Monday, August 21, 2006

The Heirs of Haystack

This came over the transum today. Note: Bart Campolo is Tony's son, and is probably a better speaker than his dad.

Haystack Bicentennial Celebration- August 21, 2006

On an August afternoon in 1806, five Williams College students met in a field, as was their habit, to talk and pray and, like so many young people, to dream of a better world. When a sudden thunderstorm interrupted, they sought shelter under a haystack — and there resolved to spend their lives in service, carrying their faith “into all the world.” Within a few years the American foreign missions movement had been born – and, to this day, countless people around the globe trace their Christian lineage through a hayfield in northwestern Massachusetts.

Over the weekend of September 22-24, on the bucolic Williams campus in the Berkshires of northwestern Massachusetts, Williams College and Williamstown’s First Congregational Church will co-convene a weekend conference and celebration to mark this important anniversary. The celebration has been designed by an ecumenical coalition coming from many denominations: United Church of Christ, United Methodist, American Baptist, Episcopal and Presbyterian, evangelicals and progressives, all of whom trace their involvement in faith-based work around the world to the Haystack prayer meeting of 1806. It will draw panelists, workshop leaders, scholars, students and participants from all over the region and the nation; registration is open to all.

The program will include a Saturday morning keynote by Ghanian-born author, historian and Yale professor Lamin Sanneh and a Sunday worship celebration featuring Bart Campolo, Founder of Mission Year. Throughout the weekend music and dance will recall the international relationships begun as a result of the original Haystack missionaries. Two specialists in world music will introduce participants to songs of faith from many cultures: C. Michael Hawn of Southern Methodist University and Patrick Evans of Yale Divinity School. Evening programs on Friday and Saturday nights will feature student artists and an ecumenical jazz ensemble.

The location of the celebration on a college campus is not only a matter of history. Since that August day in 1806, young people have followed their faith to every part of the world in response to physical and spiritual needs—establishing schools, equipping hospitals, founding churches. They have been supported by the prayers and offerings of generations of North American Christians.

Conference co-organizer Rick Spalding, Williams College Chaplain, said, “The Haystack Movement has changed the shape of lives and communities, brought cultures into dialogue and, sometimes, into conflict, and inspired generations of Christians to engage the wounds, needs, and hopes of the world. We hope this weekend will gather people from the widest array of theological perspectives to celebrate, pray, and discuss the nature of Christian mission in a new century.” Co-organizer Carrie Bail, pastor of the First Congregational Church which will host several weekend events, added, “Our fondest hope is that a new generation of young people might be inspired by the same Haystack Spirit, to go out into the world open to having their hearts changed while in the process of serving others around the world.”

On Saturday afternoon, a panel discussion entitled “The Legacies of Haystack: What Is Mission?” will feature Dennis Dickerson, professor of history at Vanderbilt University; Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, professor of Christian ethics and theology at Drew University; Timothy Tennent, Associate Professor of World Missions and Director of Missions Programs at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; and John Thomas, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. The panel will be moderated by Denise Buell, chair of the Department of Religion at Williams College.

More than a dozen workshops round out the weekend. Topics include: The New Great Awakening, Nicaraguan Liberation Theology Comes Home, Pilgrimage to South Africa, New Models for Urban Ministry, Lessons Learned from Hawaii, Mission and Life Direction, The Churches in Myanmar, Singing the World’s Song, and others. A description of all workshops to be offered, and a complete schedule of the weekend, can be found at

Distinguished keynote speaker Lamin Sanneh, Professor of Missons and World Christianity at Yale University, earned his Ph.D. at University of London and now specializes in religious history, Christian mission, and inter-religious dialogue. He is an editor-at-large of The Christian Century; holder of Commandeur de l’Ordre Nationale du Lion, Senegal’s highest national honor; and has served on two Pontifical Commissions at the Vatican.

A leading voice in reflection on the nature of Christian social action and much in demand as a speaker, worship leader Bart Campolo founded Mission Year, a national Christian service program recruiting young adults to work in inner-city neighborhoods in partnership with local churches. Campolo is also founder of Kingdomworks, a ministry of training and inspiration now part of Larry Acosta’s Urban Youth Ministry Institute. Ordained Baptist minister C. Michael Hawn is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. He earned his divinity degree at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of numerous articles, curriculum materials, and resources for enlivening congregational singing. His specialties include hymnology, global music, and cross-cultural worship.

Patrick Evans, Senior Lecturer in the Practice of Sacred Music at Yale’s Institute of Sacred Music and also an accomplished vocal recitalist and church musician, specializes in the interaction of the traditional western musical canon with global hymnody and African-American gospel traditions. Both musicians will lead several participatory sessions during the weekend.

The Cleveland-based ecumenical and multi-cultural jazz ensemble Oîkos, featuring saxophonist Rev. Clifford Aerie, Minister of Imagination, Creativity and the Arts for the national United Church of Christ and pianist Dr. Christopher Bakriges, Professor of Ethno-musicology at Elms College, will perform on Saturday night. Composing musical reflections from a variety of cultures that blend ethnic stories and interpretive dance, Oîkos has performed in concert, worship and workshop settings throughout the world.

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