Saturday, January 29, 2005


Last weekend, I preached at the ordination service of a friend. I thought it was strange of her to ask me, being that I don't really find ordination helpful anymore (I did once, and I am ordained). It's not so much the institution itself (though I do have problems with it), but the way it's used that I find so troubling. It's too often used as some kind of worldly power grab, an excuse to make someone call you "Pastor," or a reason to get a really lucrative tax break, or the chance for an otherwise relatively culturally powerless person to be in charge -- of a pulpit and microphone on Sunday, a staff meeting on Monday, a board of elders on Tuesday, etc.

Thankfully, I was involved in the ordination of a friend who is tempted toward none of these abuses. Here is an edited version my sermon:

“We are here assembled on a very interesting and solemn occasion, and it is proper to advert to the real object for which we have come together. There are in the world, and there may be among us, false views of the nature and object of ordination. I do not believe that any special or specific form of ordination is necessary to constitute a gospel minister. We are not here to make a minister. It is not to confer on this our sister a right to preach the gospel. If she has not that right already, we have no power to communicate it to her. Nor have we met to qualify her for the work of the ministry. If God, and mental and moral culture, have not already qualified her, we can not by any thing we may do by way of ordaining or setting her apart. Nor can we, by imposition of our hands, confer on her any special grace for the work of the ministry; nor will our hands, if imposed upon her head, serve as any special medium for the communication of the Holy Ghost, as conductors serve to convey electricity. Such ideas belong not to our theory, but are related to other systems and darker ages. All we are here to do, and all we expect to do, is in due form, and by a solemn and impressive service, to subscribe our testimony to the fact, that, in our belief, our sister in Christ, [Antoinette L. Brown], is one of the ministers of the new covenant, authorized, qualified, and called of God, to preach the gospel of his Son Jesus Christ. This is all; but even this renders the occasion interesting and solemn. As she is recognized as a pastor of this flock it is solemn and interesting to both pastor and flock to have the relation formally recognized.”

These words – with one notable difference – were preached by the Rev. Luther Lee on September 15, 1853 in South Butler, New York. The occasion was the ordination of Miss Antoinette Brown, the first woman ever ordained in modern times. Appropriately enough, Rev. Brown was ordained as a Congregationalist....

However, I come today with some troubling news. Ordination, my friends, is in trouble. Deep trouble.

The verb, “to ordain,” comes from the same Latin root as, “to order,” and it means basically the same thing. Ordination is, presumably, about putting things in the right order, about getting the hierarchy right. Now, as Congregationalists, we don’t have much hierarchy; there’s a little more for Presbyterians and a lot more for Episcopalians and Catholics. But all of us Baptists (small “b” and large “B”) and Congregationalists, the order is really just two levels, ordained and non-ordained (also known as “laypersons”).

Ultimately, no matter the denominational flavor, ordination is about the conferring of some kind of authority upon the ordinand. Danielle will have hands laid upon her in a few moments in a sign of demarcation that has its origins in the Bible, and she will join the millions of men and women who have followed St. Peter, the one who was initially set apart by Jesus himself, given the “keys to the church.” And suddenly, magically, after we lay hands on her, Danielle will have the authority to baptize, marry, bury, and preside over the Lord’s Supper. She’ll have the authority to shepherd young people, to assist God in ushering them into his kingdom. She’ll have the authority to speak the gospel to the powers of our age! Or will she?

Here’s the rub. We live in possibly the most anti-authoritarian era of all time. You may already be convinced of this, but humor me by allowing me some examples. Just 60 years ago the press wouldn’t show the President of the United States in a wheelchair; today the President is skewered nightly by Leno, Letterman, and Saturday Night Live. The Pope is mocked in editorial cartoons, and the Supreme Court is depicted sans robes – or anything else – in this Christmas’s bestselling book.

People are deeply, deeply suspicious of authority. But before we start to bemoan how much times have changed, and how much we wish it was the way to used to be, let me say in the interest of full disclosure, I think that this suspicion of authority is
a good thing!

