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5th Annual Symposia: Flourish

There are many ways to perish, or to flourish. How old pain, for example, can stall us at the threshold of function…. Still friends, consider stone, that is without the fret of gravity, and water that is without anxiety. And the pine trees that never forget their recipe for renewal. And the female wood duck who is looking this way and that way for her children. And the snapping turtle who is looking this way and that way also. This is the world. And consider, always, every day, the determination of the grass to grow despite the unending obstacles.
— Mary Oliver, From Evidence

On October 5, 2019, 1:00-5:30pm, the Alumni Quad at The Seattle School will host our fifth annual Symposia—a symposium-style homecoming event that celebrates the evolving work of our alumni as they embody and extend the intersection of text.soul.culture well beyond the walls of 2501 Elliott Avenue.

Chelle-Stearns-ProfessorThis year’s Symposia will feature several alumni presenters and artists, as well as faculty keynote speaker, Dr. Chelle Stearns, gathered together to share their innovative work at the intersection of theology, psychology, and culture as they collectively engage the theme FLOURISH.

The spirit of dialogue and collaboration behind Symposia is rooted in this basic premise: We all have much to offer, and we all have much to learn. We can’t wait to learn from our alumni to discover what they are offering the world through their intelligence, creativity, and compassion.

Each ticket will include a $5 voucher to be used as a direct contribution that will help further the work a presenter of your choice. The Seattle School will match all contributions by 100%. Also included with each ticket is a drink voucher redeemable at the reception to follow Symposia from 5:30-6:30pm.

We look forward to robust dialogue that inspires imagination with our alumni, current students, faculty, staff, and neighbors in the greater Seattle community and virtually at Awaycomings with our non-local alumni as they gather together across the nation. All are welcome. We’re excited for you to join us!

Complete this form by September 23, 2019 to request free childcare onsite throughout the duration of the event.

Presenters & Schedule

Andrew (MACP ‘10) & Christy Bauman

A Brave Lament: New Life After Death
After losing their first child to stillbirth, therapists Andrew and Christy only knew one way to grieve: loud and outwardly. Though their son Brave never took his first breath, his death and their exposed grief has echoed throughout a close-knit community. Through film and discussion Andrew & Christy will bring their vulnerable heartache and invite folks to flourish after loss.

Presentation will be 2:00-2:30pm in the Large Classroom

Charissa Bradstreet (MDiv ‘04)

Flourishing and Female Subversion: Can Female Anger and Subversion be an Element of Spiritual Flourishing?
Many Christian women find themselves wondering what to do with all the anger inside, seeing it as an enemy to personal peace and spiritual flourishing. They grew up in a culture that labeled their early emotional responses to disappointment, fear, and harm as dangerous, irrational, and exaggerated. In their churches, girls may have overidentified with the suffering of Jesus as a holy example of how to encounter pain, and then started a habit of picking up cross after cross. Until the moment they stopped playing by the rules. This presentation is about those moments and some questions and thoughts about whether the resulting anger and acts of subversion are acknowledged or sanctioned by the Christian tradition. Is feminine subversion part of the spiritual journey and even useful for the spiritual flourishing of women and those who are in relationship with them? As our culture produces narrative after narrative about women snapping out of compliance and engaging in bold subversion, do we see any of those themes reflected in our spiritual texts and tradition? Or is that kind of rebellion only aberrant and a sign of despair? This presentation is both theological and personal, grounded in real-time questions the presenter is facing in her own life and spiritual journey.

Presentation will be 2:40-3:10pm in the Large Classroom

Chris Bruno (MACP ‘10)

The Life-Giving Masculine Substance of Blessing
At the heart of every child exists a deep need for a father’s words of blessing. “Father” is a verb, and to father is to intentionally seek the glorious heart of the child and intentionally speak oxygen-filled words into the soul. Far too often, however, rather than words of life and affirmation, a father’s words deliver echoes of emptiness or the debris of scorching violence. Without blessing, generations wither, and the psychological and spiritual wounds send trauma careening through generations to come. In order to bless, then, fathers must first know the hearts of their children. It is not a one-off comment. It is not a wishful sentence. It is not even a scripturally based prophecy. It must be fully drawn from the long hours of experience, observation, and intentional space that has existed between father and child.

If we as provocateurs of change hope to bring an end to evil’s stranglehold, we must learn how to invoke and invite the evil-disrupting and kind blessing from fathers.

Presentation will be 3:20-3:50pm in M3

Kate Davis (MDiv ‘15)

Flourishing After Suffering
Our culture tends to view pain, failure, or burnout as hindrances to wellbeing or an irreparable break in the story of progress. Understood properly, these crucibles and the grief process that follows are the primary formative path to flourishing. Principles of design thinking, non-linear narrative arcs, and biological metaphors can help us understand our pain as invitations to growth, allow us to forgive the sources of pain, and bring us to greater flourishing and meaningful life.

