Introducing the Well-Being and Religious Leadership Program
What is the difference between tasting something and savoring something? I was asked to speak to a group of clergy persons this week. The topic? Self-care. As I prepared for the presentation, the question surfaced for me: What is the difference between tasting and savoring? My personal point of reference for this question is food. I enjoy cooking, and I relish opportunities to experience culinary excellence. New restaurants. Unusual foods. Gastronomic delights. Certainly, “tasting” and “taste” are important to my encounters with food. I enjoy tasting foods—“ascertaining the flavor by taking a little into the mouth” (Merriam-Webster)—and certain flavors particularly appeal to my sense of taste. But to “savor” a particular food or dining experience? To savor is, for me, a different matter altogether. The word “savor” is derived from the Latin sapere, which is related to the Latin word for wisdom. To savor is to appreciate fully, to enjoy or relish. It requires a certain amount of patience and perhaps even wisdom.
What does this have to do with clergy self-care? Or with well-being? In a world as fast-paced, frenzied, and frantic as ours, savoring can be an elusive practice. We taste countless things every day, it seems, but rarely do we have the time or take the time to savor any of those things. To taste them with pleasure. To observe them with relish or delight. To consider with curiosity and care their breadth and depth. Savoring life is important to personal well-being. It is also important to societal well-being, to the overall health of human communities. People who savor creation cultivate wisdom for caring about creation. People who savor food cultivate wisdom about the sources of food and a concern for food accessibility for all people. People who savor life seek strategies for improving the health and life of all humanity.
For me as a liturgical theologian, savoring that leads to personal and social well-being is connected to theology and to religious leadership. To savor is to take up a sacred practice—a sacramental practice—of paying attention to God’s good creation and our role in it.
Religious leaders today have unique and growing opportunities to cultivate well-being in congregations and in other communities where they serve. Recognizing this and committed to equipping students “to be agents of justice, reconciliation, and compassion in Christian churches and other ministries,” the School of Divinity has developed a new Well-Being and Religious Leadership Program that emphasizes care of creation, personal and communal spirituality and ethics, individual and communal health, and the common good. The program offers two concentrations within the Master of Divinity degree, one in food and faith and one in faith and health.
The food and faith concentration is designed to equip religious leaders with the knowledge, skills, and pastoral habits necessary to guide congregations and other faith-based organizations into creating more redemptive food systems where God’s shalom becomes visible for a hungry world. The faith and health concentration, offered in collaboration with the University partners such as the School of Public Health (WFUSM) and the Faith and Health Division (WFUBMC), is designed to promote interdisciplinary care, which recognizes and respects personal and communal spirituality and ethics as essential to well-being and quality of life.
The Well-being and Religious Leadership Program encourages students to spend a significant portion of their study in the Master of Divinity program exploring how faith communities can respond effectively to public issues and challenges related to food justice, hunger, sustainability, wellness, and health. To concentrate on these areas of public, even global, concern is to concentrate on issues that that reside at the spiritual and ethical core of faith communities’ identities. Caring for God’s creation is an overarching theme of this educational initiative; to savor the earth and the life it gives is a responsibility, if not a calling, that all humans share.
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Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Worship and Liturgical Theology