Spring Academy Considers Movement Toward ‘The Beloved Community’

Series celebrates its 49th year with five lectures scheduled in April at The College of Wooster

23 March, 2015 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio, — For nearly half a century, The College of Wooster's Fall and Spring Academies of Religion have urged their audiences to consider a call to action on moral, ethical, and spiritual grounds. In other words, these long-running series have always been about more than idle chatter. Instead, powerful words and provocative dialogue have been used to evoke thoughtful reflections and meaningful responses.

Next month's Spring Academy will endeavor to fan those flames once again when it presents "Help to Sing these Songs of Freedom: Toward 'The Beloved Community.'" Each of the five lectures will be held in Lean Lecture Room of Wishart Hall (303 E. University St.) beginning at 7:30 p.m., and all five are free and open to the public.

One of the objectives of the series will be to "free one's mind from mental slavery" induced by the restrictive social, educational, financial, and governmental structures that inhibit us from "fully seeing and recognizing, let alone embodying, our deepest humanity." Ultimately, the objective is to move toward a "Beloved Community," envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in which all people can share the wealth of the earth, and refuse to tolerate poverty, hunger, homelessness, racism, bigotry, and prejudice because "human decency will not allow it."

King's vision of an all-inclusive spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood would cause international conflicts to give way to peaceful resolution and reconciliation. Love and trust would triumph over fear and hatred. Peace and justice would prevail over military conflict and violent aggression.

Sound too good to be true? Only to those unwilling to consider it. The featured speakers at this year's Spring Academy will attempt to persuade the audience that "The Beloved Community" must grow organically as it intersects various communities, building a foundation of justice and respect where the "true and full humanity of all persons and all cultures can flourish."

Charles Kammer, academic dean of the academies of religion and The James F. Lincoln Professor of Religious Studies at Wooster, says that the speakers represent voices that are traditionally excluded from the dominant cultures monologue. "We will hear from those who have different visions of what the world and human societies might be," he says. "They will provide guidance on how we might yet reclaim the human future and the future of this planet."

Kammer also invites members of the community to be active participants in this spring's series. "We invite all who come to not just listen but to participate in the conversation and contribute their own insights and voices," he said. "In all of our different and necessary voices, we must, as best we can 'sing these songs of freedom.'"

The series begins April 2 when Teresa Delgado, associate professor of theology and ethics as well as program director of Peace and Justice Studies at Iona College presents "Loving Sex Latina/Mente: Exploring a Relevant Catholic Sexual Ethic through the Lens of a Latino/a Experience."

The second lecture will be one week later (April 9) when Kwok Pui Lan, the William F. Cole Professor of Christian Theology at Episcopal Divinity School, discusses "Sustainability, Earthcare, and Christian Mission."

The following week (April 16), Chan Sok Park, instructor in religious studies at Wooster, will talk about "What We Can Learn from Christianity in Korea," and then Kammer will address "And the tRuths Shall Set You Free" the next week (April 23).

The series will conclude on April 30 when Ennis Edmonds, associate professor of religion at Kenyon College, presents "Beat Down Babylon: Rastafari and the Delegitimation of Western Society."

Additional information about the Spring Academy of Religion is available by phone (330-263-2473) or e-mail.