By: Caroline Newman | University Communications
When you think about religious teaching, you might not think about farming, debates on immigration or gun control, or conducting firsthand interviews with both civil rights leaders and notorious Klansmen.
For University of Virginia religious studies professor Charles Marsh, however, each of those things tie together and feed into the Project on Lived Theology that Marsh founded 16 years ago. Today, the project, based at UVA, includes more than 400 scholars at the University and around the globe, all subscribing to the teaching philosophy outlined in a new book by Marsh and his colleagues, “Lived Theology: New Perspectives on Method, Style and Pedagogy.”
Put simply, the project aims to ensure that what is taught in religious studies classrooms is never too far removed from the day-to-day realities people of faith confront.
“Historically, much of the language we have used in the past several decades as scholars of religion has become esoteric and abstract,” Marsh said. “Part of the mission of the Project on Lived Theology is to build a bridge between the academy and the community and try to find a way for these two publics to learn from each other and speak to each other.”
Each year, the project hosts social activists and religious leaders at various conferences and events, discussing how they apply their faith to causes they care about. UVA students embark on summer internships pairing hands-on service work at farms, homeless shelters or other service organizations with one-on-one theological study with a UVA faculty member.