The doctoral dissertation of one of our alumni, Constantine Prokhorov, is now in print!
The doctoral dissertation of one of our alumni, Constantine Prokhorov, is now in print!
Yet another impression from VU Amsterdam………this time about the library
Part of my last month‘s mission in Amsterdam was to visit the VU University and Theology Library, a new home for the majority of our doctoral students, and to explore various possibilities for them in regard to how to use the library most effectively, how to get a WiFi, where to order the books, etc. For me, it was actually a refreshment to be in the library and not to keep in mind MARC 21, AACR2, authorities, Z39.50 and other highly specialized library tasks.
Mind you, several things seemed very strange to a conservative part of my personality, such as students entering the library area with books in their coats, with bags, even with coffee and sandwiches. I really do not want to know how the books over which a student has just had a snack look like, but hey, it is the Dutch way of understanding academic freedom, certainly not part of my librarianship philosophy.
But, there is something more important, namely that IBTS has received a strong partner. In the area of learning resources and library this partnership has a different impact than accreditation perspective. You see, I always had (and still have) many ideas that could be implemented in the Library, but not all of them were suitable for such unique, but still small library as ours inPrague. Being a small library means that there will never be enough personnel and finances to start some projects, and for our small number of visitors and patrons many of them would not give much sense.
But I have always envied big libraries for having a sufficient humanpower and infrastructure to develop all their ideas and to be able to provide the best possible service to students. In our Lady Library we were always student-oriented and made effort to provide as much service as we could, but I admit it was never the best possible service; what two (now only one) librarians and occasional volunteers can do could never be compared with the work of several tens of librarians in a machinery as VU University library is. If you could just see the number of online resources that VU Library provides and enter the premises with almost perfect conditions for making a research and writing, you would see the advantages that a huge Library can provide to students.
Therefore after my short Amsterdam trip I am actually very optimistic regarding the future: we will still have the best collection of English theological books in the area, and better resources on doing research in Baptist studies, missiology and applied theology than anyone else, but our Library will always remain a small library with limited possibilities. Therefore, it is good that our Lady Library has a new friend who will help her with service and resources.
- Zdenko Š Širka
Henrikas, one of our Research students, reflects on the student-led conference we enjoyed in Amsterdam during the research colloquium:
The conference on migration and dislocation invited creative look at the practical implications of my research. I wondered: can the dislocation, rift and rupture become a space to meet God? Besides, can our action (which suggests newness and rift) be a meeting place with God?
God’s presence in Scriptures is strangely hidden in the cloud, near and yet distant. In terms of place or space, there is an image of the temple. According to Yves Congar, the temple is to be viewed in the history of growing interiority and intimacy with God. It is the place of indwelling and manifestation, God’s presence with his people. There is continuity, but there is also a rift. The real sacrifices are those of the broken hearts, not bulls. The presence is not the one people wished to maintain (the temple), but unsurpassable presence of God in true sanctuary, Jesus Christ, and through the Spirit in the faithful and in the church.
But how then is God’s proximity and transcendence to be kept together? Congar learned from Thomas Aquinas that “God is present everywhere and nowhere. He is nowhere because he is spiritual and neither circumscribed by or settled in any place, but he is present where he is active.” God’s presence is bound to action, not space. Besides, this action is to culminate and fulfilled in our action, our knowledge and love towards Him. Maurice Blondel viewed action as that which binds our thinking, ethics and history. In his work on tradition he insisted on living tradition, relating Jesus of history and Christ of faith, embodying faith without fully knowing its implications. It is being unpacked as we go; it is, essentially, an action. Our action is necessarily a rift and even non-acting, we act.
If action is central, then our action is in fact the space where our action meets God’s action or resists it. It is not necessary that this action would carry the label “Christian,” but it is always in relation to our truthfulness and the ever-acting Spirit of Jesus Christ. If God is present where God is active, our real witness is our genuine action co-extensive with divine action. God acting as Spirit, can bind the human action and divine, lead us to faith and love, indwell us and give spiritual gifts. Action, thus, is a space to meet God and can be a space to be filled with God. Rifts and ruptures are inescapable and valuable.
- Henrikas Žukauskas
This idea was born at the doctoral colloquium (which also included a student-led conference on Migration and Dislocation, hence the title) – and here’s Rosa’s first suggestion for the Book Club. We’ll figure out how we technically conduct the discussion, but for now, read the blog – and then the first suggested book!..
Hello and welcome to the IBTS dislocated book club. This grew out of a discussion following worship at the recent IBTS research colloquium in Amsterdam – some of us were excited about the possibility of having a forum where we could share our thoughts about good books to read and offer our feedback. This book club has very soft boundaries: everybody is welcome, and your comments don’t need to be particularly sophisticated or artistic. Honest will do.
Ivana suggested that we could extend it to movies too, so feel free to recommend a movie you’ve enjoyed.
Here is my contribution to start the ball rolling: the book Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. On one level this is a fairy tale for adults, complete with all the necessary ingredients: giants, angels, magical powers, alternative universes, and three challenges to solve in order to rescue the key from the monk guardians … On another level this is a story about London, the Underground (metro) system, and dislocation: what happens to the people who fall through the cracks of the London we can see? On yet another level, it is about the hero having to choose between three visions of reality. Mainly, though, it’s a lot of fun, and if you enjoy Terry Pratchett or Narnia you’ll probably enjoy this.
I look forward to reading your suggestions now …
Not the edible variety but electronic chips. In Amsterdam a chipkaart enables you to use the metro, trams buses and trains. You load lots of euros onto the card and it gets subtracted each journey you make. It feels like traveling for free and it’s only when you have to recharge your card that you’re reminded it isn’t. In the Student Hotel you are given a round blue key fob. You don’t need a real key as the chip inside it opens the doors from the public area and the door to your bedroom. To buy anything at the hotel’s restaurant (called The Kitchen!), you can only use a debit or credit card – chips again. You can buy edible chips but only by using an electronic chip. And to go back to where I started (or just to keep on traveling), you need the chip in your debit or credit card to recharge your chipkaart.
Chips may make life easier. That is until your bank takes the money from your account.
Simon Oxley shares some of his impressions of the Colloquium:
Two welcomes, one hoped for and one unplanned, were highlights the Research Colloquium in Amsterdam for me. The hoped for welcome came from the faculty and administrative staff of the VU. They turned out in force to meet us when we had a mass visit early in the fortnight. Then several professors came one by one to listen to and then discuss progress reports by students. It was very reassuring and encouraging to see the confirmation that IBTS is a valued partner.
The unplanned welcome came in an urban walk, part of the students’ Migration and Dislocation conference in the middle of the colloquium. A group of us was exploring the immediate neighbourhood of the church that will become the Baptist House. We walked by a mosque and looked in. Instead of being told that it was Friday prayers and they were busy, we were welcomed in, offered tea and engaged in conversation – fortunately for us some of them spoke English! We accepted an invitation to observe their prayer. We learnt about the Moroccan community and their perception of the neighbourhood. I hope that there will be an opportunity sometime for us to return their hospitality. The question that I’m left with is what would happen if a group of Muslims exploring my neighbourhood turned up just before Sunday worship.
This is the theme of the IBTS student conference taking place in the middle of our doctoral colloquium. Great stuff, and lots of thoughts: about various situations of dislocation today; our own (personal and communal) attitudes, gut-level reactions and responses to migrants; our reading of biblical narratives – either to support our position and defend the space we inhabit, or to accept the challenge they put to our reading of today’s realities.