One of the majestic blessings of my years studying in Duke’s graduate program came from spending time in seminars, in the grad lounge, and generally to and fro with a great man and a great theologian, Willie Jennings. I don’t think I’ve ever studied with someone alongside whom it was more fun to learn. Whether we agreed or disagreed, I found that the workout of testing ideas in conversation with Willie was always seasoned with generosity, respect, and a manifest sense that each was striving toward a goal we shared.
Willie spent many years working hard in the Duke Divinity School administration, but a few years ago he published The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, a book that Margaret had known to be excited about since she had picked up the hints and clues about it from Willie while she was studying for her doctorate, and on publication Willie’s book won the 2011 American Academy of Religion’s Award for Excellence in the Constructive-Reflective Study of Religion. When I had the chance to teach at Duke for a year, it was great to work alongside Willie again.
So when Mary posted videos of Willie’s lecture and Q-and-A at Luther Seminary last year, I rushed to check them out. They‘re long, but Willie’s a terrific lecturer, and it’s well worth it to learn from a first-class theologian whose brilliance — and especially, whose friendship — helps me understand how to think better and how to be better.