Friday, May 15, 2015

May 18th St Paul's Chapel 6.30pm - 8.30pm book launch of The Nation's First Monument and the Origins of the American Memorial Tradition

06:30 pm to 08:30 pm, May 18, 2015
  • St. Paul's Chapel
Trinity Wall Street invites you to celebrate the launch of "The Nation’s First Monument and the Origins of the American Memorial Tradition," by Sally Webster. Dr. Webster will deliver an informal talk at 7pm. Light refreshments will be served. Please RSVP by May 15
or call 212.602.0746.
Sally Webster is Professor Emerita of American Art at Lehman College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. An authority on historic murals and monuments, her latest book, "The Nation’s First Monument and the Origins of the American Memorial Tradition," was published in April 2015. She is also the author of "Eve’s Daughter/Modern Woman: A Mural by Mary Cassatt" and an essay in the forthcoming Blackwell Companion to Public Art. Professor Webster
is a writer-in-residence in New York Public Library’s Wertheim Study.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Seeking an Image of Christ

St John's College Cambridge has resumed podcasts of Choral Evensong and here is a link to the sermon of the first Evensong of April 26th 2015 by Mr Sandy Nairne director of the National Portrait Gallery in London initiating the theme "Seeking an Image of Christ."

In the absence of an image of Christ one could consider, he posits, what Christ stands for even at the edges of human experience.

Think of presence. Mr Nairne speaks of an exhibit of late Rembrandt paintings at the National Portrait Gallery as examples of the wear and tear of human existence in which time stands still as a portrait of the survival and staying power of the artist in the face of bankruptcy and deterioration.

Then he considers Mark Rothko's post war abstract paintings that may not be intended as directly religious. But his Chapel is a sacred space for religious experience of all to give space for tragedy as well as silence.

Next he considers witness. Bill Viola's symbolic rather than narrative work Martyrs is exhibited at St Paul's Cathedral. This explores the concept of sacrifice and moves the viewer from distance into participation. For what might one be prepared to die? Is this an image of Christ in another form?

Monday, March 16, 2015

17 killed, 80 injured at two churches in Lahore, Pakistan on March 15th 2015

Bombers kill 17, injure at least 80 in Pakistan church attacks
March 16, 2015 by Asif Aqeel

At least 17 people were killed, and 80 others injured, as two churches in the main Christian district of Lahore, Pakistan, were attacked March 15. An Islamist group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, linked to the Pakistan Taliban, claimed responsibility. 

At least two of the young attackers blew themselves up – one at each church – when volunteer security guards, working with local police, confronted them at the entrances to the churches.
The attacks were timed to cause maximum damage; more than 2,000 worshippers were present in the two churches for Sunday services. But prompt action by the Christian volunteers prevented the attackers from entering the buildings.

The incidents took place in Yahounabad, the poverty-stricken Christian neighbourhood in Lahore, outside two churches, St. John’s Catholic Church and the Protestant Christ Church, separated by just 400 metres.

Christ Church attack
It was 11 a.m. and several shops in front of Christ Church were open when one of the suicide bombers blew himself up.

Elias Masih, the manager of one of the shops, died in the attack; his brother, Maqbool Bhatti, told World Watch Monitor they had been watching a cricket match when they heard gunshots.
“I rushed to see [what was happening] and saw a young boy approaching the church entrance, while aiming at everyone in front of him with an automatic machine gun,” Bhatti said. “He shot the policeman standing outside the church, killing him instantly.”

Asher Wasim, a member of Christ Church who reached the scene within a few minutes, said the shooter acted as a battering ram, “clearing the way for the bomber [as he approached] the entrance from the opposite side.”

One volunteer security guard, Yousuf Goga, died next to the policeman, while another, Shamim Bhatti, was at the time of this report in a critical condition in hospital.
Riaz Anjum, a resident of Yahounabad whose brother runs a medical store in front of Christ Church, told World Watch Monitor that another volunteer, 32-year-old Obaid Sardar Khokhar, overpowered the suicide bomber and dragged him away from the entrance. The bomber blew himself up instantly, killing Alias Masih, Khokhar and his pregnant wife Ambreen. The couple’s bodies were taken to their home village, Stuntzabad, where they were buried on Monday (16 March).

