Wisdom on the Way was the title for a short reflective series this autumn, convened by Leeds Church Institute and Leeds Christian Community Trust to support people working in urban communities in Leeds and beyond.
The aim was to develop a small community of learning. Participants brought the content for each session and then discussed the themes and its relevance for their lives.
Content was diverse over the three sessions. Using insights from William Herzog’s book Parables of Subversive Speech, the first session focus on rereading Jesus’ parables from the standpoint of social analysis rather than theological reflection. Though in the process we found ourselves doing a lot of the latter, as our common ways of reading favourite scriptures was turned upside down. As one participant commented: “I really enjoyed being challenged by a new perspective – I can’t believe that I’ve never questioned the ‘God’ figure always being male and rich/powerful. It’s great to have those rare moments when a new concept is introduced and seems to make so much sense!”
During the second session Catherine Beaumont introduced us to the concept of Mimetic Theory, discovered by Rene Girard (which she studied for her PhD). Too complex to explain in two sentences here, it offered a new way of understanding what is taking place in many of our regular interactions and encouraged us to think about ways in which society scapegoats certain people or groups and the way we can do this, unintentionally, in our own lives.
The final session was based on Mike Love’s MA thesis, considering ‘otherness’ in the city, in terms of time, space and people. Is there a different way to look at the city to help us understand how we can contribute to it in new ways? We were encouraged to expand our theological imaginations to the possibility that things can be done differently.
All the sessions invited us to see our engagement in the world as political and to reconsider things that we had previously taken for granted and seen as fixed – that was a refreshing experience in itself.
If you’d be interested in reading the precis for the sessions let us know and we can email them on to you.
We are hoping to convene another short series of Wisdom on the Way at some point during 2017. If you would like to participate, please let us know.