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Ira Vinson "Jack" Birdwhistell

Seminar Reflections

Ed: This is a short summary of a college seminar he was hesitant to attend, but was glad he did in the end.


"Doc" Birdwhistell


            Attending the seminar has been for me a great joy. As I told Roger, with a fairly complicated life right now, I thought about backing out on Monday. I'm very glad I didn't. Here are some random reflections:


1) The best part of the Seminar was probably the first morning ["storytelling"]. Through listening then and since, I received a new appreciation for colleagues I knew only by name, as well as for friends I have known fairly well. A fervent Evangelical would say, "I'm certain that the Good Lord has guided each of you to Georgetown." At this point in my life, I would prefer to say, "I'm so grateful each of you is here, and if the Good Lord brought you, props to him/or her."


2) Content wise, I most appreciated the essays by Hughes, Evans, and Hatch in the Agee/Henry edited volume. Hughes helped me understand the struggle of colleges in the Baptist tradition to clarify their identities. Evans gave me a terminology (pp. 34-35) for various styles of being a 'Christian Scholar' which I have observed over my nearly three decades at Georgetown. I think most of our colleagues could gladly identify with one of these styles. St. Francis of Assisi is purported to have said something like, "Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words!"

            Hatch (pp. 91-92) helped me formulate the tensions between 'populist Christianity' and the apparent elitism of the academy.


3) I think we always err in giving too much attention to words/ideas/content in talking about the Christian nature of our college. I would love to see some sort of weekly 20 minute gathering available to faculty and staff where the main agenda is prayer and reflection. Realizing that many of us find this sort of experience through our local church, I nevertheless think such an opportunity could enrich our community life.


4) We must find some way to fund a more active service learning program here. More of our folks could rally 'round this component of the faith than any other.


5) I am convinced that one of the best indicators of our 'Christian scholarship' is how we treat our students and how we treat our colleagues. Listening to the conversations this week, I was most impressed with your interest in and consideration for our students. This only confirms what I have heard from students over the years.


6) In the Religion Department, I am the resident 'generalist' and bibliophile. I can loan or recommend books about lots of religion-related subjects. For example, 'word/deep insights' folks would enjoy almost anything written by Frederick Buechner, a semi-Presbyterian preacher/novelist/essayist. 'Science and religion' types might resonate with the work of John Polkinghorne, a physicist and Anglican priest. Tony Campolo, in his many writings, challenges all of us to get out and DO something for people in need. Will Campbell combines down home Southern wisdom with radical social Christianity in his works, especially his memoir, Brother to a Dragonfly.