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It often feels like these days that there’s a great deal of lamenting about a dearth of good conversation, a lack of places where intelligent discourse takes place. We all can certainly point to many examples, of course. And yet, as part of the work we do at the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing (which I co-direct), we operate a literary arts calendar that is overflowing with announcements of all kinds of talks and readings and presentations at places across the region. Every day, colleges and libraries, bookstores and museums, galleries and non-profits sponsor events that are frequently under-attended or even unknown. That’s a pity, especially given the amount of money and work that such events take to put together. I’m grateful to be living in a time and place with so many resources, and yet I fear that maybe they’re just too many–too much competing for our attendance and our attention.

So I want to use today to draw your attention to two such things (both of which you can listen to at your convenience)–and yes, they’re both Calvin-based, but nothing wrong with starting local:

1) The January Series at Calvin

15 days of free lectures, live-streamed the day of and (most) archived for later listening. So far this month, topics have ranged from the death penalty to urban composting, from the impact of inequality on health to the strategic advantages of hiring the differently able. And it’s only 5 days in. And, as someone who works with college students, I found the opening lecture by Rev. Mary Hulst, “Why Millennials are the Hope of the Church,” particularly applicable (and inspiring). If you’ve only heard how awful and entitled millennials are, Hulst demonstrates why they are actually absolutely vital to the future.

2) Rewrite Radio

Since 1990, the Festival of Faith and Writing has welcomed a range of writers to reflect on the intersections of literature and belief. Gathered on the podcast Rewrite Radio are sessions from throughout the Festival’s history–from Frederick Buechner to Zadie Smith. The most recent episode reflects back on the podcast’s first year. The Calvin Center for Faith and Writing’s Creative Director, Emmy-award-winning Jon Brown, has beautifully woven together a retrospective that pays particular attention to how story helps us navigate life’s difficulties. It’s challenging and moving and weighty.

This, as I say, is a place to start. But I’d also challenge you to think about what kind of events you might consider supporting this year: what is going on in your community that you might support with your attendance and your contribution to the conversation?

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). I also do various administrative things across campus. As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids. I count myself rich in friends and family. I enjoy kayaking and hiking. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” Which is true.

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