Contributors to our blogs are faculty, alumni, and students of Seminary of the Southwest sharing their reflections from the context of a community of faith. We hope you enjoy reading, and we invite your comments.
The world’s top scientists maintain that 89% of the human body is composed of water.1 What comprises the remaining 11%? While academics in the rest of the world still heatedly debate the answer, researchers at one of Texas’ top universities have irrefutably concluded that, for the subspecies of Texans known as “Austinites,” the primary ingredient in that elusive 11% is simple: it’s Shiner beer.
Sven von Ulrichson, a lead researcher in anthro-alchemical science here in Texas, writes in a recently published paper on the topic, “In my home country of Sweden, people have adapted culturally to deal with the cold. But in Austin, it appears that people have adapted biologically. It is not that Austinites are immune to heat, or that they sweat more efficiently than other Texans. Rather, the high frequency of Shiner beer occurrence allows Austinites not to care about the heat as much.”
In a concerted effort to prepare our new Church History professor for the rigors of summer in Austin our esteemed leader Dean and President Kittredge inaugurated this effort by providing a list of suggestions to keep cool in the summer. As our new professor moves from the moderate climes of the San Francisco Bay area and into the rattlesnake, cactus infested environs of Austin where air conditioning is a basic human right, we thought we would all pitch in with advice that helps us get through the heat of summer (May to October).
In particular, Dr. Kittredge offered this advice about cars: Never leave anything in your parked car: sunglasses, laptops, cell phones, boxes of chocolate, pets. Between May and October, no sleeping in your car.
This is all true. A metal box does not protect you from the heat, regardless of its color. However, what she failed to mention are the benefits of your outdoor oven, or as you may call it, your car.
I once heard a former dean of this Seminary describe Austin’s local catchphrase “Keep Austin Weird” as “America’s Least Necessary Municipal Slogan.” The truth is Austin is the kind of place that prides itself on its local color and local culture. It’s easy to find, but also easy to forget in all the hustle and bustle of modern life.
As I remember it, when I was growing up in Buffalo NY every summer had at least a few days when the temperature soared to the high 80s or more, a real heat wave, the dog days of summer. In those pre-Cambrian days when no one, at least not in my neighborhood, had air conditioning and life ground to a halt, motherly urges to go outside and play fell on highly resistant ears, or we went, slowly, with the journey halted on the front porch where we sat and watched the world go by.
Living next to a city park meant plenty of pick-up baseball games, and games of tag or "Mother May I" or walks to the nearby swimming pool, but we would have none of that, let alone pull out the roller skates. Even jacks seemed too demanding.
In last week’s blog, Dean Kittredge offered a few points of advice for the incoming professor of Church History. While I found most of her points to be colorful takes on staying cool in Austin, I must say that I feel like she got at least half of the first point wrong.
I love the quote, misattributed to Mark Twain, that “everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” My husband, Frank, and I often say that when we grow so tired of each other that we risk running out of topics of conversation, we will always have two: the weather and real estate. The five months of Austin’s relentless heat provides a perennial subject for discussion between us. So I was delighted to be invited to offer advice to our new professor of Church History about how to stay cool in Austin. [Real estate will have to wait for another blog post.]
Dr. Claire Colombo has served on the seminary's adjunct faculty since 2012. As a freelance educational consultant, she develops religion curriculum for Loyola Press of Chicago and is a regular contributor to their Find God magazines and newsletters.
In last month’s blog post, I mentioned an outfit in town called Typewriter Rodeo. The typewriter “cowboys” are poets. They sit at tables behind vintage typewriters and pound out poems on demand. Sometimes you can find the foursome at Book People, other times at private parties or at special events such as the Austin Mini-Maker Faire.
It works like this. After standing in line for a while—because these guys are popular—it’s finally your turn. You walk up to your poet, say a word or a phrase (chocolate, unicorns, skinned knees, Mario who isn’t here) and, if you wish, name a genre (haiku, limerick, sonnet), and then you stand back and watch ‘em go. Clackety clackety clack! Two minutes later, you hear the satisfying whrrrrrip of paper from rubber roller and are handed a custom poem in Courier 12. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the poet illuminates the manuscript. Here is an example:
Ashley Freeman is a senior in the Master of Divinity program at Seminary of the Southwest. Ashley, his wife Annie, and their three children come to the seminary from the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast.
Last weekend I traveled with my 10-year-old son to a friend’s ordination in Kansas. During the trip, we talked about many different topics. However, my favorite conversation during the ten-hour drive was about zombies. More specifically, the conversation centered on the kind of vehicle I would want during the zombie apocalypse.
“Dad, what kind of car would you want in the zombie apocalypse? Any kind of car you want with any kind of weapon, and I mean anything, light sabers, chainsaws, lasers . . . anything? It doesn’t even have to be real; you can just make it up. What would you want?”
Brian Tarver is a senior in the Master of Divinity program at Seminary of the Southwest. Brian comes to the seminary from the Diocese of Texas.
Armed with our best sermons, four classmates and I headed off to Virginia for preaching camp. At least it felt a lot like camp with splitting into groups, meeting new people from other schools, and participating in workshops. The Preaching Excellence Program offers seminarians the opportunity to improve their sermon skills and encounter preachers from other seminaries. While all of the workshops and speakers were of great assistance, the most influential aspect of the PEP conference was the ability to listen to sermons. Some people might cringe at the thought of hearing 20 sermons in four days, but for this church nerd, this preaching festival helped me to understand my own brand of preaching. With a variety of styles and perspectives, I learned techniques from others that would fit into my own style. Also, the feedback on my own preaching opened my eyes to some things I did not know needed changing. When a congregation leaves a service and shakes the hand of the preacher, “good sermon” typically summarizes most of the comments. Getting constructive feedback on preaching can be difficult. The PEP conference structured small group time in a way that allows for each preacher to get helpful feedback.
Micah Jackson (@Micah_SSW) is the Bishop John Hines Associate Professor of Preaching at Seminary of the Southwest. Micah's interests include homiletic form, the spiritual discipline of preaching, and the postmodern relationship between the preacher and the congregation.
The students call it “Preaching Camp.” The Episcopal Preaching Foundation calls it “The Preaching Excellence Program.” Either way, it represents one of the few opportunities for seminarians from all around the Church to gather together for a week each summer to extend and deepen their expertise in preaching. This year, five Southwest students and I are engaging the topic of "The Language of Preaching."