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Navigating Through Vocational Pressures in the Academy

The 2012 FTE Leaders in the Academy Conference allowed me to consider how I define my vocation as an African American scholar. Vincent Harding’s article, “IBW and the Vocation of the Black Scholar” brought forth some questions and concerns that I have about the place of the black scholar in the academy. Harding argues that the calling of the black scholar is to fully incorporate the black experience into his/her research. The work of a black scholar should serve as an effective tool that strengthens and empowers the voices and experiences of African Americans. Harding’s article was written in 1974, where social and political issues differed from our current situations in 2012. However, I have reflected on how his claims are being applied in today’s academic setting.

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By: Diandra Chretain June 13, 2012


Choosing a CROSSroad

Live Blogging from the 2012 FTE Leaders in the Academy Conference

As a first year FTE fellow, I have found myself reflecting deeply on the theme of this year’s conference “Building Community at the Crossroads.” In both a literal and figurative sense, the image of crossroads points to notions of choice and reflect a point in time in which persons are moved to choose a path in which to continue on their journey. Yet, as a burgeoning, young, Christian theologian, I am struck by the theological richness of the symbol. For crossroads can, and perhaps must, be conceived as crossroads, reflective of a question which faces all FTE fellows as we exercise our human agency on this journey toward becoming religious and theological scholars. The question we must ask is, “what type of scholar will I become?”

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By: Christopher Hunt June 11, 2012


Creative Encounters at Vocational Intersections

Emerging scholars who are engaging Africana life worlds in dissertation projects that are not always affirmed by academic institutional cultures often ecounter profound dilemmas of vocational discernment. We are constantly called, as Dr. Hugh Page, Jr. taught us in the “navigating institutional cultures” seminar, to negotiate the tensions between our particular worldviews and ethical comittments and the implicit norms of the fields and academic arenas in which we produce public discourse. We wrestle with personal lifeworlds of meaning and those impersonal systems that institute a version of “reality” that is quite tangible, impressive and often constraining. (Fluker: 2009).

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By: Onaje X. Offley Woodbine June 09, 2012


10 Questions with The Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes (‘61)

Fran Davis-Harris spoke with FTE Alumnus the Rev. Dr. Forbes (‘61) about his life and work. He shared his thoughts on being the first African American pastor of The Riverside Church. Read on to learn his major influences and how the purchase of three tangerines helped connect him with FTE as a student.

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By: Laura Mariko Cheifetz June 04, 2012


God, Women, and the Church

Sexism is present in our churches as well as in our society. However, it may be even more prominent in our Korean American churches due to Korea’s cultural history, religious background and societal values. As a result, churches will give every excuse not to call a woman as their pastor. Rev. Unzu Lee states that “churches have to stop blaming culture” for how the Korean American Churches treat their women. Churches continue to blame Korean cultural, historical and religious heritages as excuses and reasons for how women are treated in the church. However, Korean American churches need to stop blaming culture and more correctly name this systematic subordination and subjugation of women as sexism.

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By: Rev. Dr. Grace Ji-Sun Kim May 02, 2012


The Spiritual Discipline of “Ecumenical Awkwardness”

Sometimes, the front pew is the hardest place to figure out what is going on at church. At 10:30pm on Saturday night, the Parish Council President greeted me at the front door of Taxiarchae/Archangels Greek Orthodox Church in Watertown. She saved me a seat of honor in the front pew.

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By: Rev Laura E. Everett April 16, 2012


Finding A Barefoot Way

Sometimes, when we open our meaning-making to a trusted circle of friends, we see things we cannot see alone. We see images and hear whispers of connection that elude us in solo quests. If we carefully prepare our hearts and minds, we might even sense one another’s “shy souls” coming out of hiding to bask for awhile in the mysterious presence of God among us.

People of all ages can step onto this holy ground, and I believe congregations are places where that sometimes happens. What if we found a way to allow that to happen more frequently? What if we got serious about creating spaces for intergenerational meaning-making?

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By: Dori Baker April 02, 2012


The Liturgy Of Trayvon Martin: Skittles, Iced Tea And A Hoodie

Symbols have long been important for religious and spiritual reflection. These symbols have been employed to provide greater understanding to transcendent truths, to provide comfort amid chaos, and to inspire the faithful to put their faith to action towards the common good. Many times, these symbols have emerged from rather mundane objects closely associated with a historical event.

Prior to the beginning of his passion, Christ blessed and broke bread as a symbol of his soon to be battered and bruised body. He blessed and poured wine as a symbol of his blood which was soon to pour from open wounds. These rather ordinary…

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By: Rev. Michael W. Waters March 27, 2012


Vocation Coming Into Vogue

Several times during the engaging and enriching two-day conversation FTE organized around mentoring young ministers, the ambiguity around formal and informal mentoring relationships emerged, as well as the remembrance of a bygone era in our culture when mentoring was more organic, when it was woven into the fabric and people didn’t have to be so intentional about setting up mentoring relationships. As we told stories of our mentoring experiences and tried to come up with language to define what we mean by the word “mentoring,” a passage from Lao Tzu’s Tao te Ching came to mind. “When the Great Tao ceased to be observed, then virtues came into vogue.” Could it be that as our Great Way ceased to be organically observed, virtuous words like “mentoring” and “vocation” came into vogue?

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By: Stan Dotson March 17, 2012


For Your Penance…

Lent has begun, the penitential season of the Christian church calendar. With the imposition of ashes we begin the forty days of fasting for deeper reflection, confessing one’s transgressions – that which causes us to move backwards instead of towards God, and for seeking God’s ongoing forgiveness and pardon. In the past whenever I have heard some variation of the word “penitent” I immediately related it to divinely ordered punishment, meting out justice, and necessary guilt. I can’t blame that on my Catholic upbringing. I think in large part such associations with the word penitent comes from a wider cultural and religious imagination.

