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Matter ’09

2009 September 20

matterSo I am feeling very blessed. In the last two weeks I have attended two theology conferences – the Emergent Theological Conversation with Jurgen Moltmann and the Matter ’09 conference. I forget how much being a part of an experience where people can learn and discuss and debate ideas is such a vital part of who I am. Getting a short discussion some weeks in Sunday school or interacting even on blogs just doesn’t cut it for the need to be feed through such interaction. I miss it, and so was very grateful to have a few days where I could be myself. I’ve been reflecting on the Moltmann conversation already here and may continue that as well as add in a few reflections from the Matter conference in the upcoming week.

But I want to say how much I appreciated Matter ’09. It was put on by Shechem Ministries and was billed as a creative theology conference. In essence it brought the arts and theology together through a variety of mediums. As conferences go, it was a very small conference and had some serious kinks in the planning/implementation side of things, but I hope those don’t stand in the way of this becoming a regular gathering. There really is so little being done in the church that explores how art and theology and church life and faith all work together. We need safe spaces where we can explore those sorts of questions, and the Matter conference is the perfect opportunity to make that happen.

This year at the conference we got to approach the issues and learn from a variety of different styles. Throughout the conference there were presentations/workshops from a variety of voices. Some of these were strictly academic, others were talks on the practical intersection of art and faith, and others were artistic sessions like poetry readings or short drama. I was privileged to lead a session on how our mental images of God affect if our response to Eucharist turns us inward to a personalized faith or outward to a service orientated faith. Then there were three main sessions where an academic and an artist engaged the theme verses of the conference while in dialogue with each other. So a painter and a biblical scholar, a filmmaker and a philosopher, and a musician and a textual critic explored together how to interpret and reflect on scripture. Then we also got to hear multiple times from Pete Rollins, who explored with us creative liturgy and pushed us to reflect on lived faith that is in the world but not of it. He, as always, was brilliant and challenged us to remove the facades of our faith. It was cerebral, and emotional, and worshipful all at the same time.

I was grateful to be a part of this event, and thankful to those who put in the work to make it happen. I truly hope it does evolve and survive so that we can continue to see these diverse disciplines interacting and deliberately learning from each other.


One Response leave one →
  1. September 22, 2009

    J–Thanks for sharing this. I missed Matter because I was out of town speaking, but hope it becomes a regular event. Also hoping to return to doing some things on art, theology, and liturgy at Baylor–we’re working on a conference at Truett Seminary for spring 2010 with me, poet Scott Cairns, Phyllis Tickle, and Barbara Brown Taylor. I’ll keep you posted.

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