Deep divisions in the United States and the world over issues of personal and cultural values, a growing chasm between the wealthy and the dispossessed, and the clash of religious traditions are the backdrop for this year’s Trinity Institute conference.
“The Anatomy of Reconciliation – from violence to healing” is set to run from January 30 through February 1 at Trinity Church on Broadway at Wall Street in New York City.
The conference “will explore freshly the meaning of reconciliation under these pressing circumstances,” according to information on Trinity Church’s website (http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/institute/?2006).
The keynote speakers and preachers include James Alison; Bishop Michael Bruce Curry of the Diocese of North Carolina; Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ; Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons; and Miroslav Volf.
The 2006 conference promises to “look with new eyes on the source of our theology of reconciliation in order that we may live it out with new energy and focus,” according to a description on the website. “We wish realistically to examine the costliness of reconciliation, the perseverance and patience demanded by the process. Finally, our goal is to offer our own spiritual change as the base for compelling, integrated communication as preachers and teachers in the Church.”
The keynote speakers have insights that have been “refined in the crucible of first-hand experience,” according to the conference website.
Author-theologian Alison advocates a vision of non-violence based on an understanding of a theology of resurrection and the transformation of human desire. He is a Roman Catholic theologian, priest, and author. Having lived with the Dominican Order between 1981 and 1995, he is a self-described itinerant preacher, lecturer, and retreat giver. Alison is the author of “Knowing Jesus, Raising Abel: The Recovery of the Eschatological Imagination,” “The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin through Easter Eyes,” “Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay” and most recently, “On Being Liked.”
Curry, a powerful preacher whose leadership on a number of important fronts has combined the best of the prophetic and the pastoral, will set the tone at the opening liturgy of reconciliation. He was elected eleventh Bishop of North Carolina in 2000. In his three parish ministries in North Carolina, Ohio, and Maryland, Curry was involved in crisis control ministry, the founding of ecumenical summer day camps for children, preaching missions, the Absalom Jones initiative, the creation of networks of family day care providers and educational centers, and the brokering of millions of dollars of investment in inner city neighborhoods.
Prejean, the author of “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in America,” is a passionate advocate for restorative, rather than retributive, justice. She serves as spiritual advisor both to convicted prisoners and to the families of their victims. She began working in prison ministry in New Orleans in 1981. Her 2005 follow-up book is “The Death of Innocents.”
After working in the struggle for civil rights, Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons is a professor of religion who specializes in gender issues. She was on the staff of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker peace, justice, human rights, and international development organization headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for 23 years. She was a disciple in Sufism (the mystical stream in Islam) from 1971-1986 and now describes herself as an American Muslim. She is an assistant professor of religion and affiliated faculty in the Women Studies Department of the University of Florida.
Yale Divinity School’s Miroslav Volf, a native of Croatia, works in a theological context shaped largely from his experience of Serbian-Croatian violence and the struggle toward peace. Volf is the director of Yale Center for Faith and Culture and Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School. His nine published books and over 60 scholarly articles include “After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity” and “Exclusion and Embrace: Identity, Otherness, Reconciliation.”
The keynote addresses and panel discussions will be interwoven with theological reflections in small groups, led by skilled facilitators. The group process has been designed in partnership with the widely used Education for Ministry (EFM) program of the School of Theology of the University of the South. This technique is new to the conference this year and intended to “open the possibility of the inner work of reconciliation” and explore the call to be agents of God’s reconciling work, according to the website.
The conference begins on January 30 with registration at 5:00 p.m. and Eucharist at 7:00 with Curry as preacher. Theological reflection groups will meet after the service.
The conference resumes with a continental breakfast at 8:00 a.m. on January 31. Allison and Simmons are the day’s keynoters. That evening at 8:00 p.m. mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade will join other soloists and the Trinity Choir in scenes from the opera “Dead Man Walking,” based on Prejean's book. Von Stade, composer Jake Heggie, and Prejean will discuss their collaborative process in the creation of the work, which debuted at the San Francisco Opera.
On February 1, there will be Eucharist at 8:15 a.m. Volf and Prejean will speak that day. The conference adjourns at 6:00 p.m. with a reception following.
The schedule for January 31 and February 1 intersperses keynote speakers with panel discussions and theological reflection group gatherings.
The full cost of registration is $300. Spouses and partners of full registrants may join the conference for $150. Retirees may register for $150 and seminarians will be charged $75. Those in religious orders may attend at no cost. The deadline for registering is January 16. You can register online or get a printable registration form at http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/institute/?2006&p=Registration.
Over the past twelve years, the institute's conferences have been broadcast over the Episcopal Cathedral Teleconferencing Network (ECTN) to hundreds of downlinks across the United States.
This year’s regional conference sites include Christ Church Cathedral, Cincinnati, Ohio; Christ Church, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida; Duncan Gray Conference Center, Canton, Mississippi; Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City, Missouri; Holy Spirit, Lake Forest, Illinois; St. John’s, Denver, Colorado; St. Gregory’s, San Francisco, California; St. Michael & All Angel’s, Dallas, Texas; St. Philip’s Cathedral, Atlanta, Georgia; St. Stephen’s, Richmond, Virginia; The Cathedral Center of St. Paul, Los Angeles, California; the Diocese of Indianapolis; Trinity Conference Center, West Cornwall, Connecticut; Trinity Church, Boston, Massachusetts; and Coventry Cathedral, United Kingdom.
Conferences are also streamed on the Internet. For more information go to http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/institute/?2006&p=Webcast.
The conference is the 36th national conference offered by Trinity Institute, a continuing education program for clergy and laity that is part of Trinity Church. Founded to provide theological renewal for clergy in the Episcopal Church, the organization broadened its focus to include the work of emerging theologians of divergent thought and from diverse parts of society.
The institute now describes itself as a “think tank exploring pieces of the post-modern puzzle, trying to make sense out of a new epistemological model.”