1399412_666354436729366_1501095211_o

Bishop N.T. Wright joined us on Tuesday, November 12 for an interview with Dr. Jo-Ann Badley, Professor of Biblical Studies at The Seattle School on his latest release, The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential. The Case for the Psalms is Wright’s manifesto calling for people to once again focus on the Psalms. By singing and praying the Psalms regularly, he asserts, not only will our faith and devotional practice flourish, our world view will be transformed. The Psalms will lead us to a new understanding about how to give thanks, how to grieve, how to rejoice, how to relate to God—resulting in a deep framework for how to live.

886751_666354766729333_964175386_o

1412332_666354456729364_1349523803_o
View the complete photo gallery on Facebook.

Posted in Spirituality, Theology at November 26th, 2013.

around-the-table

Our first Around the Table event was a great evening of community, good food, and stimulating conversation. We invited Brian Canlis, Kara Bazzi, and Andy Carlson to our campus to share a meal with one another and engage the impact of the table as it relates to their unique realms and callings — as a restaurateur, an eating disorders therapist, and a pastor of liturgy, respectively. We were thrilled to host about 75 people as they joined in for this exciting conversation. For those of you who were not able to attend, we recorded the conversation.

IMG_1507     photo 1-1 IMG_7443-1

Posted in Culture, Psychology, Spirituality, Theology at July 29th, 2013.

tumblr_mi9hs32k8l1ro168zo2_1280
Earlier this year, a memorial to rape survivors was temporarily in place in the reflection pool of the Washington Monument. The letters floated in blood red on the water’s surface, reading “I CAN’T FORGET WHAT HAPPENED BUT NO ONE ELSE REMEMBERS.” Upon encountering the image, my first thought was “Of course, that’s why we have the church.” It was only on later reflection that I realized what a strange thought that may have been. Not everyone has such an experience of the church.

Trauma, such as sexual assault or the murder of a mentor, reforms our ability to narrate an understanding of self and the world; it becomes difficult to narrate in ways that are life-giving. It is through the help of community leading us to grace that the ability to narrate is again reformed, that identity and agency are relocated. The church is a place of community that first gathered around an event of trauma and an event of grace. We first gathered because of the crucifixion and resurrection of a man from Nazareth.

And we continue to gather around that same event, and its echoes in our own lives. In the Lord’s Supper, we hear Jesus in solidarity with the rape survivor: his body, too, is broken at the beckoning of abusers. The church remembers this. The church enacts this. The church refuses to turn away from systemic abuse, exploited power, a humiliated victim, a broken body, blood prematurely poured. We won’t shield our eyes to the violence, but continue to observe it, expose it, to name evil for what it is.

So rape, along with other abuses, is not just the problem of the survivor. Every act of violence is my problem, is your problem, is the church’s problem, is God’s problem.

The church is full of people who can’t forget what happened. The church is a community that holds.

This is incredibly hopeful, painfully hopeful. If we can tolerate the remembrance of this one act of violence, we can see, hear, and hold all acts of violence. If we can see the human glory in one victim, we can narrate the glory we see in one another. If we can believe in the resurrection, the new life, given to one man, then we can hold the hope that new life is available for each survivor. We are a community of witnesses, and through our witnessing, we become agents of change, bearers of grace, affirmers of agency and embodiment.

I don’t have a clean answer for why many churches don’t do a better job of engaging trauma , especially when the entire organization is built around the remembrance of trauma. Fear and shame, I’d guess. But I will say that meaning occurs where we make it, together. And if you can’t forget what happened, please come find someone to remember with you.

Kate Rae Davis is a writer working on her Masters of Divinity. Her literature degrees allow her to pretentiously cite poetry in thick-framed glasses; she gains street cred from theologically heavy tattoos. In rare breaks from reading and writing, she can be found practicing yoga, making Harry Potter and Star Trek references, or in the kitchen. Originally from West Michigan, Kate lives in Queen Anne with her husband, their dog, her violin, and two white elephant tea pots.
Posted in Theology at March 20th, 2013.

