Dr. Grafton, Academic Dean and Professor of Christian and Islamic Studies, Hartford Seminary, discusses his newest book which he edited, More Than a Cup of Coffee and Tea which was published this year. The book explores some of the important documents and themes that have emerged over the years in the area of Christian-Muslim relations. The book is accessible to both church leaders and laypersons. The global perspective of the book highlights programs and experiences around the world where Lutherans and other Christians encounter and build on the experiences of their Muslim neighbors. In his reflections on seminaries and Muslim issues, Grafton was enthusiastic about the number of seminaries who are including Islamic studies in their courses of studies. He feels that such additions to the curriculum help rostered church leaders to educate congregational members against Islamophobia.
A widely traveled, award-winning “ambassador” of peace, Rev. Sandra Mackie, Spiritual Director, Ruth House, and Recipient of the Lifetime Peacemaker Award, Interfaith Center for Peace and Justice, believes that fear is a significant factor in war, and that better understanding is a key ingredient for peace. She observes that Iran should not be lumped together with other Mid-East nations. Iranians are not Arabs, but Persians with a long and proud history. They want to be democratic and open to the West, but free and independent; and when threatened, they think it necessary to develop a nuclear program.
Richard Michael, Interim Pastor Big Spring United Lutheran Church, discussed his recent travel to the Holy Land. Having led several groups over the years, he described the sites the group visited, the orientation to the trip for participants and the benefit of the trip for participants. For him and individuals in the group, the arrival to the Holy Land was “coming home” since the sites (cities and roads) are familiar to Christians through their reading of scriptures. In addition, Michael discussed the political realities which exist. Such a trip helps pastors to preach and teach more effectively and assists participants to reflect more critically when reading scripture and listening to sermons.
Dr. Donnella, Chaplain of the College at Gettysburg College, shared his thoughts on Black Lives Matter, Immigration, Inter-religious dialogue, and Pope Francis. While he expressed his hopes in light of these topics, he also was saddened by the lack of religious and civil tolerance during the recent political issues in the United States.
Dr. Christopher M. Bellitto, Professor of History at Kean University and author of Ageless Wisdom: Lifetime Lessons from the Bible asks what lessons we can learn about wisdom and growing older from the Bible. He draws lessons from famous, and not so famous, Biblical stories to learn how we can gather wisdom and appreciate its gifts: blessings and burdens, patience and laughter, and reaping and sowing.
Dr. Vincent Evener, Visiting Instructor in Reformation and Lutheran Studies at the Gettysburg Seminary discusses his choice of the ten top stories/events in religion for 2015. These include: The visit of Pope Francis, the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, issues of violence in particular the A.M.E. church killings in Charleston, South Carolina and terrorism, and immigration. He highlighted his concern for cooperation, openness, constructive endeavors to counter the rhetoric of suspicion and hate.
Dennis F. Carter, Career Foreign Service Officer, Department of State addresses several important questions: How is the U.S. and the United Nations handling the refugee crisis? Is there reason to fear the influx of Syrian refugees? What religious ideology drives Isis to detest the “secular state”? Why does Russia support the Assad regime?
The Poetry + Theology editor for Seminary Ridge Review speaks with internationally-exhibited fiber artist Laurie Wohl. Wohl’s traveling exhibit “Birds of Longing: Exile and Memory” came to Gettysburg Seminary in the fall of 2014. The 14-piece show integrates excerpts from Muslim, Jewish and Christian texts from the Convivencia and from contemporary Middle Eastern poets. Alluding to the oldest traditions of narrative textiles, the pieces in the exhibit include original iconography and mixed media as well as an audio soundscape.
Listen to the insightful and interesting reflections on the current crisis in the Holy Land from the Rev. Dr. Angela Zimmann, who recently returned from serving at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem.