Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Last Colloquy

I have written in an earlier post about my participation in a Colloquy on Prayer sponsored by the Institute For Reformed Theology (IRT) at Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education. That participation has now officially ended, along with the colloquy. The colloquy met for six times from September 2007 through April 2009. Our last gathering was last week.

During our final time together we were treated to a lecture by Elsie McKee, Professor of Reformation Studies and the History of Worship at Princeton Theological Seminary. She lectured on Calvin and Praying for “All People Who Dwell on Earth”. Colloquy participants discussed the section of Calvin’s Institutes devoted to prayer, specifically III.20.1-52. We also discussed Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki’s In God’s Presence: Theological Reflections on Prayer. Being that it was our last colloquy we also reviewed and evaluated our time together and said our goodbyes.

Unfortunately I was not able to attend McKee’s lecture and came in midway through the discussion of Calvin. It seemed to me, however, that Suchocki elicited more discussion than Calvin, perhaps because most of the participants being Presbyterian meant that Calvin was nothing new but Suchocki’s Process Theology was. Suchocki defines prayer as “our openness to the God who pervades the universe and therefore ourselves, and that prayer is also God’s openness to us.” (p. 18) The “basic supposition” of Suchocki’s “relational theology or prayer” is that “God works with the world as it is in order to bring it to where it can be.” (pp. 18-19)

I found Suchocki refreshing and insightful. I think there was a consensus among colloquy participants that she address a contemporary and popular audience that many Reformed writers have not addressed. There may be however, resources within the Christian and Reformed Tradition prior to Process Theology that might be mined to do just the same. Thus, while this was our last colloquy, we still have much work to do.

Over all I appreciated gathering with colleagues in pastoral ministry as well as with seminary students and seminary faculty to read and discuss several texts related to the topic of prayer without the need to write papers, take exams, or in any other way document our learning. The IRT Colloquy models a company of pastors and others coming together around agreed upon topics and texts, reflecting on and discussing those texts and topics, learning from the authors and from each other without a certificate or degree in mind. .Imagine that, learning just for the love of learning. I think Socrates would be pleased.

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