Classrooms are unique spaces.
They serve no essential human need. Food is not made in them. They are not for sleeping though are often used as such. Many of them even have furniture ill-suited for sitting for long periods of time. Yet, people all over the world spend billions of dollars a year to spend great portions of their lives in these rooms.
Some might argue, however, that classrooms serve an essential human purpose. The desire to learn and then to cultivate that learning into a particular product and skill is age old having begun from parents passing their trade onto their children. In this regard, classrooms are a rather new innovation having inherited this fundamental purpose from this generational education and developed out of the necessity to adapt to rapid expansion of knowledge in the modern era.
Despite their popularity, however, classrooms are poor boxes to contain all that entails education. Education is a fundamental human capacity that God granted in a unique way to mankind. Learning, of course, is not unique to humans as any student who has trained baby chicks in their Biology class[room] knows. Yet, education, the communication of human knowledge and creativity, distinguishes mankind from the animals, making us persons rather than beasts. Its basis is revelation, and its power is creativity, both graciously given by God uniquely to man as the responsibility to represent God in the created order. Education happens wherever humans speak and act both for benefit and for loss. Education happens from the earliest days of life, and hopefully continues to the end of our exploring. Education happens in conversations, through imitation, and from failure. Education happens in lecture halls, dorm room floors, and sometimes on a boat in Greece.
If you’ve read about this trip, you know that its purpose is education. Also you know that the education on this trip is focused around gaining a global perspective on theology, and studying the book of Acts. As you can imagine, a boat is a unique classroom. There are no desks, no lectern, and no guarantee of a stable room. Classes were held primarily in the main cabin. My peers and I would sit on the couch area around the tables, while our teacher would either sit across from us or stand in the small walkway that led to the kitchen area and mid-ship cabins. Class would start at 9:45 following our chores and typically go until 1:30 with a break in the middle for tea and cookies.
For Global Theology much of the class was a typical lecture format, aided by a Powerpoint that was displayed on a small flatscreen television mounted on the wall. Each day we would cover a particular region or highlight particular theologians from a region who represent how theology is being done in their context. Often times our reading for that class would be primary readings from particular theologians combined with dictionary articles from the Global Dictionary of Theology (which is an excellent resource for this sort of study). On a couple days we did presentations on particular issues that arose in our class such a theology of the poor/poverty which came up in context of Liberation Theology from Latin America. On these days instead of meeting in the cabin we did class up on deck, enjoying not only the beautiful weather, but the particularly unique classroom environment. Despite the unique environment, Global Theology taught me much about the global church giving exposure to its life from house churches in China to Pentecostal megachurches in Brazil.
For Acts, much of the class was more of a seminar/bible study format. Each day we spent some time journaling over a particular chapter of the book and discussing it in class. As issues and observations were raised we work together through them as a group, bringing insights from one another that would have been lacking in individual study.
Throughout the trip, we’ve had opportunities to visit some of the sites mentioned in Acts. At the beginning of the trip we visited Athens including where the Apostle Paul preached on Mars Hill (Aeropagus), not far from the Parthenon (Acts 17). Once on the ship we rented cars in port and went to Philippi visiting the traditional site where Paul was imprisoned there (Acts 16). Finally near the end of our time on the boat, we drove to Corinth where Paul spent nearly 2 years ministering (Acts 18). Seeing these sites in the context of studying Acts makes many of these narratives come alive as I’ve seen the surrounding geography and the ruins of what were vibrant and prosperous cities in the first century.
Greece has been a unique space for education, giving me cultural insights, historical contexts, and a broader view on the church of God both as it was and as it is today. Though the trip is not over yet, I am hopeful that it will play a significant role in my education and ministry.
Both inside the classroom, and out.
The end of all of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And to know the place for the first time.