Talking to World Watch Monitor, Ambreen Khokhar’s father, Mukhtar Joseph, said they had been on their way to meet their daughter when the incident took place.
He said that his daughter was leaving the church with her three-year-old daughter, Angelina, when the attack took place.

“Obaid rushed to the scene and overpowered the suicide bomber but [the bomber’s] accomplice shot Obaid in the head. [Angelina] ran after her father, so Ambreen hurried to save her. The terrorist firing also shot and killed Ambreen. She died saving her daughter.”

St. John Catholic Church attack
The impact of the attack outside the St. John Catholic Church was lessened by a security volunteer, Akash Bashir, 16. Akash’s father, Bashir Emmanuel, told World Watch Monitor that Akash’s family often tried to stop Akash from joining church security volunteers, but that he wanted to offer his life for the security of his community.

“One man approached the church from one side while firing, while the other one – in a suicide jacket – attempted to scale the church boundary wall,” said Emmanuel.
“Akash rushed to grab him by his leg. The suicide bomber warned him to get away, as he had a suicide jacket. But Akash pulled him down and left the bomber with no choice but to blow himself up, instantly killing Akash and several others.”

Asher Wasim, a member of Christ Church who arrived there within 5 minutes of that attack, said that he’d been later told that, despite the claim from government that police thwarted the attacks, two of the three policemen outside St. John’s Catholic Church had been watching the cricket in a shop near the church.

The news immediately spread across the country, and other churches quickly brought their services to a halt.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan that for a brief period pledged allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, has claimed responsibility for orchestrating the attacks.

“We promise that until an Islamic system is put into place in Pakistan, such attacks will continue. If Pakistan's rulers think they can stop us, they should try to do so,” their representative told al-Jazeera.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed the attack was carried out by the Aafia Siddiqui Brigade, named afterAafia Siddiqi, a Pakistani woman sentenced in the United States to 86 years in jail for helping the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan condemned the incident, saying that “terrorists are now trying to persecute easy targets.”

Imran Khan, leader of the country’s second largest political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, in a tweet described the incidents as “shameful”.

Pakistan Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif ordered an inquiry into the incident.
Angry protestors immediately came out and blocked Ferozepur Road, the main road to the nearby border with India - at one end of the Yahounabad colony. They pelted cars with stones and did not allow the police to enter the colony for about three hours.

Yahounabad residents had helped to elect the Chief Minister of Punjab, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, from the ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). But the protestors were not willing to negotiate with Senator Kamran Michael, from his party, a well-known Christian leader in politics. 
There are conflicting reports about two Muslims who were set upon by an angry mob. Some reports said they carried weapons, other reports said they had been firing them. Some media reported they were suspects thought to have attacked the churches. Other reports said they were, separately, planning to attack another small church in Khaliqnagar, a Christian settlement next to Yahounabad.
What is known for certain is the two Muslims were beaten by an angry mob and eventually burned alive on Ferozepur Road.  A man spoke out on Monday to say that his brother Naeem, a glasscutter, was one of them and that he had nothing to do with the church attacks. 

The burning of two suspects on Sunday divided Muslims in Pakistan over the tragedy. One young Muslim commented on a post on the Yahounabad issue as following:
“Christians (Chuhras) have set on fire two Muslims today. I am only sad about their death.” Chuhra is a pejorative term often used to describe Christians.

As a response, relations between beleaguered Christians in small pockets deteriorated. A protest rally by Muslims was staged March 16 in Dulam, a mile away from Yahounabad, where about 25 Christian households are located. Christians living in Dulam immediately called Christians of other areas, fearing anattack by the rally, which changed its route after police warnings.
Minority-rights activist Napoleon Qayyum told World Watch Monitor that a Christian, Riaz Masih, was battered with the butt of a gun angry by Muslims on March 16 in Kasur, about 50 miles from Lahore.

“Riaz took part in a rally to condemn the Yahounabad attacks,” Qayyum said. “But a number of Muslims gathered there took offence and critically beat Riaz, who was later hospitalized.”
Qayyum, who lives 100 yards from St. John’s Catholic Church, said police were not providing security to the church. “The local police station had been requested to provide a walk-through gate for security, but no such measure was put in place,” he said.

A Catholic nun, identified as Sister Arsene, who had reached one church 30 minutes after it had been attacked, tried to explain to the BBC why the subsequent anger had spilled out of control. “We’re treated as second class citizens,” she said. “We’d like the government to give Christians our due place and due right. That’s why the angry youths reacted.”