Last month, Dr. Dan Allender, Dr. Derek McNeil, and Dr. Keith Anderson shared the stage to speak to Seattle-area pastors on surviving and thriving in the work of ministry. In the last of three recordings, Dr. Keith Anderson spoke on how the process of vocational discernment and clarification of calling are two of the core battlefronts to find deeper rest and greater joy in the midst of one’s daily work. As Anderson suggests, we already know more than we practice. We don’t need new words, ideas, or new theology. The temptation, especially in pastoral leadership, is always moving from simplicity to complexity, from particularity to abstraction. Rather, we must receive the invitation to trust what we already know. Jesus moves people in the other direction: back to simplicity and particularity, back to the embodiment of what we already know.

Listen to Part 1 with Dan Allender

Listen to Part 2 with Derek McNeil

Posted in Spirituality, Theology at March 11th, 2013.

Last month, Dr. Dan Allender, Dr. Derek McNeil, and Dr. Keith Anderson shared the stage to speak to Seattle-area pastors on surviving and thriving in the work of ministry. In the second of three recordings, Dr. Derek McNeil spoke on how the best intentions for self-care practices often fail and identifies how your personal narrative and the culture at large are key to understanding the barriers to self-care. While the challenge of those serving in ministry is always being “on duty,” and the unrecognized need for Sabbath, McNeil explains that “our bodies will betray us to keep us alive.” In this lecture, McNeil explores ways to move beyond the short-term fixes for our long-term problems.

Listen to Part 1 with Dan Allender

Listen to Part 3 with Keith Anderson

Posted in Leadership, Psychology, Theology at March 7th, 2013.

Last month, Dr. Dan Allender, Dr. Derek McNeil, and Dr. Keith Anderson shared the stage to speak to Seattle-area pastors on surviving and thriving in the work of ministry. In the first of three recordings, Dan Allender identifies the challenges that pastors face as they seek to lead congregations. Dan Allender spoke on the 5 core issues that leaders face: crisis, confusion, conflict, isolation, and exhaustion.

Listen to Part 2 with Derek McNeil

Listen to Part 3 with Keith Anderson

Posted in Leadership, Spirituality, Theology at March 5th, 2013.

“Fiction is rooted in an act of faith: a presumption of an inherent significance in human activity that makes daily life worth dramatizing and particularizing.”
– John Updike, speaking on religion and literature, 1994

I have this photo on my phone that I flip to often, probably more than I am comfortable admitting. It’s a black and white photo of the 20th century literary genius John Updike juggling. Juggling! I find myself looking at it for a few minutes or more, blushing, then slowly rejoining reality.

updike_pic

Updike is my literary crush. I have yet to find an author, dead or living, who knows how to write about the Christian existence the way he could. He was brutally honest, bringing to life Christian characters who—surprise, surprise—live lives of brokenness. I’ve met so many Updike characters who live gritty, X-rated lives. I’ve met even more who are unsure of what to do with God, characters who search for Him in sex, sports, and science.

Reading Updike, and writers like him, has led me to wonder about the interplay of theology and literature. I’m compelled to ask, how does theology inspire literature and how might literature help form one’s theology?

So I got this idea to do an individualized research project with a Seattle School instructor on this topic, looking at one of Updike’s novels, Roger’s Version. I wanted to study the theology that informed Updike’s writing (particularly that of Karl Barth and Tertullian) in order to answer those above questions.

I chose that book particularly because I found it impossible to sit in any class—especially a theology class—without thinking about Roger Lambert, its narrator. Roger’s not a real person; I know that. But when conversations around the nature of God or divine revelation or Christology spring up, Roger comes alive in the room and starts talking.

Literature does that to me, and to most bibliophiles I know—it brings to life characters who live out our own beliefs, questions, and failures. In reading fiction, we can’t escape ourselves. So as I’m working through this project, I’m having to face my own doubts about who God is, who Christ is, and what I’m doing here, alongside Roger and other characters. This story is shaping my theology, without my always realizing it.

