Ritual Moments | 2022 Academic Convocation Reflections
October 3, 2022
The invitation to anoint the first-year students at Convocation was truly an honor. This moment during Convocation was an act of hospitality both for students and for me and fellow new faculty members. In our newness, we came together to celebrate the way our belonging at Garrett will change us and change this community. The first few weeks of a new school year can be overwhelming and ritual moments like these ground us and remind us of our purpose. I felt similarly when Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson stepped down from the pulpit to read us a book written by children.
Most of us have a positive memory of being read to as children. But Dr. Wilson was not simply trying to return us to positive educational memories. He implored us to listen to children’s proclamation and preaching through their lived experience, his shift from pulpit to floor reminded us of what it is like to be a child, to be read to, to find our voice, to share what he called “other wisdoms.” Dr. Wilson’s tangible example of reading children’s voices to us in the style of a reading circle embodied the Freedom School model.
As I begin a new faculty journey, I am reminded of the radical opportunity that is an education, the opportunity that is opened up through the pages of a book. When we read those pages together, we create community whether that is in a Freedom school program or a seminary classroom.
Dr. Kate Ott is the Jerre and Mary Joy Stead Professor of Christian Social Ethics and Director of the Stead Center for Ethics and Values at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. She is the author of Sex, Tech, and Faith: Christian Ethics for a Digital Age; Christian Ethics for a Digital Society; Sex + Faith: Talking to Your Child from Birth to Adolescence; and editor of Teaching Sexuality and Religion in Higher Education with Darryl Stephens; and Faith, Feminism, and Scholarship: The Next Generation with Melanie Harris. She has also written numerous articles and book chapters, as well as lecturing and presenting at academic conferences, activist gatherings, and congregational events. Ott’s primary research interests are in the areas of Christian social ethics, digital technology, sexuality and gender, race and racism, professional ethics, and moral agency of children and youth.