All Christian mission educational institutions closed March 16 to denounce the attacks.
However, the Christians of Yahounabad again took to the streets and again blocked the Ferozepur Road. The situation between Christians and Muslims of the area deteriorated to the point that police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters, after at least seven people were injured.
By the evening of March 16, the Pakistan Rangers were deployed to keep order. The Rangers are part of the paramilitary forces of Pakistan, and operate directly under the Interior Ministry.
One Pakistani Christian told World watch Monitor: “Yesterday it was terrorism. Today it’s turning into communal strife. Just one stupid act, and we are all now at risk,” the Christian said, in reference to the killing of the two Muslims.    

Christians, about 2 percent of Pakistan’s population, are mostly concentrated in small settlements. They are often poorly educated and illiterate due to lack of opportunity and discrimination. 
Anjum and Qayyum suggested that the two church security volunteers who died, Akash and Obaid, be given a civil award to recognize their valour and service to the Christian community and the country. “In the past, Aitzaz Hassan was awarded for stopping a suicide bomber from entering his school. He was awarded by the government. But when such an act of bravery is done by a Christian the government doesn’t recognize their service.”

In October 2013, shortly after twin suicide bombers killed 96 and injured 133 in Peshawar, three men were arrested, after they were spotted at a wedding in St. John’s Catholic church, the same church attacked on March 15. 

The men, Pashtoon in origin, were spotted by security guards, who noticed the outsiders and asked why they had come to the wedding. When they could not provide a reason, they were handed over to the police.

Locals say they have noticed Pashtoons, from the north-west region of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan, moving into Yahounabad – one of the largest Christian settlements in South Asia – in recent years. They add that they are concerned not only by possible terrorist attacks, but also of increasing hostilities to the long-term residents, such as trying to manoeuvre them out of this prime area of the city, by buying up land.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Prof Boyarin at Barnard, A Genealogy for Judaism, March 23, 25, April 1st, 2015

The 2015 Bampton Lectures in America will be given by Talmudic scholar Daniel Boyarin, speaking on: A Genealogy for JudaismProfessor Boyarin will be presenting four lectures over a two-week period:
Monday, March 23
Was There Judaism in Pre-Modernity?: The Terms of the Debate
Wednesday, March 25
Can a Word Exist if No One Says It or Writes It?
Monday, March 30
What Do Jews Talk About When They Don’t Talk About Judaism? 
Wednesday, April 1
Can a Concept Exist Without a Word?There will be a public reception following the final lecture in the series on Wednesday, April 1, to celebrate the completion of the series.

All lectures will take place at 7:00pm in Held Lecture Hall, room 304 on the third floor of Barnard Hall.  A map of Barnard’s campus is available here.
These lectures are free of charge and open to all.  Please register to attend through this form.

Founded in 1948, the Bampton Lectures in America are a series of biennial lectures given by prominent scholars in the fields of theology, science, art, and medicine. Established through a bequest from Ada Byron BamptonTremaine, the Lectures are delivered to a general audience and subsequently published. Included among those who have delivered the Bampton lectures are: Arnold Toynbee, Paul Tillich, Fred Hoyle, Alasdair C. MacIntyre, Jonathan Riley-Smith, and Irving Weissman.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lenten Series: Mercer School of Theology--Cathedral of the Incarnation, Garden City LI

Lenten Soup & Study
Lenten Soup & Study will take place at Mercer School of Theology beginning on Wednesday, February 25th. We have invited Dr. Deirdre Good, New Testament Professor at General Theological Seminary, to be our presenter. A soup supper will be offered at 7:00pm and the study will run on the following Wednesday’s, February 25th, March 4th, March 11th and March 18th from 7:30 pm-8:30 pm and will close with Compline. Please make this a part of your Lenten discipline. Please RSVP on Tuesday’s for the weeks you plan to attend to Shirley White at 746-2955
Our Journey with Jesus in the Gospel Narrative
Focusing on the human events of Jesus' life: narrative (journey including Genesis, Exodus and Jerusalem); discipleship (following Jesus; understanding, perception and misperception; human identity (Son of Man, family, suffering); and the reign/power of God (parables, miracles, exorcisms, baptism, resurrection and ascension), we will journey with Jesus towards Jerusalem.
Dr. Deirdre Good is Professor of New Testament at The General Theological Seminary in NYC specializing in the Synoptic Gospels, Christian Origins, non-canonical writings and biblical languages (Greek and Coptic). While she is an American citizen, she grew up in Kenya where her parents were missionaries. She has written books on Matthew's portrait of Jesus (Jesus the Meek King, 1999), on Mary traditions in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Mariam, the Magdalen and the Mother, 2005), on households and family in the time of Jesus (Jesus' Family Values, 2006) and most recently, Reading the New Testament, A Fortress Introduction with Bruce Chilton (2010). She also blogs for Episcopal Cafe.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Met Museum Viewpoints

