Empathy and Advent: The Lois Tupper Conference on Christian Education
On October 30, 1999, McMaster Divinity College held the first Lois Tupper Conference on Christian Education. The conferences are named after Dr. Tupper, who taught Christian Education at McMaster Divinity College from 1948 to 1997. Lois was the first female professor appointed to a tenured track position at a Canadian university. She earned her B.A. and B.Ed. degrees from the University of Saskatchewan, and taught high school in that province. For four years she was an executive secretary of the Maritime Religious Education Council, and has served on the Executive of the Canadian Council of Churches. She earned her M.A. degree in Christian Education from Union Seminary and Columbia University in New York before coming to McMaster in 1948 as Director of the Women=s Leadership Training School and a member of the Divinity College Faculty. Lois was instrumental in the establishment of the College=s Master of Religious Education Programme, and continues to support and encourage the growth of religious education both in the local church and at the College. In recognition of her accomplishments, McMaster University conferred on her an Honorary Doctorate in 1974.
At the conference itself, Dr. Tupper introduced the topic of Empathy and Advent by linking the concept of empathy with its foundational role in education. Joyce Bellous explored various definitions and aspects of empathy, while Marion Taylor and Ann Jervis addressed the subjects of Empathy in the Old and New Testaments, respectively. As a participatory introduction to the practical dimensions of empathy, Wayne Dunkley took us on a walk through his website, AShare My World,@ which explores people=s responses to an image of a black male. Wayne posted an image of himself in various locations in Toronto, then photographed various responses to this image over a number of years. On the website he reproduces some of these photographs and recounts his own experience as a black male in Canada. Conference participants found his account of the degradation of these images to be powerful and important. You can explore and interact with his website by clicking www.sharemyworld.net
The following essays were presented at the conference.
$ Considering Empathy: Some Preliminary Definitions by J. E. Bellous
$ Exploring Empathy in the Old Testament by Marion Taylor
$ Empathy and the New Testament by L. Ann Jervis
Although not presented at the conference, the essay by Lisa Onbelet, AImagining the Other: The Use of Narrative as an Empowering Practice,@ explores Jesus= use of parable in Luke 7 as a means of enabling empathy, both within the situation Luke describes, and for us as readers. It is a helpful extension of the aims and methodologies discussed by conference participants.