Call for papers: Living Theology: The Eucharist in Question


the eucharist in question

The 2014 Dallastown UCC Theological Summit

May 16, York County, PA


Description / Rationale:  In American Protestant churches, the practice of the sacrament of communion can vary intensively from crypto-Catholic and Anglo-Catholic repetition to a complete rejection of the sacrament and sacramentalism as a whole.  In the United Church of Christ, the Eucharist may be celebrated often, weekly, or very rarely, despite strong Eucharistic theologies in the Reformed, Congregational, heritages of the denomination. Within the UCC, however, there exists living expressions of the Reformed and Congregational theologies, as well as a myriad of feminist, liberation, African American, Mercersburg, process, personalist, liberal, queer, “ECOT,” postmodern, contemporary radical, and others.  Yet it is not really clear how this multiplicity of voices and interpretive modes engage the most public and repeated of all rituals, the Eucharist, beyond congregational banalities usually related to liturgical movement, or lack thereof:  “do we do ‘pew’ communion or ‘Catholic’ communion?”

Given this expected emphasis on local practice in a congregationalist denomination, how do local clergy, as public theologians, communicate, express, preach, and teach their own theologies and interpretations to and within their ministerial contexts?  What explicit connections are there to our Eucharistic practices and our denominational or congregational commitments to social justice?  How do these expressions “work” when doing ministry beyond the local church, or beyond the local church as an expression of the local church—within Conference and Association contexts; with ecumenical ministeriums; with and within “Formula of Agreement” and denominational partners; and in theological education?  And regarding the latter: how does one responsibly teach a development of creative Eucharistic practice in new and emerging forms of theological education and in non-ordained ministry contexts?

And further, while “doing church” in this post-Christendom context, given our own site of ministry and the pastoral care needs of a community, how might the enactment or performance of the sacrament of communion move us toward or express “parasacrality”?  Stated differently: how do our ritual practices, declare the finitude and temporality of the “church” in a religiously fluctuating, postmodern world where the absence of the infinite is expressed in the fraction of elements of bread and wine?  What epistemological or ontological “gaps” are jumped, filled, embodied, through our practices? 

The 2014 Theological Summit (“Dallastown II”) will gather UCC clergy to discuss this question around its overall theme, Living Theology: Reclaiming the Pastor as Theologian, as it relates to the theory and practice of the Eucharist.  Continuing the work of the 2013 Theological Summit, (“Dallastown I”), this  gathering seeks to begin new conversations about reclaiming our UCC traditions of the pastor as public theologian.

Who:  The Summit will be open to all authorized ministers (licensed, ordained, or commissioned) with UCC standing; seminarians seeking authorized ministry in the UCC; and UCC-affiliated lay academics.  We want to give voice to new, under-represented, emerging, or marginalized voices within the UCC.  Participants may attend without presenting a paper.  Registration information will follow; child care will be available (and paid by the Summit) by request.

Date, Setting, and Sponsors:  The 2030 Theological Summit will be an event held on Friday, May 16, at Saint Paul’s United Church of Christ in Dallastown, Pennsylvania.

Facilitation:  The Summit is being organized by the Rev. Dr. Christopher Rodkey (Pastor of St. Paul’s, Dallastown, PA, and adjunct professor at Lancaster Theological Seminary and Penn State York), with special facilitation by Dr. Victor Taylor, Professor of Philosophy and Religion at York College of Pennsylvania, and author of numerous books.

Call for Proposals:  We are seeking proposals from authorized ministers with UCC standing to reflect on the theory and practice of the Eucharist.  We suggest that for most clergy considering a proposal, a praxis-theory-praxis methodology of “fundamental pastoral theology” might work best: begin with a pastoral problem, or pastoral experience, offer a theological reflection, and return to the experience with renewed insight, new questions, or even practical solutions or an agenda.  Draw on distinctly UCC traditions, resources, and identities; mine our traditions to locate your theological perspectives (Mercersburg, process, feminist, queer, “ECOT,” radical, Black, liberation, etc.).  Proposals that engage Victor Taylor’s work in conjunction with our themes would be welcomed; we suggest his books Para/Inquiry (Routledge, 1999) and Religion after Postmodernism (U. Virginia Press, 2008) as good starting points.

In your proposals, communicate succinctly, speak honestly, and think radically: avoid didactic tones, D.Min.-style “failed experiments,” and provide proper citations of others’ work as necessary. Avoid broad appeals to “denominational diversity” or slick attempts to defy historically established categories or traditions.  Please, no recycled seminary papers or theses.  We suggest using the Living Theological Heritage volumes, now published by Pilgrim Press in a searchable US format.  As an authorized clergyperson, speak with authority and as an exegete of scripture, tradition, and your own experiences. 

Proposal submission:  Proposals will be evaluated on merit, creativity, relevance, and overall quality.  If individuals submit similar proposals, the proposals may be accepted contingent upon collaboration with other participants.  Please also include a brief statement about your professional affiliation (church, employer, etc.) and standing in a UCC conference. Final papers will be 3,500-5,500 words in length.  Please submit your proposals of 250 words or less to cdrodkey (at) yahoo [dot] com by March 15, 2014.

Registration:  Registration details will be provided at a later date.