You see, coming out of the Enlightenment of the 18th century, things were pretty rosy. It was commonly assumed that the human race had finally begun to figure things out. As Europe emerged out of two centuries of war, a generation of philosophers and scientists promised a new age, based on “enlightened rationality.” Philosopher Immanuel Kant declared that humankind had left its immaturity and that the motto of the Enlightenment was, “
Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own intelligence!"

The universe is orderly, rational, and ultimately knowable, the Enlightenment thinkers declared. And human beings will figure it all out, if we just "put our minds to it."

And then the 20th century happened. The human race achieved great heights, unparalleled progress. But every height was matched by a depth, a deep darkness that makes it possibly the most ambivalent century of all time.

We cured diseases at an astounding rate, but an influenza epidemic in 1918 and 1919 killed 25 million. AIDS is currently devastating the continent of Africa.

The global infant mortality rate has dropped from 198 to 83 deaths per thousand births in the last forty years, but overpopulation is paralyzing the growth of underdeveloped countries.

The Internet has delivered incredible resources of news, information, and pornography to young and old alike.

This list, of course, could go on. But what really brought the Enlightenment dream to an end was war. Rather than bringing a century of peace, the 20th century was the bloodiest that humankind has ever seen. 150 million people died in warfare, and the 20th century ended with armed conflict taking place in fully one-third of the nations on Earth.

And at whose feet do we lay the blame for this? At the feet of authority, because for every Einstein, Kennedy, King, and Churchill, there’s a Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot. Authority, my friends, took a beating in the 20th century.

And so we emerge into the 21st century with a vast horizon of possibility before us, and an ambivalent legacy behind us. People don’t trust authority, and with good reason. Postmodern philosophers have for thirty years now been attempting to do “philosophy after the Holocaust,” for how does one speak authoritatively about “truth” when such talk sounds vaguely like the claims made by the Nazis and Africaans?

How does a pastor, for instance, stand in a pulpit and authoritatively preach about what is good and true and right when the backdrop of her profession is headlines of pedophilic priests, T.V. preachers, and pastors with moral failings? At one time we wore these robes to convey a certain amount of authority, to show how well educated we were, back when Oxford and Yale professors wore them to lectures every day. Now few know what they signify....

For only now, after the institution of ordained ministry has been laid low, can it be reborn into what it can and should be.

There is no better time to restate Paul’s dictum: “
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, ordained nor lay, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Now we can truly embrace St. Peter and Martin Luther’s ideal of “the priesthood of all believers.” The unspoken contract between pastor and congregation can be rewritten, for we are all called to ministry, all called to serve God daily and wholeheartedly. The pastor does not deliver us the truth – that’s the job of the Holy Spirit. The pastor gathers us, makes sure the bills get paid, and helps us to develop theological language to describe and redescribe our lives. The pastor reminds us that we are a “royal priesthood,” that we are the “body of Christ.” This is not authoritarianism but cooperation.

And there is no better place for ordination to be reborn than in a congregational church where the minister has always been in some sense, just “one of the folks” (to use a Rounerian phrase). We do “set apart” our pastors insofar as we pay them to do the business of the church. But when it comes time to vote on something, there’s one vote a piece, whether you’re “Reverend” or ir-reverend.

There’s a verse that makes any Congregationalist’s heart sing, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” Danielle is ordained today not by a distant bishop or a denominational bureaucracy, but by the local body of Christ, by the same folks who led her in youth group, discipled her through high school, prayed her through college, gave her a job in ministry, and kept her in care in seminary. We encouraged her to preach, serve communion, teach Bible studies, run summer camp, lead mission trips, hang out with kids, and mentor an amazing group of young women.

And there is no better person in whom ordination’s rebirth can take place than Danielle Hample. I have been honored to watch God forge Danielle these past years, and, more than anyone I know, myself included, Danielle’s motivation for having this celebration on this day is pure. She holds no illusions of grandeur, takes no egocentric pleasure from standing in a pulpit, doesn’t long for credibility in the eyes of men and women. She desires no worldly authority, no office of power. No, hers is as pure a heart to serve as a sinful human being can have. And she has been serving, lo these many years.

