Fordham will host the 33rd biennial gathering of the Association of Practical Theology (APT) this spring, bringing together theologians, activists, scholars, and clergy to discuss the critical role that theology plays in everyday life.The 2016 conference will focus on the theme of migration, which APT President Tom Beaudoin, PhD said was partly inspired by the conference’s location in New York City.
“Migration has been part of the story of New York City for centuries, and it’s also a powerful image for what is both rich and conflictual about the city,” said Beaudoin, an associate professor of religion in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education.
“We’ll be looking at all kinds of migration—forced and chosen migrations across borders, migrations through the prison system, migration into and out of religions, migrations through the journey of faith and spirituality—and asking how we are contributing to life in places where migration is happening. There are many ways to relate to this topic, but what’s most important is that people’s lives and livelihoods are at the center of it.”
The lived experience of real people is the central concern of practical theology, said Beaudoin. Rather than focusing exclusively on ideas and concepts, practical theologians study how religions and theologies directly and indirectly influence people’s actions, experiences, and practices.
“We see theology as interventionist,” Beaudoin said. “We do theology because we want to facilitate life and facilitate deeper or renewed practices in different environments.”
Many of the conference sessions will explore the intersection of practical theology with critical contemporary issues, such the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. A plenary session on this topic will feature a panel of speakers that includes BLM activist Darnell Moore and Rev. John Vaughan, executive vice president of Auburn Theological Seminary and a leader in the BLM movement.
“The idea is to ask how the effects of your theology honor the lived witness of the BLM movement,” Beaudoin said. “Whether you’re doing religious education for second graders or systematic theology for the university, how is your theology helping to realize these goods?”
Conference participants will also have the opportunity to head across Fordham Road to Tuff City Styles, where alumna Tamara Henry, PhD, GRE ’14, will discuss urban art, religious education, and practical theology. In conjunction with Henry’s talk, graphic artists at Tuff City will be revamping the APT logo in the style of graffiti art.
“This is a way to connect the study of religion at Fordham and the neighborhood we’re in,” Beaudoin said. “That’s very important to me.”
Registration for the biennial conference is open now through March 10. Visit the conference website to learn more and to register.