Inside the Classroom: Martin Luther King, Jr. & Beloved Community

Written by Kristina Alvarado
January 22, 2015

This current Winter Quarter, Dr. Wilson Bridges is teaching a special weekend course over four intensive sessions in January and February on the topic of ?Martin Luther King, Jr.: Beloved Community.? We are honored to have Dr. Wilson Bridges with us again, as she has contributed to Seattle University?s School of Theology and Ministry in a variety of roles over the years. In September of 2002, Dr. Wilson Bridges was hired as professor of pastoral theology, then taking a leave of absence in 2010 to become pastor at the prestigious and historic Rendall Memorial Presbyterian Church in Harlem, New York. This past year, Dr. Wilson Bridges taught an important course for students on the topic of the?prophetic tradition of scripture?engaging students in the Black Church tradition of preaching being something that inspires action on behalf of the poor and marginalized in society. Read more about that STMA 593-04 course, "Prophetic Preaching for Radical Welcome? online, here. This quarter?s special STMM 5910-01 course on themes raised by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. welcomes students from Divinity, Transformational Leadership, Pastoral Studies, Transforming Spirituality, Doctor of Ministry programs and others.

The course seeks to reflect theologically on the life and ministry of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his quest for the Beloved Community from a three-fold perspective. Dr. Wilson Bridges shares:

"We, as North American citizens, citizens of the world, and people of compassion, often respect and are inspired by the life and ministry of Martin Luther King, Jr. who risked and lost a great deal as he fought against injustice. We are able to see his risk taking, sacrifices, and suffering. However, we don?t as readily discern the connection between his life and how we may live ours in this post-segregation age in the United States. This course examines the life and works of Martin Luther King, Jr., not as a moral saint, but as a courageous human being who, like all of us, had to reach beyond his own shortcomings and take on challenges against seemingly overwhelming odds. Guided by the methodology in ethics of the internationally acclaimed legal scholar, Derrick Bell, the course asks the central question, 'How may I, an ordinary human being in my time just as Martin Luther King, Jr. was an ordinary human being in his own time, pursue a primary ambition of living a life of integrity?'?

Many studies have been done on the role of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a civil rights activist in the struggle for freedom, justice, and equality for oppressed people. Dr. Wilson Bridges shares that ?interpreters of his thought have not in any sustained way explored his contribution as a theologian.? Students have the opportunity throughout the course to discover how Dr. King?s life and works emerged from his theological legacy and in his cultural legacy of the African-American community and the Black Church.

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Pictured right, current Transforming Spirituality student Nindyo?s photo of the books he's engaged in his class studies.

Current Divinity student, Corey Passons, shares from his experience in the class this quarter:
"Having spent the last few weeks reading Dr. King's major speeches and articles, I am humbled by the depth of his (and others') commitment to and clarity of method in the non-violent ethic of the movement for justice and equity. King?s vision of a better world is a crucial and needed vision for our present age. His method is one that challenges me to love those whom I perceive to arbitrate injustice.?

The goal of this course is to encourage students toward a sense of personal and social responsibility for realizing the Beloved Community in our churches, communities, nation, and world. Students are guided through prayers, readings, theological reflections, class discussions and assignments to ultimately become moral agents who evaluate every situation as to whether it contributes to or impedes the growth of human personality and genuine community.

About the Professor:
Dr. Wilson Bridges is a systematic theologian and ordained minister within the National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Inc. with privilege of call in the United Church of Christ. She joined the faculty of Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry as Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology in 2002 and became Associate Professor in 2006. She has taught both graduate and undergraduate courses in African-American religious expression and spirituality; and graduate courses in ministerial and theological integration, group effectiveness skills and ministry in a multicultural context. She is the author of Resurrection Song: African-American Spirituality, published by Orbis Books, among other works. ?Dr. Wilson Bridges is returning to the school to teach this quarter as Adjunct Faculty, as she is now working full-time in ministry.?

Watch a video interview with The Rev. Dr. Flora Wilson Bridges online, here.

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