And so I reiterate the sentiments of Rev. Luther Lee at that ordination service so many years ago.
We’re not doing anything here today – at least, we’re not doing anything that God didn’t already do years ago. In some ways, we’re just catching up with God’s work in Danielle’s life enough to say that she is, indeed, “one of the ministers of the new covenant, authorized, qualified, and called of God, to preach the gospel of his Son Jesus Christ.” We will all do well to watch the grace with which she carries the title, “Reverend,” for my guess is that she will embody the humility that we read about in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, considering others better than herself, and looking to the interests of others before her own. It’s to this standard that we’re all called and set apart. And no one will proclaim that with more zeal than Reverend Hample.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Future of the Emergent Convention

Youth Specialties has just announced that it it refocusing its efforts on youth ministry and, thus, will no longer be partnering with Emergent-US in running the Emergent Convention (nor will they partner with Zondervan on the National Pastors' Convention).

Those of us on the Emergent-US organizing team are very much in support of YS's decision. And YS is still in support of Emergent -- just today I received an invitation to speak at all three National Youth Workers' Conventions, and I offered to help design the "Emergent Track" at the conventions.

We at Emergent also plan to move ahead with a convention-type event in the Spring of 2006. We will immediately be looking for individual contributers and partner organizations for such an event. Check the Emergent-US blog for details...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Central Jersey Emergent Cohort - next meeting

OK, everyone, I think we successfully avoided coming to any kind of consensus as to how we move forward with this thing. And as much as I am flattered, I think it's loopy that some of you want to plan the meetings around my schedule in Princeton.

However, because I want to spend time with all of you and am, at my core, selfish, we will indeed meet when I am next in Princeton, and that is next week. Though I can't swing a Thursday night, I will be around on Tuesday, which is $1.50 marguerita night at Charlie Brown's (although they're are almost completely lacking in tequila).

So, although it's late notice, we will meet TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 1, FROM 9-11PM AT CHARLIE BROWN'S.

Business: Who leads from here? Is anyone willing to administrate a cohort blog? When and where do we meet from now on?

Theological discussion: Was God swept away in the tsunami? Or, what are the most promising theories of theodicy for the emerging church?

Monday, January 24, 2005

Minnesota Insider Post

I don't care what all you snooty St. Olaf grad/classical music lovers say, this is a great radio station...

...but this is still better.

Both stream online.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

So Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jürgen Habermas were sitting at an outdoor cafe, somewhere in Europe...

Habermas: What up, G? Say, I've read all your stuff on hermeneutics, and I think it's pretty good. But I've got a couple of major concerns.

Gadamer: OK, shoot.

H: Well for one, I'm not really down with your rehabilitation of tradition. I mean, tradition is there, I understand, but it is nothing more than a carrier of prejudice.

G: I know, and I think prejudice is just fine, too.

H: But prejudice and tradition are tools of The Man. They only support hegemony, oppression, and domination. You're naïve to think they don't.

G: You're the naïve one, H. As human beings, we are prejudiced by our traditions. I'm just calling it what it is. You, my friend, have been seduced by the Enlightenment's prejudice against prejudice, which is, itself, a prejudice. I think we should all claim our prejudices, and I also think -- you're going to give birth to a calf on this one -- I also think that tradition is and should be authoritative.

H [getting red in the face]: Are you insane?!? Have you lost your mind?!? The point of philosophy is emancipation! Liberation from oppression!

G: Settle down, dude. I knew that would get under your skin, so let me amend it a little. I don't agree with you that the goal of philosophy is emancipation -- that kind of advocacy stance is foundationalist, and I'm a non-foundationalist. I don't do philosophy with a political agenda. My only agenda is further self-knowledge. I will, however, grant you that I wasn't sufficiently radical in Truth and Method. A drop or two of Marxism in my coffee would do me some good, I suppose.

Ricoeur [bending over from the next table]: I'm sorry, I couldn't help overhearing you two. If you don't mind me saying, I find your debate pedantic and stale, a leftover encounter between the Enlightenment and Romanticism.

G: Oh, really?

R: Yes. You, sir, are positing a naïve position in regards to tradition, which I shall call "participation."

G: Clever.

R: And you, Mr. H, are cutting yourself off from tradition, which I shall term, "distanciation."

H: Is that a word?

