Thursday, February 16, 2017

Finding a Way: Past, Present and Future of HDS

Article by Charles K. Michael on the present shape of Harvard Divinity School and future directions. 

Less than 40% of students are in the M.Div. program. 

"The Divinity School is no longer united around Protestantism. Its alumni are no longer connected by their work in religious ministry. But it is centered around service and community organizing, often for progressive causes, and has been since its founding in 1816."

Jon D. Levenson, a professor of Jewish Studies at the Divinity School, is one skeptic of the new curriculum. “For a long time, the Divinity School was primarily a Protestant seminary,” he says. “Those liberal Protestant denominations are underwater demographically—they have a negative birthrate, below replacement level. Their cultural influence has declined markedly. I think it was inevitable that a curriculum that spoke to the older identity of the school would have to change.”

Dean Hempton thinks that The Divinity School "doesn’t have a center of gravity in the same way that a single-denomination seminary would. Instead, he says, “The center of gravity has generally been more on the progressive side of religious issues… Many of our more recent alums have been involved in all kinds of progressive NGOs. I think that’s where the center of gravity is.”

For many students, the Divinity School’s lack of a single religious identity is a major benefit. In her day job, Divinity School graduate Kerry A. Egan cares for terminally ill patients in a hospice in South Carolina. She is the chaplain there, but her job is not to preach any one set of beliefs or teach any one doctrine—Egan is simply there as what she calls a “spiritual midwife,” whose role is “to help [the patient], sit with them, and say to them, ‘What do you already believe?’”

Egan is a Christian, but that does not change the way she cares for patients: “One of the things you learn as a chaplain is you walk out and say ‘I want to be all of the religions!’ You love them all. They all have so much beauty in them.”
Last fall, Egan published the book “On Living,” telling the stories of her patients and the lessons she’s drawn from them. To Egan, writing is a form of ministry, one that speaks to a much larger audience. This fits with the Divinity School’s mission to rethink how religious leadership works: “We’re broadening, in a way, the meaning of ministry to include other vocations besides congregational leadership,” says Rose.

The article concludes:
“We know that 84 percent of the world’s population declares that religion is a primary organizing principle of their lives,” says Hempton. “A place of real excellence where religion can be studied, without it being driven by a confessional or proselytizing agenda, I think is a good thing for the world.”

Monday, February 06, 2017

Sermon for Theological Education Sunday and Candlemas Feb 4th 2017

Thank you Father Sasser and the parish of St Paul's Bloomsburg PA for the invitation to preach on Theological Education Sunday and join your  celebration of Candlemas yesterday.

Friday, January 20, 2017

American Values Religious Voices 2017

American Values Religious Voices is a national nonpartisan campaign that brings together 100 scholars from a diverse range of religious traditions to articulate core American values that have grounded our nation in the past and should guide us forward at this time of transition. For the first 100 days of the new administration, we will send a one-page letter to President Trump, Vice President Pence, Cabinet Secretaries, and Members of the House and the Senate. The letters offer insight and inspiration drawn from the collective wisdom of our faith communities and their sacred texts.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Fantastic article on Newgrange by Jane Smiley:

"Experts are beginning to agree that Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth once served as astronomical monuments, noting their level of sophistication. Archaeologists rejected these ideas as fantasies for a long time, interpreting the orientation of the passages at Newgrange and Knowth as coincidental and the incised stones as a set of meaningless geometric designs.
In his 2012 book, “Newgrange, Monument to Immortality,” the Drogheda journalist and novelist Anthony Murphy points out that Neolithic farmers would have had many reasons to pay attention to weather, seasons and the passage of time. He also observes that they would be much more likely to pay close attention to the moon and the stars than we do, with our electric lights and internet data. He considers Newgrange and Knowth epic calendars that measured years, leap years and other temporal cycles.
I widened my range a little — there was so much to see, both in terms of landscape and of historical structures. In Monasterboice, six miles north of the river, there is a circular tower and a crowded graveyard containing the oldest known Celtic cross, still in beautiful condition. Not far from Collon — four miles from Monasterboice — are the remains of an enormous abbey from the 12th century (Old Mellifont), simultaneously neat, airy and spooky. There are towns (Donore, Navan) and castles (Trim, from the Norman period, and Slane, reconstructed in the 18th century, now the site of big rock concerts). There is Drogheda itself.
But Newgrange is the beginning — DNA analysis and archaeological evidence indicate that farming in the region began somewhere around 4500 B.C. It may have been that farmers from the Middle East came up the river in those log boats, discovered the unusual fertility of the valley (a result of the last ice age) and encountered an entrenched indigenous population. But there are no signs of a conflict; either the Neolithic farmers mixed peacefully with the Mesolithic foragers, or the foragers themselves imported agriculture, took those log boats to the east and returned. It was the farmers, having cleared the land and harvested their crops, who had the leisure time to build one passage tomb after another, Mr. Murphy suggested.
Archaeologists and investigators are not finished in the Valley of the Boyne. Many things are waiting to be discovered, put together, understood. As I looked across the rich green flow of the hills toward the setting sun, I expected to come back to this mystery."

