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King University News :: Upcoming Buechner Lecture Series to Contemplate "Here & There :: Now & Then"

This year, the 2012-2013 Buechner Institute Lecture Series at King will ponder “Here There: Now Then.”  The Institute, founded in 2008, aims to address issues of faith and culture for audiences in the region.  Each year, the lecture series presents a diverse set of speakers, each of whom address how faith engages culture, thereby cultivating conversations that are both artful and substantial.

“Gifted folks of every sort – artists, preachers, writers, teachers – help us see what we have merely looked at before,” says Dale Brown, director of the Buechner Institute and chair of the English department at King.  “Turner’s ‘Fisherman at Sea’ frames the storm-tossed sailors, Elgar’s ‘Severn Suite’ evokes the rhythms of nature, Wordsworth’s ‘Prelude’ reminds us of ‘spots in time,’ the priest calls us to remembrance, and our best teachers bring light into our shadows.  In each case, we move beneath surfaces as a result of the well-encountered poem, painting, sermon, or musical composition.

“One of those artists attentive to the possibilities of place, Frederick Buechner, in ‘Longing for Home: Recollections and Reflections,’ talks about how difficult it is for most of us to really be where we are,” continued Brown.  “G.K. Chesterton goes so far as to say that ‘we have all forgotten our names.  We stumble along toward those stunning moments when we ‘remember that we forget.’’  For Buechner and Chesterton, these moments of lucidity are like lightning over a landscape.”

The new series will open Sept. 5 with a convocation led by Dr. Roger Lundin, the Arthur F. Holmes Professor of Faith and Learning at Wheaton College, where he teaches American and Modern European literature.  Twice named Teacher of the Year at Wheaton, Lundin has written and edited 10 books, including “Believing Again: Doubt and Faith in A Secular Age,” “Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief,” and “The Culture of Interpretation: Christian Faith and the Postmodern World.”

September’s Buechner events will also include lectures by Dr. Grady Bogue, professor of Higher Education Administration and Policy Studies at the University of Tennessee, and Dr. Joel Cunningham, vice-chancellor and president emeritus for Sewanee, the University of the South.

Nashville’s The Rough Tumble folk duo of Mallory Graham and Scott Tyler will perform on Oct. 1.  The duo specializes in quirky instrumentation, ambient sounds, and strong vocal harmonies.  

On Oct. 8, the Buechner Institute will welcome Elia Khalifé, a monk of the Orthodox Christian Patriarchate of Antioch and a research associate at Oxford University, United Kingdom, where he explores the fields of Eastern Christian Theology, history, archaeology, speleology, linguistics, paleography, and manuscripts.  

On Oct. 22, the Buechner Institute will present a lecture of a different flavor.   Doug Worgul, an authority on the history and cultural significance of American barbecue traditions, will speak.  Worgul has been interviewed and/or cited in numerous national and regional newspapers and magazines on the subject and has also appeared on two History Channel programs. He is the author of The Grand Barbecue: A Celebration of the History, Places, Personalities and Techniques of Kansas City Barbecue.

Leonard Pitts, a columnist for The Miami Herald since 1991 and Pulitzer Prize recipient, and author of the novel, “Before I Forget,” will speak on Nov. 12 at both King and the Bristol Public Library.  Pitts wrote for all-news radio stations KFWB and KNX in Los Angeles and was the co-creator and editor of Radioscope, a black entertainment radio newsmagazine.  His 2008 series, “I am a Man,” commemorated the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

Sponsored by 2011–2012 King Student Government Association, the December lecture will be presented by Samford University graduate, Jennifer Pharr Davis, who completed her first Appalachian Trail thru-hike at the age of 21 in 2005.  Since then, Pharr Davis has hiked more than 11,000 miles on six continents, completing the Pacific Crest Trail, Colorado Trail, Long Trail, Foothills Trail, Bibbulmun Track, Inca Trail, a summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and others.  National Geographic named Jennifer a 2012 Adventurer of the Year.

