We write, deep into the first semester of the 2020-2021 academic year. Our classes are humming along and other projects are progressing as well. We write here of two: an Intensive Student Reading Group on Race and Christian Theology, and an experiment in training for congregations in Mission Engagement.
RACE AND CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY
In mid-2020 when we were still in the US and watching the news of protests and movement in race relations, we started discussing how university students were engaging—and sometimes initiating—national and international conversations about race. This led to dialogue with Cynthia’s brother R. Ward Holder, who teaches at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, and to two grant applications to develop a joint student learning initiative on Race and Christian Theology, bringing students from Saint Anselm’s and Makumira together in learning about key African and African American thought about race and theology—a combining of topics not made by many of those leading protests and movements demanding an increase in racial justice.
Makumira students began meeting last month, discussing African (Emmanuel Katangole, Tinyiko Maluleke, Elieshi Mungure) and African American (Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King Jr., James Cone, Vincent Wimbush, Delores Williams, J. Kameron Carter, M. Shawn Copeland, Angela Sims) authors, and preparing to hear lectures by prominent theologians, both African and African American, starting late this month. Here, we share a few comments and ideas expressed by our students in the first few weeks.
*“From the experiences of my life, I had assumed that all Whites hated all Blacks—so I was surprised that white professors invited us to discuss this. I decided to see what you had to say.”
*“I worshipped at a church in Germany at the invitation of our mission. There were two paintings in the sanctuary: one of White, blond, blue-eyed Jesus, and one of Black Satan. When we mentioned it to our hosts, they apologized—but they didn’t move the art.”
*In response to conversation about Fort Jesus, built on the Kenyan coast by the Portuguese to both control the African coast and to make trade in ivory, gold, and enslaved Africans possible: “Why would you name a fort for Jesus? Where did European Christians get the idea that colonizing Africa and enslaving Africans were good things to do? How is that okay? Where did this start?”
*About the Letter from the Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King: “King was very brave to challenge White clergy. How could he do that, as that was where he received his support?”
*About Katangole’s Born from Lament: The Theology and Politics of Hope in Africa: “Africans have hope. Africa is not a hopeless continent. AND, we have to look at what happened here critically, how what happened continues to impact us, and what role race has played in what happened in the colonial period.”
We are learning a lot from our students from these meetings. Please pray for us and for our students taking part.
MISSION ENGAGEMENT 101
Cynthia serves on the Presbytery of Scioto Valley Global Mission Network. The network conversed for much of 2020 about the need for training for engagement in global mission for congregations. An online course was developed, envisioned as “confirmation class about global mission”. Approval was sought and gained, and network members got to work planning.
Cynthia is working with network members and PC(USA) mission personnel in facilitating the course, which is meeting one Saturday morning a month for five months. The first one happened in late January, with over 60 people in attendance! Participants are reading in preparation for each session. Starting in the second session, breakout groups will discuss what is being presented during the class. A number of congregations have sent groups to participate, who have committed to take learnings back to their churches to grow mission engagement.
We are excited about the potential of this model for mission education, and are hoping and planning to make the model portable and workable in different contexts, with content adjustments as needed for denomination and participant interests. To that end, a member of the staff of Mark’s synod of membership, Northwestern Ohio Synod—ELCA, is sitting in on class sessions, with the hope that we can at some later date offer the class with synod members and congregations. For now, enjoy these pictures from Session 1, which had the theme “What is Mission, and Why do we do it?”
GRADUATE STUDENTS PROPOSE RESEARCH PROJECTS
Our MTh students in Missiology and New Testament presented proposals for their research projects last month. Their projects are really interesting and very much needed. (We commented on some of these in our last newsletter, which you can find here.) Supervision of student research at all three levels (bachelor, master, and doctoral) is a big part of our work here, and it is a significant source of joy and fulfillment for us both. We’re grateful to get to do this work! Our students learn so much from the process—and so do we. We become better at this work through doing it! This is surely a sign of God’s grace. Happily, all our students’ project proposals were accepted this month. They will continue this research in the field for the next six-seven months.
AS ALWAYS, we thank God for you all for all the ways your support makes our service possible. May Christ be revealed to you in present and tangible ways in this Epiphany season!
In the peace and joy of Christ,
Cynthia and Mark