The countdown is on for our annual NYC Conference, so here’s Part 2 of the previews for our breakout sessions. The following breakouts will be available during the 2:00pm block on Friday, April 26. Check out Part 1, too, for the morning session offerings. Also note: “all inclusive” registration, which includes [delicious, excellent] meals, is nearly full. If you’d like to join for dinners and lunch, register before we hit capacity!

Same Old Song: Live Recording and Q&AJacob Smith & Aaron Zimmerman

Jacob Smith and Aaron Zimmerman are the co-hosts of Mockingbird’s lectionary podcast “Same Old Song.” Each week they unpack the scripture readings with biblical insight, pastoral sensitivity, and a pretty good-sized dash of irreverence. Through it all, they reveal the thread of God’s grace throughout the Bible. Aaron also does an inventory of Jacob’s sanctification. It’s not looking good.

On Comic Books: Our Commonly Felt Need and the Search for HopeKyle Tomlin

“Aren’t comic books for kids?” This is the question that I have occasionally received from people—along with a somewhat perplexed and judgmental look, especially if I’m in my clericals—when I tell them that at 43 years of age, I still actively read comic books and participate in a podcast about comic books.  The general assumption under their question, of course, is that comics are nothing more than a forum for telling colorful yet vacuous stories for children that are good for nothing more than passing time (along with a subtle hint that maybe I should grow up and get a new hobby!).

But honestly, nothing could be further from the truth. Comic books, like other forms of literature, are truly expressions of the human heart. In their colorful, and sometimes not so colorful, worlds of superheroes, supervillains, monsters, freaks, and general all-around weirdos, we find all kinds of expressions of our commonly felt hurts and longings, our own delusional ideas of a high anthropology, and our desire to find something of real substance to hang onto in this broken world.  In this breakout session, we’ll go on a short trip through the world of comic books to look at what they have to tell us about ourselves and our need for God’s grace in Jesus Christ. I hope you’ll join me…same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!

When God Makes All Things Nude: Gospel Hope for Marriage When It’s Not All Princess BrideCharlotte Getz

Almost seven years since our nuptials, I continue to experience powerful, sometimes overwhelming longings that have persisted into marriage from my “single years” and before. And so I’ve approached myself, my sin, and this talk with a gracious curiosity towards these (universal) yearnings—for peace, affirmation, romance, adventure, something in the way of music that follows you around like a soundtrack. And I’m realizing afresh, every single day, that despite my best efforts, neither my spouse, Ryan Gosling, nor Armie Hammer are capable of satisfying these sprawling desires. So then what’s the deal with holy matrimony?

In my research, I’ve come up with a lot of uninspired and poorly illustrated cases for marriage: it’s good for the economy, it’s better for children, it’s a representation of God’s love for the church, it takes the edge off of bad days, it’s two sinful people coming together and loving each other anyways, blahblahblah WHATEVER. I have prayerfully and humbly come to believe that, if marriage is God’s crescendo of all creation, there must be more to it than just “mental stability,” “do it for the kids,” or oversimplified religious truths. It’s got to be big. It’s got to be huge. It’s got to be high stakes and impossibly romantic. And it’s got to have less to do with the actual beloved bozo you agreed to build a life with.

Whether you’re single or married, if you have a pulse, if you long for things that don’t even have a name, I’d love to invite you to this breakout session—to paint a more complete and profound picture of God’s purpose for marriage, and (most critically) the ultimate Answer to all our most expansive hopes and dreams.

Judgment, Grace, and Rest in Flannery O’ConnorWill McDavid

Flannery O’Conner was a devoutly Catholic writer from Georgia with a sharp eye for human blindness and for God’s grace. When we talk about “Christian” writers, many of us picture the fiction-writer version of Thomas Kinkade, as if the only way that faith could inflect a story would be to give it some relentlessly optimistic cast, like an Instagram filter for love and gratitude and endurance and virtue and joy. O’Conner’s stories mostly start out optimistic—through the lens of their villains, usually well-to-do Christian ladies and gentlemen blind to their pride—and face some sort of hard reckoning. There’s a wildfire on your farm, or you’re run out of your house by your fundamentalist Christian wife, beating you with a broom—it’s uplifting Christian literature.

Martin Luther wrote that God often works sub contrario: the opposite of how we expect him to. Because our expectations are often to fit God into our schemes to build ourselves and self-justify (#seculosity), while God’s work is sometimes to thwart those schemes. In this breakout, we’ll explore Flannery O’Conner’s marvelous story “A Circle in the Fire” (available here). We’ll touch on themes like Law and Gospel, God’s work sub contrario, the relationship between theology of the cross and what some call a “sacramental vision” in literature, and the difficulties of managing a farm. In doing so, we’ll also look at how fiction can be deeply faithful by suspending the ‘ought’ and simply describing things as they are.

Beyond Gold Stars: A Law/Gospel Approach to PedagogyBryan Jarrell

Taking stock of the greater educational landscape, most widely practiced methods of education and motivation can be boiled down to a system of rewards and punishments. Letter grades, allowances, promotions, demerits, ice cream, praise—these are the methods by which the world structures its attempts to educate, both inside and outside the church.

And yet, the Christian gospel tells us that God threw out systems of rewards and punishments in His work to save the world. Jesus’s death and resurrection is the story of a man facing the consequences for the world’s failures and, in turn, sharing with humanity the rewards he received for that sacrifice. If God gave up on carrots and sticks as a method of motivation, we earthly creatures should take notice.

In our breakout session, I’d like to make the case that there are other ways of educating besides rewards and punishments. We’ll look into Catholic Catechist Thomas Groome’s Shared Praxis method of theological education. We’ll also take some time to explore our conference guest speaker Alfie Kohn’s writings on the subject. Socrates might make an appearance, as well as classical educator Dewey Finn. For anyone who’s ever taught a Sunday School class, for anyone with trauma from their school age years, for anyone who’s interested in helping another person learn more about the Christian faith in a non-judgmental way, class begins at #MbirdNYC19 Breakout Session B.

Register for the 2019 NYC Conference Today!

Featured image courtesy of Stellate Photography.