Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Colloquy on Prayer

In Hallowed Walls I noted that I had recently attended a meeting of the Presbytery of New York City that was held on the campus of Union Seminary in New York City. Less than forty-eight hours later I found myself on the campus of the other Union Seminary, the one in Richmond, VA. I was on campus to attend a gathering of a Colloquy on Prayer.

In 2007 I was invited to participate with other pastors as well as theological students and scholars in a Colloquy on Prayer sponsored by the Institute For Reformed Theology (IRT). The IRT is an associated Program of Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education. The Colloquy has been scheduled to meet six times over two years. Each gathering begins with a reception and dinner on day one. Day two morning and afternoon are devoted to discussion with the evening being a group dinner. The morning of our third day is also devoted to discussion and the colloquy ends at lunch. The Colloquy on Prayer draws about half of the twenty-three participants from UTS/PSCE faculty, students and alums. It is convened by Dr. Dawn DeVries, John Newton Thomas Professor of Systematic Theology.

Through our first five gatherings we have read and discussed writings on prayer by Sam Balentine, David Crump, Origen, Evagrius Ponticus, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Sienna, Gertrude the Great of Helfta, Steven Chase, Martin Luther, John Bunyan, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Karl Rahner, Immanuel Kant, Ludwig Feuerbach and Sigmund Freud. At our next (and last) gathering we will discuss writings on prayer by John Calvin and Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki.

Having earned my Doctor of Ministry in the Reformed Focus at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, I compare the amount of time I am spending, the pages of text I am reading, and the level of discussion I am experiencing as the equivalent of two D.Min. Seminars minus the two twenty page papers I would have written. The other pastors in the group help keep us focused on the parish, asking such questions as “How would this preach?” and “What difference would this make in pastoral care?” The students add the perspective of a technologically savvy younger generation anticipating ministry in a postmodern world. The scholars keep us focused and intellectually honest. Each and every participant brings with them their varied experiences, education, insights, questions, and personalities.

Original photographs from the most recent Colloquy, including photographs of participants and scenes from around the campus, can be seen here.

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