The anniversary of the founding of the Buechner Institute in January 2013 brings with it the annual Buechner Lectureship.  Previous years have featured Frederick Buechner, for whom the Institute is named, Barbara Brown Taylor, Ron Hansen, Katherine Paterson, and Marilynne Robinson.  This year’s Lectureship will be presented on Jan. 26 at First Presbyterian Church in Bristol, Tenn., by Kathleen Norris, award-winning poet, writer, and author of The New York Times best sellers, “The Cloister Walk,” “Dakota: A Spiritual Geography,” “Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith,” and “The Virgin of Bennington.” 

On Feb. 4, Michael Perry, specialist in constitutional law and human rights and author of 11 books and more than 75 essays will speak.  Bonnie Thurston, who has written or edited 16 theological books, more than 100 scholarly articles, and three small books of poetry, will speak on Feb. 25.  Perry and Thurston will give lectures both at King and the Bristol Public Library.

Each year, the Institute hosts a lecture by a survivor of the Holocaust.  The survivors are volunteers with The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.  On Feb. 11, The Buechner Institute will welcome survivor Emanuel (Manny) Mandel.  Mandel will share his story at King and later that same day at the Washington County Library in Abingdon, Va.

During March, the Buechner Institute will host legendary bluegrass band, Doyle Lawson Quicksilver on March 4.  Quicksilver, has won IBMA’s Vocal Group of the year for six years in a row, multiple Grammy and Dove Award nominations, and he was inducted into the Bill Monroe Hall of Fame.  Also on March 4, Olympian Dave Wottle will speak.  Wottle’s dramatic finish in the 1972 Munich Olympics was one of the closest in Olympic history and earned him a Gold Medal in the 800-meter run and the prestigious U.S. Olympic Spirit Award. 

Kenda Dean, author, ordained United Methodist pastor in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference, and professor of Youth, Church, and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary, will speak on March 11 at both King and the Bristol Public Library.  She has authored numerous books on youth and the church, including “Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church” (recipient of Christianity Today’s 2010 Book Award and listed by Preaching Magazine as one of 2010’s Best Books for Preaching) and “The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry” with Andrew Root (recipient of Christianity Today’s 2011 “Award of Merit”).

Caryl Griffin, an ordained elder at Holston Conference of United Methodist Church and the founder of the Elizabeth R. Griffin Research Foundation, will speak on April 8.  Founded in memory of her daughter, Elizabeth, supports projects in the United States, Africa, and the Middle East by developing laboratory biosafety and biosecurity as well as occupational health for laboratories in hospitals, public health, and research facilities.

The Buechner Institute will close its year on April 15 with an event featuring Thomas Lynch.  For three generations, Lynch’s family business, Lynch Sons funeral home, has served the town of Milford, Michigan. His deep connection to community and place has made him a popular and provoking poet, memoirist, and commentator.  Lynch’s work has been widely featured in such venues as the New York Times, the Times of London, Esquire, Harper’s, Newsweek, and on the BBC and PBS.  In October 2007, he was the focus of “The Undertaking,” a film from Frontline that observed the rituals of caring for the dead as well as the living.  His many accolades include an American Book Award, the Heartland Prize, and status as a National Book Award finalist for his 1997 collection of essays “The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade.”  His most recent work is “Apparitions and Late Fictions.” 

“Suddenly wakeful, we think of where we stand, where we have been, and where we may be tending,” said Brown.  “Are we in the right place or the wrong one?  And what is the special weight of a particular time and place? 

“Place is more than geography, of course,” continued Brown.  “We ponder the places we have been, the landscapes we have seen, the people and the cultures that have shaped us. That is memory, the past. We consider the places toward which we travel, what might be over the next horizon, around the next bend. That is anticipation, the future. And we get up most mornings wondering about today, the present. What sort of people ought we to be in this time and place? 

“Such considerations strike me as excellent fare for a thoughtful series of presentations under the general rubric: ‘faith engaging culture.’  Indeed, the programs of the Buechner Institute are an invitation to keep the investigation invigorated, an exhortation to wakefulness.  That’s what we are up to here, clarifying our cultural experience, listening to the past, reflecting on the future, commenting on the present—paying attention,” Brown said. “We hope audiences will take advantage of this distinctive series of offering in our own neighborhood.”

Most of the Buechner Institute events are free, and all are open to the public.  Those interested can find further details about these events at, or by emailing Brown at