"Fake Joy: Substance Abuse and Young People's Thirst for Wholeness"
Dr. Joyce Mercer and Rev. Charles Edward Atkins, Jr. deliver a lecture entitled, “Fake Joy: Substance Abuse and Young People’s Thirst for Wholeness.” In this lecture, we look at substance abuse as offering false joy to youth. We share a strengths-based model for working with incarcerated youth that can be engaged with young people in other settings, that supports their genuine quest for joy against the seductive false joy of substance abuse. Dr. Mercer is a scholar-researcher, teacher, writer, retreat leader, and professor of Pastoral Care and Practical Theology at Yale Divinity School. Charles Edward Atkins, Jr.’s work focuses on religious practice in incarcerated communities. Charles is an ordained minister who currently works as a full-time Chaplain with the N.J. Department of Corrections at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility.
"Paul's Not-So-Secret Secret: Belonging and Christian Freedom in the Midst of Affliction"
Dr. Michal Beth Dinkler and the Rev. Skip Masback deliver a lecture entitled, "Paul's Not-so-Secret Secret: Belonging and Christian Freedom in the Midst of Affliction." Maya Angelou said once in an interview, "You are only free when you realize you belong no place - you belong every place - no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great." Paul traced the Christian path to this freedom with a secret he blabbed from one end of the ancient world to the other. As he framed his secret in his letter to the Philippians: "I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (4:12-13). This lecture explores how our youth might claim this freedom Paul calls them to and offer youth workers practical suggestions for helping individuals and youth open their lives to "him who strengthens" us.
Dr. James K. A. Smith and Dr. Kyle David Bennett deliver a lecture entitled, “Looking for Joy in All the Wrong Places: An Augustinian Guide to our Anxieties.” This lecture considers how the duplex of anxiety and anger—fostered and fomented by the rituals of distraction—are both generators and fruit of idolatries. But we will also consider what it might look like to overcome these inhibitors, to find rest and arrive home to joy. Dr. Smith is professor of philosophy at Calvin College, where he holds the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview. Dr. Bennett is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Spirituality and Leadership Institute at Caldwell University.
Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier and Rev. Ruben Ortiz deliver a lecture entitled, “Thriving Grace: Hope’s Agenda Setting.” While practical theology has defined thriving in the language of scholars, what does thriving mean for young people and youth pastors living in urban poverty as the reality of their lives? Beginning with the description of the context of urban poverty, its problems and effects on youth, we will bring into conversation the voices and disciplines of youth, ministers, professors, theorists of urban studies and theologians. Rev. Dr.Conde-Frazier is Academic Dean and Vice President of Education at Esperanza College of Eastern University. Rev. Ortiz has served in urban ministry for 30 years and is Director of National Programs at Esperanza.
Dr. Allan Hugh Cole, Jr. and Rev. Dr. Philip Browning Helsel deliver a lecture entitled, “Mentoring Youth for Joy in Anxious Times.” The lecture focuses on the pervasiveness of anxiety in the lives of adolescents, reasons for this trend, and ways for supporting adolescents, appealing to the practice of mentoring as a conduit for resilience and joy. Dr. Cole is Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Director of Undergraduate Programs, and Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. Previously he served for eleven years on the faculty of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, TX, the last four as Academic Dean. Rev. Dr. Philip Browning Helsel, is Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.