I remember a college meal just after class registration in which friends were sharing their schedules for that semester. When asked, “What are you taking?” we all answered by faculty name, not by course name. Other graduates of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the 70s will recognize these professors: Jim Leutze. Grant Wacker. Kimball King. I never would have considered taking military history classes except that Dr. Leutze was teaching them. I easily remember the feast of sitting at the feet (or in the lecture hall) of these amazing men whose words stirred my imagination and prompted all of us to take what we learned to dinner conversations and late night gatherings.
I can hardly believe I was fortunate enough to learn from Krister Stendhal or Walter Brueggemann or Horace Allen in seminary. I remember it like I remember certain desserts I’ve relished.
And notice how all those teachers were white men. Today, I actually have friends who’ve been taught by Cain Hope Felder, Anna Carter Florence, and Yolanda Pierce. (Note Nora Tubbs – my high school Bible Study leader while she was in college – would one day to become the great preaching professor Nora Tubbs Tisdale.)
We are called to be lifelong learners and it matters who’s doing the teaching. Just last weekend, I learned from Aisha Brooks-Johnston about Flourishing in an Unpredictable World. I would have listened to her talk about banana bread. In a few weeks, I’ll be listening to Harvey Gantt and Hugh McColl talk about legacy. Yes, please.
Continuing education is essential for spiritual growth and maturity. It sparks our imagination and our dreams.
But here’s my point: it matters who’s on the faculty. I’ve also attended educational events with faculty who have not been successful at the very thing they are teaching. “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” is a quote from George Bernard Shaw’s play Man and Superman and it’s not true – usually. But sometimes it’s true.
Do yourselves a favor and take any opportunity to learn from Amy Jill Levine, MaryAnn McKibben Dana, Marthame Sanders, Matt Epperson, William Yoo, Nick Epley, Leidy Klotz, Nicholas Pierce, Scott Lumsden, Yolanda Pierce, Michelle Thomas-Bush, Yancey Strickler, Eboo Patel, Rodney Sadler, Shawna Bowman, Ashley-Anne Masters, Lisa Koons, Kate Murphy, Gail Henderson-Belsito and Jessica Vazquez Torres. Each is an exceptional teacher in particular topics.
Even if the class is called something like “Becoming the Best Poet/Pastor/Baker/Writer/Barista Ever” don’t take the class from people who are not themselves effective in those things. Always ask before signing up: “Who’s on the faculty?”
Image of Dr. Yolanda Pierce, Dean of Howard University Divinity School, teaching at Chautauqua Institute in 2022. Source.
Yes! When attending conferences I would always look at the presenters, not the topics. As you said, some presenters can talk about anything and keep you involved.
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