Thursday, September 27, 2007

Report from My Two Advisees from Myanmar (Burma)

Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday

Snow and Cho Too, my two seminarians from Myanmar, ask our prayers for peace and non-violence in Burma and for God’s protection. A curfue was recently imposed. Snow talked by phone with her mom on Tuesday and her mom has been stockpiling food. Snow says that the protest movement is spreading beyond Buddhists to others in the country, including Christians. Yesterday the military violently dispersed crowds during peaceful protests. Several Buddhist monks were beaten, and some were killed. Snow reports that now, there is no phone service or internet available in the country. Please pray for Snow and Cho Too and their families at home.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Yesterday's Memorial Service for Brevard Childs (1923-2007)

Yesterday I traveled by Amtrak back to Yale for Brevard Childs's Memorial Service. I arrived early, and had a chance for a long talk with Robert Wilson, currently academic dean, and for a tour around the new rennovations, which I had not seen before in person. YDS appears to be in strong shape indeed. Lee Keck did a marvelous job in speaking and memorializing Bard at the service. Bob Wilson also spoke very movingly in doing the prayers, specifically about Bard's several "private" and "public" voices, for which we are thankful. Bard's wife of fifty years, and closest friend, Ann, spoke and gave thanks at the reception in the YDS Common Room following the service. If I am able to get ahold of some of these words and prayers, either as video or transcripts, I will make them available here. I saw friends and former students of Bard from all over, including, in random order, Stephen Chapman, Richard Hays, Kevin Wilson, Vicki Hoffer, Dennis Olson, Harry Nasuti, Abraham Malherbe, Carolyn Sharpe, Harry Adams, David Bartlett, Kathryn Greene-McCreight, and many others. Judy Fentress-Williams and I ended up taking Amtrak back to DC together, arriving home about 1:30 in the morning. A long day.

Speaking of Stephen Chapman, I want to draw your attention to his article on Brevard Childs, a little over one page long, in a recent issue of the Christian Century (September 4, 2007), pp. 8-9. It is entitled "How Scripture Speaks." Stephen writes how for Childs, reading the Bible is very different from reading just any other book. True, the Bible is like other ancient texts, but "not in every way." The text has a voice as Scripture, which is something greater than its composite parts and than its reconstructed history of development or even than a flat reading of its final "literary" shape. Contrary to Childs critics, this voice must not be identified simply with an unhistorical reading of the text's surface. (As Lee Keck said in his remarks at the service yesterday, Childs refused to separate theology and history. He refused to keep separate the text's witness and the reality to which it pointed. Reading this unique text called Scripture is a complicated and multi-dimensional affair.) To hear and appreciate Scripture's voice requires disciplined, competent readers who "celebrate its anomaly," who study it as "a matter of life and death."

HOB Headline News: "Episcopal leaders vow restraint on gay bishops"

ELO photo/Matthew Davies (House of Bishops finalize response 'to questions and concerns raised by our Anglican Communion partners' in the closing session of its September 20-25 meeting in New Orleans)

Click here for the story from Episcopal Life Online.

Click here for the story from MSNBC.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Seminary-Life Humor

Here's a short comic just released by a new VTS seminarian, Nik Forti, illustrating certain dimensions of the incoming class's experience of August orientation:

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Phoebe's Pictures from Renk, No. 3

Last Thursday I posted on Fr. Joseph and his upcoming visit to VTS on Oct. 11th to talk about the Biblical Languages program in Sudan. Here are some shots of Fr. Joseph's home/compound in Renk, taken by Phoebe when she stayed there as his guest while teaching in our program.

Principal Bedroom

This building is the principal bedroom of the compound, which Fr. Joseph gave up for Phoebe. The Sudanese are extremely hospitable people! The building was originally the compound's kitchen.

Principal Bed

Here's a shot inside the building, showing where Phoebe slept during her stay. She felt very well taken care of. You can see the mosquito netting, which proved very nice as it was the beginning of the rainy season and the bugs were starting to come out in force.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Student Sketches of Jonah in the Sea

I'm teaching a half-semester course on "Three Biblical Tales" at the moment, which includes a Friday component of spritual reflection and application. This Friday some of the students drew images reflecting Jonah's experience in the sea before the big fish rescued him from drowning. They had to come up with these images from scratch in about 7 minutes, but the results are really interesting.

