It is the summer solstice today, and it has been just about two years
since my family and I decided we would move to Halifax so that I could
take a new job at the Atlantic School of Theology. I thought I would
take a few minutes of this long day to reflect on my time and teaching
in a different place.
Since arriving at AST in August 2016, I have been quite happy to bring
past professional experiences to bear on similar work in a new setting.
As an academic, I have been responsible for the same subject matter in
teaching and research as I was in Toronto for eight years. However, the
specific requirements of this postgraduate context have given me an
opportunity to reconsider both my pedagogy and my research goals.
For example, in my past work with undergraduates, I developed some
twenty distinct courses introducing young students to biblical languages
and literature. However, it was immediately obvious that this material
would have to be adapted to suit an environment focussed on MA and MDiv
candidates, with a significant number of mature students, many but not
all of whom are pursuing vocations in ministry. I have genuinely enjoyed
the chance to revisit the question audience for the field of knowledge I
strive to control and communicate.
AST has given ample opportunity, too, to design entirely new courses.
One of the most exciting avenues here has been the integration of
theological disciplines. As the only full-time faculty member in my
subject area, I cannot afford to work in isolation. Thus I was heartened
by the student response to an interdisciplinary seminar I offered last
summer, cross-listed as HB and ST, on the relationship of Christian
Doctrine and the Old Testament. Or again, I am full of
anticipation about an upcoming course, cross-listed as ST and HB, on
The Eucharist in Ecumenical Perspective. The idea for it was
prompted by a seminar George Hunsinger held in Halifax last year, before
the larger Paul Wattson Lecture, but the idea only found legs
in conversation with my new colleagues. As in days of yore at this
ecumenical university, this new course will be co-taught by faculty
members representing different founding parties (ACC and RCC) and
different disciplines (Bible and Theology). In situations like these,
innovation can flourish.
Beyond the classroom, I have found that my situation in Halifax is one
where organic links arise between the various tasks of teaching,
research, and service, and my life in the local church. Up to now I have
taken several opportunities to speak about my research, or to develop
different kinds of material related to it, in ways that connect academy
and church and community. I am convinced that these local connections
have enhanced my work at AST thus far. I am hopeful that the synergy can
continue for years to come.