Monday, November 29, 2010

Dressing as Jesus

Not an easy thing, this dressing as Jesus. At this time of year, however, there's plenty of it what with Christmas pageants and seasonal plays.

Now comes yet another reason to dress up as Jesus: catching thieves. An Austrian newspaper reports that detectives can wander around Christmas markets disguised as Jesus without turning heads or alerting handbag/pocket book robbers. The same detectives may also act the part of baby Jesus in living nativity cameos. Anyone care to render this baby visually???

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bach Vespers at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church today at 5pm (+ pre vespers talk at 3.45pm)

1st Sunday of AdventBach Cantata 62 - Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland
Georg Telemann - Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, TWV 1:1174
Organ: Nicolaus Bruhns - Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland 
             J. S. Bach - Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 559 
Guest Homilist - The Rev. Robert Rimbo, Bishop of New York  (ELCA) 
PRE-VESPERS TALK 3:45 p.m. Michael Marissen 

Michael Marissen is the author of several books 
including this study of Bach Oratorios.

Thanksgiving and a story

Hope everyone had as wonderful a Thanksgiving as we did...friends, strangers, books, fur babies, music, sunshine, snow, frost, ice and walks in Maine.

Several years ago my Mother came to help me survive a round of chemotherapy for the treatment of colon cancer and her visit happened to coincide with Thanksgiving. Julian invited her to see the balloons being blown up in Central Park on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. My Mother considered this invitation but politely declined. The next day we watched the parade on television. When my Mother saw the balloons floating down 5th Avenue she exclaimed,"So those were the balloons you meant!" 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankfulness for...

Over at the Chronicle for Higher Ed., Thomas H. Benton has a lovely piece about gratitude in academe. To the list of things he identifies as the reward of academic positions, I heartily concur that students are the number 1 reason to be grateful. There is nothing like the two-way dynamic of teaching wherever and however it takes place. I'm grateful for each and every class and the chance to teach and learn. So thank you, students of General Theological Seminary past and present! You have enriched my life for the past twenty five years.

I'm grateful for opportunities to teach outside the place of employment by virtue of an academic position. I've been invited to give blessings at commencements, talk to MTA employees, be on panels about same-sex relations and the Bible, join translation groups, and speak in synagogues. Every single event has been fascinating. And I never know what saying "yes" might lead to..

In addition then to all the things Mr Benton lists: scholarship and scholars, conferences, libraries and administrators, philanthropy, an office, flexibility and luck (the amazing good fortune of a tenured position which is a privilege increasingly rare and not to be taken for granted), I'd like to add the opportunity to exercise freedom of thought. Of course, all thought takes place in the context of a place of employment. I often reflect on ways my written and spoken work has been affected by the fact that I work at a seminary but I do have the freedom to explore ideas without the necessity of publication.

And another thing. In a residential seminary community, my wife and I have the opportunity to live and work in a community of like-minded people. We inhabit one of the most fascinating cities on the planet. And our seminary sits in the middle of a vibrant community of New York City. We are encompassed by the High Line and art galleries; churches, synagogues and places of worship people have never heard of; Irish, French, and Puerto Rican communities plus tourists and we have access to culture that is endlessly fascinating. We can be in conversation with people from every single walk of life right out of our doorstep.

All of this is an immense privilege and I give thanks for it every day.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Over at CNN's Belief blog, Stephen Prothero has a timely piece opposing the start of Christmas in November particularly as an outgrowth of consumerism. I agree. We are almost in the season of Advent, namely, preparation, waiting and hope. Advent continues for a month. It is the season of fasting and penitence and the beginning of the Church's liturgical year. Without waiting in hope, without preparing a home, without Advent, there is no receiving the message of Christmas.

Advent for me has been a time for retreats. I've spent weekends and day retreats at SSJE, for example. My model of waiting has been Mary. Look at the ways she's depicted as the angel Gabriel arrives: reading, praying, contemplating, musing, thinking. All of these are states of active anticipation rather than passive waiting.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us

A new book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam has just been published by HUP. Here's a virtual book tour.

American Grace is based on two of the most comprehensive surveys ever conducted on religion and public life in America. It includes a dozen in-depth profiles of diverse congregations across the country, which illuminate the trends described by Putnam and Campbell in the lives of real Americans. Nearly every chapter of American Grace contains a surprise about American religious life.

