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Archive for October, 2010

I’m here at my first AAR conference. I could never afford to go as a grad student, and feel giddy and blessed that the journal has enough funding to pay for me to be here this year. Josh and I are presenting a panel tomorrow, along with several of our esteemed board members, on the “promises and challenges of inter-religious dialogue.”

Earlier today I saw a preview of the film Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer. Dr. McGuckin was my advisor when I studied Byzantine history, and I was honored to get to hear stories of these monastics and desert fathers in person. The film looks so good– it’s hard to believe, especially having flown from NYC to Atlanta, that there is, for example, an entire island where only male monastics live, eating what they grow, cut off from the modern world, and praying day in and day out as they have for hundreds of years.

Then, I went to a panel discussing the work of Rita Gross, who I had only read in school. In fact, I had only read nearly everyone on the panel, except for Professor Paul Knitter, who is a favorite of mine.

Here are some notes I took during the panel:

“dialogue is not about at arriving at homogenized views”

the teacher presents each religion empathetically…teacher should be committed to what is most life-giving…so that the students can come to their own evaluation

empathy is aligned with accuracy

regarding Gross as an editor: “…once she made a decision, she never wavered”

Rosemary Radford Ruether on feminism: resistance of scholars to pay attention to the ways half of humanity participates in religions

androcentrism–bias toward elite male; assumption that he is the “normal” human being = bad empiricism

Max Miller: “to know only one religion is to understand none”

Matt arrives late tonight. I’m hoping to bring him along to a morning session, a panel talking about the impact of Serene Jones’ book Trauma and Grace. I interviewed Jones earlier this week about her participation in a seminal Muslim/Jewish closed door conference. She briefly mentioned some of the work around this book in a panel on Monday night, and I couldn’t keep up with the notes I wanted to take.

There are some art museums and old churches nearby, and Matt has a new camera, so I’m hoping we can walk and explore around lunch time, before getting ready for my panel in the early evening.

I’ve never been to an academic conference, and was a bit nervous beforehand. During the Gross panel, though–especially after hearing Knitter speak, which made me feel right at home as a student–I realized that it is like being a student. You choose presentations that appeal to you, you listen attentively and get excited, note-take furiously, and ask questions. You meet people that have similar ideas, or excitement, or questions. Instead of asking which hall they live in, you exchange business cards.

I was surprised when two different people saw me walking around afterward the Gross panel  and struck up a conversation beginning with, “I really liked your question.”

I’m looking forward to another day of questions that have never even crossed my mind.

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October, wings

September was too, too busy.  Start of school, crazy journal work, the Big Love party, and I was (crazily) still nannying. Every time I opened my September calendar, and saw how full it was, I’d think, “But October will come some day, and not be so crazy.”

I was mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, I love everything I’m doing. But I cherish the rare days when I “only” teach, and then come home to putter. Or a “blank” Saturday. Or even a Sunday, where I only teach Sunday school and have no editing or conference calls or interviews hanging over my head.

Sometime I few weeks ago, I had an insight, “What if this isn’t a busy time that will pass– what if this is my real adult life?”  That is, what if I will always be this busy, given my interests, and commitments?  Can I do this for an entire year?  Three years? A decade? I’m not sure I know the answer to that yet. I get a lot of relief knowing that this rush and bustle is “temporary.”  I look forward to Thanksgiving, for example, knowing that I won’t have to answer journal e-mails, will get a few days off teaching, and will have nothing to do but rest and be with loved ones. And sleep in. And feel no guilt about just reading for fun, cooking for pleasure, chatting for hours.

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This month has included more paperwork than I’ve ever done for IEP students, progress reports times two grades, a portfolio meeting with my vice principal, and new issue of the journal, three interviews total to do (only one done, but still needs to be written), a day of filming interviews at a religious conference, two “VIP” dinner events, several important board calls, and presenting at the American Academy of Religions.

My birthday happens next week, and I’m afraid it’s just going to fly right by. On the day of my birthday, I’ll have school, fiddle lessons, we have a great church event that we love to attend monthly, and then I fly to Atlanta bright and early the next morning. Honestly, I’d love to just have a day off to loll about.

Things keeping me feeling good and okay: a box of beautifully wrapped birthday presents from my mother-in-law, waiting for me; Matt has been helping me wake up every morning because the sarokwel makes it hard–he does it with gradual light, NPR, fresh coffee, and photos from Daily Puppy; a new book, Golden States of Grace, which is amazing and gorgeous and contains prayers that give me goosebumps, and I had the pleasure of interviewing the photographer last night.  A prayer from the book, by Jane, from Women of Wisdom, “When you come to the edge of all you know, you must believe in one of two things: there will be earth upon which to stand or you will be given wings. My wish is that we are all given wings and the faith to use them.”

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A few weekends ago, we were totally, immersed-ly blessed to participate in S. and A.’s Big Love Party.

They were our neighbors for one year on the third floor, and moved east so S. could serve as an assistant rector. They are wonderful, and true.

I was the designated head decorating fairy (Matt was my helper elf), and they also asked me to participate in a duet-reading of a (very juicy) selection from Song of Songs.

Unbeknownst to them, I was also asked to testify during the sermon.

And, they stayed with us for the few days before the wedding, and I got to co-host the bachelorette party. It was quite a week, and I loved every minute of it.

The big love ceremony was the most moving I have ever been part of– some of that was because it was an Episcopal liturgy, which already moves me. Part of it was because the music and space were incredible. Part was because I recognized so many people there.  The hugest part of it was S. and A. themselves.  I would post my testimony, where I described them as True and truly courageous…but I gave them my notes.

My students helped make paper flowers–which S. and A. gifted back for our use in _Romeo and Juliet_, and we harvested birch branches and greenery from a community garden here in the Bronx.  Matt found the perfect font, and we printed selections from Song of Songs onto translucent paper, with we turned into luminaries.

My local tailor saved the day by making a last minute alteration to S.’s custom made gown.  We stayed up late chatting, and eating papusas with S. and A.  I was inspired all weekend long. I could barely choke back the tears during my testimony, and definitely not during the rest of the sermon and their vows.

Matt and I left feeling more deeply in love and committed than ever, and I came away from the whole thing feeling braver, more lovely, and more in touch with God.

I also got to wear my super hot ball gown.

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