At a really great party, the sort that spreads out through a house or an apartment, you can move from one room to another stopping to listen here and there to the great conversations. One group may be discussing a fascinating story they just heard on NPR, another may be reflecting quietly on a major policy problem in local government, while another may be erupting in laughter at someone’s outrageous stories about a recent vacation. Moving from room to room you find yourself, in turn, touched, moved, inspired, and amused.
This summer, as I read this blog from one week to another, I felt as though I was attending just such a party, moving from one room to another, listening to stimulating conversations. Marian McClure Taylor (Executive Director of the Kentucky Council of Churches), Jonathan Yarboro (pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Wetumpka, Alabama), Arch Taylor (long-time missionary to Japan and activist), Angela Cowser (Associate Pastor of Multicultural Ministries, Eastminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee), Morgan Roberts (Honorary Life Trustee of Louisville Seminary and Pastor Emeritus of Shadyside Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), Conrad Sharps (Louisville Seminary trustee and Senior Pastor of Independent Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Alabama), Debra Mumford (Frank H. Caldwell Associate Professor of Homiletics and Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs), Marty Soards (Professor of New Testament Studies), Dianne Reistroffer (Director of Field Education and Methodist Studies, and Professor of Ministry), and Susan Garrett (Professor of New Testament Studies) provided for us an astonishing conversational feast at a gathering orchestrated by our Communications department. I know you will join me in thanking these friends and colleagues for the thoughtfulness of their blogs. Following this brief thank you, is a synopsis of each blog beginning with the most recent, just in case you missed any of them.
This has been an eventful summer. We have experienced stomach-churning emotions from a harrowing roller coaster ride on the stock market and frustration at continued political deadlock among our elected leaders. We have been shocked by the horrific violence that shattered so many lives in Norway and the riots that rocked England. And that’s only the beginning. While I often wished I were sending blogs your way this summer in response to events occurring around the globe, I also was deeply grateful for this time to focus on a new book for Westminster John Knox Press on the topic, “what’s next for the Reformed project?” As we begin a new academic year at Louisville Seminary, the actual writing of the book is virtually finished. It should be in the hands of the publisher by the end of the fall semester. I will visit some of the themes of the book from time to time this year.
For now, however, please join me in thanking all of our guest bloggers for “thinking out loud” with us.
Planning for the Morrow by Susan Garrett
What would it mean to be “single-minded” in strategic planning? Can we design “SMART goals” that are not just smart but also wise? I think that, with prayer and humility, we can. To do so requires that we stay resolute in keeping our institutional mission and vocation before us. We must trust in God’s providence and in the “wisdom from above” (James 3:17). This wisdom helps us to discern God’s way for us, and will enable us to persevere when tests and trials undermine our best-laid plans (as happened with Abraham: see James 2:21-23). We prepare for the future, even as we trust that our future lies wholly in God’s hands.
Aunting by Dianne Reistroffer
A refreshing look at the impact of extended kinship networks on families and communities.
A Case Study in Mutual Forbearance by Jonathan Yarboro
Perhaps we should look for guidance from the faith communities that have weathered the storms of living together as the people of God. What would we find? I am willing to bet we would find expressions of deep faith and piety, great joy and intense pain, and humility above all else.
Wise and Discerning by Angela Cowser
The writers of Proverbs tell us that knowledge (and discernment) begins with a fear of the Lord. From that godly foundation comes a willingness to listen to and learn from others and an ongoing desire to ask God to bless us with a Spirit of discernment…..Cultivating a discerning spirit is a lifelong pursuit and a virtue necessary not just for the young.
“Best” Books by Marion Soards
What is “the best” book I’ve ever read? If you love texts, and music too, then let me commend George Herbert’s works to you—both for reading and contemplation as prose and poetry and (with Vaughan Williams help) for listening and inspiration as music and song. Little in prose and poetry (and music) is for me so rewarding and so inspiring as these “best” pieces of religious art in words.
The complexity of shame by Debra Mumford
In order to minister effectively in African American contexts, one must understand the complexities of black cultures – of which shame is an important component. Traci West helps us better understand intimate violence in relation to black women in general and shame in particular. We will be fortunate to have her as our guest lecturer in the fall.
The Stone Mason by Conrad Sharps
This is how the house of God is built. It is built and sustained on our knees in prayer: piece-by-piece, soul-by-soul, chiseled and integrated with discernment and love into what no human hand can accomplish without the help of God. As disciples, we are to invest our lives, our efforts, our resources, and our leadership in the creation of a church that reveals God’s kingdom.
When is risk immoral? By Marian McClure Taylor
Letting the financial sector behave like a large casino has devastating consequences for God’s beloved children.
Does it matter that Mohammad Bahmanbeigi was not a Christian? By Morgan Roberts
How is it that, every so often, people who make no claim at being Christian end up doing something fully as Christ-like as that which is being done by Christians? Here’s a question for summer reflection: Does it matter that Mohammad Bahmanbeigi was not a Christian?
Encountering right-brain transformation by Arch Taylor
Jill Taylor, with her left hemisphere fully restored following a serious stroke and eight-year process of recovery, learned to keep it from running away with the instantaneous emotions of anger or fear. She gave reign to joy, peace, and compassion of her right hemisphere, her "circuit board of mysticism." As for us, Paul says, "We have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16b).