Among Them:

* Between one-third and one-half of all American marriages are interfaith;
* Roughly one-third of Americans have switched religions at some point in their lives;
* Young people are more opposed to abortion than their parents but more accepting of gay marriage;
* Even fervently religious Americans believe that people in other faiths can get to heaven;
* Religious Americans are better neighbors than secular Americans—more generous with their time and treasure, even for secular causes—but the explanation has less to do with faith than with communities of faith;
* Jews are the most broadly popular religious group in America today.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pastor Joel Osteen on homosexuality, whether Jesus was rich etc.

Yesterday Pastor Joel Osteen was on The View and the conversation ranged over whether Jesus was rich and being gay. There was an airing rather than a resolution of these topics which I found refreshing:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Archbishop Williams on Tolstoy

Archbishop Williams speaks about the legacy of Tolstoy marking the 100th anniversary of his death. Tolstoy read the Sermon on the Mount as a series of practical injunctions. He says, "The point of the life of Jesus is to teach us not to commit stupidities." Missing from Tolstoy's religion is the notion that the Creator creates complexity, shadow and nuance.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Filed under Being a Sausage (?)

is a course on Lady Gaga from the University of South Carolina. Actually, as the course description says, "it is also not a course about Lady Gaga as much as about the culture of the fame as exemplified by the case of Lady Gaga."

The central objective of this course will be to unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga with respect to her music and other artistic endeavors, with special attention for the role of: business and marketing strategies; the role of the old and new media; fans and live concerts; gay culture; religious and political themes; sex and sexuality; and the cities of New York and Hollywood. In this way, the course will focus on the societal context of Lady Gaga’s rise to fame. These social issues, furthermore, are explored from a perspective that is grounded in the discipline of sociology. Thus, this is not a course in Lady Gaga but in sociology.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Contending Modernities, Kroc Institute, Sheraton New York, Nov 18 & 19th

Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies is sponsoring "Contending Modernities" on Nov 18th and 19th.

Please join us at the Sheraton New York, 811 7th Avenue (53rd Street) to celebrate the launch of a major new research and education initiative, Contending Modernities: Catholic, Muslim, Secular. The project, directed by R. Scott Appleby, professor of history and director of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, involves dozens of Catholic, Muslim, and secular scholars and public intellectuals from around the world.

Thursday, November 18

4:00 p.m.
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., President, University of Notre Dame

Keynote speakers
Shaykh Ali Gomaa, Grand Mufti of Egypt
Jane Dammen McAuliffe, President, Bryn Mawr College, Past President, American Academy of Religion
John T. McGreevy, Professor of History, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, University of Notre Dame

Friday, November 19

10:00 a.m.
Panel discussion
“Women, Family, and Society in Islam and Catholicism”

Ingrid Mattson, Past President, Islamic Society of North America
M. Cathleen Kaveny, John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law and Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
Shahla Haeri, Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology; Director of Women’s Studies, Boston University
Jacqueline Moturi Ogega, Director, Women’s Mobilization Program, Religions for Peace

RSVPs are not required for these events. Questions? Contact Barbara Lockwood at 574-631-8500,

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

is now on sale at 65% off at OUP so that the pb is $10.50. Promo Code is 29057. This is a great resource if you plan to visit the archaeological sites of Greece and Turkey. Of course, there are other titles as well!

Readers of Homer--all-nighter on Nov 27th

Readers of Homer may like to know of a reading of the Odyssey at the 92 Street Y on Nov 27th from 7.00pm to 7.00am. Here's part of the press release:

In the splendor of 92Y’s Kaufmann Concert Hall, fortified by mulled wine and Homeric fare, 200 participants of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities, will gather to read, one after the other, through the night, Homer’s great poem. The pre-assigned segments may be offered in English, ancient or Modern Greek, or in any language of the reader’s choice, while the acclaimed English translation by Stanley Lombardo will be projected on a giant screen. Students, teachers, professionals from all fields, children and parents, are invited to experience – as participants or audience members – the life changing pleasures of reading poetry aloud.

At the onset of the evening, the renowned ancient Greek music ensemble Lyravlos, under the direction of Panagiotis Stefos, will offer a brief concert followed by interludes at the end of each Rhapsody. Throughout the night, the Odyssey will be echoed by contemporary dance pieces performed by the notable Choreo Theatro Company, under the direction of choreographer Irina Constantine Poulos and set to original music by the Slovenian group Silence. With the rising of the sun, the event will close with Four Meditations on War, a musical piece scored for bass-baritone and string quartet, conducted by composer Mark Latham. Created during some of the bleakest days of the war in Iraq, the composition reflects the complexity of this foremost Homeric theme, war, and all that arises from it: courage, cowardice, beauty, futility, heroism, love.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Charlie Hewitt's sculpture is on exhibit at Jim Kempner's gallery over on 23rd and 10th Avenue. Just look at the crucifixion motifs in this piece: the nail, the suspended forms, the dice, the blood...

