Life of Oden

Last year around this time, the Oden family was packing up our house, getting ready to move to Sacramento.  I’ve barely stopped since.

After spending the last couple weeks in Oregon, this week feels like the beginning of a new year. Not a new calendar year, and not quite yet a new school year. It’s the beginning of a new intellectual year, one in which I (mostly) put behind me the teaching tasks of last year and take up new ones. Yes, there’s some overlap.  Lots of editing left to do on my book project. I’m still musing about a theology of seminary education (posts on that coming soon).  But with this new “year” is a new sense of freshness in mind and spirit, if not quite yet body.

I ended the school year fairly exhausted in all three.  I wrote the great bulk of my book from November through January, then had the emotionally draining news in February about the closing of Fuller Sacramento.  The news itself was discouraging and with it came all the processing, re-examined expectations, lack of clarity about the future for myself and my colleagues. A rhythm begun was quickly squelched and it was hard to regain a sense of excitement.  Fuller Sacramento

But in the midst of all of this I taught.  Of my tasks this past year, teaching was likely the most important and successful. I taught six different courses this past year, none of which I had taught before. Some were re-packaged versions of topics I had previously covered in other classes. Some were entirely new topics so I had to begin from scratch.

Here’s what I taught this past year:
Summer 15:
HT501 “The Church’s Understanding of God and Christ and Spirit in its Theological Reflection.” (2 sections)

HT502 “The Church’s Understanding of the Church, Humanity, and the Christian Life in its Historical Development”
IS502 “Practices of Community”

HT500″ “The Church’s Understanding of God and Christ and Spirit in its Historical Development”
HT501 The Church’s Understanding of God and Christ in its Theological Reflection.”

IS501 “Practices of Worship”
TH550 “World Religions in Christian Perspective”

Summer 16
IS501: “Practices of Worship”

That’s a lot of course prep.  Fortunately, I was blessed with gracious students who gave me rather good student evaluations, so even though I felt spread very thin throughout the year, these classes went well.  This feeling of being spread thin definitely plagues me at times, but it helped to think long term.  I am covering a lot of ground, so much that I tend to feel akin to the Platte River, “A mile wide and an inch deep.” Rather than being a net worry, this is pushing me to think in wider and integrative ways.  I can’t sit still in a narrow perspective of one topic or era, instead I am propelled to think in terms of history, ministry, theology.

That all ties into one of my prevailing intellectual and spiritual questions of late: What is the story God is writing in our era?  I have more to say on this in future posts, as well as musings on each of those courses and the big themes that stood out to me.

As I press on in thinking about this next school year, I am happy to have some returning courses. No new course prep for those!  Only 2 brand new courses for me, but these are topics I am quite familiar with. The first, TH559 is titles “Theologies of the Holy Spirit” and will be my first chance to focus entirely on my major area of personal and professional research over the last fifteen years.  Because it is part of a developing emphasis on spiritual dynamics, I am approaching it more holistically, seeing it ultimately as a class on discernment. How do we see, understand, and experience the Holy Spirit in our contexts? How can we discern where and how the Spirit is working and where the Spirit is not working?

I’m also going to be teaching a church class on the Apostle’s Creed during the Fall.  This class is for “lay” women and men who are interested in more theological discussion and depth.  It is based on a class I taught for Azusa Pacific, so it won’t require a lot of prep. It will provide (hopefully) some great discussions with those who are interested in a better understanding and expression of our faith but aren’t interested in more formal seminary education. I see this as a key part of my own passion to help bridge the gap between the church and the academy.

A lot of other professional irons in the fire for this next year that I’m working on. Now that I feel at least somewhat refreshed, I am genuinely excited about what is ahead, both the known and the unknown.  Both require a fair amount of faith, which is a good place to be in for a burgeoning theologian.

Hasten, O God, to save me; come quickly, LORD, to help me.

(for a recap of personal Oden adventures, see Amy’s family blog)

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