Presentation will be 2:00-2:30pm in M3

Philip Doud (MDiv ‘13)

Heroic Allies: Roleplaying Games As Gateways To Playful Flourishing
Once thought of as the domain of nerds in their parents’ basements or even a tool of Satan, tabletop roleplaying games are actually a powerful tool for growth, creativity, and community. Part of the mission of Heroically is to work directly with folks in helping and healing professions by providing opportunities for play, creativity, and relationships for both professionals and their clients. As collaborative storytelling and play, roleplaying games create safe space for exploration of identity, interdependence, and engaging difficulty. In communal engagement of a shared narrative through voluntary participation, each person is invited to bring their unique skills and identity to the table.

Presentation will be 3:20-3:50pm in the Small Classroom

Grace Rock (MACP ‘14) & Elise Hale-Case (MACP ‘15, MATC ‘16)

A Case for Embodiment: Reframing Anti-oppression Work

We believe that being embodied is at the core of anti-oppression work and is the starting point for making change in our world. Conversations around anti-oppression work tend to value critique and analysis over embodied wisdom; being ‘woke’, or getting your analysis ‘right’, is typically more important than connecting with one’s own (and therefore, another’s) pain and body. However, knowledge alone will do little to actually facilitate healing; this is evidenced by the tremendous amount of critical analysis that exists alongside the ever resilient and sophisticated ways that racism continues to dehumanize and sever one’s connection to themselves and others. Charles M. Blow states, “One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient.” If we are unwilling or unable to be embodied in our relationships, objectification and oppression of the other is inevitable.

In this presentation, we use Resmaa Menakem’s work in “My Grandmother’s Hands” and other somatically-informed resources to refocus anti-oppression work towards deeper embodiment, resilience, and healing. We will address various aspects of cultural somatics starting with a trauma-informed lens in how we understand oppression and the origins of white-body supremacy (and its impact on all people). We will discuss the importance of clean versus dirty pain, the salience of reestablishing trust with your body and expanding your capacity to soothe it, and the need for cultivating a new social imagination for our collective healing and flourishing.

Presentation will be 3:20-3:50pm in the Large Classroom

Kate Hoskin, MACP ‘17

To Hide and to Heal
Trauma and heartbreak, loss and betrayal create fragmentation in our minds bodies and spirit. We scatter and abandon the place(s) of greatest desire and heartache. In varying degrees of necessity, integrity, and gratitude, we seek asylum in a new world–either as refugees and exiles or as settlers and colonizers. We build homes and communities around our finds and her resources. We make these loves our own until the brook dries up or a holy discomfort emerges on the horizon, singing the song of our First Love.

The return to the First Love is not a movement back to God, but a movement towards God and ourselves with the pieces of our lives. Lesser loves teach us, equip us, and prepare us to more fully return home in a way that brings healing and restoration to ourselves and to our communities; these loves are not the destination, but North Stars along the way.

This presentation reframes the prodigal narrative as a sabbatical that allows for a more complete return—a Kerith Ravine for the layperson—son, daughter, and child. The retreat and the return is depicted using images from South Korean artist Cheoul-Shin Kang’s 2018 solo exhibition at Morris Gallery, “HESED: God’s Great Grace Has Brought Me All This Way”.

Presentation will be 1:20-1:50pm in the Small Classroom

Richard Kim (MDiv ‘10)

Internalized Racism and the Racial Empathy Gap
At a time where the United States is the most diverse, we are also seemingly the most divided. Though equality amongst people is generally granted, the lived experience of people and the inequity in institutions and organizations says otherwise. Inequity is too often seen as simply a problem of disproportionate representation and little attention is paid to the underlying causes. As people who are socialized in a racialized and biased culture, we must be willing to recognize the likelihood that we have all unwittingly internalized the messages, values, identities and ideologies of a system that continues to perpetuate inequity. Identities constructed in a biased and racialized culture too often fail to develop sufficient empathy across perceived social differences. When we lack a capacity for critical self reflection we are prone to engage in relationships that are more about self.

Over the past year, I have had the unique opportunity to work in a variety of organizational context and with people from all walks. Through story telling and reflection, this session will engage the impact of internalized racism and how it misguides even our most sincere attempts to relate across our human differences as equals.

