Great fellowship and stimulating presentations, including Walter Brueggemman, Bruce Marshall, Mike Lodahl, Daniella Augustine, and Thomas Dozeman. Hats off to Jason Vickers for a strong theme and great program. Kudos to SPU (President Dan Martin and Dean Doug Strawn) for impeccable hospitality.
I had the opportunity to moderate a one session in Practical Theology, I own my friend Mark Maddix a note of appreciation for the opportunity. Mark is a gifted leader and remarked that there were 32 proposals in the field this time. That is quite a testimony to the strength of the field and the promise of the future.
This gathering emerged out of the desire of the deans from all the USA universities and colleges to connect with people current engaged in doctoral studies or recently graduated and just starting the journey toward their vocation as pastors/educators.
The desire was to listen to the needs of graduate students, encourage them, and learn how best to support each of these burgeoning scholars for the sake of the tradition. Ron Benefiel was one of the originators of the idea but could not be there (Ron, we missed you and praying for your family). IBOE commissioner Dan Copp had also worked to facilitate the meeting though he had to be out of the country. So it was left to me and Tammy Condon, who works with Dan, to coordinate and facilitate this meeting.
However, it was the doctoral students and recently minted doctors that really made the meeting special. It became evident quite early that the room was full of vibrant young scholars, some already teaching and others who are serving as pastors. I know that it is difficult these days to break into teaching in higher education. The current economic climate makes placement difficult at times, But the deans who were able to be at this year’s WTS (Mark Maddix, Jeanne Serrao, and Bill Malas) shared deeply how they wanted to support each of these prospective teachers/scholars in their journeys. The gesture was deeply appreciated and hopefully will set an agenda for ongoing networking and support in the future.
“Back in the day” when I was in doctoral studies (yes, we had automobiles in those days) I remember talking with leadership about nurturing young scholars. A fellow student in those days, Carlos Serrao, proposed we start a newsletter just to circulate to doctoral students. It was a great idea, particularly since I already knew a couple, even at that time, who were outstanding scholars… but the isolation and disconnect from a community of caring educators ultimately hampered their journey. It seemed crucial then but the simple task of locating students, printing newsletters, and mailing them seemed daunting. Today social networking bridges a number of barriers. There is hope for the future and I am sure we will all benefit from it.