Thursday, February 19, 2009

Large and in charge

After almost a full year of planning, a colleague and I are finally on the brink of our very own conference. The Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Theology and Energy (ICTE) starts tomorrow at 3 pm, at the conference center on our campus.

This all started when Clayton Crockett, a professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy and an old acquaintance from my graduate school days at the University of Virginia, asked me to help him mount a conference that would inspire theological and theoretical reflection on the issue of energy. My role was to provide some expertise in conference planning (since I had participated in the organization of our National Collegiate Honors Council-sponsored technology workshop in the summer of '07) and in grant-getting (specifically from the American Academy of Religion's regional development grants program).

I think I've delivered on those promises. We acquired a $4000 grant from AAR and almost $6000 in funds from departments, institutes, colleges, and centers on our campus and at Hendrix College. Clayton identified several speakers to invite from around the country from his fields of interest, and I added a few from the process theological side. We subsized their travel through our grant funds. Everyone submitted their papers several weeks ahead, and we made them available to registrants through a website download as password-protected PDFs. Tomorrow at 3 pm, the first three speakers will briefly summarize (not read!) their papers, followed by discussion with everyone in attendance. Afterwards, everyone will go across town on a chartered bus to the location of the keynote address by Catherine Keller of Drew University. And on Saturday, there will be six more invited presentations, with most of the time reserved for everyone to participate.

It's been a huge undertaking, but I feel good about having delivered the funds and know-how for which I was brought on board. I'm looking forward to hearing what the attendees think of my paper, "'One More Stitch': Relational Productivity and Creative Energy." As of this afternoon, there were 54 registrations, with the bulk of them students. We're expecting a few walk-up registrations tomorrow. But the best thing about it? The whole endeavor is one big 24-hour push. I actually have to miss one of the three sessions because the weekend coincides with our sophomore matriculation event. By 3 pm Saturday, it will be all over, and I'll be leading anyone who wants to hang around and talk about local energy issues to our student lounge. And then I'll come home and collapse.

We hope that with some editing and rewriting, the conference papers could become a book aimed at a general audience, or at least with some traction outside the scholarly realm. So I can't point you to the papers, much as I'd like to know what you think of mine. When the whirlwind is over, I'll write a report to the agencies that gave us money, and I'll share any successes, failures, and lessons learned with you, too.

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