Vocation and Catastrophe: An AAR/SBL Pre-Meeting
November 17-18, 2022 · American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature · Denver, CO
Over the last few years, the world has experienced a global health pandemic, extreme polarization along lines of race and class, an increase in armed violence, and a surge of climate-related disasters. How have these events and trends altered conversations with undergraduate students about vocation and calling? How are students, staff, and faculty members affected by a sense of impending catastrophe? This event built on NetVUE gatherings at AAR/SBL meetings in 2019 and 2021 (focusing on interreligious conversations and issues of justice). The event included panel presentations, book discussions, and interactive conversations, as well as opportunities for socializing and networking. Attendees of the AAR/SBL Annual Meetings were invited to arrive in Denver a day or two early for this pre-conference gathering, which addressed questions such as these:
- How do current crises, particularly those related to climate and the environment, affect our understanding of the broader ecologies of vocation?
- How can faculty members in religious studies, theology, and related fields best help students to navigate current cultural circumstances and discern their various callings in the face of severe challenges?
- What resources (readings, discussion topics, and pedagogical approaches) are available to theologians and religious studies scholars who seek to emphasize the relationships among religion, catastrophe, and personal reflection and discernment?
- What obstacles are classroom teachers likely to face in addressing these issues in the religious studies classroom, and how can these obstacles be addressed?
This gathering was of interest to those who teach or advise undergraduate students in religious studies, theology, ethics, and related fields, including those that focus on interreligious and interfaith studies.
Schedule of Events
Thursday, November 17, 2022 (Sheraton Downtown, Director’s Row H)
Introduction: Catastrophe as Denouement and Revelation
David S. Cunningham, Director of NetVUE
Opening Comments: Ecology of Vocation
Kiara A. Jorgenson, Assistant Professor of Religion and Environmental Studies, St. Olaf College (MN)
Panel: Responses to Kiara Jorgenson’s Ecology of Vocation: Recasting Calling in a New Planetary Era
Geoffrey W. Bateman, Associate Professor of Peace and Justice Studies, Regis University (CO)
Steven Bouma-Prediger, Leonard and Marjorie Maas Professor of Reformed Theology, Hope College (MI)
Sarah E. Robinson, Resident Assistant Professor of Religion and the Environment, Pacific Lutheran University (WA)
Discussion with panelists
Reception (Sheraton Downtown)
Dinner at local restaurant
Friday, November 18, 2022 (Sheraton Downtown, Governor’s Square 12)
Panel: Catastrophic Vocations
Scott Bader-Saye, Academic Dean and Helen and Everett H. Jones Professor of Christian Ethics and Moral Theology, Seminary of the Southwest (TX)
Courtney M. Dorroll, Associate Professor of Religion and Co-Director of the Center for Innovation and Learning, Wofford College (SC)
Nicholas A. Lewis, Associate Vice President for Academic Initiatives and Associate Dean, Bard College (NY)
Closing Plenary Address: Living Vocationally in a World On Fire
David L. Clough, Chair in Theology and Applied Sciences, University of Aberdeen
Meals, Accommodation and Transportation
Registered participants for the pre-meeting were invited to the Thursday reception (complimentary appetizers and open bar), as well as dinner at a local restaurant.
Because this event was connected to the Annual Meetings of the American Academy of Religion or Society of Biblical Literature, lodging needs varied. Members of AAR or SBL who were registered for the Annual Meeting could obtain discounted lodging through the organization of which they are a member. Limited assistance for lodging costs were available to participants from NetVUE member institutions who are unable to pay for the extra night of lodging. Details concerning area hotels, as well as airport transfer and parking information, is available on the SBL website or the AAR website.
NetVUE is a program of the Council of Independent Colleges and is grateful to Lilly Endowment Inc. for its generous support of this event.
NetVUE Sessions at the AAR/SBL Meeting
Sunday, November 20, 1:00–3:30 p.m.
Denver Convention Center, Mile High 3B (Lower Level)
Empowering Communities of Color: The Role of Faculty in Religious and Biblical Studies
Faculty members in religious and biblical studies have sometimes turned to the language of “vocation” and “calling” to help students to reflect on the future direction of their lives. But certain interpretations of these concepts can drift into individualistic and subjectivist modes, rather than supporting thriving communities and seeking the common good. Especially for students of color, the idea of vocation as a “hero’s journey” often fails to acknowledge the realities of their lives—whether within the university setting or outside it. Patrick Reyes takes on these issues directly in his recent book, The Purpose Gap: Empowering Communities of Color to Find Meaning and Thrive (Westminster John Knox, 2021). In this session, several scholars in religious and biblical studies will offer reflections on the book, to which the author will offer a response. Significant time will be allowed for questions and group conversation.
Stephen E. Fowl, Loyola University Maryland (MD)
Armando Guerrero Estrada, Dominican University (IL)
Kirsten S. Oh, Azusa Pacific University (CA)
C. Hannah Schell, Independent Scholar
Patrick B. Reyes, Forum for Theological Exploration
Sunday, November 20, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Embassy Suites-Leadville (Third Level)
NetVUE Reception for Members and Friends
David S. Cunningham, Director of NetVUE, and Lynne M. Spoelhof, NetVUE Program Manager
All SBL and AAR participants were invited to join us for this reception, whether or not their institutions are members of the network. Attendees could learn more about NetVUE (including faculty development and grant opportunities), connect with friends and colleagues with similar interests, and enjoy one another’s company. Light appetizers and cash bar.