Interfaith Storytelling for a Vibrant Democracy

Congratulations to Prof. Amy Poppinga on the success of last month’s undergraduate leadership conference: Interfaith Storytelling for a Vibrant Democracy, which sought to help college students address inter- and intra-religious rifts in American society by “equipping ourselves to tell our own stories and learn to listen to the stories of others with clarity, charity, and hospitality.”

Amy PoppingaAlong with her Bethel colleagues Sara Shady (Philosophy) and Marion Larson (English), Prof. Poppinga helped coordinate the event, which drew about 80 students (15 from Bethel) to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. (Bethel and St. Thomas co-sponsored the event with Augsburg University.) The conference was the latest in a series of interfaith collaborations for the three Bethel professors — and an extension of themes from Prof. Poppinga’s research and teaching (in courses like HIS212U History of Islam, HIS328G Muslim Women in History, and HIS356 Modern Middle East). In addition to coordinating, Prof. Poppinga led a breakout session on Moving into One Another’s Stories.

“Because the conference was workshop-based, students were engaging with peers, not just listening to experts,” she told Bethel News. “They had the opportunity to connect shared experiences, concerns, commonalities, despite coming from multiple campuses.”

The conference was funded by a grant from Interfaith Youth Core, whose president, Eboo Patel, will speak at Bethel on Monday morning, April 9.


History Teachers at the 2018 Conference on Faith and History

This fall the Conference and Faith and History (CFH) will be celebrating its 50th anniversary as it holds its biennial conference (Calvin College, Oct. 4-6). One of the oldest Christian academic societies in North America, CFH describes itself as “a community of scholars exploring the relationship between Christian faith and history” and primarily aspires “to encourage excellence in the theory and practice of history from the perspective of historic Christianity.” Bethel has long had faculty participate in CFH, with Prof. Gehrz currently serving on the group’s executive board.

Conference on Faith and History logo

While most CFH members are college and university professors and graduate students, we want to echo program chair John Fea’s invitation for middle and high school teachers to consider attending the conference. The schedule is still taking shape, but John reports that there will be a special session just on the role of secondary school teachers in CFH, and that several such educators have already proposed papers. Plus it’s a chance to engage in some continuing education as you hear papers and talks from leading scholars in a variety of fields (not just church/religious history). We’ll share the full schedule once it’s set, but the list of plenary speakers includes Margaret Bendroth (author of The Spiritual Practice of Remembering) and Robert Orsi (History and Presence).

Oh, and you’d have the chance to spend a few days with Bethel faculty: Profs. Gehrz, Goldberg, and Poppinga have all proposed papers or sessions for this year’s meeting.

Hope to see you at CFH 2018!

Call for Proposals: The 2018 Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium

We’re looking forward to taking part in the 5th annual Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium — Saturday, April 21 at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in lovely Winona, MN.

(Saint Mary’s first participated in MUHS in 2016, when we were the hosts. The symposium has also been held at University of Northwestern, in 2014 and 2017; and Bethany Lutheran College, in 2015. We’re tentatively slated to host again next year.)

Saint Mary's University of MN

Bethel faculty and students will be well represented, with our Senior Seminar-ians giving initial presentations of their research projects — which tentatively run the gamut from dime novels about cowboys to evangelical marriage manuals to environmental thought in the Early Church. But other students are welcome to propose presentations as well. Just read the MUHS 2018 CFP and fill out the application form linked in it. And, of course, we’d love to meet up with any alumni who live down in that part of Minnesota.

How #Reformation500 Is Being Marked in the Twin Cities

We’re now just ten days away from the 500th anniversary of the day that Martin Luther is supposed to have nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church. Whether or not that’s actually what happened, or when, Oct. 31st, 2017 is being marked around the world as a moment to remember, celebrate, mourn, etc. the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Luther's 95 theses on the Castle Church doors in Wittenberg
Luther’s theses (in Latin) are inscribed on the doors of the church in Wittenberg – Creative Commons (A. Savin)

So what’s happening around the Twin Cities for #Reformation500? A partial list of events: (not including Prof. Gehrz’s ongoing adult Sunday School class on “The Reformation at 500,” concluding tomorrow and Oct. 29, 10am, at Calvary Church in Roseville)

Concordia university st. paul

Next weekend our neighbors to the south will host a variety of events, including a festival worship service Sunday afternoon that features drama, music, dance, and a sermon by the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (Gangelhoff Center, 4pm, Oct. 29th). CUSP is also hosting a juried art show (“Reformation Reformed”) and an archival display (“Pen & Ink: Tools of Reform”) until November 14th.

