Friday, January 10, 2014

Living Love Feast is theme of Bethany's 2014 Forum

By Jenny Williams

Bethany Seminary’s sixth Presidential Forum will delve into the biblical, practical, and experiential nature and meaning of a deeply valued expression of faith among the Brethren: the Love Feast. Held April 4-5 at the Bethany campus in Richmond, Ind., this event will feature leadership from well-known speakers and scholars along with sisters and brothers in the Brethren faith tradition.

Registration opens Jan. 15 on the Bethany website. A lower rate is being offered until Feb. 15, and high school, college, and graduate students can attend at no cost.

Speaker and activist Shane Claiborne will be the opening presenter on Friday evening with an address entitled “Another Way of Doing Life,” inviting listeners to re-imagine what it means to be the body of Christ alive in the world. Creation care, peacemaking, and racial reconciliation are ways to help us see the gospel not just as a way of believing but of living. Claiborne is a leader of the Simple Way, a faith community that has helped birth and connect radical faith communities worldwide. He writes and travels extensively, speaking about peacemaking, social, justice, and Jesus--from universities to national and international media.

Two plenary speakers will offer perspectives on the Love Feast from the biblical story and the place of ritual in faith expression. Drawing on the text of John 13, Ruth Anne Reese will present “Betrayal at Supper: Demonstrating Love in the Midst of Danger.” Focusing on Jesus’ demonstration of service and his commandment to love one another, she also will reflect on life together in the church today, Reese is the Beeson Chair of Biblical Studies and professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmington, Ky. Specializing in the General Epistles, she has written several books and currently serves on the board of the Institute for Biblical Research.

Janet R. Walton, professor of worship at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, will bring expertise in religious ritual traditions to her address, “Ritual Meals, Now.” Through questions about the boundaries of ritual meals--who may eat, what we eat, how we eat--she will explore how such meals can embody and challenge ways of living faith and living love. Walton’s work in the area of ritual has a particular focus on artistic dimensions, feminist perspectives, and commitments to justice, reflected in several books she has coedited. The past president of the North American Academy of Liturgy, she was named a Henry Luce Fellow in Theology and the Arts in 1998 and is a recipient of the AAR Excellence in Teaching Award.

From Ted and Company in Harrisonburg, Va., the actor, playwright, and theologian Ted Swartz will enter into the biblical stories of Jesus and his disciples in the play “Fish Eyes.” Through scenes from the four Gospels, the disciple Peter embarks on a journey through miracles, questions, and a growing faith, leading to the message of the Upper Room. Many will recognize Swartz and his work at the intersection of humor and biblical story--often offering a greater understanding of the text. “Fish Eyes” is one of 14 plays Swartz has written or cowritten, along with the book “Laughter Is Sacred Space.”

Five breakout sessions will guide participants in new ways of experiencing and thinking about Love Feast:

“Living Love Feast: From Reenactment to Formative Worship” with Paul Stutzman, associate pastor of Clover Creek Church of the Brethren

“A Poetic Love Feast” with Karen Garrett, managing editor of “Brethren Life and Thought” and coordinator of assessment at Bethany Seminary

“African Sahilian Love Feasts and Communion: From Nigeria to Sudan” with Roger Schrock, pastor of Cabool Church of the Brethren

“Bringing Children to Christ’s Table” with Linda Waldron, children’s ministry at Happy Corner Church of the Brethren

“Love Feast: Tradition and Innovation” with panelists Audrey DeCoursey, pastor of Living Stream Church of the Brethren; Janet Elsea, interim pastor of Pleasant Hill Church of the Brethren; Alexandre Gonçalves, pastor and consultant in child violence prevention and Bethany MDiv student (Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil); Matthew McKimmy, pastor of Richmond Church of the Brethren; Curt Wagoner, pastor in West Alexandria, Ohio; and facilitator Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs at Bethany

The fourth Pre-Forum Gathering will be held in conjunction with the forum, beginning Thursday evening, April 3, and continuing through Friday afternoon. The Alumni/ae Coordinating Council, sponsors of the event, will be leading participants through worship and a Love Feast on Thursday evening. As in the past, Bethany faculty will present four lectures on Friday, focusing this year on the place and nature of ritual and tradition in religious life:

“By Water and Oil: Baptism and Anointing in Brethren Tradition” presented by Denise Kettering-Lane, assistant professor of Brethren studies

“‘Do This’: Living the Tradition with New People and Young People” presented by Russell Haitch, professor of practical theology

"More Than Lighting Candles: Ritual Action, Worship, and Theology" presented by Malinda Berry, assistant professor of theological studies and director of the MA program

“Just Like the First Disciples” presented by Jeff Carter, president

The Presidential Forums were inaugurated in 2008. By exploring topics that thoughtfully address issues of faith and ethics, the forums strive to build community among those at Bethany, the wider church, and the public, and to provide visionary leadership for re-imagining the role of seminaries in public discourse. In fall 2010, Bethany received a generous grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations to endow the forums.

All main forum sessions and the pre-forum lectures will be webcast live. Continuing education units are available for both events. For details and to register beginning Jan. 15, visit For additional information, contact or 800-287-8822.

-- Jenny Williams is director of Communications and Alumni/ae Relations at Bethany Theological Seminary.

Source: 1/10/2014 Newsline

No comments: