Monday, January 5, 2015

Mandy McMichael Checks In With Some American Religious History from ASCH 2015

Glad to have Mandy's second post.  Stay tuned.  I think there is more to come from her before the conference ends. (I hope so)---JF

Saturday was my longest day of conference events.

It began bright and early with the Women in Theology and Church History Breakfast. I consider it quite a feat that I attended this 7:00 a.m. function as I am not a morning person. That said, I always enjoy connecting (or reconnecting) with other women scholars at this event. This morning’s breakfast was no different. I met several graduate students who are working on evangelicals in America and introduced myself to Ann Braude (Harvard Divinity School). Braude’s work has influenced mine in a multitude of ways and I was glad for the opportunity to thank her.

I dropped into my first AHA session of the weekend at 10:30. “AHA 95: Digital Pedagogy for History: Lightning Round” reminded me how much I love lightning rounds. I vote for more of them at conferences. It’s fantastic to pack as many ideas as possible into a session. Patrick Jones talked about The History Harvest, Steve Anderson discussed the advantages of using Google hangouts to interact with students, and Erin Bartram proposed a collaborative project to crowd source lesson plans for using primary sources. I employ primary sources in most of my classes and I’m in need of fresh ideas, so this concept was a personal favorite. I also appreciated the focus on getting students involved in local history projects by Jason Heppler and Anne Mitchell Whisnant. This is the kind of short term research and presentation that seems perfect for most undergraduates. In short, I gleaned several possibilities for future use in the classroom. As someone with a 4/4 teaching load, I am always looking for new ways to engage my students. This panel (at least the part for which I was able to stay) accomplished that.

I rushed from the lightning round to the luncheon for Grant Wacker and from there to the panel in his honor. I’m writing a reflection of both, but I’m folding them into a larger post that I hope to finish Monday.

This morning I dropped by the roundtable discussion of Kate Bowler’s book, Blessed, hosted by the Conference on Faith and History. I did not make it for the first two papers, but heard most of the third (John Turner’s paper read by Brantley Gasaway), Kate Bowler’s response, and the discussion. It included a bit of friendly banter about what it means to take one’s subjects seriously and how much a historian must disclose about her beliefs and practices. For example, how does one’s own experience of Christianity (or lack thereof) affect her interpretation of the group she is studying? When pressed about her lack of criticism of the prosperity movement, Bowler appealed both to her training by Wacker that subjects should recognize themselves in her writing and her own goals for her work as a historian. Bowler’s second project on the wives of megachurch pastors will continue this trend. My favorite comment of the session was Bowler’s: “I found a new group that no one else takes seriously.” It was a very lively, civil discussion that suggested Bowler’s work opened the door for much further inquiry.


It has been a great weekend, but I admit that I’m exhausted from the early mornings and late nights. I hope to make it to ASCH 29: “Journeying into Evangelicalism:Twenty-Five Years of Traveling with Randall Balmer’s Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” on Monday morning, but it may require lots of coffee to make it there on time.