Tuesday, October 1, 2019

AU in Germany Info Meeting!

The AU in Germany program is an awesome opportunity to study abroad while earning course credit! Students in the program will travel with other AU students and professors to earn 6 summer credit hours, as well as fulfilling their CCI Requirement. Join us in Bixler 211 at 4pm on Wednesday Oct,9 to learn more!

Honor German American Day and join us to learn more about AU in Germany!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

2019 Rinehart Lecture - Beyond the Wardrobe: Using the Imagination to Form the Spiritual Lives of Children

Scholar, educator, and minister Dan McClain is delivering the 2019 Rinehart Lecture in Practical Theology at Ashland University on Tuesday, November 5 at 7pm.

McClain's lecture Beyond the Wardrobe: Using the Imagination to Form the Spiritual Lives of Children will be drawing on his research in the areas of youth work, children's literature, and theology.

Peter Slade, chair of the Religion Department explained the choice of this year’s lecturer. “We invited Dan to speak because the spiritual formation of children and students was of central importance in the lives and ministries of Don and Jan Rinehart."

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Public Lecture: A Faith Journey from Galilee to the USA

The Religion Department is delighted to announce that on Monday, October 7 at noon in the Dauch College of Business, Room 115, Rev. Rev. Dr. Fahed AbuAkel is giving a public lecture: A Faith Journey from Galilee to the USA. All students and members of the community are welcome.

Rev. Dr. Fahed AbuAkel was born in the village of Kuffer Yassif in the Holy Land and educated in the USA. A Presbyterian minister, he served as the Moderator of the 214th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). AbuAkel is the founder and, for many years, executive director of Atlanta Ministry with International Students Inc.

For more information contact Peter Slade <pslade@ashland.edu>

When: 12:00 - 12:50, October 7
Where COBE 115, Ashland University

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Remembering Dr. Iyad Ajwa

The Religion Department is grieving the death last week of Dr. Iyad Ajwa. David Aune, who team taught Understanding Islam in Today's World with Iyad, remembers his friend and colleague:

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Dr. Iyad Ajwa, a highly skilled, faithful, inspiring and dedicated member of the Ashland University faculty. In what follows, I will share some personal reflections of what he meant to me and to the larger AU community.

Although we came from very different faith traditions and academic disciplines, I quickly became friends with Dr. Ajwa soon after he joined the faculty in 1997. As a practicing Muslim, he was willing to share openly about his religious practices in an honest and non-threatening way. Beginning in 2000, Dr. Ajwa regularly offered a guest lecture in my Exploring World Religion courses in which he explained and demonstrated Muslim practices. He let students know that they could be free to ask any question and that he would not be insulted or hurt by their comments. And he never sought to influence others to change their religious views.

After the tragedy of Sept 11 2001, we saw the need to develop a course that would provide accurate information about the religion of Islam at a time when misinformation was the order of the day. We received a “New Dimensions” grant from the university and, in the spring of 2005 began offering the team-taught course, “Understanding Islam in Today’s World.” Since then, this popular course has been offered every other year and occasionally in the summer. It was almost always over-enrolled but Dr. Ajwa never wanted to turn students away. Many students have reported that this was one of the most interesting and helpful courses in the AU curriculum, largely because of the way that Dr. Ajwa combined clear presentations about the religion with personal anecdotes and stories from his life.

In addition, Dr. Ajwa was exceedingly generous with his time outside of class, meeting with students to provide resources and to guide them in their research projects. Even when he was undergoing treatments for cancer and clearly in a great deal of pain, Dr. Ajwa kept up with his commitments.

Dr. Ajwa had a profound impact on his students and the larger university. Apart from all of his accomplishments as Professor and Chair of the Math and Computer Science department, he contributed to our university’s core values of “faith in God, moral integrity and respect for the diversity of values and faith in others.” He was an unofficial advisor to many of our Muslim students and he helped them to negotiate cultural differences and fulfill their religious duties in safe spaces both on and off campus. Dr. Ajwa demonstrated through his life and his teaching that the religion of Islam, rightly understood, shares much in common with the other Abrahamic faiths (Judaism and Christianity). He distanced himself from violent extremists who, in his view, hi-jacked authentic Islamic teachings. Dr. Ajwa lived authentically and embodied some of the best qualities of his religion including humility, self-discipline, compassion and respect for the dignity of others.

