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School of Divinity expands key program

School of Divinity expands key program
December 08
01:40 2016

SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE

When the Wake Forest University School of Divinity launched the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative in the Fall of 2012, its aim was to equip religious leaders to lead their congregations and religious communities to engage food issues.

Over the past four years, the initiative encouraged the development of courses that help divinity students understand the deep connections among the food we grow and eat, the impact of our food systems on the environment and the health of our bodies and communities.

The initiative has convened a number of community engagement workshops, continuing education events, retreats and an annual fellowship program. These events have brought together current School of Divinity students, food justice activists, non-profit leaders, farmers, faith leaders across North Carolina, the U.S. and in several other countries.

Recognizing the deep interconnectedness of food, health, and ecology; the initiative has expanded to become the Food, Health and Ecological Well-Being Program.

The expansion of the program aims to specifically include health and ecology; the School of Divinity renews its commitment to equip faith leaders and community members with knowledge, skills, and experiences to lead effectively across complex and ever-changing landscapes.

Fred Bahnson has served as Program Director since the initiative began and will continue to lead the expanded program.

“Interest in this initiative from the beginning has been immense, and our work continues to grow and deepen,” Bahnson said. “I’m convinced that in the coming decades there will be an increasing need for faith leaders who can lead at the intersection of food, health, and ecology. Our aim is to get ahead of the curve.”

The Food, Health and Ecological Well-Being Program works in tandem with the School of Divinity’s Master of Divinity degree program, to ensure that the themes of stewardship as well as living in peace with the land are infused throughout the Divinity curriculum.

Various faculty members, including Mark Jensen, Jill Crainshaw, Derek Hicks and John Senior have taught courses that examine different aspects of food systems, ecological sustainability and religious leadership.

Courses include “Food, Faith, and Health: Navigating the Intersections in Community,” which gives students the opportunity to explore and analyze moral gaps of food and health disparities in communities; and “Tree of Life, River of Life: Christianity, Climate Change, and Ecological Vocation,” which aids students in identifying a theologically-informed set of practices for how they can derive their energy and feed themselves in ways that lead to creation’s flourishing rather than its demise.

The program also serves clergy, congregations, faith-based nonprofits, community gardeners, food activists, other faith leaders and community members concerned about public health issues by inviting speakers and organizing continuing education events.

Majority of the events are free and open to the public. Past events have taken place in Winston Salem, Asheville and Charlotte, including sever-al events over the past year focused on the 2015 papal encyclical Laudato Si.

The annual Re:Generate Fellowship program gathers young faith leaders active in various parts of the food and ecology movement from across the country for several days of meaningful conversation, connection and training. The program has a strong university partner in the Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (CEES), and will continue to partner with CEES to convene panel discussions and host visiting speakers.

The School of Divinity is a graduate, professional school at Wake Forest University, a private university consistently ranked among the top 30 universities in the nation. The mission of the school is to educate students to be agents of justice, reconciliation and compassion in Christian churches.

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