This week I'm attending the forum on youth ministry held here at my seminary. It happens ever year, but previously it's been in the middle of finals week so I haven't been able to go. This year it's the week after finals, AND we now get a credit for going (and writing a little reflection paper). So it started today and goes through Thursday night. This is my last seminary credit!!!
Today we had opening worship, an "extended seminar," small groups and a workshop/elective. The sermon focused on our favorite passage as Friends, John 15 about us being Jesus' friends, and greater love has no one than to lay down one's life for a friend. It was a good sermon, emphasizing the need for community--real, live community--in this age of social fragmentation where so many people from the US say they have only a couple people they can actually talk to, and 25% say they have no one they ca really talk to.
I went to an "extended seminar" about "What Christianity is Not," emphasizing the "apophatic" side of theology. That means that although we can't know and describe who God IS, we can say some things about who God is not, label false gods that we try to set up in our lives and doctrines, and in that way clear off the junk that gets in the way of what faith is truly about. This way of doing theology is more common in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, but I think it is also why Quakers tend to have a lot in common theologically with Eastern Orthodox thought, as well as mystics of all stripes. (E.g. Meister Eckhart and his "cloud of unknowing," etc.) This was a good lecture, but it didn't really connect with anything about youth ministry. It's the one I'll be going to all week, so hopefully as it develops, the connections will become more apparent.
Then I went to a workshop on "the empowering mosaic," meaning encouraging diversity in our faith communities. This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, and unfortunately in an hour we couldn't get to a whole lot of the nitty-gritty stuff, but it was still helpful. For me, I think it's really important for us to think about "diversity" not only in terms of the color of the skin of people in our meetings for worship, but to think about ethnic diversity, and socio-economic diversity. I don't think most Friends are racist, but I think we tend to be rather classist. Anyone is welcome to come to our meetings for worship, but they need to be part of the culture we're part of--the middle class, English-speaking, interested-in-helping-other-people culture. These things are not bad, but when they become the defining factors between who's "in" and who's "out," that's a problem. And when the people we're "helping" start coming to worship and they don't fit that criteria (because they're not middle class and they don't help people, in our definition, but are the ones being "helped"), then we inadvertently exclude them by the way we unconsciously define ourselves as communities.
Anyway, this workshop was about helping shape the culture of our communities so they are ready for more diversity of all these kinds. So it was interesting and productive, I think.
Well, that's my day. At the same time I'm also still working on German, so I have a test on Thursday, with of course tons of time to study this week, between that and the forum...which is why I'm sitting here blogging...