Catching Up

I decided to name this post “Catching Up” partly because it has been so long since I added a post, and partly because I am “catching up” on where other students are in their theology and worship styles. As a true introvert, it takes me time to process information, and the past month or so I have been processing the wealth of information gathered through classes. However, as I am beginning to build relationships with other students, I am gaining new perspectives . . . even new criticisms of the way ecumenical dialogue is done presently, and the way the Spirit may be pushing toward transformation. I am going to try and share my observations, complete with the biases from my personal social location, of my experience thus far.

Intercultural Bible Studies class at Bossey

Intercultural Bible Studies class at Bossey

First I want to share my pride and gratitude to Seattle University and the education they have provided in sensitizing me to Biblical and Theological scholarship in a multi-cultural context. My first observation of “assumptions” was when our African instructor, Father Lawrence, decided to put “American” (including Panama) and European students together to discuss an article entitled “Intercultural Biblical Interpretations” by Musa W. Dube. (The article began with a quote from SU’s very own Leticia Guardiola-Saenz!) The assumption was that we would be more of a same mind, but nothing was further from the truth. What I interpreted as a call to expand our present focus on Greco-Roman traditions as the base for New Testament scholarship and include both the African and Asian perspectives on the Bible was interpreted by the European contingent as replacing or dismissing a scholarship style which they value.

Sister Donatila

Sister Donatila

The two other American students, which includes my friend Gerard from New York (an African American) and Sister Donatila from Panama were more in solidarity with the students of the global south in their interpretation of the article, possibly because like me, it is easier for us, coming from outside Europe, to be critica of Eurocentricity without hearing it as dismissive of European scholarship. This was the first of many encounters where I became astutely aware of the difference of how we “hear” or “interpret” what is being said according to our social location. Fortunately, over the past months we students have learned to ask “is this what you meant” rather than take offense at our assumed interpretation of another’s words.

Some of my most interesting conversations have been with the various Eastern Orthodox students, many of whom come from countries like Romania where the population is almost entirely of the same faith. Last evening I shared a meal with two young Orthodox students who wanted to know more about my faith tradition after an “animated” Ecumenical Social Ethics class discussion. They were really struggling to understand my perspective (and history, such as why my Southern Baptist mother did not convert when she married my father!) and Mihai, who I originally perceived as confrontational, shared his frustration that because of his limited command of the English language he fears he is often misunderstood. I responded that I am convinced it not only the responsibility of the speaker to say the right words, but for the listener to know when to ask questions for the proper hearing of the communication.

Gunta, our residence cat eats clover outside Petit Bossey

Gunta, our residence cat eats clover
outside Petit Bossey

I was glad we had this conversation, because our evening class on “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World” touched on the topics of Exclusivism, Inclusivism and Pluralism, and generated another animated discussion where passions ran high. Mihai shared with me on the way back to Petit Bossey (our residence) “I had enough arguing in Social Ethics . . . I stayed quiet tonight.” Ecumenical work is hard, but wow, is it beautiful!

We Are One

 


This is a compilation of photos taken thus far from our Bossey class of 2013. Included in the content are shots taken at the World Council of Churches, the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, the village of Céligny (including worship at the Reformed Church of Terre-Sainte), worship at the parish of Terre Sainte in Coppet, and street scenes from Geneva. In the month since we began classes, I am really beginning to feel “we are one” despite our differences in worship styles, doctrine and cultures!

 


This entry was posted on October 10, 2013, in Photos.

A little bit of home

Part of what makes this learning experience special is that we are not only different, but we also have things in common with our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world. As I saw the corn being harvested, it took me back to my experience in Cuba where my husband said the cane fields blowing in the wind reminded him of the corn back home. It is autumn, and therefore harvest time . . . a simple task (and in this case, a fascinating one) shared around the globe which serves to remind me of the midwest where I grew up. It’s surprising how something so simple has such a profound effect on one’s psyche! :-)

International Choir

Here is a small group of us preparing for the Chinese morning prayer (yes, that’s me playing the penny whistle in the dark!) The young woman in the middle, Hanne, is from Germany and is quite fluent in several languages (Xian Jun, who is from China and organized the event, complemented Hanne on her ability to pronounce the Chinese words flawlessly!) It has been very meaningful to begin every morning with prayer led by a different faith group and/or culture. While I may not have Hanne’s talent for languages, my next endeavor will be to learn some music from the women religious from the middle east who seem to be eager to help me learn.

Pray The Devil Back To Hell

praythedevilbacktohell on Vimeo.

Rosalie in Nyon

Rosalie in Nyon

My Ecumenical Ethics instructor has taken ill, so she has recommended the class view this movie together and has asked one of my fellow student, Rev. Rosalie Kanam Mukand, a Methodist from Zimbabwe, to lead our class in discussion. Rosalie is also my neighbor, and we spent an afternoon earlier this week sharing our experiences with AIDS and HIV after a presentation on the World Council of Churches’ involvement with the disease. I found it astute but tragic that the presenter named violence against women as contributing so greatly to the epidemic. It has been difficult at times for both of us as women to hear some of the dismissal coming from some male religious leaders, and it will be interesting to see if there will be more sensitivity shown by these men as they are exposed to a more inclusive theology in the next several months. I will be looking forward to hearing Pastor Rosalie’s perspective on the film, and hopefully we will have some respectful, dialogue representing a variety of nationalities and faith traditions.