Quater Six: Halfway Through My Coursework

Studying With Dad

I can’t believe this is my sixth quarter of studies! I am almost exactly halfway done with my course work. I am just about finished with my 3rd tutorial (on theology of church and culture) and completed my 4,000 pages of reading for the class about 1.5 weeks ago. This past week I’ve been working on reviewing my notes and trying to figure out some kind of thesis and outline for the paper. So far I am still pretty dry on inspiration so I am going to turn to a more simple model of paper and do a summary of three thinkers and their insights into church and/or culture: James Wm. McClendon, John Howard Yoder and Slavoj Zizek. The basic point of my paper will be to mine the best of their works in a way that allows me make comparisons and map out how their work can be used for dealing with the questions for the topic at hand.

Something I’ve been looking into is how Friends have thought about missions in the last 100 years. Who are our mission theologians? And how has our engagement with culture been shaped (or not shaped) by the thinking of missiologists, sociologists and culture theorists in this past century? So far I’ve discovered Elton Trueblood’s very limited work in this area, “The Validity of Christian Mission,” which is in some ways useful for getting a picture of where some Friends were in the 60’s and shows his gift for penning the pithy. Yet, it also represents a modernist view of culture, where some cultures, namely our Western one is superior to others. The other, more hopeful mission theologian, is Everett Cattell. Cattell has not only written on missiology but was himself a missionary. I like Cattell for a number of reasons: a) he was the president of my alma mater, b) he falls in line with Carole Spencer’s holiness version of Quakerism, a Quakerism that is both mystical and activist and c) Cattell’s reputation among a variety of Quaker branches is well-known and respected. I also have an old copy of Quaker Religious Thought journal where he wrote about his concern for the future of the Friends Church, a concern I share. That said, I need to do a lot more digging before I actually know where he lands on all the issues. But I am hopeful that I will find some aspects I can pick up on and carry forward in my own work.

Next week I begin a two week intensive with Ryan Bolger on “Paradigms of the Church,” which is a methods course on researching and surveying ways of being the church in our contemporary context. Along with this class, I am a teacher’s aid for Bolger’s “Mission in Contemporary Culture,” a class where we deal with culture theory and the church’s mission. So I’ve had to cut my hours down at the bookstore in order to keep up with the rest of my work, so after this week I’ll just be on-call, dropping my hours should help buy me enough time to get my other work done. After I finish this class and my paper, I will be exactly halfway done with all my coursework (probably a 1.5 years more), then I’ll move onto writing. And the Lord only knows how long that will take!

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

9 thoughts on “Quater Six: Halfway Through My Coursework”

  1. Just wanted to stop in to say I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while and really envy your experience in seminary. I followed a different grad school path, but when I start my midlife crisis and return to school, it will be to seminary – rockin’ out on Anabaptist theology and thinking about emerging church. Til then I’ll keep enjoying your blog!

  2. interested to hear what you find on Friends missions. when i was studying Friends history at Malone, I was intrigued that while a lot of the rest of the Christian universe was skipping out on missions in 1500-1600’s, it was part of the very root of what Friends began their gathering around. Part of this was a necessity of beginning a new “group”…you have to get people to follow you, but a lot of it was their desire to spread the Truth that they had found.

    However, as they got further along and denominational splits started happening with more gusto, a fair amount of this focus was lost. Today I think you would be challenged to find what I would call an “authentic” Friends mission movement. On one side of the split you have Friends who are largely concerned with justice, but not particularly with relationship. On the other side you have those affected by the holiness movement, many of whom reflect little of the classic Friends practices. The EFC-ER, for example, while having a very strong mission mindset, could be aligned with any number of non-denom churches as they could with the Friends…there’s so little of the history still present.

    Anyway, I think you’ve probably had more interaction with Friends that actually embrace both the mission of sharing relationship as well as practicing justice than I have. Looking forward to reading more…

  3. @Dave thanks for the comment, let me know if I can be a resource for you when the time comes to jump back into school.

    @Lazlo – Thanks! I sure hope. Now I just wish I would have taken more notes on your survival techniques.

    @Joel – Yes, I agree with your assessment not just about the historical Friends but also about our current situation. There’s a lot to be dug up, and re-worked but I find this all very exciting and think there’s still enough bodies and interest to do this well. I hope “convergent Friends” will be (or continue to be) this “authentic mission movement” you speak of.

  4. So how many hours per week have you been normally working since your program? 6 quarters plus 1.5 years = full time study, right? I’ve been seriously considering the SIS PhD for next year, too. Always good to hear people’s perspectives on the dance of work/study.

  5. Hi Jenelle – I have been typically TAing about 10-15 hours per week and working at the bookstore 10 hours a week. This leaves me about 30-35 hours weekly of study. Let me know if you have any other questions about SIS and the PhD program, I’m happy to assist.

Comments are closed.