Choosing from options as varied as the American Southwest, Turkey, and West Africa, students encounter diverse communities and learn about the values, belief systems, historical experiences, and resources of a culture or context that is not their own. Getting a new perspective on their own lives, students often find their visions of their local ministries and spiritual self-understanding stretched and enlivened. Becoming aware of border crossing interdependences, students expand their commitment to fostering mutual understanding and respect as well as solidarities common cause.
Health care, healing rituals, liberation theology, economic development, politics, inter-religious conflict and dialogue, ecology, women and children, family structures and systems, social justice, and the role of the church in social transformation are but a few of the themes of these courses which fulfill these curricular goals to:
- facilitate a significant and experiential encounter with an unfamiliar culture
- increase knowledge of the diversity of global Christianity and religions
- inspire continued connections with people met and/or social struggles learned about
- enrich current understanding of theology and ministry
- challenge how one views his or her own culture, politics, ethics or theology
The cross-cultural trip to El Salvador provides students an immersion experience in which they encounter and learn from communities of faith in another culture. Students meet individuals and communities that are using religious and cultural resources to respond faithfully and creatively to situations of violence and scarcity in a country rich in natural beauty and histories of courage, dignity and resistance. El Salvador is a country where liberation theologies are lived out on a daily basis by religious professionals and lay people alike, in the face of great challenges but also in the spirit of great hope. Themes of the course include: causes of economic inequality; the political challenges and national trauma in the wake of civil war; creative responses to environmental degradation; youth, gangs, and the criminal justice system; mass migration; liberation theology and the role of the church in economic, social, political, and revolutionary struggle. Students will find their visions of ministry challenged, widened, enriched, and transformed.
Religion and Arts of Appalachia
This course will assist students to better understand the religious and economic realities that shape the artistic imagination and cultural forms of the Appalachian region of Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Through interaction with artists, communities, and church leaders, we will address issues of cultural identity, the prophetic role of the arts, and the impact of change. Students will explore ways of religious witness through interpretation, shared resources, and political concern. Courses in Appalachia are offered in conjunction with the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center (AMERC). Appalachia course topics change year to year.
Turkey at the Crossroads
The rich and diverse culture of Turkey is often called the bridge between East and West. Does this metaphor represent Turkey or attempt to shape how we see it? Members of this course meet Turkish people from all walks of life and visit academics, social activists, and a wide variety of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish groups. We think together about the process of ethnic, religious, and national identity formation and the many ways that Turkey has been and continues to be a crossroads that cannot be reduced to a west/east binary. As we study and encounter the images, spaces, religious practices, and politics in Turkey, we explore—with the help of Turkish friends and hosts—the deep complexities of nations and religions as well as the rhetorical, legal, and even spiritual struggles to negotiate unity with diversity.
Ghana: Bible and Urbanization
The course’s interdisciplinary approach is intended to examine the interrelatedness and the offshoots of Bible and urbanization in historic and contemporary sub-Saharan Africa. What is the role of the Bible, if any, in historic urbanization? And what is the relationship between the emphasis on “transcendental experience” in some Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianities in Africa, and increasing urbanizations and transnational migrations on the continent, to the West, and to the East? Or as Thomas Csordas puts it: is the ‘trans’ of transnationalism the same as the ‘trans’ of transcendence? The course specifically explores the intersections of culture, politics, nationality, ethnicity/race, class, and travel in attempt to understand and fully engage some historical and emerging trends in religious identity and expression – identities and expressions that respect and transgress formal colonial and postcolonial boundaries.