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Advent is a Marian Month

In a wonderful article in the Washington Post, Nancy Ritter reflects on the Virgin Mary.
Here's her conclusion:
I think of Mary, and I am grateful.
I think of Mary, and I am comforted.
I think of Mary, and I am exultant.
I think of Mary, and I am enraged and grieved and ashamed that the sons of men should seek to steal, kill and destroy the daughters of God.
I think of Mary, and still I believe, that what God has spoken to her will someday be accomplished in us all.
Advent is a Marian month. In it we observe the feast of the Immaculate Conception (hers), the Annunciation and stories of Jesus' birth. Syrian Christian Tradition celebrates in the Sundays before Christmas a series of annunciations: to Zechariah, to Mary, her Visitation (to Elizabeth), and to Joseph with the nativity of John the Baptist.
Official Christian teaching has always sought to dissociate Mary from her female identity in these ways: she gave birth to Jesus painlessly and without sexual intercourse (virginal conception) and is thus a model for consecrated virgins; she is God-bearer (Theotokos) of a child both human and divine; she herself is sinless (immaculate conception) and does not carry the curse of Eve. Yet women in Christian tradition continue to identify with Mary precisely because she is a woman. 
In 1877, for example, an American missionary tried in vain to correct the notion that Mary interceded for women in Ottoman Armenia. She reported an encounter:
"There was another very religious women I once met with in one of the villages on Harpoot plain. She said, 'Lady, I love you, and think you are a real Christian, but one thing you say I cannot receive. You say the Virgin Mary is not our intercessor. What should we women do, if we could not call upon the Virgin when in trouble, or suffering? She was a woman, and knows how to pity women like us.' This is what they all say." 
(The photo is a print by Salvador Dali)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Inwardly Digest: The Prayer Book as Guide to a Spiritual Life Derek Olsen (Forward Movement) 2016

This new book by Derek Olsen from Forward Movement) looks very promising. Here's an interview with the author. After I read it, I will post some comments which may turn into a review.

Inwardly Digest

Inwardly Digest

The Prayer Book as Guide to a Spiritual Life

Derek Olsen

  • 2183
  • 978-0-880-28432-5
  • Book
  • In Stock
Buy in Bulk and Save!
1 - 9$22.00


Have you ever wondered if there was some kind of guide to living a deeper, richer spiritual life that seamlessly incorporated scripture alongside the wisdom of the Church? There is—and you can find it in a pew rack near you! The Book of Common Prayer is more than a service book; it is a map to a deeper relationship with God, a framework for developing a more intentional and rewarding life of faith.

Scholar Derek Olsen explores liturgical spirituality and how the prayer book serves as a repository of Christian wisdom and spiritual practice stretching back to the beginnings of the Christian movement. Focusing on three key elements—the Calendar, the Daily Office, and the Eucharist—he discusses the spiritual principles behind them and provides clear, practical, easy-to-follow explanations of the services. These patterns of life laid out in The Book of Common Prayer serve as a guide to the spiritual life, so that we might connect back to the God who calls each of us by name and that we might love as God loves us.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

What Scripture will you use for your Same-Sex Wedding Service?

Here's the last video in the Trinity series this past summer on the Bible and Marriage, this time on "Scripture Choices for Same-Sex Marriage services."