Student weblog: Florisca van Willegen
Florisca van Willegen maintained a weblog during our 2013 IRTI conference. At the time, she was a second year student in the joint bachelor of Theology at VU/PThU.
Hi, my name is Florisca. I’m a second year theology bachelor student from the VU/PThU.
I will be attending this year’s conference in Sárospatak because I participate in a pilot programme from my university, (in translation) called ‘a bachelor student along on a trip’. The aim is to stimulate bachelor students to have an international experience during this phase of their study. The bar is being lowered by putting the initiative at the university instead of the student himself.
So I was asked if I liked to come here, facilitated by the university. I have never been to such a conference, so I said yes, seeing this as a good opportunity to see what an academic conference is like. And off course it is exciting that it’s in a foreign country. I am looking forward to it.
This semester we had the course of reformation history, so I have some basic knowledge of Calvin. This conference is a good follow up to learn how Calvin and his thought are still relevant to this day.
During the conference I will note a daily update and pictures from my experiences. So if you are reading this, you will get a good ‘inside-perspective’.
I’m one of the first students of this pilot programme, but it would be nice if other if other students after me are motivated to do the same.
Tuesday 2 July 2013
This morning I left home around half past nine, to arrive at 10 o'clock in the evening at Sárospatak (it lies way in he east of Hungary, near the Slowakian border). I met up with Pieter van den Boogaard at Eindhoven airport, a masters student who also joins the conference. Turned out that some of the university teachers had the same flight, dr.'s v vlastuin and maarten wisse and v d belt who teaches at Groningen, they will all give a presentation at he conference. We undertook the rest of the journey, which existed out of a short transfer by shuttle bus and a 4 hour trainride, together. We arrived at 10 o clock at the station, too late for the opening programme. So we were taken straight to the hotel (the conference itself is in a nearby building). And after finishing this message ill go to sleep and will see something of the conference tomorrow. We start with morning prayer at 8.30 (and you have to have breakfast before that). So tomorrow i can give you more of an in depth message.
Wednesday 3 July 2013
Today we had a full day from 8:30 till 20:00. The conference is actually in the Reformed Theological Academy of Sárospatak, a 5 minute walk from the hotel. It's a nice old building with an old history, I missed the lecture about it yesterday but there is a flyer in the information packet, so I should read that.
After the morning prayer we started at 9.00 a.m. with the lectures. The day was filled with short lectures, with after each 2 or 3 lectures a plenary discussion. There are about 58 participants at the conference, most from the Netherlands and Hungary. But others from a wide range of nationalities as south Korea, Indonesia, South Africa, USA and Romania. The speakers themself variated from topics and nationalities, and also the replies and questions varieted, which I found very interesting. For instance, there was a lecture about the 4th office from the church offices which Calvin wrote about. And a reply from someone from Indonesia was that they only use 2 offices, so what to do then? (I believe the answer was something like that the offices are more like roles, and if all the roles are represented in the 2 offices there isn't a problem).
Other questions were more critical to the speakers, a very interesting process to see. I won't bore you with a full summary of every lecture (it is probably at it's most interesting when you are present yourself), but the topics from the lectures where within the subthema's of Calvinism and law in the Hungarian context, Calvinism and church law and Calvinism and ethics.
During our long lunch break, I took a walk with some others around Sárospatak. I heard it was raining in Holland, but here we had a sunny and warm day all day. And after dinner I first took a swim in the pool that our 'wellness' hotel possesses and later that evening I went with a group to have a drink. So there is also enough room for meeting and relaxation. I think one of the nice parts is to get to know new people from various backgrounds. Tomorrow we have another morning filled with lectures and in the afternoon an excursion which I'm looking forward to:).
I included some pictures of the building, the conference and the midday walk.
Thursday 4 July 2013
The first lecture of the day was supposed to be Prof. James Kombo from Kenya, but he was unable to come. So we moved the schedule up 1 hour and at 10 a.m. we allready had the remaining 3 lectures for today (the subtheme of today was Calvinism and democracy). After a coffee break we went on to the plenary discussion and after that our excursion started, which filled the rest of the day. We went in a big bus (it felt a bit like a school fieldtrip). It was nice to see some more of the region this way and learn more about the country. We were taken to a small museum dedicated to the translation of the bible into Hungarian by Gáspár Károli. And after that we stopped at a church in Vizsoly, where also allready very early a hungarian bible was printed.
Later we went to a vinery where we went into the cellars and tasted wine over diner (white wine, apparently this region is only allowed to make white wine and other regions are vice versa only allowed to make red wine).
And the day ended with a 3hr boat trip back to Sárospatak. It was a relaxed day with nice sights and enough time to have theologically and non-theologically conversations.
I enjoyed it, but it was a long day and I am a bit tired now, so after finishing this message I will probably fall asleep very quickly. Tomorrow we will have a day filled with lectures again.
Friday 5 July 2013
The topic of the morning lectures was Calvinism and church law. The first speakers (prof. Singgih and dr. Purwanto) were both from Indonesia and their lectures gave an interesting and informative insight of the protestant church in the Indonesian context. And learning more of his contextualized theology is one of the things I find very interesting about this international conference (offcourse there are a lot of interesting lectures, and if someone isn't named it doesn't mean it wasn't good, but as I wrote before, I don't think it is very interesting to the reader to give full summaries, my writing is more aimed to give an overall impression of what the conference is like, for more content you should really go yourself :-p). Topics really vary, for example also lecture from this morning by dr. van Vlastuin was more of a technically lecture of the interpretation of the Heidelberg Catechism. Also very interesting, but very different in content.
