Theological: Proclamation Beyond the Pulpit
Dr. Gerald Liu, Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Worship Arts
Preaching is most often imagined as a speech act based upon biblical text and delivered by a pastor from a pulpit in a church building. But surely a single genre cannot capture the possibilities for proclaiming the love of God and love of neighbor. How does theological proclamation take shape in other ways, by other people, and from other places? Our workshop will proceed in three steps: 1) we will reconsider what we think preaching is by attending to histories of preaching and our own preaching habits 2) we will discover where else proclamation occurs and survey public forms of proclamation in order to reflect upon why deliverers and hearers of holy words must listen for voices of truth beyond customary homiletic practices and 3) we will in groups imagine and experiment with forming public proclamations.
Spirituality: Liberation Spirituality: Henri Nouwen and Gustavo Gutierrez Perspective
Michael Christensen, Associate Professor in the Practice of Spirituality and Ministry, International Director, Shalom Initiative, and Pastor of Epworth United Methodist Church in Berkeley, CA
“Everyone has to drink from his own well,” observed St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Yet no one drinks alone. We all have drunk from wells we did not dig and enjoyed fresh water that is not entirely our own.” –Henri Nouwen, Discernment (2013)
“Spirituality is like living water that springs up in the very depths of the experience of faith.” To drink from your own well is to live your own life in the Spirit of Jesus as you have encountered him in your concrete historical reality.”
–Gustavo Gutierrez, We Drink from Our Own Wells (1984)
How do we draw wisdom both from our own personal experience of God and from the struggle of the people of God as we seek the liberation of all?
Gustavo Gutierrez’ seminal A Theology of Liberation emerged in Latin America in the late 1960’s, and quickly became a clarion call to a “preferential option for the poor.” Gustavo became known as the Father of Liberation Theology (a practical theology born out of solidarity with common people and their struggles). His books and courses became prophetic in liberation theology movements in Latin America and around the world.
Henri Nouwen attended one of Gustavo’s popular courses in Lima, Peru, in 1982. “I remember this course as one of the most significant experiences of my six-month stay in Latin America,” Nouwen writes in his journal. What Henri learned from Gustavo was that “liberating spirituality” must be rooted in an active and reflective faith, and not a passive, private or privileged contemplative experience.
Although Nouwen remained critical of some aspects of Liberation Theology, what impressed him most was how Gustavo Gutierrez integrated mysticism and activism, the struggle for spiritual growth with the struggle for political freedom. Although Gustavo remained critical of a purely personal, private, individualistic spirituality, he centered his own activist faith in theological reflection.
In the dialectic of Gustavo’s more activist faith and Henri’s more contemplative spirituality and, a new kind of liberationist spirituality was articulated which is reflected in Gustavo’s We Drink from Our Own Wells and Henri’s Foreword to the book.
Together, these two priests offer the world fresh perspectives on the “primordial waters of spiritual experience”–from oral tales and written texts, concrete lives and communities of faith–in the common struggle for freedom. “By dipping deeply into the well of our own lives [as the people of God], we can discern the movements of God’s Spirit in our lives,” writes Nouwen in Discernment (p. 170)
This seminar draws wisdom from the “Father of Liberation Theology” and one his his most famous students, Henri Nouwen, as they engage and reflect together on a new “liberation spirituality” for the people of God.
Recommended book for this Seminar: Henri Nouwen, Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life, Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird, editors (2013).
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