Developing the New Non-Formal Components: The Curriculum Story Continues
August 12, 2020
Beyond the Classroom Setting
July 14, 2020

A Dynamic Response to Modern Difficulties: MEC 2020

Thursday, June 18 was a hectic day at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS). All day long you could see staff members rushing in and out of offices, moving furniture, laying down Ethernet cables, and turning the second-floor conference room into an online “control” room. It was a big day because that afternoon, we launched our first Middle East Conversations 2020 webinar.

“Over the past 16 years, the Middle East Consultation established a tradition of bringing people together in Lebanon during the third week of June to facilitate conversations on important topics and bring together voices and perspectives from the Middle East and North Africa region and beyond,” says Brent Hamoud, Programs Coordinator for the Institute of Middle East Studies (IMES) at ABTS. “We had already developed this year’s Consultation when the pandemic hit in late February, so we had to rethink our entire concept. The question for us was: can we still provide a platform for discussion while featuring regional voices on important global discourse? We are attempting to answer this question by moving from the physical weeklong Consultation to virtual Conversations via a series of online webinars on current global and regional discourses while engaging the audience and speakers in a dynamic way.”

“The purpose of these conversations is to lend Middle Eastern voices to the global discourse on urgent matters of faith and witness” said ABTS President Elie Haddad in his opening note on the 18th. The webinar, titled A Dynamic Pause: Reflections on Simplicity, Purpose, and Transformation in this Time of Pandemic, was the first of several more to come over the next few months and set up the conversation on how we should respond to the changes to our means of life in the post pandemic world. The webinar was facilitated by ABTS Assistant Professor Abed El Kareem Zien El Dien and featured Rima Nasrallah, Professor of Practical Theology at the Near East School of Theology, Gary Nelson, President of Tyndale University, and Martin Accad, Chief Academic Officer at ABTS, who gave their thoughts on how we can lead a purposeful life as we emerge into the post-pandemic world.

Talking from the standpoint of a theologian now invested in distance-based education, keynote speaker Accad highlighted that it is necessary for us to think transformatively and come to terms with persistent habits and assumptions about church and ministry. “The Church has to think again about the reason for its existence; how do we return to the fundamental meaning of a church, and how do we work towards a new and globally sustainable conception of the church?” Accad asked us to think through the current crises through the metaphor of the cocoon going through metamorphosis; “If we do not transform ourselves using the lessons we learn during these crises, we will not be able to rise to the challenges of the post-pandemic world.”

Nasrallah answered and said, “The crises have been like a metal foundry; they have shown us the flaws in our society and have given us the opportunity to improve ourselves. Our call today is to point out these difficulties and work towards bettering ourselves and our communities, but my hesitation is that we are overestimating our trust in humanity being able to achieve this change and forget that we live in a cycle of sin. We have to depend on God so that we are to reach what He wants us to reach.”

In turn, Nelson shared, “Much of the language in North America is framed around the idea that we have been moved into a new normal; I want to suggest that this new normal has been a reality that we have been facing for a long time […] The challenge before us is the nurturing of some kind of ability to negotiate this world with courage and resilience.”

“I think this was a very timely and needed topic during the unfolding ‘crises’,” said Nasrallah. “I believe it was a good solution in light of the current circumstances. It was more environmentally friendly than a physical consultation and allowed for a wider range of people to participate. However, it was a pity that we could not make direct contact. I would have liked to see everyone and hear their voices. I pray that the Lord shows us new ways to bear witness and care for His creation in a responsible and just manner.”

“I learned a lot from this webinar,” shared an attendee from Egypt. “We cannot go back to the way we used to act before the pandemic, so what the speakers highlighted about being wise with resources and centering our conception of the church on the people felt extremely relevant to the situation here. As we adapt to the pandemic and the post-pandemic world, it is vital that we transform these new methods into a lifestyle. The webinar felt very productive as it helped me think through these concepts, and I am looking forward to what I will learn from next month’s webinar.”

Read more about the details of the June Conversation here!