PThU moves into 2040 with 'passion and daring'
Praise and folly went hand in hand at the opening of the academic year of the Protestant Theological University (PThU) on 30 August in the Nicolaïkerk in Utrecht. Master's student Tabitha van Krimpen put on a jester's hood to give those present a piece of her mind.
Theologians should disrupt
In a remote corner of the academy, she said, theologians are producing knowledge no one wants, answering questions no one asks, and training for an age-old and underpaid profession that many people believe should be abolished. She meant it as a compliment. A world fixated on Instagram beauty and believing in yourself needs theologians to disrupt things, says Van Krimpen. As a self-proclaimed 'jester in training', she called on her fellow theologians to wake up and embrace their contrarianism.
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Pep talk from an unexpected source
This call to action transitioned seamlessly into a pep talk from, perhaps, an unexpected source. Microbiologist Rosanne Hertzberger argued in a cheerful speech that theologians have every reason for self-confidence and optimism. Theologians are sometimes accused of a lack of distance from their research object, but that is actually a plus, according to Hertzberger, because involvement in a subject gives agency: “You are an expert by experience.” Theologians also don't participate in the popular but unreliable measurement that yields so many 'weak, unreliable, wishful-thinking studies'. Theologians 'look, observe', because some things cannot be captured in data: 'quality instead of quantity'. Theologians conduct socially relevant research, which is extremely important for funding today. In addition, theologians can also call on an enormous potential network of ecclesiastical 'citizen scientists'. In short: "You have a lot to offer." Don't forget to be yourself, she advised those present. Don't do 'fancy things' with Instagram and GIFs. Instead, it might just be that 'shameless nerding about text' that will appeal to new generations.
Theologians who dig deep
Prior to these invigorating interior and exterior perspectives, Rector Maarten Wisse had opened the academic year with a sketch of the 'transformation process' the PThU is undertaking. In practical terms, this mainly concerns the planned relocation of the university to Utrecht in 2024: "A building in the city must be chosen, discussions about collaboration with partners will be held in order to optimally shape our education, research and knowledge in the new location. But fundamentally it is about nothing less than a 'new birth', an answer to the question of what the source of the theology of the PThU is. According to Wisse, this originates in religious communities, and more precisely in their 'self-critical consciousness'. “Faith communities don't just ask for quick solutions to simple problems. They ask for theologians who dig deep and dare to discuss the importance of theology with passion and daring.” These faith communities also play an important role in the series of projects that the PThU has initiated together with the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN): under the title 'Church 2040', the university and church will be looking for 'resilient forms of being church and vital vocation' in the coming years.