Luther seminary Reformation festival

Next Friday and Saturday, St. Paul’s ELCA seminary will host a series of workshops and presentations by theologians and musicians. (Registration required) In addition, on Friday evening the National Lutheran Choir will debut a mass commissioned for the anniversary (Basilica of St. Mary, 7pm), and the following afternoon Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis will host a special worship service (4pm).

Other Musical Celebrations

November 2-4 the Minnesota Orchestra will perform Mendelssohn’s Reformation symphony, Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2, and the world premiere of American composer Sebastian Currier’s Re-formation. Mendelssohn’s work will also be featured in a free concert by the East Metro Symphony Orchestra next Sunday (King of Kings Lutheran, Woodbury, 3pm). That same afternoon, St. Paul’s Reformation Lutheran Church will host a Reformation liturgy featuring Cantata Vespers (4pm).

“martin luther on triaL”

On Sunday afternoon, Nov. 12th, Mt. Olivet Lutheran will host the debut of an original play that puts Martin Luther on trial for the complicated legacies of the Reformation (2pm, Pantages Theatre).

Michael Beschloss Coming to St. Paul

If you’re a presidential history buff — or if current events have you interested in the development of the presidency — consider attending a free lecture by presidential historian and NBC/PBS contributor Michael Beschloss: Sunday, May 21st, 2pm in the sanctuary of House of Hope Presbyterian Church, on Summit Avenue in St. Paul. Most recently the author of the American Heritage History of the PresidentsBeschloss will appear at part of the church’s Sunday Series of talks.

Next Tuesday: Learn More about Digital Humanities at Bethel

We’re happy to report that our much-anticipated Digital Humanities program is moving forward, with the new DIG200 Intro to DH course debuting next fall. It’s being taught by Prof. Charlie Goldberg, who coordinates the DH program.

To learn more, plan to join us next Tuesday (April 4) at 10:20am in the Bethel Library. Charlie and digital librarian Kent Gerber will give an overview of DH, DIG200, and the new program. Bring a laptop or tablet to take part in a hands-on demonstration of one digital tool from the new course!

Happy Trails? Welcome Back?

“So the Midwest nourishes us … and presents us with the spectacle of a land and a people completed and certain. And so we run to our bedrooms and read in a fever, and love the big hardwood trees outside the windows, and the terrible Midwest summers, and the terrible Midwest winters …. And so we leave it sorrowfully, having grown strong and restless by opposing with all our will and mind and muscle its simple, loving, single will for us: that we stay, that we stay and find a place among its familiar possibilities.”

-Annie Dillard, An American Childhood

Many of you know that I grew up in a tightly-knit, largely Dutch, Calvinist community in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  I did feel nourished by that community, the people did seem completed and certain, and my mother probably saw my leaving as almost a kind of betrayal.  My immediate family remains in Grand Rapids, and sometimes when I think of “home,” it’s Grand Rapids rather than Northeast Minneapolis that springs to mind.  I remain grateful for that place, the people, and the identity that community helped me to create.

I hope Bethel has nourished you, but I guess I think it’s okay if our community doesn’t always seem completed and certain.  And, while I miss you, I’m glad to see you leave.  It would be selfish to keep all of you, with your attendant gifts, to ourselves.

Still . . . I really like it when you come back, and I hope that sometimes you inadvertently think of Bethel, too, as a kind of home.

Katie McEachern and Hilary Ritchie (both class of 2013) visiting in Northeast Minneapolis before their respective departures to Fuller Theological Seminary and Princeton Seminary in September 2016

Homecoming at Bethel this year is scheduled for October 1.  We hope to see many of you on campus.  In light of our tremendous losses over the past academic year, we are planning what I like to call “the Memory Project.”  Come to campus, share your favorite memories of Professors G. W. Carlson and Stacey Hunter Hecht, and then join us afterward for a walk to the Royal Gardens where will dedicate a pair of apple trees to their memory.  None of this will bring them back, but it does help remind us that they are an integral part of the cloud of witnesses we share.

