PROSPERITY — Like clay in the hands of the potter, hearts and minds were molded for four weeks during the 19th annual Heartland Conference School of Religion.
Hosted at Grace Lutheran Church, the event brought together a professor emeritus from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, a Newberry College professor, a pastor who also works as a potter, and an associate in ministry as well as Mid-Carolina’s chorus teacher for a youth class. Around 80 people attended per night, a mix of laypersons and clergy. This was an increase in attendance from last year.
Twelve-year-old Alana Eargle attended the pottery class with her mother, Sarah.
“It looks like magic almost how he shapes (the clay),” she said. “It is interesting how he makes it relate and is pretty cool.”
Eargle is considering taking up pottery after attending each of the four classes. Gloria Danielowski, a former elementary school music teacher, enjoyed watching the potter at his wheel as the pastor spoke of Jeremiah and how human lives are like clay in the potter’s hand.
The Rev. Roger Clark spent 38 years in ministry. He used the bowl he was making as a vessel to get his audience to become open like a bowl and let the presence of the Holy Spirit come into their hearts.
“The common person needs genuine satisfaction and an encounter with God. It makes a difference who is in your house more (i.e. God) than it does who is in the White House,” said Clark.
Dr. Mike Beggs, chairman of the Religion and Philosophy Department at Newberry College, gave lectures on the Conservative/Liberal divide in American Religious History. This followed up his course a year before on Islam. He raised thought provoking questions about the places where the rubber hits the proverbial road as theological “conservatives” and “liberals” wrestle with one another to attempt to lead the Christian community.
The challenges modern society poses to religion was something Clark touched on in his pottery class and a theme taken up by Beggs as well.
For those who really wanted to wrestle with faith and existential questions, there was a course taught by the Rev. Dr. Charles P. Sigel, professor emeritus of New Testament, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. Sigel gave lectures on the hard sayings of Jesus, such as “I don’t know,” “No divorce,” “Hate your parents,” “Castrate yourself.” Several of his former students from LTSS were in the class but there were a large number of laypeople there as well, as Sigel proves a popular draw year after year at the event.
This year a new kind of youth Bible study was held that included music.
Led by Mid-Carolina High School chorus teacher Lynn Grimsley and youth ministry coordinator Stephanie Stoudemayer the course was for youth seventh grade and up. They sang praise and worship songs and explored the stories behind favorite hymns.
Bible study was relevant to issues they face today. The youth learned the American Sign Language to “You are My All in All” and they presented that to the entire assembly during the closing worship. They also sang “Blest are They,” among other works.
The youth were energetic and really got into doing the motions and sharing their vocal talents. They hope that more of their friends will be able to attend next year and that the class will continue to grow. Doubtless seeds of faith were planted as Christians of any denomination gathered for the four Tuesday evening class sessions with fellowship and refreshments in between.
The Heartland Conference School of Religion will be held each Tuesday in January 2014.