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Students sitting outside Bockman

Story Magazine

Spring/Summer 2012

Changing times 2012 Convocation speakers address today’s church

by John Klawiter, M.Div. '12

This year's Convocation, held Feb. 1-3, centered on the theme By Paths Untrodden--Faith and Leadership in a Time of Change. The event featured two keynote speakers who led plenary discussions between workshops and class reunions.

Diana Butler Bass, an author and independent scholar whose specialty is American religion and culture, led two sessions. "The Great Religious Recession" focused on the fears and challenges of the church, while "A Great Spiritual Awakening" turned to the hopes of the church.

"People are turning their backs on religion and seeking to embrace spirituality," Bass said. "Too many church leaders dismiss the language of spirituality instead of trying to listen to what the people who are approaching us with this language are saying."

Andrew Root, Carrie Olson Baalson Chair in Children, Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary, gave the lecture, "Who Am I? The Melting of Identity and Why the Church Can't Help." He asked what the church should do to meet the constantly changing identities of people in the younger generation. His second lecture, "The Church and the Loss of Meaning: Hyper-Reality and All Those Flickering Screens," addressed the digital age and whether or not the church is different for those raised in an era where computers, televisions and cell phones were prevalent.

Root showed a video of teenagers at a Kanye West concert who used their cell phones to watch West perform instead of taking in the reality on stage. The video caused Root to ask, "What does it mean that some of us choose to take in reality through our screens? What does this actually mean?"

All four lectures can be viewed online at To view photos from Convocation, visit
Choose Sets, then choose 2012 Mid-Winter Convocation.