The Word and World Mentoring Program puts motivated, passionate 22–30-year-olds with a thirst for justice and a hunger for formation in conversation with some of the most influential and committed radical theologians and activist-scholars of our day. This year-long course of study and reflection is one answer to what lay theologian William Stringfellow might have called a vocational question—namely, in the face of globalization, political division, environmental degradation, and a culture of violence, what is theological education for? While there are many theology programs which offer credentials for careers in the academy or institutional church, few options equip everyday disciples for the ongoing work of living an alternative vision of community, downward mobility, reconciliation, and social transformation. The Word and World Mentoring Program addresses the need for people engaged in movements for social transformation- (“the Movement”),- to be sustained by Scripture studies, critical reflection, and the history of struggles for change.
“I can hardly believe it: Going on four decades ago, as a theology student in NY, I was drawn into a series of gatherings around bible study and direct action summarily called “the underground seminary,” (not Bonhoeffer’s Finkenwald, yet remembering and seeded by it). This thing put me in relation to movement theological mentors who remain for me to this day lodestars. It changed my life and fixed my vocation. It put my pen to paper, my voice to pulpit and street, my hand to movement community, and my ass in jail. It was among the predecessors (with freedom schools and base communities) of what would come to be “Word and World,” the alternative seminary of sanctuary and streets.
Now for the last decade Word and World has been my own beloved community, a constellation of companions who have called the tune for my own work, year by year. Thinking we had run our course and fulfilled our intent, we gathered “one last time” to tell some stories, lift a cup, and put it to bed. But no. But yes. Another generation won’t let it rest. We are revived, among other things, in a mentoring program conceived from the bottom up. On a raveling rope, which is to say on pure grace, we are raising the sails once again.”
—Bill Wylie-Kellermann, Detroit, MI
“Maybe what you really want is to talk with people who flooded the streets and filled the jails for the simple right to eat at a lunch counter. You want to learn about the training and strategy that lead to that moment, and talk to those same folks who continue to organize 40 years later. Maybe you really want to study with people who can put that question to you, “how do you read,” to help you locate yourself on the map of privilege, to help you read through the lies of racism, hetero/sexism, materialism, militarism. You want scholars of scripture who can interpret the old stories of life on the “business end” of Empire, a history told by the “losers” (the ones, as it happens, who shall inherit the earth). You want to read the books these mentors have written and the ones that helped them write their lives. You want the strongest leaves on your tree to show you how they’ve held fast through government shake downs, through economic drought, through watching the best fall around them. You want to know what keeps them going, so you can keep going, so maybe the ones who come after can keep going too.”
—Kate Foran, Hartford, CT