As the election season heats up, Wesley’s Institute for Community Engagement is preparing a series of events – with the unconventional names “Water Cooler Wednesdays” and “Bar Theology” – that embodies ts mission to “equip leaders who are theologically grounded, contextually nimble and prophetically engaged in the public square.”
Water Cooler Wednesdays, held on the third week of the month, offer lunchtime discussions at the Institute’s home at Wesley Downtown – a neighborhood where business, lobbying, and government come together. The first in the series will be held on September 21 at 12:15 p.m. Titled Countdown to the Election, it will feature a conversation with Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO, Faith in Public Life; and Tim Goeglein, Vice President of External Relations for Focus on the Family.
Professor F. Douglas Powe, Jr., the Institute’s managing director, explains how these events reflect the Institute’s emphasis on prophetic engagement. “What I’m concerned about is that people speak in an informed fashion in addressing that issue, that they’re in dialogue, and that they’re taking some action because of that.“
Debuting September 15 is Bar Theology, hosted at Busboys and Poets in the midst of Washington’s bustling 14th Street corridor. Carolyn Davis, Deputy Director at the Institute’s Center for Public Theology, says the event targets young leaders at the intersection of faith and activism. “The first person joining us is Asher Kolieboi, a transgender African American man from Ferguson, Missouri,” she points out. “Then, two days after the [presidential] election, Elaine Ramsey of Sojourners comes for a conversation about the impact of the election on women, and the role of faith communities going forward.” Both events will run 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Held in convivial, alternative environments, these events are rich in opportunity. “There are exciting new horizons being created by people pushing the definition of public theology,” Davis says. “They include voices that speak to the intersection of theological concepts with issues of social justice, race and racism, LGBT issues, climate, economy.”
Staff and students involved in the Institute’s many programs, are inspired by a hands-on, practical application of their faith. Mike McCurry, Center for Public Theology’s director and a familiar figure in national politics, explains, “The key question is: ‘What does our faith call us to do?’ Whether you’re a minister in the pulpit or a senator in Congress, that’s the question that must be asked.”
McCurry hopes that programs like Bar Theology and Water Cooler Wednesdays will encourage both dialogue and enrollment. “We hope people get interested in taking a course, maybe in pursuing the Certificate in Faith and Public Life, maybe just in getting a taste of theological education,” he says. “It’s the first step to seeing how a degree in theology might inform their vocation.”
Please RSVP if you plan to attend a Water Cooler Wednesdays event at www.surveymonkey.com/r/WaterCoolerWednesdays.