Theology & Philosophy Newsletter
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Gerald Sittser
(1989-present) professor of theology
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I bring you greetings in the name of Jesus Christ from our beloved Whitworth University and the theology department. Much has happened this year, both in the department and in the Sittser family, all of which fills me with gratitude.

The first cohort of 18 students in our new M.A. in theology program commenced their studies last June. The first cohort comprises a wonderful group of bright, motivated and experienced students who have embraced the vision of the program with enthusiasm. The program is quite unique in the landscape of advanced studies in theology. Students progress through it as a cohort, taking on average four classes a year, which are offered as week-long intensives (two in the summer) and on four weekends in the fall or spring, each weekend separated by a month. The eight core courses are all rooted in classical theology, but they have a practical orientation to them, too. I teach the first of these courses. That course, The Great Tradition (History of Christianity I), focuses, for example, on the history of catechesis in the ancient and medieval church. Students read many primary sources (e.g., Chrysostom's On the Priesthood and Augustine's On Christian Teaching), write critical papers, and then design a final project on how the history of catechesis might inform an approach to catechesis that would be relevant for their own context and ministry. We worship three times a day, too (ancient in the morning, contemporary after lunch, and contemplative in the afternoon), eat meals together, and pray together. It is rich beyond measure. A second cohort of 18 is ready and eager to begin in early June of this year.

As a sequel to Water from a Deep Well, which deals with the history of Christian spirituality, I am now beginning to do research on the history of catechesis (how the church has trained believers in the faith), a topic that holds great promise both to provide historical perspective and to shape the life of the church today. As one mega-church pastor said to me last week, "We have no idea how to do catechesis any more. It makes me miss the Heidelberg Catechism days." And then he proceeded to quote the first question and answer from the Heidelberg. I also just received a copy of an article I wrote last winter, "The Battle Without and Within: The Psychology of Sin and Salvation in the Desert Fathers and Mothers," published in The Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care. I have found that this kind of research and writing has enriched my teaching, and has afforded me the opportunity to travel and speak around the country.

The summer of 2008 was unforgettable for one major reason: I had a total hip replacement in June, which allowed me to walk my daughter, Catherine, down the aisle during her wedding on July 25. She married a Whitworth grad and theology major, Jacob Grady. It was a glorious event. They returned to Bogota, Colombia, where Jacob was working as a missionary attached to a Colombian Free Methodist Church and Catherine was teaching at a bilingual school. In January they returned to the United States and moved to Portland, where they have assumed the role of young Bohemians trying to survive in the big city. John studied in Jerusalem last fall and has since returned to Seattle Pacific University, where he is majoring in theology and English. David just finished his first year at Duke Divinity School. Yes, last fall I had one child in Bogota, one in Jerusalem, and one in Durham, N.C. Something is not right about that picture!

More and more I marvel at the beauty, power and utter simplicity of the gospel, upon which all my hope is founded. How wonderful to think that God chose to come all the way to us to solve a problem that no human being is capable of doing, namely, restoring a right relationship with God.

God bless you all.
Jerry Sittser

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