By Katherine Dickson
Director of Vocational Discernment
and Community Engagement
It was a full year for the Theological Commons at MTSO. Events new and recurring brought nearly 500 attendees to campus. Our events are carefully designed and selected to follow the newly adopted Theological Commons mission and vision statement:
As a theological school, we believe we are called to share our intellectual resources with the church and the world in numerous ways, through the education of our students and in dialogue with our broader community. We do this in part through the Theological Commons, a learning network built on partnerships of scholarship, inquiry and practice. By offering events, learning resources and continuing conversation, the Theological Commons promotes the sharing of knowledge and experience between students, faculty, clergy and the public for the benefit of all participants and those they serve.
The Theological Commons presented a few spring events I'd like to highlight.
In March, we brought together community nonprofit leaders, pastors, seminarians, MTSO alumni and other members of the public for "Developing Community: A Toolkit for Doing Nonprofit Work." More than 50 people participated in the day-long workshop, with seven presenters offering breakout sessions throughout the day and networking with students over lunch.
Keynoter Rev. John Edgar focused on asset-based community development; Rev. Julia Nielsen presented on sustaining volunteers; Christine Shaw keynoted on writing and managing grants; Robert Caldwell shared on unifying the religious and nonreligious around a common mission; Angela Plummer spoke on the development of a nonprofit from her experience as executive director of the Columbus Refugee and Immigration Services; Chad Hansen gave an instructional presentation on tax law and other nonprofit business aspects; and Claudine Leary talked about overall development practices for nonprofits.
(A new nonprofit conference focusing on community organizing and development is planned for Sept. 19-20. Information is in the story above.)
Another key event highlighted the research of Professor Linda Mercandante on those who consider themselves spiritual but not religious. Dr. Mercadante, who holds the Straker Chair of Historical Theology, offered a free March lecture and signed her new book, Belief without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but not Religious. You can read the introduction of her book here.
An April event highlighted MTSO's commitment to sustainability. We screened the documentary Chasing Ice, which follows National Geographic photographer James Balog and his Extreme Ice Survey to publicize the effects of climate change. The director and some of the production crew were on campus to show the film and lead discussion for faculty, staff and students, with a public showing for more than 60 people in the evening.
The crew discussed ecology and theology with students and enjoyed farm-to-table fare from Seminary Hill Farm, calling it "some of the best food in the Columbus area." The team made DVDs available for all, and many students have shared the work with their congregations or in other small-group settings. For more information about the film or to obtain a DVD for your own personal or congregational use, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To cap off the year, MTSO hosted participants in the Sermons of Wesley Project, through which people of color read the sermons of John Wesley together. The two-day event capped eight months of study, bringing together people from the North Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church for lectures, discussion, reflection and fellowship.
The Sermons of Wesley Project was sponsored by the Theological Commons and the East Ohio Conference Racial-Ethnic Ministries Office. It was funded by the General Commission on Religion and Race.
The Theological Commons is planning another rich and varied slate of events for the upcoming academic year. We hope you'll plan to join us.