Morgan's image has pieces of leaf or chaff being tossed about by the sea currents. Eventually, they become entagled and trapped in the seaweed at the bottom of the sea. The image reflects Jonah's powerlessness to save himself and perhaps his feeling of being radically adrift in a spiritual sense, given that God is acting so contrary to his ideals and desires.

Morgan's Drawing

Loren's image depicts layers of blue sea descending down, down, to the roots of the mountains that, in ancient poetic imagination, undergird the dry earth. The jagged lines at the top represent Jonah's spiritual turmoil and rebellion against God. They settle down as he descends to the depths of the sea and resigns himself to God's will. However, Jonah is not done with these feelings as of chp 2, since they certainly resurface when God relents for the divine decision to destroy Nineveh.

Loren's Drawing

Finally, with a lighter touch, Kitty Guy drew this humorous sketch of various sea creatures contemplating how Jonah might taste. If you can't read the captions, simply click the image to greatly enlarge it.

Kitty's Drawing

Friday, September 21, 2007

Yom Kippur Begins at Sundown

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is a most significant and holy day in the Jewish calendar. Even if they don't observe other holidays and rites, many folk will put aside all work, fast, and attend services on this day of demonstrating repentence and making amends to God.

The "Judaism 101" WebSite has a brief audio clip that plays a portion of the "Kol Nidre" prayer, which forms part of the traditional evening service that begins Yom Kippur. Click here to listen to the clip.

Here is a Jewish meditation for use on Yom Kippur:

Compassionate God, let the promise be fulfilled: "I will bring peace to the land; you shall be serene and unafraid. I will rid the land of vicious beasts, and the sword of war shall be set aside. They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor ever again shall they train for war. Justice shall roll down like waters, righteousness as a mighty stream."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bishop Gene Robinson to Speak at Upcoming VTS Forum

The Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, will speak at the student-sponsored forum on Thursday, October 4th from 1:00 PM to 1:50 PM in the back of the LPEA Auditorium. Bishop Robinson has been a figure at the center of the current upheaval in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Bishop Gene Robinson

Save the Date: Lunch Forum on Teaching the Biblical Languages in Sudan

Fr. Joseph Garang Atem, the head of Renk Theological College will speak to us on Thursday, October 11th, from 1:00 -1:50 PM in the Small Dining Room at Virginia Seminary. His topic is "Theology after the War: Visiting Teachers for Renk Theological College, Sudan." Guests are welcome, and may share lunch for about $7.00.

Here is a photo taken this summer by Phoebe R. of herself (right), Sarha, who cared for the team with meals and laundry (center), and Fr. Joseph (left). They are in a tea shop in the Market in Renk, waiting while their tea was being prepared. The Market is within walking distance of Fr. Joseph's compound. The preparation of tea is taken seriously in Renk, and Phoebe reports that it is served hot and delicious. More on tea later...

Joseph Garang Atem

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Robert Alter's New Translation of the Psalms

My former student Bingham Powell has purchased the new translation of the Psalms with commentary by Robert Alter that just came available last week. He's currently about 20 psalms into it, and reports that it has the same layout as Alter's translation and commentary on the Torah and the David story. So far, although he finds some of the new renderings of favorite psalms to be a little jarring, overall he's enjoying the work. Has anyone else been reading this work and would care to comment? Input and discussion welcome...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Memorial Services for Brevard S. Childs and Michael P. O'Connor

I have received word of two very special memorial services:
Dr. Childs

On Tuesday, September 25th, friends and colleagues of Professor Brevard S. Childs will gather at Yale to celebrate his life. The service will begin at 5:30 pm in Marquand Chapel, followed by a reception in the Divinity School Common Room.

