I enjoy taking ideas beyond the university classroom.  Whether a public space in Missouri, a library in Tuscany, or on the streets of Rome, the subjects I consider are tailored to a group’s interests. I have organized and led sessions and educational trips that build from topics central to my work as an author.  Most important, the participants have been adults off-campus–not just university students.

This year I participated in The Great American Read project at two Missouri venues. In the spring at The Library Center in Springfield, I talked about Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven as part of a cults and communities panel. In the fall I served as emcee for the Christian County Library trivia contest in Ozark. Both were invigorating experiences.

Past group trips to Italy and to England have focused on alternative communities, American Protestant pilgrims and American writers abroad. Whether church reformer Savonarola’s cell in the convent of San Marco in Florence or the Temple Church in London, these sites have intrigued writers and remain relevant today.  For example, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote about Savonarola’s martyrdom, and Herman Melville and Dan Brown, author of the popular Da Vinci Code, wrote about Temple Church. To Melville, the church reflected men’s indulgences with food and sex.  In Brown’s work, it is connected to mystical practices.  All three popular authors were concerned with the power, social control and corruption of religious institutions. Of course, the topic remains relevant today.

Other group experiences

Additional group sessions, sometimes co-led with other professionals, have included:

  • women’s roles and self-perceptions
  • food & identity
  • writing & healing
  • beauty & cultural backgrounds
  • faith journeys
  • food & faith
  • alternative communities and sexual practices

Are you part of a group that occasionally hosts guest speakers? Are you part of a circle of friends who continue to love learning? If so, contact me about a learning activity. I would be delighted to brainstorm with you, whether you are considering a lecture, a workshop or an educational journey.

Alternative Spiritual Formation in the Italian Piedmont & Tuscany

Soon after I announced this summer 2018 spiritual formation trip, a full slate of travelers had signed up.  (A “full slate” means small–a half-dozen or so, a dozen at the most. ) So we were eleven, myself included, focused on “alternative communities.” We headed to the Italian Piedmont and Tuscany.

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Italy: A Recent Group Experience

In the spring of 2016 I met several times with a group of adults in preparation for a pilgrimage to Italy. With a theme of syncretism, or the blending of faith traditions, I shared with them information about Americans traveling to Italy in the 19th century. Details about popular authors Nathaniel... More >