A friend told me a story about visiting her son during his first semester of college. She took him to dinner (a chance to eat something other than cafeteria food) and sat across from him, eager to hear how school was going. After looking at the menu, she looked up to see his head hanging down across the table. “Oh, what’s wrong honey?” she asked with motherly concern. “Nothing, Mom,” he said looking up. “I’m just texting a friend under the table.”
Technology worries me sometimes, not because I don’t like to stay connected but because I, like my friend’s son, am easily distracted. Still, another friend convinced me last year to join Facebook, and I blog here and elsewhere occasionally because a conversation is happening. And conversations matter. Because people matter, and all we really have to connect us is words. My friend who coaxed me onto Facebook likes to say, “All communication media can help relationships, but none can replace face time.” I think he’s right. We can keep up with one another online. We can even learn from what others are thinking elsewhere. But every once in a while, we need to get together. There’s no replacement for face-time.
Which is why I want to invite folks to join me for the second annual Duke Divinity School Summer Institute here in my home town, Durham, NC, May 31-June 5. Our theme is “Reconciliation in a Divided World,” and many of the folks whose blogs and books I like to read will be gathering again to eat and worship together, to listen to reflections from elders like John Perkins, Mary Nelson, and Virgilio Elizondo in morning plenary sessions, and to get down to the nuts and bolts of our daily tasks in afternoon workshops on Jesus and Justice, Racial Reconciliation in Congregations, Global Poverty, Community Development, Institutional Leadership, the Arts and Creation Care. I’m delighted to be teaching a workshop with Mary Nelson on Building Beloved Community.
I’m posting this today because the organizers of the conference tell me that scholarships for this time together are available–but only until April 9th. I don’t want anyone to miss the chance for the face time that helps us move from words and ideas to relationships and a movement–God’s movement to reconcile all things.