Speaking more personally, Dr. Ajwa was a good friend who always greeted me with a smile and made time to talk about any number of issues, both serious and trivial. Since he provided most of the content in our “Understanding Islam” course, I gained great insights about Islam and Muslim life from an insider’s perspective. He showed his appreciation for our work together by taking me out to lunch and by inviting me to his home more than once. He was a dedicated husband and a wonderful father to his two boys. I also was fortunate to have as a student his wife Nadia, about whom he always spoke with sincere love and appreciation. Dr. Ajwa had a good natured, hopeful attitude toward controversial social problems and he never let religious differences get in the way. We would often remark together (both privately and in class) that we disagreed agreeably about deeply held convictions.

Much more could be said, but there are two memories that I would like to share. First, I will never forget the way that Dr. Ajwa repeatedly demonstrated the practice of prostration in prayer as part of his class presentation on the Five Pillars in Islam. Rather than simply explaining how Muslims bow down during their prayer time, Dr. Ajwa would turn in the direction of Mecca (always known to him wherever he was) and, in front of the entire class, reverently get down on his knees with his forehead on the floor. Here was this dignified, highly accomplished university professor displaying his submission to God without a hint of embarrassment or self-consciousness. When he arose, one could see, if they looked closely, the mark of prostration on his forehead, an indication of a lifetime of faithful practice.

My second memory is a comment that Dr. Ajwa often made about different views in our respective religious traditions. Although he honored both Jesus as well as Muhammad as prophets in Islam (“peace be upon them both,” as he would say), his ultimate faith was placed in God (Allah) alone. When students would ask him, a data-driven mathematician and computer scientist, about issues of belief that cannot be proven, Dr. Ajwa would answer to the best of his knowledge but conclude by saying, “God knows best.” Then he would turn to the class and say, “Dr. Aune and I have different views and one day, before God, we will find out who is right.” Now, due to what all of us view as an untimely death, Dr. Ajwa is that much closer to the fulfillment of this quest.

Friday, August 30, 2019

AU Prof Speaker at Kenyan Seminary's Graduation

Dr. Sue Dickson, who teaches classes in practical theology and global Christianity, spent part of her summer in Kenya. She was there for the graduation ceremony of the first class of Ezra Christian Collegea remarkable seminary Dickson had helped found. Here is her account of the experience: 

Four years ago, fifty rural pastors from western Kenya gathered in a dirt-floored, tin-walled church building in Busia, Kenya. They had traveled by bus, or on foot, or hitched rides to participate in a seminar on the New Testament that I was teaching during my senior study leave from AU. Most of them could read and write. A few had graduated from eighth grade. Even fewer had taken high school classes. They served small congregations in remote villages; congregations that paid them with chickens, and firewood, and cooking oil. They loved the Lord. They were called to preach. But, they needed—they desperately wanted—training.

After the seminar, a group of pastors met with me and said they wanted to continue their studies. I encouraged them to do that—and they did! They found volunteers from universities in Nairobi, and the U.S., and Australia, to teach them. I went back twice to teach and help them organize. They convinced a local high school to provide them with space. They named their college and invited a board to direct it. They obtained official registration from the Kenyan government. Pastors from Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania began satellite campuses because they couldn’t afford to travel to Busia. The idea of providing academically sound, affordable, and directed training for rural pastors caught fire.

This May, I went back again to celebrate with twenty-three of those pastors who were graduated with the equivalent of an undergraduate certificate from Ezra Christian College. I was privileged to speak at the graduation and when I reflected on the beginning four years ago—no resources, no money, no space, no teachers, no curriculum—I could hardly believe what God had done through the vision and perseverance and faith of these pastors in four years.

On graduation day, the graduates and their escorts, guests and family, some local government officials, milled about at the meeting point: hugging, shaking hands, comparing rented robes, taking photos on their phones—like graduations everywhere. We were all bursting with excitement and pride. A ragged, but enthusiastic, brass band struck up a jazzy rendition of Onward Christian Soldiers and the procession began. The energy and dancing and singing lasted the whole way to the field where the ceremony took place and throughout the rest of the festivities. I even learned how to do an African “whoop.”

