Rowan Williams on Imagining and Creating Common Ground

The most recent episode of NetVUE’s podcast series Callings features a conversation with Rowan Williams, one of the most recognized Christian leaders of our era. Rowan is a professor, public theologian, author, and poet, and from 2002 to 2012, he served as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, which is the senior leadership position in the Church of England and the ceremonial head of the Anglican Communion worldwide.

Rowan describes his youth as being “immensely well-blessed with communities and pastors who encouraged that sense . . . that living with the Christian Gospel was living in a larger world, not a smaller one.” Even in retirement, his sense of vocation is grounded in the call from others’ needs and pain. He is guided by the questions, “What is being given to me here? And what is being asked of me here?” Our calling, he says, comes from those around us who are saying, “We want to see Jesus.”

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Avoiding the BS: Education as a Relationship

What if we stopped thinking of education as an object — a system, a process, a collection of entities — and started to think of it as a relationship? What if it is meant to be nurtured and cultivated, rather than quantified and evaluated?

Chronicle Review Illustration by Scott Seymour (Chronicle of Higher Education, January 9, 2018)

This was the question posed by a former student of mine, in a discussion on Facebook about Christian Smith’s recent Chronicle essay titled “Higher Education is Drowning in BS.” For those who missed it, Smith’s jeremiad is a 22-item list of everything that is wrong at the present moment, from “hypercommercialized college athletics” to “disciplines unable to talk with each other.” But one can agree with practically every item on Smith’s list and miss the larger point: that these problems stem from a failure to treat education as a relationship.

In our Facebook exchange, my former student comment that the problems that Smith identifies may be “the harvest of the ‘common grievance over parking.’” He was referring to Continue reading