This fall, Columbia Theological Seminary developed a quality enhancement plan—a QEP—to help give focus to its work over the next five years. Captured by the phrase, “Educating imaginative, resilient leaders for God’s changing world,” the QEP will help us explore ways we can better serve the church and the world. That a theological seminary educates leaders is no surprise. That the world is changing is apparent. That we would think that the world is God’s is a theological claim deeply embedded in Reformed thought. The textual workhorses within the phrase, though, are those second and third words: “imaginative” and “resilient.”
Writing in light of Superstorm Sandy and the devastation it wreaked across the northeastern United States, it’s hard not to see the need for resilience as we imagine how to live in light of climate change. Writing in light of political battles that took us to the very brink of the “fiscal cliff” (and, indeed, partly over, before pulling us back) and in anticipation of new cliffs ahead, it’s hard not to see the need for imagination as we contemplate the future of that most resilient of political experiments, representative democracy. Writing in light of denominational splintering and in-fighting, it’s hard not to see the need for the church to actually spend some energy trying to lend some theological traction to ideas like “resilience” and “imagination” that seem in too-short supply in churches these days. We’re always “writing in light of.” The matters we’re writing (and living) in light of these days seem both bigger and more in need of resilience and imagination than they have felt in recent memory.
Gladly, this edition of @ This Point takes up resilience explicitly, using it as the Winter edition’s theme. A lead essay by CTS’s Senior Lecturer of Pastoral Theology and Care, Bill Harkins, takes us on a journey from the backcountry of Colorado to the research universities of Europe, sharing visions and understandings of resilience along the way. The fireweed he describes in that essay has become an abiding image for this edition and its picture graces our “cover.” Responses by theologians Martha Moore-Keish of CTS and Wendy Farley of Emory University and Old Testament scholar David Casson of Sandia Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque add insights and raise questions worth all our attentions. In this wonderful set of essays, we discover that attention to resilience is also remarkably stimulating of our imaginations. Add to the essays a helpful set of curricula designed by CTS alum Katelyn Gordon for use in small groups and Sunday school classes, and this edition of @ This Point is a treasure trove for anyone trying to figure out how to live a graceful life in complex times.
For many, resilience seems to mean living in ways that more capably put off death and destruction. The wonder of the Christian gospel—a wonder hinted at throughout these articles—is not that Christian faith makes us better able to endure until we die. It’s that because we will endure—albeit in a transformed way—even after we die, we can imagine the kinds of hopeful, faithful, and loving practices of resilient engagement that may serve as a witness to a world learning about both its need and resources for resilience.
Editor, @ This Point: Theological Investigations in Church and Culture