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By: Enuma Okoro February 28, 2012


Letting Loose Leadership

Earlier this month, Frank Yamada was inaugurated as tenth president of McCormick Theological Seminary, and the first Asian American president of a Presbyterian Church (USA) seminary. I was able to attend, along with other FTE staff, at the tail end of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.

First, a moment of full disclosure: I am an alumna of McCormick. I was part of Frank’s ordination commission. We have worked together when I was in Chicago. Now I know Dr. Yamada as one of many important partners in the work FTE does with leaders in theological education.

This inauguration? It was cool..

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By: Laura Mariko Cheifetz February 20, 2012


On Seasons and Scholars

At this point in my career, I have come to recognize the seasonal nature of my vocation. Raking a few leaves and drinking hot chocolate has also helped bring this thought to a blog. My professional calendar as a doctoral student had roughly “four seasons:” Coursework (including languages), qualifying exams, the dissertation, and the job search. The seasons of the academic’s life, moreover, continue in the tenured and non-tenured position. They just have different names: teaching, research and writing, mentoring, and committee work.

One may find that seasons have some imbalance based upon…

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By: Adam L. Bond February 13, 2012


Vocation Exploration in Seattle

This weekend five of us from Hollywood attended a conference in Seattle put on by Volunteers Exploring Vocation. While it a was a short retreat, the time was spent doing some serious reflection and discussion on what vocation means and how to discern vocation.

Before the conference, I simply associated the word vocation with a career path. I expected to attend this conference and learn about different ministerial and social justice vocations. Instead, we discussed vocation in a way that I never considered. Vocation is more than just a career; it’s your lifestyle. Throughout the weekend, the definition of vocation revolved around this central theme: where your greatest desire and the world’s great need meet.

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By: Britney Witt February 07, 2012


Let’s Play the Blame Game: A Response to “Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus

Wanna learn how to start a fire in religious circles? Pay attention: Jefferson Bethke is an Eagle Scout. His most recent video, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus”, opines over the lack of authenticity in religious leadership, calls into account the dangerous compound of faith and politics, and berates the self-righteous (Amen!). But in making a few good points, Bethke may have thrown the baby out with the bath water.

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By: Rev. Julian “J.Kwest”  DeShazier January 30, 2012


Re-Membered Into The Body of Christ

About a year ago, my faith community formally blessed me and the gender transition I was in the midst of undergoing by including a re-naming rite as a part of our regular Sunday liturgy. In addition to being a parishioner at House For All Sinners and Saints in Denver, CO, I also happen to be transgendered. For me this means that at birth I was not declared to be the sex/ gender that I am currently living as. So I grew up as a female named Mary Christine Callahan and then did a legal name change, began hormone therapy with testosterone, went through puberty a second (and infinitely more enjoyable) time, and now live as a guy named Asher Herman O’Callaghan.

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By: Asher O’Callaghan January 20, 2012


(p)reaching out!

A few hours ago I made the long drive back to Cleveland from Louisville where I had attended and preached at the 2012 Festival of Young Preachers hosted by the Academy of Preachers. I would have thought that after three days of hearing God’s word through 30 different denominations, flowing from the mouths of over 120 preachers that my heart would be quiet and my mind still. Instead my mind is racing in a post-celebratory buzz. It seems that although my suitcase that carried my clothes is unpacked, the suitcase of my mind is just starting to reveal the extent the Festival touched my soul…

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By: Kristina Heise January 13, 2012


Noting a Woman’s Body

God knows women’s bodies always have a way of getting our attention. This is not breaking news. But in the past two weeks two storylines have been breaking out and gaining traction on the female body, and I have been both painfully and gratefully reminded that there are always at least two sides to any story.

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By: Enuma Okoro January 05, 2012


Happy New Year!

I hope that you had a wonderful holiday season and that you are preparing for an exciting new year.

What is God’s revelation in you or your organization? As God’s beloved, how will you appear to the world? On the dawn of a new year, these are two questions I am wrestling with on behalf of The Fund for Theological Education (FTE).

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By: Stephen Lewis December 31, 2011


Midwives, Mary, and a Golden Cord

If your church uses Godly Play or Children’s Worship and Wonder, odds are the youngsters in your congregation have heard the story about the Christian year. In this particular story, the storyteller has two objects: a long golden cord and a circular puzzle full of color.

The storyteller begins by picking up the cord and stretching it out in a horizontal line, a golden metaphor for chronos time, linear time, the world’s time, with its beginning, middle, and end.

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By: Rev. Elizabeth Myer Boulton December 19, 2011


Finding Purpose in 3D

This Christmas season I received a gift I love so much I can’t help but give it away. I took my 13-year-old daughter, donned the dorky 3-D glasses, and dove into 127 minutes of delight: Martin Scorcese’s new film “Hugo.”

I rarely see first-run films. At $13.50, it seems absurd not to wait a few weeks until it comes to the dollar theatre. But I raced out to see Hugo after an email from a friend who said the movie reminded him of our work at FTE. Indeed, he was right: the movie hit me where I live, reminding me why I do what I do, love what I love, and care about what I care about. Hugo creates a space to celebrate all the things we embrace in the work of VocationCARE: holy listening, story-telling, community as source of healing—and perhaps best of all—unlikely friendships across generations, mysteriously in service to finding (or re-finding) one’s place in the world.

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By: Dori Baker December 13, 2011

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