The Metropolitan Museum has been doing a series (for how long I cannot tell) Viewpoints on body language from particular sculptures with a link to Storify. There are accompanying lectures. It is fascinating.

How does the sculpted body communicate? Hear from Met experts, leading authorities, and rising stars, each with a unique perspective on the language of gesture, facial expression, and pose.
Hear diverse viewpoints from curators, educators, musicians, theater actors and directors, neuroscientists, and a deaf American Sign Language user.
Watch videos of dancers and choreographers interpret the body's expression.
Share your viewpoints on social media. We'll repost selections on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and Pinterest.
Body Language features twenty works of sculpture from three departments: European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Medieval Art, and the American Wing.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Way of Wisdom from April 2014

Way of Wisdom: General Theological Seminary new direction

by Deirdre Good
In January of 2014, the faculty of General Theological Seminary returned from a retreat in Florida with new ideas about theological education. We had engaged with each other for the inside of a week. We heard Tom Brackett of the Episcopal Church Center, who works in Church Planting and Ministry Redevelopment, via a Skype presentation. The outcome of all this good work and serious deliberation was a statement called Way of Wisdom. We also identified broader issues – e.g. implications for our own residential and commuter community–on which to continue working in committees and in Faculty Colloquia lunches. WoW itself first saw the public light of day in various faculty and decanal sermons, homilies and talks on Feb 2nd, 2014, Theological Education Sunday. We talked about it at our Board of Trustees meeting later that week and gave it a formal airing in the seminary at a community discussion on April 1st. Since then it has been reported in Episcopal Cafe, in seminary publications, and other places.
Here is a summary:
The Gospel amplifies the prophet’s call to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” This summons is addressed to the whole church, all its members. It is of the essence of the Way of Wisdom. It is a ministry for those who are in need, those who suffer, those who seek the wellbeing of their neighbor. It is not a way to serve ourselves or preserve any institution. The Way of Wisdom is the way of those who love justice and kindness, the Way of those who walk with God together with their fellow Christians.
• We call on all Christians to renew their commitment to the Way of Wisdom and their appreciation of the depths of Christian tradition, especially learning from those who are least among them.
• We call on seminaries and the wider Church to commit to supporting sustainable levels of high-quality theological education for all levels of the church (laity, priests, deacons, and bishops) and for all levels of study, from Catechesis through doctoral study.
• We call for greater cooperation between the seminaries in realizing this goal of theological education for the whole Church.
• We invite the bishops of the church to re-commit themselves to their teaching role as listening theologians to work to revive and reform the catechumenate for our time, and for church-wide support of the formation of catechists and other church teachers.
• We call on all members of the Episcopal Church to more deeply appropriate the vision of the Church as a community of all the baptized, as found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
• We call on all clergy to more deeply appreciate the Wisdom found in the people in their congregations.
• We call on theologians and theological educators to make Wisdom their paramount priority and to seek to integrate all aspects of theological inquiry as a coherent whole.
• We as the faculty of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church pledge to follow the Way of Wisdom more deeply in our own lives and to change our courses and our curricula to better enable our students to encourage and help others on the Way of Wisdom.
In all my years working at GTS, I find WoW to be the most promising development of our seminary life. It’s about something we’re all doing, whether in seminaries or parishes or offices or soup kitchens–the re-ordering of our intellectual and spiritual selves toward God. It values the contributions of all. What’s distinctive about our input is that it comes out of our common deliberations on the integration of shared disciplines as they can be brought to bear on lived religious experiences in churches and other places of mission around us and so to deepen our life in Christ. It reorients us to older materials in Christian tradition: the Didache, for example, is not simply “Teaching” but a manual entitled “Training” of the Apostles and early followers of Jesus. I’ve longed for this since I came to GTS.
An example indicates earlier attitudes. Shortly after I arrived 27 years ago, Dean James Fenhagen, R.I.P, sought language to affirm my presence amongst the faculty. He said to me, “The Church needs the laity.” We now know better: the Church is the laity. 