A group of us assembled at a local restaurant afterwards. Laughing, recounting of the day’s events, dreaming of the future. Ezra Christian College’s president was head to head with a government official discussing the new campus that was to open in the North. Two graduates were talking about continuing their studies in Nairobi. The Rwandan contingent was sharing about a new class they had planned. I stood off to the side for a minute and listened. What was that wetness on my cheeks?

When I think about Ezra Christian College, and these pastors, I know that the Body of Christ in the world is thriving. God is at work. There are people of Christian faith on every continent who are loving God and their neighbors, who are building community, who are figuring out what will make the world a better place in their context and, with God’s help, making it happen. I am humbled and grateful to have been a minuscule part of this truly amazing demonstration of God’s love and human faith in action—and I give thanks to God for his goodness.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Religion Courses - Fall 2019

REL106 Exploring the Bible - Eight sections (M,W, F, 10,12,1; T,Th,  9:25,10:50, 12:15, 1:40) and one section online- core: Religion
There is a reason it is a best seller -- take this class and find out why for yourself.

REL107 Exploring World Religions - Four sections in a classroom (M,W, F, 11; T,Th, 12:15; 1:40) and three sections online - core: Religion

REL109 Exploring Christian Ethics - Two sections (T,Th, 12:15 (Dr. Hovey) & 1:40 (Dr. Spaulding))  
Start thinking about the BIG ISSUES--immigration, homosexuality, justice, war, abortion, love-- in this essential class for sentient beings.

REL208 Exploring Christian Theology (T,Th: 9:25) with Dr. Hovey
An introduction to central doctrines of the Christian faith that is both respectful of classic theological traditions and open to the new voices and emphases of recent theologies.  A required course for religion majors and one of the best ways to start loving God with your mind at AU.

REL305 Advanced New Testament: Gospels - (T, Th, 10:50) with Dr. Aune
Do you want to learn more about the life of Jesus while asking critical questions raised by recent scholarship in Biblical studies? In this course we focus on the four Gospels individually (focusing on the distinctive themes, occasion, and purpose of the writings) and then alongside one another as we consider their historical reliability for studying the life of Jesus. 
Fulfills the upper-level Biblical studies requirement for the Religion major.

REL341 World Christianity, Culture, and Mission - (T,Th, 12:15) with Dr. Dickson
Dr. Dickson recently spent a semester in Kenya working with local church leaders, and she will have just been in Peru and Israel; she will have a wealth of knowledge, ideas, and enthusiasm to share. Don't miss this class.

REL 375OLB Understanding Israel core: CCI with Study Away
Dr. Dickson says: take the online course, designed to prepare students for the Passages ten-day, (subsidized!!), trip to Israel over the Winter break of 2019/20. Half the course is online; half the course is in Israel. We will study the literature, history and archeology of biblical sites and discuss award-winning books about modern Israel. On the trip you will view the Dead Sea from the ruins of Masada; slosh through the waters of Hezekiah's tunnel; dance on the deck of a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee; pray in the Garden of Gethsemane; dine in the home of Orthodox Jews; explore Old Jerusalem; hear world-class lecturers-- and much more. This is a wonderful opportunity but seats are limited. Taking REL375 GUARANTEES you a seat on the bus-- so sign up today!  

REL497 Religion Thesis Seminar (M,W: 3-3:50) with Dr. Slade
Write a 30 page thesis in one semester on a (religious) subject of your choice. This is a required class for religion majors BUT it is also a great elective for everyone else.

Monday, April 1, 2019

'Last Lecture': Bonhoeffer and a New Call to Discipleship

On Monday, April 15 at 7:00pm in Room 115, Dauch College of Business and Economics on the Ashland University campus, the Religion Department will celebrate its graduating seniors, induct new members into Theta Alpha Kappa (the religion honors society) and close out the year with lecture by Mark Thiessen Nation, emeritus professor of theology at Eastern Mennonite Seminary and co-author of Bonhoeffer the Assassin?: Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking (Baker, 2013).

The lecture,“Bonhoeffer and a New Call to Discipleship” is free and open to the public. This is the fifth annual 'last lecture', which is an invitation for a speaker to address the graduating class of Religion majors as if it were their last time to do so.

This event is co-sponsored by the Ashland Center for Nonviolence.