It has been a while since I last posted on Discipleship Commons. To be honest I have been focused on a new blog celebrating discipleship at Kansas City First Church and excited to share the stories in that congregational context. You can read about it on KCFCDiscipleship. Yet travel tends to shake me out of my “doldrums” particularly when you leave -12 degree weather in Kansas City for 68 degrees in Tempe Arizona (yes, an 80 degree swing after a three hour flight).
The reason for coming to Arizona, like this time last year, is to engage in a serious yet exciting conversation on faith, work and economics courtesy the Kern Foundation’s Oikonomia Network. The Faith, Work and Economics initiative at the Kern Family Foundation has funded several projects readers have encountered on this blog. Vocational Discipleship, a course I just finished teaching this past fall, the Preaching Faith @ Work class with Dan Boone and Merritt Nielson, a course of vocation and discernment taught by Doug Hardy, and a number of excellent presentations and consultations at NTS courtesy the Foundation. So, beyond the weather, there was ample reason to be in Tempe.
Before jumping into the presentation (beginning with the one we had tonight). I thought I would mention a bit of the setting. Tempe AZ, home of Arizona State University, is definitely a college town. Walking the boulevard of the Mill Avenue District one gets a sense of the range of student interests and tastes, from the normal array of restaurants and movie theaters, novel “boutique” shops, and mainstay sports establishments. My day walk also took me up a rather interesting edifice titled the Hayden Butte Preserve (with its Leonard Monti trail). As noted on the park’s website,
the butte is culturally-significant to three communities: the people of Tempe, Arizona State University students and alumni, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Hayden Butte Preserve contains approximately 500 petroglyphs, or rock art images, that were made by the Hohokam some time between A.D. 750 and 1450. The Hohokam were the prehistoric inhabitants of this area. They built hundreds of miles of irrigation canals, cultivated corn as their main crop and lived in many settlements both large and small throughout the valley.
The preserve was located directly behind the Mission Palms Hotel where I am staying and fairly “beckoned” me to unlimber some stiff joints from the flight. The walk up the steep incline and what seemed to be a series of “stairs” (loosely understood) takes one to a couple of overlooks of the Tempe that provide a beautiful and panoramic view. It also affords an opportunity for the requisite “tourist photo” (yep, that is me) and a rather rocky return to flat land. At least the hike made lunch all that more appreciative.
The night time merely accentuates the feel of the city replete with lighted trees, sporting establishments aglow with both neon and large screen television, and other forms of “nightlife” that would attract young college students. This time of year you find most places relatively deserted since we are still in the “cusp” of the school break. Still, strolling the street you get the flavor of youth and academics rolled into one setting.
Perhaps the best part of this prelude was a gathering of Oikonomia scholars prior to our opening presentation. These few minutes sharing snacks and sodas under orange trees (yes, orange trees) afforded a chance to share our journeys, discuss the importance of the work we will be engaged in, and renew relationships. Kern works hard in building partnerships. One reason it is a pleasure to be with the group.