R: Frenchmen can make up words at will. Just ask Derrida. But back to my point. Ultimately, G, I'm on your side in this, but let me propose a middle ground between you two. When dealing with tradition, one should adopt a critical distance, so that you can be discerning about your traditions.

G: Is that all?

R: No. One more thing: You should judge your tradition against the regulative idea of emancipation. That will be how you determine whether the tradition is to be heeded or rejected.

G: OK. I can live with that.

H: Back to your cafe au lait, Frenchie. Listen, G, I've got another problem. You say that all human experience, and therefore all meaning, is utterly linguistic, right?

G: Yes.

H: But so much communication is distorted. I think hermeneutics is a fine place to start, but there are limits to interpretation. Like what about a mental patient and a therapist? That's what I would call distorted communication.

G: Sure it is, but it's still linguistic. The therapist claims an authoritative position based on the tradition of psychology in which she was trained. And she sits there for an hour trying to interpret what her patient is saying. Sorry, my friend, you can't escape language.

H: Speaking of distorted communication, here comes Derrida. I'm outta here.

[Habermas hurriedly leave, and Derrida comes skipping up to the table, sits in the
chair opposite Gadamer, and laughs with a crazy cackle.]

G: Oh Jacques, pleeeeeeeeeeeease debate me.

D: I shan't, G, for philosophy is nothing but a game with no point; it has no beginning and no end. We play and play, but everything means nothing.

G: I agree that that it's a game, but there is a point to it. When we play the game more, we become better players. We understand ourselves better, and that is the meaning of life.

D: Meaning of life? HA! Can't we please bury Plato already? There is no meaning, only différance.

G: I know French, and that's not a word.

D: Frenchmen can make up words at will.

G: Yeah, I guess I've heard that. But listen, the point of dialogue, of conversation, is agreement. That's how we know things better.

D: Agreement?!? HA! Consensus leads to holocausts. There is no consensus, only dissensus, you silly man. You are a Romantic. And the French love Romance. Let me give you a hug.

[Derrida reaches across the table, spilling coffee on himself and Gadamer, and hugs Gadamer a little too long for anyone's comfort.]

D: I must be off. My favorite soap opera begins in ten minutes!

[Derrida skips off, leaving Gadamer alone at the table.]

N.B.: Thanks to Tim Keller, whose question prompted my assault on philosophical dialogue. Tim, I've not read Van Hoozer, and I only know Thistleton as a (foundationalist) commentator on hermeneutics -- I've not really read enough of him to judge his work.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Phenomenological Hermeneutics

The big paper I was working on for the past two weeks was on that very subject, phenomenological hermeneutics. Now, I've gotten several emails and comments from people basically laughing at how silly and pointless the mental masturbation like this seems. So, in order to justify my own existence, I'll give a little run-down of the contents and try to show that this is actually significant.

Hermeneutics is the art of interpretation. Up until the mid-20th century, it was dominated by the thoughts of Friedrich Schleiermacher and his acolytes, all of whom basically tried to develop better methods of interpretation so that we could understand things -- primarily, texts -- better. Then along came Hans-Georg Gadamer, who, in two major works (Philosophical Hermeneutics and Truth and Method) argued very persuasively that hermeneutics is all there is. In other words, all we human beings do is interpret; it is the human condition. Thus, hermeneutics is about truth, not method.

Actually, it's not really about truth, per se. It's about meaning. Gadamer followed in a line of philosophers, most notably Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, who developed the philosophical discipline of phenomenology. To oversimplify, phenomenology is the philosophical study of consciousness and its structures; that is, phenomenology is not concerned with metaphysical "truth" which lies "out there somewhere," but is concerned instead with uncovering "meaning," which is already latent within the human being (there's lots of talk in phenomenology about the state of "being"). In other words, we can't really talk about "truth," only about our experience of "truth" -- which doesn't actually make it less "true," but more "true." (Here I must defer to Bennett Brauer for the appropriate use of "air quotes.")

Gadamer said that the way to get to this meaning is to better understand how it is that human beings interpret things. He posited that we each have a "horizon of meaning" that we walk around with every day. This horizon, like our field of vision or hearing, originates within us, but is also out in front of us, interacting with our surroundings. What happens when I read a book or see a movie or have a conversation is that my horizon "fuses" with the horizon of that book or movie or person. As a result, I walk away from that encounter forever changed, since my horizon has been changed. Although he meticulously avoids developing a method, Gadamer does argue that the more open my horizon to the horizons of others, the more fully human I will be.

