Thursday, 9 February 2012

Imagining the Kingdom

I’m pleased to report that the speaker has been confirmed for the 2012 New College Lectures. The lectures will be presented by Professor James K.A. Smith from Calvin College in the USA. They will be in the month of May (23 & 24th) instead of our traditional September timeslot. 

James Smith is professor of philosophy at Calvin College where he also teaches in the department of congregational & ministry studies and serves as a research fellow of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. He has written or edited 17 books including 'Teaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping Faith and Learning' (with David I. Smith), 'Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation', 'Science and the Spirit', 'Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (The Church and Postmodern Culture)' and, 'Hermeneutics at the Crossroads' (with Kevin Vanhoozer and Bruce Ellis Benson).

The theme for the Lectures will be Imagining the Kingdom: On Christian Action. The work that Professor Smith will address relates both to his forthcoming book 'Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works', as well as a previous publication 'Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation'. In the latter, Professor Smith suggests that human persons are "desiring agents and liturgical animals whose primary mode of intending the world is love, which in turn shapes the imagination". He explores in depth the relationship between liturgy, learning and formation. He argues that: 

"Education is a holistic endeavor that involves the whole person, including our bodies, in a process of formation that aims our desires, primes our imagination, and orients us to the world - all before we ever start thinking about it." (pp 39-40)

Liturgies are essentially formative practices that can be secular or sacred. Smith argues that liturgies whether sacred or secular "...shape and constitute our identities by forming our most fundamental desires and our most basic attunement to the world...liturgies make us certain kinds of people, and what defines us is what we love." (p. 25) 

He suggests that in essence, every liturgy is a form of pedagogy that teaches us in a precognitive way to be a certain type of person. Embedded in such liturgies is an understanding of the world. Education is a "constellation of practices, rituals, and routines that inculcates a particular vision of the good life by inscribing or infusing that vision into the heart...". 

Smith's work resonates strongly with the work of the Anglican Education Fellowship as represented in our recent book 'New Perspectives on Anglican Education: Reconsidering Purpose and Plotting a Future Direction'. As a result, we will be exploring some of these issues through the lectures and at an all day conference on the 26th May at New College. If you can get to Sydney in May please join us for the New College lectures and the conference at which Professor Smith will present a keynote address. 

Further Details

1. 2012 New College Lectures

Theme: Imagining the Kingdom: On Christian Action

Talk 1 – Erotic Comprehension: The Bodily Basis of Meaning (23rd May)
Talk 2 – Sanctified Perception: How Worship Works (24th May

2. Joint CASE and Anglican Education Commission (AEC) conference (9.00am till 4.00pm 26th May)

Educating the Imagination: Christian Education as a Pedagogy of Desire (Keynote address by James K.A. Smith)

For more information on both events please consult the New College website HERE.
We also plan to have the May edition of Case magazine on the theme 'Education as Formation' with James Smith as one of the authors.

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