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Oxford Theology Summer School: A GTF alumnus reflects on his experience

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Tom Quad on the campus of Christ Church College, Oxford

I was fortunate to attend the Oxford Theology Summer School twice; first in 2003 and then again in 2008.  Participation in this program is an enriching experience in many ways and I encourage anyone who can attend to do so.  There are many reasons for this recommendation.   First of all, the experience in Oxford is one that is unforgettably unique.  The university is, of course, known for its academic rigor and its thousand-year reputation; but it is much more than that.  When attending the program at Oxford, students will find there is history everywhere…literary, academic, political, religious, philosophical, musical, architectural…and so on.  Secondly, the theology summer school is a tremendous opportunity for both church and lay leaders to meet one another, discuss important and intriguing issues, and to form life-long collaborations and friendships.  It is with the greatest joy that I note the international participation in the Oxford Theology Summer School.  Literally, students arrive from around the globe attend this course.  In my two experiences there were students from China, Nigeria, Australia, several European nations, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and the Americas, both North and South.  Moreover, the students have religious affiliations that cross religious, denominational, and theological boundaries.  Inevitably many distinct traditions will be represented.   Thus, in my own experience, there  were Jewish students, Roman Catholics, Protestants of various denominations, Buddhists, Muslims, and others – and all have a chance to share ideas in an environment that encourages thought and cooperative exploration.

My own experiences verify these observations.  Personally, I still communicate with people I met five and ten years ago and even visit with some who live within a short flight of my home.  I believe this matters a great deal because it is good to think new thoughts and explore them with new friends.   This is especially true when their own fields of interest and denominational associations make such conversation so much more enriching than otherwise.   In my own case, I am a university professor and it is only natural that most of my work relationships are involved with my department, my discipline, and my university.  Even when it is possible to meet and work with academics from other institutions, it is on the basis of our academic interests primarily.  This is fine, but it means we don’t really have a chance to explore wide-ranging topics or to study – across disciplines and cultures – with fellows from around the globe.  The Oxford Theology Summer School makes possible a kind of academic and intellectual experience that would otherwise not normally be open to most of us.

The famed "Bridge of Sighs" at Hertford College, Oxford

The famed “Bridge of Sighs” at Hertford College, Oxford

For these reasons, I encourage prospective students to seriously consider the theology summer school and to enroll if it is at all possible.  Moreover, I would especially encourage students to attend who are not church professionals or theologians.  I am an English Professor and I teach writing and literature classes.  But I consider the Oxford experience to be one of the most valuable educational experiences of my life.  Certainly, in my career I have taken many seminars, enrolled in various classes, and studied with wonderful teachers and worked with bright young students; and I would not want to minimize any of those experiences.

Photo of C. S. Lewis in the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford's city center.  The pub was a favorite haunt of "The Inklings" writers group.

Photo of C. S. Lewis in the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford’s city center. The pub was a favorite haunt of “The Inklings” writers group which included J. R. R. Tolkien.

But there is nothing like a little time breathing the air in Oxford.  There are so many things to do in that city that will enrich the personal and professional experience beyond anything that could be presented in any classroom.  There are, of course, the beautiful college campuses, thirty-nine of them.  The world-renowned Ashmolean Museum, concerts and plays virtually every night, public readings and lectures, and a number of astonishing little museums that house some of the world’s great art and historical treasures.  And all of that is available to participants in this program.

So, for anyone who can do so, I strongly support enrolling in the Oxford Theology Summer School.  You will be immeasurably enriched and glad you did so.

 

About Dr. James Keating

Keating-blog

Jim graduated from GTF in 2004 with the EdD and is an instructor at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana where he teaches classes in composition.  Twice he participated in the Oxford program.  He has written several articles for academic publication mostly related specifically to pedagogy.  He works with a number of community service organizations including Sociedad Amigos de Colombia, The Lamp of Wisdom, DAR, and the Children’s Dyslexia Center.  He is active in a number of service activities at church and in his community.  He is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma and Phi Beta Delta and is a faculty advisor to the latter organization.