Throughout the chapel sessions of this academic year, undergraduate students will be engaging with the topic of the Divine Imagination. Each chapel message is centered on a specific image as the speaker addresses a biblical passage or passages in which the image is found.
University Chaplain Scott Samuelson said the idea for this series came out of a desire to engage biblical truths by looking deeper at the rich images of faith found throughout God’s story.
“I love the story of how God has created, loves, and is redeeming us and this world. It’s in the context of this story that faith makes sense,” Samuelson said.
The speakers for this series include many members of Trinity’s campus community: Carolyn Williford, Tony Beckham, Katherine Knitt, William Washington, Laurie Matthias, Graham Aitken, and others. Including members of Trinity’s community was intentional, according to Samuelson, so that students would get to know them in deeper and more intimate ways through the sharing of images from Scripture.
“Ultimately, we want students to encounter Scripture and create space for the Spirit to work through Scripture to affect transformation in our lives. That is paramount. The image not only leads us into the story as found in Scripture, but it often lends itself to the sharing of our own stories and the unique ways in which the power of that image has shown up in our lives,” he said.
Samuelson went on to describe two main goals for the Divine Imagination series, with the first being to immerse the campus community in the images of God’s stories in such a way that aspects of God’s character are seen for the first time or on a deeper level. Samuelson also hopes the series will engage the imagination of each student so that they might open Scripture with fresh eyes and talk about the ways in which they are part of God’s story with creativity and authenticity.
Life Together Groups (LTG) are also using the Divine Imagination as a curriculum this year, and the majority of Monday chapels are centered on this series. Students have the option to choose how they would prefer to engage Monday’s image, either through preaching or discussion in the context of an LTG.
“In my experience, not only do I need to be challenged by good preaching, but I need space to wrestle with topics alongside other believers with whom I trust,” Samuelson said.
While Samuelson has received encouraging feedback about the series opening up areas of faith and aspects of God’s character that were neglected, students have also expressed a difficulty in building on the broad images in LTG from week to week. Samuelson said that feedback has been helpful, and he hopes over the entire academic year this series will paint a rich picture of God’s character and the life of faith. This series will hopefully also bring the role of art in the church into conversation.
“We’d love for this series to whet our appetites for the role the arts can play in leading us into truth, giving expression to our experiences, thoughts, and feelings, and telling God’s story in ways that words sometimes cannot. Our hope is to use images and art to come alongside our speakers as they explore the themes of the Divine Imagination. We’ve done this in some small ways but could do better,” Samuelson said.
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) and Trinity Graduate School (TGS) students have been engaging with God’s Story of Redemption series in their chapel services, studying God’s story of salvation in human history and through individual stories.
Samuelson said while working the Chapel Advisory Committee, they found that many pastors are hesitant to preach theology in a focused and intentional way through a series.
“Perhaps [they were] thinking that such a series would be dry and more lecture than preaching. Yet our conviction was that the preaching of a theology rooted in Scripture focuses the eyes of the believer upon God, directs the work of our hands, and refreshes our souls,” Samuelson said.
The series covers the breadth of the biblical story, such creation, fall, covenant, law, kingdom, incarnation, Christ’s ministry, life in the Spirit, the church, and renewal of creation. Samuelson said they used the TEDS Introduction to Biblical Theology course to shape the series, with each theme rooted in a biblical passage.
Samuelson hopes the series demonstrates a preaching of theological themes in life-giving and pastoral ways, that are rooted in the Bible, consistent with expository preaching and reveal more about God and his character.
“Another goal is that our life together might be shaped by a common story, God’s story of redemption, that transcends our differences and unites us as the family of God,” Samuelson said.
Students have given positive feedback about the series thus far.
“Our preachers for the series have been especially pastoral in their approaches, unpacking the significance of each theological theme in the context of our desire to live faithfully for Christ,” Samuelson said.
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