Watch the CWC at 30 Birthday Celebration

This morning, our own Profs. Sam Mulberry and Chris Gehrz hosted a special presentation in the Bethel Library in honor of the 30th anniversary of GES130 Christianity and Western Culture (CWC). If you missed it, you can find video of the event on the Library’s YouTube channel:

Mostly, the event consisted of Chris interviewing CWC faculty from different eras: Mike Holmes (BTS), one of the course’s four founders; late 80s/early 90s faculty Dan Ritchie (English) and Paul Reasoner (Philosophy), who went on to teach in the Western Humanities program; and current faculty members Sara Shady (Philosophy) and Amy Poppinga (History). Live on tape, we also heard from former history prof Neil Lettinga and his wife Virginia (long the coordinators of the course), plus philosopher David Williams. There was also a brief tribute to Stacey Hunter Hecht, who taught CWC during most of her career at Bethel and passed away last December.

The presentation concluded with Chris performing a rare live, unplugged version of his updated version of the “Augustine Rap,” originated by Dan Ritchie and then-CWC instructor Greg Boyd back in the first decade of the course. (Of course, there’s also a music video version of that rap — Chris said he found it less embarrassing to rap live than to show that video, but there’s nothing stopping you from clicking here now.)

If you want to dive deeper into the history of this foundational course, Sam has worked with digital library manager Kent Gerber to create a significant, growing collection of media and digitized artifacts from CWC. In addition, earlier this year Sam conducted an oral history project among some of the course’s many former teaching assistants, including five former History majors and minors. It’s available via a digital timeline(click on the image to see the full timeline)

Screenshot of CWC TA Oral History timeline

What’s Coming Up at the 2016 Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium

Today we’re thrilled to announce the full program for the 2016 Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium, taking place at Bethel on Saturday, April 9, 8:30am-3:30pm.

Click here to view the entire schedule. A few highlights:

  • Thirty-seven students will give presentations on their historical research. That’s more than twice as many as last year and just over three times what we started with in 2014! Another eleven students and twenty faculty are scheduled to attend.
  • Together, the presenters represent eleven different Christian and church-related colleges and universities in Minnesota. Last year’s four participating institutions (Bethany Lutheran College, Martin Luther College, University of Northwestern-St. Paul, and Bethel) are all returning, to be joined by newcomers Augsburg College, the College of Saint Benedict/St. John’s University, Concordia College, Crown College, Saint Mary’s University, St. Olaf College, and the University of St. Thomas.
  • We’re grateful to colleagues from other schools for their help in promoting this symposium, and for agreeing to help chair panels in our three concurrent sessions. We’re particularly glad to welcome back to campus two of our own alumni: Dr. Rick Chapman ’79 (professor at Concordia College) and Nathan Weaver Olson ’97 (doctoral student at the University of Minnesota).
  • In addition to ten student panels on everything from immigration to genocide, the symposium will include a closing roundtable discussion on academic freedom in church-related higher education, featuring faculty from Bethel, Martin Luther, and St. Mary’s.

If you’re interested in attending any of the sessions, it’s not too late to register. Just email symposium coordinator Chris Gehrz by Wednesday. (Registration is free, though you’ll have to pay for your own lunch.)

Or follow the proceedings virtually, as participants live-tweet sessions using the hashtag #MUHS2016.

Learn About Our January 2017 World War I Travel Course!

In January 2017 our own Sam Mulberry and Chris Gehrz will again take Bethel students to Europe for a three-week travel course, HIS230L World War I. It’s an especially good time to take this trip — not only is Europe in the middle of its ongoing centenary commemoration of the war (1914-1918), but 2017 also marks the 100th anniversaries of the U.S. entering the war and Russia undergoing its famous revolution, so we’ll no doubt see some special exhibits along the way.

If you’re a current student and would like to learn more, we have two events coming up in early April:

First, we’ll have a table at the 2017 Interim Abroad Fair — Wednesday, April 6th, 11am-2pm in the Brushaber Commons Atrium. Sam and Chris will be there, and perhaps some of the students from the 2015 trip.

Then we’ll have an information session about the class on Tuesday, April 12, 10:20-11:00am in CLC 109. Chris and Sam will explain the details of the trip in more detail, including the cost (tentatively set at $3,799 — lower than in the past thanks to a favorable exchange rate and more reasonable air fare.)

If you can’t wait till April, you can click through to see a day-by-day digital preview of the three-week trip — featuring video, photos, and student comments from the 2013 and 2015 courses.