The great thing about practical theology as a discipline is that I am required to bring this stuff to bear on the life of the church. So the paper was to take a particular line of hermeneutics (I chose Gadamer -- most of the rest of the seminar chose Paul Ricoeur -- and to put it in conversation with a (very) particular practice of ministry. I used "Youth Group Movie Night" as the practice and ultimately argued that a better hermeneutic of film would lead to a much more effective use of film in the context of youth ministry. My overarching recommendation that "the opening of horizons of meaning" should be a guiding telos for all of youth ministry.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Why to not get a PhD...

...because you'll start sounding like this:

Following Heigedder, truth for Gadamer is historical; that is, truth is truth only to a human being situated in time and place: “Being itself is an event of truth.” This commitment to the Husserlian-Heideggerian line of phenomenology leads Gadamer to adopt Husserl’s concept of “horizon” as a metaphor for the “flow of experience” that constitutes the human “temporality of consciousness.” The concept of horizon, then, both opens and delimits the human experience; on the one hand, the human is bounded by her situatedness and thus can only see so far beyond herself, yet on the other hand, she is not blind to possibilities of understanding other than her own. That is, the human being – the experience of Dasein – is both liberating and limiting, and the concept of “horizon” explains this dialectical existence.

Gadamer and Fields

I'm not quite done with my 40-page paper on phenomenological hermeneutics (it's due at midnight, EST), thus the blogging silence. However, I was just looking at the bibliography for the paper so far, and I instinctively started singing the old Sesame Street song, "One of these things is not like the other." Let's see if you can spot the one that doesn't seem to belong:


Bauckham, Richard. The Theology of Jürgen Moltmann. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995.

Bleicher, Josef. Contemporary Hermeneutics: Hermeneutics as Method, Philosophy, and Critique. London ; Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980.

Crusius, Timothy W. A Teacher's Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics. Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 1991.

Fields, Doug, and Eddie James. Videos That Teach: Teachable Movie Moments from 75 Modern Film Classics. Grand Rapids, MI: Youth Specialties/Zondervan, 1999.

Gadamer, Hans Georg. Philosophical Hermeneutics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

________. Truth and Method. 2nd, rev. ed. New York: Crossroad, 1989.

Hekman, Susan J. Hermeneutics and the Sociology of Knowledge. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986.

Madison, Gary Brent. The Hermeneutics of Postmodernity: Figures and Themes Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation. 1st Fortress Press ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.

________. The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology. 1st Fortress Press ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

________. The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993.

Osmer, Richard R. "Johannes Van Der Ven's Contribution to the New Consensus in Practical Theology." In Essays in Honor of Johannes Van Der Ven. Leiden: Brill, forthcoming.

Osmer, Richard Robert, and Friedrich Schweitzer. Religious Education between Modernization and Globalization: New Perspectives on the United States and Germany Studies in Practical Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2003.

Teigas, Demetrius. Knowledge and Hermeneutic Understanding: A Study of the Habermas-Gadamer Debate. Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1995.

Wachterhauser, Brice R. Hermeneutics and Modern Philosophy. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1986.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The End Is Nigh

Monday, January 10, 2005

Emergent Convention

I won't be at the conventions this year, although it grieves me. I have to study for my comprehensive exams and truly cannot afford any time away from that. However, I think you should go; and you can help promote it by linking here.

Reflections on IASYM

I spent the better part of this week at the bi-annual conference of the International Association for the Study of Youth Ministry. My purpose there, as well as being a member of that organization, was to present a paper as a part of the Faithful Practices Project. (FPP is a Lilly Endowment-funded grant to the Christian Education department of PTS, and it’s funding my dissertation research into eight emerging churches.) More on that paper later.

The IASYM is a group still in its infancy; it’s a professional guild founded less than ten years ago. However, as youth ministry has professionalized and more courses on YM have been offered around the world, the association has grown dramatically, now counting almost 400 members, about evenly split, it seems to me, between youth ministry instructors and youth ministry practitioners. The purpose is to encourage the academic study of YM.