I was asked by someone if the lectures weren't to specific for me to understand, which varies on how detailed a speaker goes into his topic. The nice thing is that I can just sit back and listen and I always know a little more then before. Some things do go a bit fast or very in detail, but for me at this point of my studies it interesting enough to witness and experience it all - without the need of understanding everything into detail. For the imagery it might be nice to tell that there are more students present, from Sárospatak itself, but there are also sone master and phd students (mainly from the vu and pthu, other dutch, but also international students). It is quite a mixed company of people.
After the lunch break the lectures continued. And at the end of the day there was an official moment where the reformed academy of Sárospatak, the PthU and the western university of South Africa put their signature under a partnership contract (they already sigend this with the VU, so that relationship continued).
After that we had a festjve evening with an organ/violin concert and a reception in the dinner hall. Everything is organised so well, perhaps we are being a bit spoiled, but I'm really having a nice time here:).
Final remark for today: Lodewieke (PThU master student) came with an interesting fact for the blog. For the feminist theology it is an issue how God should be addressed. But the hungarian language doesn't use a different word for he/she. So this aspect about the feminist theology isn't really an issue/relevant here in Hungary! Interesting.
Saturday 6 July 2013
By now you should get the rhythm that the day is filled with lectures and plenary discussions (I forget to mention though that the whole program is plenary, apparently this is the first time that they use this structure). Today the whole day had the subtheme ‘Calvinism and ethics’.
We started the day by an impressive systematic lecture by David Vandrunen on natural law. Frank Sawyer had a more philosophical lecture, but he could sum up his lecture in a rhyming one-liner: ‘about the logos that gave the nomos to the kosmos’.
In the end of the afternoon there was a meeting of the participants, to discuss some points and evaluate the conference. Martien Brinkman, chairman of the board said that next to a platform for Reformed scholars, IRTI also has as goal to form an international community with each other. So it is not all about content, but also about bonding. And I like that. During the conference the ambiance was nice and everyone was very friendly with each other. During the excursions there was enough time to meet and talk and learn about each other’s cultures. I have found that very enriching.
One of the questions the board itself has to improve the conference, is how to attract more female participants, and now I’m typing I realize that there has been only one female speaker in the whole conference.. that is indeed not that much.. but the question wasn’t really answered in the meeting (but it do makes you wonder). Allthough there were some female master and phd students presents, so maybe they will be speakers in a couple of years .There were also other points to discuss, like the place for 2015 and the evaluation. There has been an invite from New Brunswick in New York, and instead of discussing were to go next, the chairman proposed to just accept this invite, and with only the remark of ‘do they also have a wine cellar?’ – they accepted the invite, so next IRTI conference will be held in New Brunswick.
The plenary program with only 15 min. speaker time was liked , but because it is difficult for the speaker to make his/her point in 15 min., there was a suggestion that the papers should be send in advance, so you could assume that is was read. An understandable point. After the evaluation we went to the church to conclude the conference with a service including the Lord’s supper.
I thought it was a beautiful way to end the conference, in the end, we might not all agree on everything discussed, but we are bound by the same faith and tradition, demonstrated by the communal celebration of the Lord’s supper.
After that we had a fancy diner in Rákóczi Castle, we got a ‘medieval’ meal, made after what they ate in medieval times, which consisted out of a lot of bread and meat (really a lot, it was so much, but it tasted very good).
We were served by people dressed in theme and a man with a Hungarian clarinet (called something like taragota)
but perhaps the most special event was that our Hungarian hosts stood up and sang Hungarian songs for us (accompanied by the taragota player).
Because people are departing on different times and days, after the dinner we said goodbye on a way which the Dutch master students said they also do it at Hydepark – the first two shake hands and then form a line, the third shakes the hands and joins the line, then the next and the next, so the line gets longer, a good method works to be sure that everyone said good bye to one another.
And that was it... the end of the conference, only left is the travel back home.
Sunday 7 July 2013
Some are staying longer and go see Budapest or Debrecen, but I didn’t thought about that, so early Sunday morning I departed for Holland and got back in the evening safe and sound.
I wasn’t the only one who had to have the train at 8 a.m. so I had some company on the 4 hr. train ride back to Budapest.
When I came on Tuesday, it was already getting dark, but now in the morning I could look around through the window and enjoy the scenery.
I am tired now after a day of traveling, but looking back, I really found it worthwhile. And it had various reasons. Being in another country, seeing new things, meeting new people (and also including the conversations with the people I did know) – it was all very interesting.
We met on the common ground of the reformed tradition, but because of the international background, interests and disciplines, the lectures varied in content and form. It is nice to learn in what research field other reformed scholars from other countries occupy their time with.
And maybe the most important part is the communal aspect of having an international community in which we can learn from each other is a very valuable thing.
For me as a bachelor student very enriching to witness, I would definitely recommend others in general to go to such an international event, and maybe specific to an IRTI conference ;) – because I already know that there are mostly nice people there ;).
Thank you for the experience.