CSWR Director visits Chapel House

March 13, 2017
Rodney Agnant, Frank Clooney, and Steven Kepnes
Rodney Agnant, Resident Program Coordinator at Chapel House; CSWR Director Francis Clooney; and Professor Steven Kepnes./Photo courtesy of Francis Clooney.

On March 2, I was happy to give several lectures at Colgate University, Hamilton, New York, at the invitation of Professor Steven Kepnes, Chair of the Department of Religion and Professor of Religion and Jewish Studies. In the first lecture, on a class visit, I spoke of how the evolving Jewish-Catholic relationship since Vatican II has also opened new ways for Catholics to relate to people of other faith traditions, including Islam and the traditions of Asia. In my main lecture, “From Theology to Worship in Hindu-Christian Studies: Reading Sri Ramanuja and St Bonaventure Together,” I explored with my listeners the ways in which academic work – done with rigor and discipline – can all the more deeply engage the truth and practical commitments arising in the texts studied. Both Ramanuja and Bonaventure, among the greatest of Hindu and Christian theologians, brilliantly and profoundly insisted on keeping together the intellectual and the spiritual, the conceptual and the practical, dimensions of human thinking and acting, and thus wrote treatises that instructed their readers in integral and lived religious experience, even while challenging and opening their minds. I very much appreciated my attentive audiences and the living discussions that followed each event.

But the main reward of my visit was that, as Director of CSWR, I was visiting Colgate’s famed Chapel House, our sister institution that, likewise in the late 1950s, was founded with a substantial gift from the donor (anonymous at her request) who also made CSWR possible. (As we reported here at the time of his death in 2012, Colgate professor Kenneth Morgan was instrumental in making both Chapel House and CSWR possible.) Steven Kepnes is also the Director of Chapel House, and he had spoken here in the fall of 2015, as I reported here at that time. His List Lecture for us, “Jewish Liturgy as Jewish Theology,” was very much welcomed here, and in the spirit too of my lectures at Colgate on March 2.

As both Chapel House and CSWR approach their 60th anniversaries, it is rewarding and hopeful to see that in their own ways they have remained true to their founding visions, integrating the intellectual and the spiritual, thereby deepening both and enriching the university communities in Hamilton and Cambridge.