Friday, November 05, 2010

From Logos to Christos: Book Party at Trinity College in Toronto

Yesterday's book party was a great success. What a joy to meet so many of Joanne McWilliam's colleagues, family and friends! Trinity was the welcoming host and the co-editor Kate Merriman spoke movingly about the honorand and the essays of the festschrift. In the picture are some of the essayists including Peter Slater, husband of Joanne McWilliam, Kate Merriman and Sister Ellen Leonard, editors of the book, Lisa Quinn of Wilfred Laurier Press and W. David Neelands, Dean of the Faculty of Divinity at Trinity College, and host of the event.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Three Faiths at NYPL

Thew New York Public Library has a current exhibition "Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam" displaying scrolls, codices and illuminated manuscripts from the three faith traditions. Here's the Xanten Bible (Tanakh), the Harkness Gospels incipit of Matthew and a Qur'an from Turkey.

There are some associated events that sounds interesting:

Life in Year One: What the World Was Like in First-Century Palestine with Scott M. Korb
The world of ordinary people in first-century Palestine is virtually unknown. In this illustrated lecture, Scott Korb, the author of Life in Year One and other books, offers a window into everyday life during the time of Jesus.
Mid -Manhattan Wednesday, December 15 • 6:30 p.m.

Slavoj Zªizªek • God Without the Sacred: The Book of Job, The First Critique of Ideology
The three religions of the Book each help us to differentiate the divine from the sacred. This liberating concept culminates in Paul’s claim, from Ephesians, that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against leaders, against authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual wickedness in the heavens.” Can religious fundamentalism be overcome only with the help of an emancipatory political theology? Philosopher Slavoj Ziˇzek debates
this and other incendiary questions on the LIVE stage.
Tuesday, November 9 • 7:00 p.m. Stephen A Schwartzmann Building. The New York Public Library
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Gottesman Exhibition Hall & The Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Gallery
Fifth Avenue and 42 Street, New York

Now through Sunday, February 27, 2011


* Monday • 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
* Tuesday • 10:00 AM - 7:30 PM
* Wednesday • 10:00 AM - 7:30 PM
* Thursday • 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
* Friday • 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
* Saturday • 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
* Sunday • 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Stacy Schiff at 192 Books on Nov 22nd at 7pm

Stacy Schiff will be discussing her book Cleopatra at 192 Books (around the corner from the seminary) Stacy Schiff, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, brings to life the most intriguing woman in the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt. Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnets, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator.

Through her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, among the most prominent Romans of the day. Cleopatra had a child with Caesar and, after his murder, three more with his protege. Already she was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean; the relationship with Antony confirmed her status as the most influential woman of the age. The two would together attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled their ends. Clepoatra has lodged herself in our imaginations ever since.

There's a review in the NY Times by Michiko Kakutani.

Monday, November 01, 2010

White Light Festival at Lincoln Center

The White Light Festival at Lincoln Center is well underway. Tickets are still available for tomorrow night's Collegium Vocale Ghent concert of:
BRAHMS: Warum ist das Licht gegeben; Begräbnisgesang; SCHUBERT (arr. Verhaert): Andante, from String Quartet in D minor (“Death and the Maiden”); CORNELIUS: Requiem “Seele, vergiß sie nicht”; BRUCKNER: Mass in E minor

Amongst the free events are:
October 28-November 13: Canadian visual artist Janet Cardiff's The Forty-Part Motet, a re-working of 16th century British composer Thomas Tallis' Spem in alium nuquam habui, comprises 40 separately recorded voices (the Salisbury Cathedral Choir) played back through 40 speakers that are strategically placed throughout the space. Depending on where visitors stand in the installation, they might hear one single voice, several in harmony, all 40, or nothing at all. The Forty-Part Motet will be installed in the Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman Rehearsal and Recording Studio, Frederick P. Rose Hall (Jazz at Lincoln Center), 60th Street and Broadway. FREE. Opening reception October 28, 6:30 - 8 PM; open October 29 through November 13, noon until 8 PM and until the end of the performances in the Rose Theater on November 2, 3 and 4.


Podcast Conversations with contributors to Borderlands of Theological Education

 Just thrilled that our podcast conversations with contributors to Borderlands of Theological Education are available here: https://podcast...