Some Thoughts On This Past Quarter

We’ve reached the end of the quarter, which turned out to be pretty good albeit pretty busy preparing for baby Daniels.  The Church In Mission class I TA’d for was a great learning experience, and it’s always good to work with Ryan because he welcomes input and lets me enter into what he is learning about as a professor as well.  I’ve been working on my third tutorial, which means after I finish this one, I will have two methods courses (in culture theory areas) and three more tutorials, then comprehensive exams, then that big paper (dissertation).  With this current tutorial I’ve been reading loosely in the area of missiology, and more specifically with authors who have considered the church and its role in culture.  I’ve obviously been reading Yoder, but have also been looking at some of Stanley Hauerwas, James K Smith, John Milbank, Craig Carter, Wilbert Shenk, Stephan Bevans, and probably one of my new favorite theologians James McClendon. I’ve plowed through 2500-3000 pages so far and am aiming for a little more than 4,000.  Through it all I’ve been able to map the various approaches to church in culture, both from a theological standpoint, as well as from a cultural one, and find some areas in which to build on.

I am not sure what I am going to do my tutorial paper on once I’ve finished my reading, but I am increasingly interested in translation, and how the church translates what it believes to the host culture.  I’d like to challenge some of our notions about how we perceive the world around us, namely, that the church tends to think it’s “out there” and that the work of translation is something that’s a secondary function (or something we have to really think about).  I think this in part stems from a Christendom mindset.  In fact, I think it’s far more intuitive and less complicated than that in many ways, rather I think it has more to do with how we actually conceive of our role as missionaries in the world.  Of course, I am talking about translation, as it pertains to those of us in the west who know the dominant languages and practices but are trying to communicate the core ideas of the Gospel to a rapidly changing culture.

I also had my first doctoral committee meeting last week with my two advisors Ryan and Nancey Murphy. It was a great experience working through my research plan, what I’ve already done, and where I am headed.  One thing that really stands out to me from the meeting is something Nancey said, “This would be a great plan if there were twenty of you working on it, but since you’re only one person we need to narrow this down.  Think of this as your life’s work, which part of that life’s work do you want to work on right now?” It’s hard to imagine I’d bite off more than I can chew. The three of us spent the better part of an hour and half narrowing down my project into something more manageable. This winter I will be working on a methods course with Ryan where I will prep to do field research on Quaker communities (physical and online) that are engaging culture in innovative ways.  Then when I head to England in the spring I will hammer out some of the details with Pink Dandelion.

Oh, I didn’t mention this before I don’t think, but I submitted a proposal to do a paper/workshop at Friends Association for Higher Education on the convergent Friends. FAHE meets this year at Woodbrooke, so not only do I get to return to Birmingham and see old friends, but I have this incredible opportunity to present some of my work in the context of education.

So until the baby comes it’s finishing my reading list and grading 30 final papers from church in mission – anyone want to help?