However, there is some pain as we grow, as you might expect. I can count at least two pressing conflicts. However, in each case, I do not think it best if one of these sides wins out over the other. Instead, I really think that we should try to hold each of these in a healthy, dialectical tension.

U.S. and World: This is a real tension that came out at a couple different points, including the election of new Executive members (no Americans were elected). There were also some sparks when a U.S. participant made imperialistic sounding comments and when a Brit used an Abu Ghraib image as an “icon” during worship. Honestly, these latter were almost completely unhelpful, and all of the conversation about the election of new Executive members was in hushed tones around the fringe. In the future, we’d better get this conversation out into the open. (Ironically, just as the U.S. was accused of being colonizers, the IASYM announced that they are hosting a regional conference in New Orleans in a year – this troubled those present who are members of the AYME, an already established organization in the States. For all of the talk of “partnership” in the members’ meeting, this seemed like a move that will preclude true partnership.)

Social Scientists and Theologians: The first generation of youth ministry professors were old and wise youth workers who were hired by colleges and seminaries to teach this new discipline of church-based youth work. The second generation, and the bulk of those currently in most positions, hold terminal degrees in the social sciences (sociology, education, anthropology, cultural studies). And now there is an emerging generation of scholars (among which I count myself) who are primarily theologians. Thus, there are social scientists with an interest in theology and theologians with an interest in social science. Both sides have the tendency to get arrogant, yet each side needs the other. I hope that the IASYM can work hard at keeping these two branches of academic youth ministry in a healthy and mutually critical conversation – we’ll all be better for it.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Jonny Baker is hard of hearing

Out to dinner last night with a big group here in London (here for the International Association for the Study of Youth Ministry), when Jonny Baker and his end of the table (Will Penner and Jay and Jen Howver of Youth Specialties and Mike King of YouthFront) started laughing hysterically after I ordered dessert. [Background: Frangelico is an Italian hazelnut liquour, and it's highly yummy.]

What I said to the waiter: "I'd like the tiramisu, an espresso, and a Frangelico."

What Jonny heard me say: "I'd like the tiramisu, an espresso, and I'm an evangelical."

Monday, January 03, 2005

Central Jersey Cohort: Check-In time

For those of you in the Central Jersey Emergent Cohort, please use the comment section on this post to chime in regarding these questions/comments. After a week or so, we'll see if a consensus builds about how to move forward.

1) The Content: Do you want to keep meeting? Does it have value to you? What are the things you'd like to see us discuss? Dr. Guder came to our first meeting, and that shows a unique opportunity we have in the Princeton area -- are you interested in us extending invitations to other theologians from the seminary and the university to join us? Do you want conversations tilted more toward theory of the church, praxis of the church, or an attempt at balance?

2) The Venue: There were many pro and con comments on Adam's blog following our last meeting regarding Charlie Brown's, and, I'll admit, the fact that that couple sat right in the middle of us was a bummer. I've checked with Mark (the waiter), and we could reserve the room to the immediate left when you walk in the door, which would be quieter. But then there's the problem of the last person there getting stiffed with the check for those who underpaid or undertipped (it was I who got stiffed in November and someone else last month). Those are the cons to CB's; the pros are cheap beer, a casual atmosphere, and following in the long tradition of theological conversation over a pint. Further, there's something to be said about theological/missional conversation being more grounded when it's taking place in a bar than when it's in a seminary classroom.

On the other hand, we could drive down to Buck's County and meet at The Well, we could find a coffee shop setting in the Princeton area, or we could gather in someone's home or in a church. Pro: all these would be less raucous. Con: all these would be less raucous. What say you?

3) The Time: Should we stick with the 3rd (or 4th) Thursday of the month? If that's the case, I won't be around for any more of the gatherings. Is evening better than daytime?

4) Leadership: Because of my schedule, I shouldn't be the point person for this anymore -- I'll only be at PTS for short stints this Spring semester, and only four or five times. Of course, I'd love to be around for the cohort, but I think there's enough momentum right now that you all have to schedule them when they work for you. So who wants to be in charge???

OK, weigh in...