Zachary R. Dehm, a Master of Theological Studies student at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, has written a wonderful article in the NCR Young Voices column called Theologians need strangers to help study faith outside of academic footnotes. Zachary admits that he can be shy and introverted, and often dreads the question “what are you studying?” It is much easier to keep your theological ponderings within the safety of academic walls or among a community of like minded souls. And yet, he believes that “theologians need strangers”. They need to welcome the chance conversations of daily life.
Encounter with someone who does not have a studied theological reason for believing or not believing is necessary. It is important to hear the honest, sometimes tension-filled words “I stopped going to church because …” or “I keep going to church in spite of my strong disagreement with …”
I am not a theologian, but I share Zachary’s discomfort. I also share his tendency to be shy and introverted. I have been on many plane trips when seat neighbours asked me what I do, or the purpose of my travels. I hummed and hawed, or made up a simple response to avoid an explanation of my work with the Marianist Lay Communities, a lay organization in the Catholic Church. (A what?)
I still do not feel comfortable telling strangers or acquaintances that I am a writer, dreading the follow up question, “what do you write?”. (Oh, Catholic stuff.)
If I am writing about faith but not willing to share this journey in daily encounters, then why do I write? Who do I write for? I have long been a proponent of taking our faith outside of the church walls. Why, then, do I so often avoid faith conversations with strangers?
One of the big events in our lives these past months has been the sale of hubby’s dental practice. I am asked the same question over and over, “so, what are you going to do with yourself now that you’re retired?”
I am going to spend more glorious time with our grand-babies, I say with all honesty. But, I do not add that I’ll also have more time to write because they do not know that I am a writer. If I tell them, then I have to be willing to enter into a conversation about my writing.