GTS has since then undergone seismic changes that not only bring us to this point but also help us understand whence we come. Where formerly the lived experience of Christians in parishes and other places of ministry was discounted and objectified as mere practice, now these are celebrated as central places where our theological disciplines engage the faith of the baptized in Christ already living and working in the world. Where once ministry was something done in parishes and places of ministry to people perceived to be in need of the church’s wares, now we seek to recognize and build on what Bishop Charleston identifies as the sharing and receiving of community. Where once the clergyperson was the epicenter for all parish activity, now we are working with others across the Church to empower clergy and lay leadership collaboration, which many already know to be the heart of congregational ministry and vitality.
We’ve begun to build an integrated curriculum across disciplines for every week of every semester for every year in every degree program. Then we will create a sequence in which each year will build on the next by emphasizing and cultivating a developing sequence of Stages of Wisdom that Professor Davis identified with us in a recent Faculty Colloquy. Such an approach develops earlier Christian instruction: the Epistle to Diognetus 11, for example summarizes materials for use in catechesis or liturgy:
Then respect for the law is sung,
And the grace of the prophets is recognized,
And the faith of the gospels is launched,
And the tradition of the apostles is maintained,
And the joy of the Church abounds.
Each step requires careful synthesis across disciplines. Each stage builds on the others. Here is an overview of what we are considering as the first and the final stages.
The first stage is attention to and awareness of God’s work and presence in our lives and in the world around us (e.g. Job 28:28). Here we might identify, amongst other things, a pattern of lived religion in our common life. This one includes the discipline of listening and observing. Professor Lamborn already teaches a class for incoming students encouraging reflection on what living in community means. They ask what the meaning and challenges are of integrating learning into Christian community. What are spiritual practices that will help achieve balance? How can we increase abilities to reflect theologically in many contexts, as well as allow new ideas, questions and experiences to emerge and inform faith and action? Attending to these questions is in part preparation for CPE and after CPE, Field Education placements that are part of a cohesive second year curriculum in which stages of Wisdom include Faith, Knowledge, and Courage.
In the final year we are planning an integrative seminar as the end of a cumulative process (Wisdom 6:17-20). In this seminar students will reflect on so as to live out fully every facet of parish life and other places of mission from liturgical training, planned meetings and classes, visits, to individual encounters. Stages of Wisdom in this year include Counsel, wherein judgments are based in reality, Understanding, wherein we work towards perceiving how life holds together in the truth, and Wisdom in which every aspect of our lives is ordered toward God. Participants besides the students (themselves peer learners) will include parish lay and clergy mentors plus seminary faculty and other practitioners offering particular skills essential to parish life. We could consider topics e.g. Scripture study and effective pedagogies; theories of leadership with an eye to the formation of effective clergy and lay leadership teams; particular theological questions, projects, or ways to foster and develop particular skills. Such an integrative seminar is a place of continuing focused reflection on e.g. teaching and leadership, liturgy, pastoral care, and the integration of these skills with public practice. It is a place for shared growth and development of new skills. It would include work with mentors themselves trained in particular mentoring skills and accountable to appropriate bodies. It could be a model for ongoing work in future ministries.
What we are trying to do is just beginning. It is both exhilarating and unnerving. Here’s why.
“Luther’s example and experience suggest that human institutions cannot truly be reformed, because we will always stand in the way of change. Some destruction is inevitable. The detractors of contemporary efforts at church reformation are only partly correct when they claim that our reforms are killing this institution. But the proponents of change are also only partly correct when they claim that their efforts bring new life. In truth, the institutional church (and a good many other human institutions) is dead. Such life as we see may not be evidence of reformation but of resurrection, for which only God may be thanked. If we are to survive these times, we must let go both of our fear of failure and of our zeal for success.”
[Sam Portaro, Brightest & Best, p.48 (posted on Facebook 4/10/14 by Tom Brackett)]
Deirdre Good is Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament at The General Theological Seminary, specializing in the Synoptic Gospels, Christian Origins, Noncanonical writings and biblical languages. Her blog is called On Not Being a Sausage.