  While it is not officially affiliated with the university, by virtue of our location we do draw quite a university-centric crowd.

My posts there this academic year are tied to my seminary internship, which is rooted in that congregation.  They have so far dealt mostly with communal reading, study, and discernment of scripture as the foundation for planning worship services from week to week that rarely look alike, although do contain constant elements such as weekly celebration of communion.  So take a peak there if you're interested in seeing some of my other online writings.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Spirituality of the Cocoon

"Elohim Creating Adam" by William Blake
(view larger image)
The Spirituality of the Cocoon - by me
Almost but not quite
Across my face, shafts of light
Fully formed but not created

Encased in glass
Etching my dreams across the pane
Twisted, crimped and dangling

Wings rustle above me
Soft hair brushes my cheek
Gasping, dusty lungs crackle

Gelatinous eyes rolling, sloshing
Then coming to rest, opening
Ensnaring vines crack and fall away
A mighty wind rises with me

Calling out, fading with the rising sun:
"Awake, O sleeper,
and rise from the dead!"

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A (hopefully) modest proposal

This post is mostly of the housekeeping/full-disclosure variety.  It's the note form of my project proposal for my class w/ Howard Zehr & Paulette Moore: "Research as Art and Transformation."  One thing I like about the project described in my previous post is the way in which Paulette and her partner used the blog.  They used it not only for the final form of the project, but also the entire process of creating the project, from concept to realization.  So I'll be aping that paradigm here...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's Just Architecture!

In research class this morning, our instructor, Paulette Moore, showed the class this excellent video she and a fellow student worked on last year, while she was completing coursework at the CJP.  It's called "Pillars of Justice" and it explores the psychological impact of architecture in court rooms in West Virginia.  The video is 23 minutes long, but it's very well-done: good music and good transitions, and atmosphere.  Even humor!  There are volume level issues that slipped through editing, but it was for a class project and not national TV, so this isn't a deal-breaker for me in the least.  It's worth the time invested because it looks at something soooo many people take for granted, and challenges assumptions; something I love!

Pillars of Justice from Paulette Moore on Vimeo.

So what hath this to do with theology?  Well, not much, perhaps.  This video speaks to how our institutions and processes are informed by so many different things that we often take for granted.  Architecture, for instance.  There is a marvelous quote in this video from one of their interview subjects that "architecture is in the mind," and he even extends it to not being just physical space, but also process architecture.  The machinery of justice, in this case: courtrooms.

But then there is an implication to theology, perhaps.  Theology is a process with a particular architecture in a certain arena.  I've heard theology in the academic arena described in very exclusivist and competitive terms.  Who's "winning," who's in and who's out.  If this is true, does it reflect the Christian values that we're trying to embody?  Is it a fight for airtime we're after?

If my impressions of academic theology are correct, then it sounds like a game I'm really not interested in playing, despite my academic study at seminary being rooted there.  I'd rather see theology played out in the public square, much like the reflections and learning that seems to come out of this video on architecture and justice.  I'm not a total anarchist, I do believe in the value of wise subject matter experts, but I'd rather see those experts interacting with the public, churched and unchurched, than having them fight it out with each other, essentially, behind closed doors.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Restoring a sense of humor

A friend of mine who grew up in the same church recently wondered "why some people seem to think 'christian' and 'sense of humor' are mutually exclusive terms."  He is a tremendously intelligent, hilarious, and humble Brethren sojourning with Dutch Reformers as a youth minister in Iowa.  And I wonder the same thing from time to time.  Humor has been high on my list of desirable qualities and behaviors my whole life.   When I was in kindergarten, I used to stand outside my classroom after recess, as the fifth graders were just going out to recess.  I would do a spot-on Woody Woodpecker impression for them, and it never failed to get a rise out of the big kids.  Of course, this often got a hyperactive kid like me in trouble a lot, but I eventually learned how to balance appropriately (not until late in high school).

So last year, some friends and classmates in seminary got together for two final projects in our year-long Christian Tradition class and made spoof news shows that cover 2,000 years of church history.  We had a blast collaboratively writing the show, filming it, and editing it.  The last step was often done into the wee hours of the morning just a day or two before the project was due, but we hung together to bang it out, and it was great.  We laughed our asses off through the whole process, but we took seriously the subject matter.