As I carry on through the rest of the semester, I will have to face myself in the dense theologies of pre-modern and modern theologians as I unpack Updike’s prose. But most importantly, and maybe most fortunately, I will have to face myself in between lines of fiction, in characters who are asking the same questions I am, who are sinning just like me, but cannot hide.

lauren30_1 Lauren Sawyer is that quiet redhead in the back of the room with her nose in a book. She’s also a first year MATC excited about how theology and the arts play well together. If she’s not too shy to talk to you, Lauren will tell you all about her favorite Kurt Vonnegut novel, that summer she spent in Iraq, or how technology is ruining your life (á la Neil Postman). Read more from her at her new collaborative blog, Theology and Literature.
Posted in Artistry, First Year Experience, MATC, Theology at February 25th, 2013.

Kate Rae Davis writes about Eagle & Child, a community within The Seattle School for Master of Divinity students.

Eagle & Child is the social group for Divinity students – since the MDiv program is smaller, Eagle & Child creates space for us to meet together across cohorts and share food, drinks, and struggles. Recently, towards the end of a gathering, someone asked how the first year students were doing. I looked around at the guys from my cohort (and yes, ‘guys’ is the appropriate word; I was the only woman from our year in attendance that night). They were silent, so I started speaking about what I knew was a problem for a few of us: the search for a church. MDiv students are urged to find a denomination in which they would consider being ordained, and encouraged to do so early in the program.

I started speaking about the frustrations of trying to find a church that was welcoming, especially for a theology student full of questions and doubts. I hadn’t planned to go into it, but soon I was recounting that my new husband and I had finally, after months, found a church we thought would be home, and the disappointment when we found out that the church is Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination that refuses leadership to women. This particular church was very careful to hide that fact, and when I asked the pastor his stance on women in leadership, he politically said “that’d be a conversation better had in private.”

Which we did. And as we continued the conversation in private, I noticed he was turning his face and body more towards Keller than me. He said I could do an internship there, “with limitations, of course.” He told my husband that they would “never ordain” me, because “the Bible is very clear on women’s roles in the church.”

Really? Very clear? Then why this chasm forming between us? Why won’t you say this to my face? I tried to picture the situation through his eyes, but only came up with questions. Did he not respect me enough to speak to me? Was he simply more familiar talking with a man? Did he think that I had lured my husband into an “unbiblical” view of leadership through that nuclear bomb of coercive power that some men seem to think that women hold between their legs? Or was I no better than the golden retriever in the room, told to be quiet in order to be more easily ignored?

Keller was clearly flustered that the pastor was addressing him; I’m usually the voice of my own life. When the pastor said he “would love to have us as part of the community” and finished his speech with something about “appropriate roles”, it was obvious Keller had to say something to correct the assumption that by appealing to the man of the house, this woman would be set straight.

“My mother is ordained in the PC(USA),” the Presbyterian denomination that ordains women. It was a statement from a place of confusion and pressure, but it was somehow fitting. It wasn’t me who had turned him feminist; he was raised with powerful women. (In fact, it had been him who turned me toward Christian feminism.)

I recounted a summarized version of this to the dozens present at E&C that night. It had been a few weeks so I thought I could share but a few sentences in, my throat was closing and my vision was fuzzy with tears. I took a deep breath, felt Keller’s reassuring hand on my back. I remember being frustrated that no one looked away to give my tears privacy, but in hindsight I’m so grateful that they accepted my hurt; these are individuals who will not turn away from Christ’s suffering on the cross, either.

Later in the evening, a handful of women who are further along in the program gathered around me, shared hurt and frustrations. No one tried to make it better, but speaking about the discrimination somehow helped. This is what Eagle & Child is for, is what the church is for: the whispers of ‘me, too’ and ‘you’re not alone.’

Kate Rae Davis is a writer working on her Masters of Divinity. Her literature degrees allow her to pretentiously cite poetry in thick-framed glasses; she gains street cred from theologically heavy tattoos. In rare breaks from reading and writing, she can be found practicing yoga, making Harry Potter and Star Trek references, or in the kitchen. Originally from West Michigan, Kate lives in Queen Anne with her husband, their dog, her violin, and two white elephant tea pots.
Posted in Theology at October 9th, 2012.

