Sunday, April 6, 2014

Too many vowels but a great concept...Paideia

Ordinarily, I would be more tempted to clean out my refrigerator than I would be to watch a video of a college president’s inauguration address. Ordinarily. But, when a friend sends me the link with the added prompt of “check him out, he’s attractive, single, and local,” I thought the least I could do was watch a little bit of it. Congratulations, Southwestern University. You have both an attractive new president AND one with both humor and intellect. In all fairness, the previous president was a great guy, too…just not single. But anyway…

I’ve been at a handful of SU campus events and have seen the word “paideia” incorporated into both spoken and printed materials. I didn’t have a clue what it meant until I listened to President Burger’s speech. Even then, I clicked over to the transcript so I could make sure that I heard what I thought I heard.

Maybe I heard what I wanted to hear because, even reviewing the transcript, I’m hard-pressed to boil it down to a brief little definition…but it sounded to me that paideia was about connections between people and connections with ideas. He spoke about learners learning from teachers and vice versa. It sounded an awful lot like a community of people discovering, exploring, growing, and transforming together. In other words, it sounded a lot like what I envision in the church community.

As a pastor, I am well aware that I do not have all the answers to such questions as “what is the meaning of life?” or “what did Jesus mean by a desolating sacrilege?” or “where is it written in the Bible that so and so said this or that?” (btw, I am not your Bible trivia girl…ask Steve or get online and look it up). Actually, there are many, many things I don't have the answer to...get over your disappointment. I struggle just like you do. There are many aspects of our faith that I wrestle with…mostly I wrestle with those things that I learned or inherited growing up or as an adult that I now go…wait a minute. Is this right?

So, I need a community that creates space for me to discover, explore, grow, and be transformed. I need some paideia, too. I bet most of us do. Even if we can’t say that weird word with too many vowels…

Kudos to SU for their intentionality in creating such a community. I think your president is pretty cool and has some great insights on how to truly educate the whole person. Wonder what it would look like for our church community and this learning community to come together and explore creating space for paideia moments in a wider context? I’m thinking there’s a great big opportunity here.

Imagine looking at issues such as poverty in our community alongside students and educators in sociology. Imagine collaborating on such basic human needs as food, clothing, and housing in ways that honor and bring dignity to all parties. Imagine a dialogue on contemporary social issues that extends beyond bible thumping and considers the character of God alongside the human condition. 

I think SU is really on to something with this paideia thing. I also think it’s time we started exploring the synergies possible through partnerships with churches and educational institutions – not because we want to swell our membership rolls (don’t get me started on that) but because we live in a world that is in need of transformation on all fronts.

Turns out this might have been more fruitful than cleaning out my refrigerator…hmmm.

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