Monday, January 24, 2011

Welcome to Learning and Leading

In 1960, when many Friends were highly skeptical of the idea of theological education, Earlham School of Religion dared to be the first Quaker seminary. In subsequent decades, ESR has continued to challenge the Religious Society of Friends to go deeper in its preparation as disciples of Jesus. Over the past fifty years, we have taken part in the faith journeys of thousands of women and men who have explored with us how God calls us to Christian discipleship and the ministry of all believers. Well into the twenty-first century, and with our first five decades behind us, ESR has come of age as a Christian seminary in the Quaker tradition.

Last year, ESR celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, which naturally involved a lot of nostalgic reminiscing. We remembered past deans and past students; past glories and past failures. But, above all, our year-long fiftieth anniversary celebration was a time for us to look forward to what God is calling us to in the next five decades. As we have reflected on our emerging call in this new century, one of the areas that we have felt clear to pursue is an ongoing development of the ways we communicate and build relationships online.

In recent years, ESR has been actively involved on various social networking networks, and some individual faculty members and students have maintained personal blogs. With the launch of Learning and Leading, our hope is that we might continue to foster the ongoing online conversation that in recent years has been burgeoning throughout the Quaker community. We seek to be a faithful participant in the already robust Quaker blogging community, recognizing that we are coming in relatively late in the game. We hope that the content we provide might serve to fill in some of the gaps that remain in the Quaker blogosphere.

As we begin our blogging career as an institution, we plan to make content available in several ways. First, we will seek to be proactive in highlighting the experiences of those currently studying at ESR, sharing the life of the student and faculty community that has developed in our shared search for God's presence, power, and word in our midst. Life at ESR is a deeply joyful, deeply challenging experience, and we hope to give Friends everywhere a glimpse into our life together.

Second, we will bring forward some of the fruits of our disciplined study, sharing theological reflections and fresh research. Many times, the rich discussions that we have at ESR stay within the seminary walls, but we would like to see them released into the wider community. Finally, we plan to feature content created by and about people and events happening in the wider world, especially among Friends. Coverage on the internet of events, programs and Friends bodies is haphazard at best, and we hope to deepen the online narrative of the Religious Society of Friends.

In all of the ways that we seek to bridge the distances between us, we will rely upon the participation and contribution of Friends from around the world. We are hopeful that our readers might have material to contribute - whether in the form of essays, videos, photos, music, art, or even the occasional poem. We encourage you to contact us with any material you would like to submit for publication. In the months ahead, we look forward to engaging more deeply with the online Quaker community, and with other people of faith around the world. May Christ bless us as we deepen our efforts to connect across our diverse, worldwide Religious Society of Friends.

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