Indeed, in order to do comedy well, you have to be serious in some respects.  You can't parody something you don't know anything about, so we took our studies seriously.  Another thing I find interesting about humor is its referential nature that is often culturally-bound.  How many jokes are funny outside their cultural context?  Not many.

So here are the two episodes of Millennium Update whose slogan is "Church History from a Heavenly Perspective."  Each episode 20-30 minutes long, and each is broken up into a series of shorter YouTube videos strung together in a playlist.  The intended audience is definitely a seminary-educated crowd, but I think there is still some material in there for folks with a modicum of interest in church history to chuckle at.

Episode I - Fall '08

Episode II - Spring '09

Saturday, October 3, 2009

What is "restorative theology," anyway?

Hello friends and strangers, and welcome to my attempt at articulating and bringing clarity (for myself, hopefully others) to a few threads of study that I find myself immersed in as a grad student at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in lovely Harrisonburg, Virginia. Those two threads are theology and peacebuilding, and they represent the two graduate divisions I am studying in at EMU: the Seminary and the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding (CJP). In the process of discerning a call to ministry and learning all this wild and crazy stuff, I'm actively seeking how these threads will converge and shape my vocation after grad school. That won't be until at least 2013, so I have plenty of time to think and write about it here. You're welcome.

So why "restorative theology?" Well, my emphasis in study at the CJP is restorative justice, a field pioneered around 30 years ago by folks like Howard Zehr, who is now my professor and academic adviser (and friend; he's a great guy) at the CJP. Restorative justice saw the criminal justice system in the West as being almost exclusively focused on crimes against the state (violations of law) and punishing the people who violated those laws, while simultaneously leaving the needs of the victims of wrongdoing going unmet. Restorative justice practitioners came along to restore (get it?) balance to the responses to wrongdoing and address the needs of all parties involved: victims, offenders, families, the community, and even society at large. This is my off-the-cuff answer with no citations, but it will do for now. A seminal book in this field was written by Howard in 1990, called Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice. I've linked to his blog above, and it's also listed to the right in "The Well" section.

So that's "restorative"; now for "theology." Without going into excessive detail, I feel comfortable saying that I've loved theology since I was a little kid. I grew up in a rural Church of the Brethren congregation in central Iowa where there were tons of Protestants of many stripes, particularly Dutch Reformed and Methodists. I was best friends with a boy whose family was Catholic and we used to compare notes. I remember getting into a theological discussion with his dad on the way to Des Moines from our hometown of Prairie City, discussing the fine points of saying confession before death. My friend was bored out of his mind, but his dad and I were having a blast. So when I came to the seminary at EMU at the age of 29, I felt right at home.

In "The Well" section at the right, you'll see a link to a site called Peace Theology, which is written by Ted Grimsrud, a professor at EMU's undergraduate division of Bible & Religion. He and my seminary theology professor, Mark Thiessen Nation, are both pacifists in the Anabaptist and Mennonite tradition, which I also place myself in (a Brethren sojourning w/ Mennonites).
[Update: "The Well" is now called "In conversation" and Ted's and Howard's blogs have rotated out of that list which changes quite often. -bg 3/11/2011]

That's a bit of the historical context for this blog, "restorative theology." Now let's look forward. What am I going to do with it?

Well, one of the first things I have in mind is a very specific class project for a research methods class I'm taking this fall at the CJP (taught by Howard): Research as Art and Transformation. I'm planning on interviewing four EMU professors about theology and peacebuilding, taking a few photographs, editing the video, typing some words and posting the finished product here. If it's engaging to the people I interview and anyone I badger into reading it, hopefully, interesting dialog can take place in the comments sections. So that will be coming in the next two months (before the end of the semester!).

In addition to that, I have the hope of honing the craft of theological writing in various ways. My emphasis of study at the seminary is academics, and I will be focusing on theology and ethics. Theology is, among other things, an academic discipline with a loooooooooooooooong history, and one that I have yet to be initiated into (until next spring). But theology is also, more generally, a way (or ways) to think about God and the ultimate purpose for this life of ours, individually and collectively. So as I exercise both the general and formal practices of theology, I will use this blog for that adventure.