When people learn that I moved from Nashville to pursue my Master of Divinity at The Seattle School, they’re curious. What is so different about this place than any others? There are graduate schools in Nashville I could have gone to, close to the community I now miss dearly. There are more famous schools that would automatically give me surefire mainstream church street cred (if that exists). So why The Seattle School?

I’ve been around Christianity my whole life one way or another. I knew as early as high school that the church was so important to me that I probably wanted to focus my career there. I studied youth ministry during college, interned with teen centers and youth groups, volunteered in my campus ministry, and made plans to work as a part-time college minister the year after I graduated college. But during the six months between graduation and the start of that job, I slowed down for the first time and rested. And in that rest, I realized something I hadn’t faced in myself before.

I didn’t really know what it meant to have a relationship with God.

I could go through the motions and do the ministry thing really well. I was trying to create connections between God and God’s people, but never once was I checking to see if my connection was strong. During those six months, it became clear: I had no connection. I was unplugged from the source. I was trying to help others get something I myself had never quite gotten. Instead of being filled to overflowing, there were holes in the vessel and everything was all just pouring right out – without me retaining a single drop.

I’ve known many ministers who burnt out toward disaster. Drunken vandalism, theft, sexual affairs—I knew these people personally, good people who had pursued the work of ministry with such a disregard for themselves that the results were devastating to them, their families, and their churches. I looked to my future and knew that if I didn’t take time to stop and really mend my relationship with God immediately, I would join their ranks.

I turned down the job and began a journey of self-discovery, trial, and withdrawal from church leadership to help me explore what I believed, who I was, and what I wanted. I’m still on that journey, still wrestling to more fully become myself. If I was to return to the academic world to continue studying ministry and theology, I wanted to be sure that I would go to a place that embraced that journey. I didn’t want to be trained to “do” ministry or theology, to hide behind my talents and gifts yet again. I wanted to be trained to be in relationship with God in a more honest and real way; finding rest there, I hoped, would naturally impact the communities and people I encountered and kindle the same journey in them.

I wanted, in short, to find a seminary where I couldn’t hide myself from God. I had a sense that The Seattle School would provide me with such a space.

The Seattle School has provided that space, and in abundance. I’m overwhelmed at times by how little I can hide myself within these walls. I have to constantly come face-to-face with God. I am asked what God means to me — not to you or the church or the world or academic theory, but to me. This is why I am here, and why I could see myself nowhere else.

Brian SchroederBrian Schroeder is a Master of Divinity student at The Seattle School. Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Brian spends the majority of his time on Wikipedia reading obscure pop culture facts. When he isn’t doing that or feverishly writing papers at the last minute, you can find him singing karaoke, creating art, dancing offbeat, staring at the beautiful clouds over Seattle, and laughing with friends while he drinks “whatever the darkest beer on tap is” — sometimes all at the same time.
Posted in Theology at August 21st, 2012.

Aliens, electronica, urban development! Part two of the 2012 MDiv and MACS (soon to be MATC!) integrative project! (See Part 1 here.)

David Von Stroh: The Common Good and the Built Environment

Although urban development in the last half century has mostly followed the pursuit of the private, individual good, I propose that urban development must shift towards the pursuit of the common good because this will result in the most sustainable and satisfying outcomes.

Download David’s Integrative Project Paper


Vangie Rand: What the United Methodist Church Can Learn from Electronic Dance Music

Evangeline (Vangie) Rand grew up in an isolated logging town called Forks, WA. This intensified her curiosity for learning from diverse others. Rand taught English in Budapest, Hungary and later was a campus minister at the progressive The Evergreen State College in Olympia. Rand has written for the Postcolonial Theology Network. She is a barista at the Pike Place Market and is a lay pastor at Seattle’s oldest congregation, First United Methodist Church.

Download Vangie’s Integrative Project Paper (PDF)


Shannon Presler: The History and Trajectory of Space for Extraterrestrials on Christian Theology

Posted in Theology at May 15th, 2012.