On July 5th I returned to my office of 19 years at Southminster Presbyterian Church after the grace of a three-month sabbatical from my regular duties, a gift given to me by all of the members of Southminster Presbyterian Church. The sabbatical was indeed a time of rest and renewal, reading and study and writing and thinking. I am grateful.
For those of you who may be interested I offer just a few “teasers” from some of the things I was thinking about during my time away.
- I read a book entitled Visual Culture which explores in a theoretical way the development of visuality as a way of apprehending, understanding, and interpreting our culture and our life experiences—from painting to photography to the advent and proliferation of screens of all kinds, TV, computers, as well as all the graphic devices which many carry around with them all the time. I spent time thinking about all of this from the perspective of Christian ministry as we look to the future of the church over the next few decades, from worship life and the proclamation of the Word to our efforts at Christian Education. It is clear to me that visuality…and the ability to use visual images will be critical to reaching coming generations effectively.
For in concentrating solely on linguistic meaning, such readings
deny the very element that makes visual imagery of all kinds
distinct from texts, that is to say, its sensual immediacy.
It is that edge, that buzz that separates the remarkable from
the humdrum. Such moments of intense and surprising visual power evoke, in
David Freedberg’s phrase, “admiration, awe, terror and desire.”
This dimension to visual culture is at the heart of all visual events.
Let us give this feeling a name: the sublime.
- Another book I read is entitled Journey to the Common Good, by Old Testament scholar and widely respected lecturer Walter Brueggemann, professor emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, GA. Written in 2010 with eye to our time and place, this book explores God’s work to create a world in which the common good is the ethic which governs human community. He looks at the central Hebrew Bible story of the Exodus as well as the prophetic ministries of Jeremiah and Isaiah. This paragraph illustrates how he connects these scriptural explorations to the present time:
The great crisis among us is the crisis of “the common good,” the
sense of community solidarity that binds all in a common destiny–haves
and have-nots, the rich and the poor. We face a crisis about the common
good because there are powerful forces at work among us to resist the
common good, to violate community solidarity, and to deny a common
These two books, as well as three others, provided a lot of provocative ideas for me as I think about our common ministry to serve Jesus Christ as we journey together into the future.
Grace and Peace,