The main religion/theology/bible conference held in the States is the American Academy of Religion (held together with the Society for Biblical Literature). 10,000 scholars come from all over the world to share work on religions, texts, and movements. I’ve been going on and off since early in grad studies. Initially, I found the conference to be kind of loud and disorienting. Over the years I’ve been grateful to find a mix of communities that I value. Early on these were the world Christianity, Chinese religions, and Reformed history and theology groups.
In 2011, via Sandy Kuntz, I was invited to join Society for Buddhist-Christian Study’s board and then became its newsletter editor. I like the group because they meet on Friday, so I get to start the conference a little earlier, to reconnect with people in a structured format, and often there’s a trip in the evening to a religious site (this year was my first time organizing it—we visited a Buddhist temple, Fo Guang Shan Boston). I’ve been grateful to be part of Chinese Christianities also, which is a seminar now in its third year and has helped give some direction to the field. I’ve also bounced around some—I followed the immigration seminar’s work for a while and this year was on a panel on gaming.
I often visit Princeton Seminary’s reception and sometimes Vanderbilt (because our family friend Yakhwee and I go together). In the past, PCUSA had a meeting, but it seems to have now disappeared. This year there were other fun parts. A coworker’s daughter presented this year, I saw a number of old classmates and professors, and I was able to wander the voluminous book hall, checking out new books and dreaming about future projects. The value of a conference is you get a fair amount of focused time—thirty or forty hours of interaction pushed into a few days.
I can usually only justify trips like this if I do several things. This time I went several days earlier to get on time and visited family in Williamstown, MA, where my mother grew up. I also spent one day in Boston getting the lay of the land and visiting two people at BU. I was able to visit the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church of Greater Boston. Now I am back in Taiwan and still jet-lagged. Today I am helping my seminary with papers for its accreditation with ATESEA. I teach tomorrow and Wednesday. I’m feeling a bit behind on paperwork and grading, but also grateful for the chance to get new perspectives.