Pastoral ponderings . . .
In the tradition of Martin Luther, we have a strong and historic connection with the University of Utah, just a few blocks east of us. The academic, medical, and research community that makes this University so special is also an integral part of who we are as God’s church in this place. And when our relationship with the University community thrives, so does our own community life. Because of this, I felt the inspiration from God to begin a conversation between the realms of Faith and Science at Tabor a couple years ago. This eventually led to a sabbatical in 2016 at the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences at Berkeley. While I was on sabbatical, we had weekly “Faith and Science Slams” after worship, where members of our congregation shared their experiences of faith and science in their daily lives. This was wildly popular and very well received by the general public. We even made the front page of the Tribune! Our monthly Faith and Science lunch discussion group features conversations on some of the most cutting-edge discoveries in science today, and what they mean for our comprehension of the wonders of God’s creation, and our role as faithful stewards of this Creation. What I have learned so far in this faith/science dialogue is that doubt is an integral part of both faith and science. So is the experience of wonder. The wonder of scientific exploration and discovery has brought so many people of faith into careers of study in the natural world. What does it mean to be a person of faith and science? How does the calling to be part of both realms enhance our experience of each? These questions are part of the DNA of Mount Tabor. I believe that fostering this on-going dialogue between science and faith is part of our mission and calling as the Mount Tabor of this generation. And the more we invite others to join the conversation, the richer our connection with the University could become. Maybe we find ways to continue the “Faith and Science Slams” into the future?
This month, our congregation coordinates and co-sponsors a Faith and Science conference with the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, the Utah Conference of ELCA congregations, the Rocky Mountain Synod, and the University of Utah UCEER community. UCEER stands for Utah Center in Excellence in ELSI (Ethical, Legal & Social Implications) Research. The conference steering committee from Mount Tabor is Dr. John Carey, Leslie Carey (conference coordinator), Deb Elstad (administrative assistant and web ninja) Michael King, and yours truly. John Carey and I developed the topic for the event we are calling “God and Human Suffering: Conversations on 21st Century Genetics and Our Shared Future.” Our keynote speakers for Friday October 6th – Saturday October 7th will be Rev. Dr. Ted Peters from the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences at Berkeley, Rev. Dr. Mark Richardson the president of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (ECUSA) at Berkeley, Dr. Dana Carroll a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Utah School of Medicine and the Huntsman Cancer Institute, and Dr. Alta Charo, professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Dr. Janet Williams, the chair of the ELCA Social Statement on Genetics, will also be attending and leading a break-out group. The conference will be held at the Episcopal Conference Center of Utah (next to St.Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral). Bishop Jim Gonia of our Rocky Mountain Synod will be attending, as will Bishop Scott Hayashi of the Utah Episcopal Diocese. Deb Elstad put together our online registration webpage, and our registration invitation went out to University, Episcopal, and ELCA connections across the country. I am so grateful for the participation and gift of so many volunteers at Mount Tabor who are making this event happen, and very excited for what new mission and ministry the Holy Spirit is leading us into!
Togehter, we are the Body of Christ in all our diversity. Led by our Good Shepherd, we are open-minded, open-hearted, irreverent, musical, compassionate, questioning, generous, imperfect, fully human, doubting and faithful disciples of Christ. Together we are part of an always changing and reforming Church, led by the Holy Spirit. It is a privilege, pleasure, and joy to be in ministry with you all!