The winter quarter has descended on us, and finally some kind of weather that also resembles winter has also descended on us. We had a delightful bout of snow here in Chicago that left us with fourish inches. I love watching the people from the southern part of the world in this.
Over these two weeks I’ve been enjoying campus life. I do enjoy having so many things at my fingertips, such a vibrant community of learners. This quarter I’m enrolled in Intro to New Testament, Public Theology, and my second quarter of Koine Greek. Greek is going well, but of course I’m not trying as hard as I should be. I’m trying to engage my mind more in that respect by also attending the Greek reading session for my New Testament course. There are about five people in the section–all of whom have much more greek and are much better at it than me–but it’s still really enjoyable to be able to pick apart the language and read the bible in its original. I feel way out of my league because the other students can translate on the fly, and know all the tenses, after being in Greek for several years. But they were very gracious and also fairly surprised that I could do as much as I could with only one quarter.
Public Theology is kind of a “thank god, finally” class. The course is the MDiv introductory course, which examines some of the most famous American public theologians, the way they engaged society, the methods they used, and how they were influential. We’re reading MLK, Dorothy Day, Heschel, and Neibur. We plowed through the Landmark Speeches of Martin Luther King in a brilliant two weeks, when I finally felt like I was truly here to get a religious education, rather than an education about religion. Now we’re reading Dorothy Day’s autobiography, which has a beautiful, detailed and novel-like lilt to it that intoxicates me with its simplicity, complicatedness, and voice. I am painfully behind in our assignments, but I totally plan on not remaining so. I like the book a lot. I’ll post some more detailed information about it later, I’m sure.
I’m also very happy with my New Testament course. The professor is older, better established, more knowledgeable about his place in a wider world–and confessedly, a Friar, so his methods are more like my own, from a religious standpoint. He is also german, and I don’t mean with a German name–he is VERY, VERY german. Everything from the accent he has, to his wide, serious eyes, to the jokes he makes… it would be a caricature if he wasn’t so intelligent. Instead it’s just enjoyable. The thing I really like about him is not that he’s “brilliant”, but that he is a professor and a teacher in the right sense of the word: he is there to teach, to give us the arguments of scholarship, to tell us about how things work, and to make sure we understand where his work is situated in the rest of a body of work. I felt like I had been missing that from my previous quarter: both professors didn’t seem to acknowledge that their thoughts or methods or even worldview was situated within many different other forms of these things. They seemed unaware of this, even. It was a constant source of frustration for me. This professor, it seems, is well aware of his surroundings, and is ready and willing to explain his surroundings.
In addition to classes, I’ve been gearing up for another quarter of hard work and events. The school’s MLK event this year featured Geoffrey Canada, a highly respected man who formed the “Harlem Children’s Zone.” I know just the bare minimum about this project, but the goal was to make a place where all children would he held accountable, loved, and respected so that they would turn into productive people. His work had significant success and he’s become quite famous because of it. In his talk, I wished he would have given me a bit more of the nuts and bolts of how his organization works. The education people I talked to also thought that, but I can see how he would want to lay down the problem that inspired his vision first, for those of us who aren’t aware. I didn’t feel like he told me anything new, but for some reason, even in a pulpit with hundreds of people in a ginormous church (I become more amazed by Rockefeller chapel every time I go inside) he made himself approachable and it seemed like he was just having a conversation with you. Either way, it inspired me and I feel really ready to start my new job with Jumpstart through the Neighborhood Schools Program. I had that interview on Friday and I’m really looking forward to starting, because I am so excited to have kiddies back in my life. Sometimes it’s great to discuss the finer nature of scripture, theology, public systems… but sometimes you just gotta teach a kid how to recognize the letter G.
So that’s the short of it, the first two weeks of Winter Quarter. Enjoying my I-House living, looking forward to new opportunities, enjoying talks and lectures, and jumping on board with my new classes.