Presentation will be 1:20-1:50pm in M3

Matthew Rock (MDiv ‘15)

The Weakness of God: a Hauntology of the Unconditional
God is not a cause but a call, says John Caputo, whose “weak theology” I follow in this presentation. Weak theology is a specter that haunts orthodox theology, a ghost (holy or not) insinuating itself into strong theology’s cracks. Strong theology is interested in God’s glory, power, and existence; weak theology is found down in the dirt, deconstructing the name of God for the sake of those who have been ground under by the power of that name. Caputo employs the philosophical distinction between ‘name’ and ‘event’ to get at what is going on in religion, precisely in order to weaken “God” so that what is astir in that name—what is to-come—might be released.
After differentiating name/event using the example of law/justice, I turn towards Yeshua. In scripture, God’s weakening takes place most astoundingly in the crucifixion, so weak theology is also a theology of the cross, albeit with a significant postmodern hermeneutic. Where Paul speaks of the weakness of God in First Corinthians, Caputo goes further: if Yeshua’s crucifixion is real—if Yeshua really suffered and died—then this weakness must go all the way up, even to God. To argue God was holding back power (and continues to allow suffering today) for the sake of The Divine Plan is a blasphemous image of God. Then, the stakes are raised even higher. Not only is the death of Yeshua actual, not only is the weakness of God actual, but this weakness extends into God’s ontological status—thus, “God does not exist; God insists.”
The insistence of the event harbored in the name of God is an unconditional call without force. It affirms unconditionally that creation is good; the “very good” from Genesis echoes across time and space, always already saying Yes to life, and we who exist are the ones called to respond… though we may choose to not! This is the paradoxical condition for the unconditional: strong theology protects God’s might, but weak theology leaves us unprotected from God’s might-being. The business of being is ours, and flourishing—from the Latin root flor, a flower—is to live without why. This follows the mystic tradition in which “a rose is without why; it blooms because it blooms.” Life is a gift, and a gift requires nothing in return, neither praise nor purpose. Forgiveness, hospitality, justice, the gift: these are the kingdom of God, not acts for which we are rewarded with the kingdom.

Presentation will be 2:40-3:10pm in M3

Laura Wade Shirley, (MAC ‘02)

Connection to the Wild Feminine
We will look at our connection or lack thereof to our feminine body, our pelvic bowl. As women, our bodies hold so much and we often have ambivalent attachment to our very being. Our pelvic bowl stores our core wounds of how we have experienced life as a woman. This space has been oversexualized and holds our history of violation and shame. Therefore, we often detach and disconnect from our feminine body. However, it is a place of deep spiritual, emotional and creative energy and connection. One overlooked part of healing is the journey of embracing the knowledge and power of our pelvic bowl. This allows us to release shame and clears access to The Spirit and to our creativity.

Presentation will be 1:20-1:50pm in the Large Classroom

Sarah Steinke (MACP ‘19)

Attunement to Your Self
Attunement with your self gives your body back to you and you back to your body. Attuned relationship, as attachment theory and current research suggest, is crucial to overall health and well being, and to secure attachment. The relationship between you and your body is no different. It may have been painful to be in your body growing up. To survive in your family and in your culture, you may have needed to contract away from sensation or silence parts of your self. We do this for good reasons; however, living into the flourishing you were meant for requires recognizing those places, and welcoming them home, to the place in you that is already whole. This experiential workshop listens into this wholeness, and to the parts seeking connection, bringing them into attuned, reparative relationship.

Presentation will be 2:00-2:30pm in the Small Classroom

James Waggoner (MACP ‘16) & Conner Cress (MACP ‘18)

Open Therapy — Send & Receive Ethical Client Referrals
We have created an online platform that helps manage the client / therapist referral process. Open Therapy brings the reliability of word-of-mouth referrals online. By connecting online with all your trusted colleagues, Open Therapy allows clinicians to make ethical referrals in seconds. This lets therapists focus their time on more life-giving things; honing their specialties, serving more people, spending time with family / friends, resting, etc.. Open Therapy is far more than an online directory. It’s a way to facilitate ethical referrals.

In many ways, Open Therapy was birthed out of the concept of “flourish.” By streamlining a critical process for those seeking help, Open Therapy offers a unique assistance for clients, therapists, and counseling agencies/organizations. Open Therapy provides clients with context for who each therapist is in their community, which addresses some of the most common places of ambivalence when looking for a new counselor. For therapists, it enables more specialty-focused work, which is beneficial for both client and therapist. Open Therapy promotes the idea of referring out if the therapist is ill-equipped to adequately work with the client’s needs. In these ways, everyone is able to flourish.

Presentation will be 2:40-3:10pm in the Small Classroom

Alex Mrakovich (MDiv ’18)

Music Artist
Alex Mrakovich is a Seattle based artist who seeks to explore themes of spirituality, psychology, and social change through the ethereal and sonic landscape of music. Taking cues from a diverse set of musical genres and intellectual thought, Mrakovich understands music as a powerful and subversive force for collective healing. While he enjoys collaborating with a variety of artists, he primarily writes and performs with the band Mosquito Fleet who recently released their first EP in almost a decade, “Things Must Fall Apart.” They are currently finishing up a follow-up EP due this Fall. In addition to his work with Mosquito Fleet, he is also working on a solo record as well as an ongoing ambient music project that intentionally explores the intersection of spirituality and current social issues.

Alex will be performing 4:00-4:20pm in the Large Classroom