This coming academic year McCormick Theological Seminary will launch a new community initiative. Throughout the year, students, faculty, and staff will focus together on a common theme: Peacemaking in the City: A Faithful Response to Urban Violence.
The aim this year is to dedicate the McCormick community to becoming more aware of the causes of urban violence, more informed about effective responses to it, and more committed to living out these responses. Some of the ways in which students, faculty, and staff will explore this theme include reading a book together as a community, incorporating the theme as appropriate into the academic curriculum, addressing this topic in existing events and scheduled lectures, and developing and offering additional service and learning opportunities.
The book selected for the common reading in order to introduce this theme is There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America, by Alex Kotlowitz, a moving account of two boys struggling to survive on Chicago’s west side.
McCormick will roll out this community study at the beginning of the fall semester with much more information about the theme, about the book and about opportunities to discuss it next fall, and about coming events and opportunities to study and respond to this issue in the year ahead.
The committee, convened by Ted Hiebert (Francis A. McGaw Professor of Old Testament; Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs), has been working to shape this theme and plan its implementation. Dr. Hiebert called on these students, staff, and faculty: D’Angelo Smith (Middler), Ji Eun O (Middler), Eddie Rosa-Fuentes (Middler), Veronica Johnson (Senior Director of Admissions and Enrollment), Lisa Dagher (Vice President, Seminary Relations and Development Seminary Relations and Development), and Reggie Williams (Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics.
McCormick selected this topic for several key reasons. Being in Chicago is a part of McCormick’s identity. In Hyde Park, McCormick is near many of the schools and neighborhoods that are plagued by gun violence. It is an issue that is close to home. When King College Prep high school student, Hadiya Pendleton, a classmate of children and grandchildren of staff members, was shot and killed so close to the seminary, conversations began to explore faithful ways McCormick could be a part of the solution. The success of faith communities reaching out and planning events during the 2014 Memorial Day weekend to interrupt the violence inspired McCormick to continue these conversations and develop faithful ways McCormick can act to stem the violence in our community.
In addition, McCormick also takes seriously the powerful statements about gun violence made by the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, the American Baptist Churches, USA, and many of our other Christian brothers and sisters. People of faith have called for healing and advocacy for families who have experienced gun violence, opposition to legislation that exempts gun manufacturers and vendors from any accountability for their products, opposition to “stand your ground” and other legislation that may entitle gun owners to shoot before taking alternative measures, encouraging church sessions to declare their premises and gatherings gun-free zones, among other resolutions. As faithful Christians in south Chicago, this is an issue McCormick cannot ignore.
McCormick is one of 12 schools related to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and is an accredited member of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in the United States and Canada and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The seminary, located among the Hyde Park cluster of theological schools, including the University of Chicago, is affiliated with the Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS). As one of the nation’s most respected seminaries, McCormick prepares women and men from all denominations and backgrounds for Christian ministry and service, advancing a model of education that is cross-cultural, urban, Reformed and ecumenical.