Dr. O'Connor
A Memorial Mass for Professor Michael Patrick O'Connor will be held at the Catholic University of America on Friday, October 19, at 1:10 PM in Caldwell Chapel. (Caldwell is the old academic bulding rather near the Basilica.) Parking is limited so the Metro is recommended (sometimes there are metered parking spaces near the Basilica).
There's to be a reception afterwards in the May Gallery on the first floor of the Mullen Library.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Phoebe's Photos From Renk, Sudan

Deborah, Bishop Daniel, and Phoebe Roaf

Back in July I made a lot of posts about the work of our teams from VTS and Duke teaching the biblical languages in Renk, Sudan. (Click here for the initial post in that series.) My own Hebrew student Phoebe Roaf was the Hebrew teacher in the first team that arrived in Sudan in early July 2007. Recently, I've been able to spend several hours with Phoebe reviewing her many photos from the mission. It was wonderful to hear her descriptions and to see images of people and places I had previously only been able to imagine in my mind. In coming posts I hope to place several of these photos on-line as part of this blog. The photo above features Phoebe on the right and Deborah on the left, with Bishop Daniel, the anglican bishop of Renk between them. Below is a second photo showing three of the Renk students wearing VTS and Duke T-Shirts brought in by the visiting teachers.

New T-Shirts from VTS and Duke!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Adam Thomas MP3: Psalm 133:1

My Beginning Hebrew Class has learned several Hebrew songs, one of which is Psalm 133:1, "Hinneh Mah Tob." One of our classmates, Adam Thomas, recorded this version of the song, which you can download as an MP3 file by right-clicking here, and selecting the "Save Target As" option. Enjoy!

הִנֵּה מַה־טֹ֭וב וּמַה־נָּעִים שֶׁבֶת אַחִים גַּם־יָחַד׃

"How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!"

Psalm 133:1

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Students Take Note: Proof Read, Proof Read, Proof Read

Other OT professors at other institutions are posting this hilarious video on the "Impotence (= Importance) of Proof Reading." This is what happens when you rely blindly on your computer's spell-checker! Caution: I would describe the dirty language here as "R" or even "NC-17" rated, so some of you may not want to play this...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rosh Hashanah Begins at Sundown

Click to Blow the Shofar
Just a reminder that Rosh Hashanah is here. New Year's Blessings to All! ---Stephen C.

Click the shofar image to hear it blow (or click here).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Jerusalem Drainage Tunnel from 70 CE Discovered

MSNBC is reporting the recent discovery of a large drainage tunnel in Jerusalem dating to the destruction of the city by the Romans in 70 CE. The underground tunnel will probably end up being about half a mile long, stretching south from the temple mount down to the Shiloah Pool. According to MSNBC, it appears to be the selfsame tunnel that Josephus in The Jewish War says numerous people used for shelter during the siege of 70 until they fled the city through its southern end.

Jerusalem tunnel from 70 CE

Monday, September 10, 2007

10th - 9th Century BCE Beehive


MSNBC is reporting the discovery of an ancient apiary where bees were kept for their honey dating to the 10th - 9th century BCE. The ancient beehive was discovered five days ago at Tel Rehov in the Beth Shean Valley. Apparently this is the ealiest apiary yet found in the ancient Near East.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Procession at the Start of the Fall Semester

Last Wednesday we started the fall semester off here at VTS with an academic procession and a Eucharist in chapel. Here are some fun shots of the faculty lining up, taken by Susan S. Visible to my right are Roger Ferlo and Jacques Hadler. Somewhat visible behind Jacques are Amy Dyer and Tim Sedgwick.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Amazing Squash at Trinity!

The Men's Squash team at my alma matre, Trinity College, has won 165 matches in a row, en route to 9 consecutive National Titles. The longest winning streak in the history of college sports. Special thanks to my friend the Rev. Bob Flanagan for sending me this video!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Rev. Frank Logue's Recollections of Studying Hebrew

Uganda Martyrs

Ever wonder what the study of biblical Hebrew and the Christian martyrs of Uganda have in common? Well a former student of mine, now a distinguished priest, has a neat essay making the connection and recalling his studies of the biblical languages here at Virginia Seminary. To read this short essay by The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor of King of Peace Episcopal Church, Kingsland, Georgia 31548, click here.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Yesterday's Labor Day Picnic at the Seminary

Rebecca in cool shades

Susan S. shot this great photo of our daughter (now 17 months old) yesterday at the seminary Labor Day picnic. We all think Rebecca looks really cool in her shades! (The Hebrew on her shirt is just her name---a gift of the seminary students last year.)

For some of Susan's other great photos of the picnic, click here.