Social entrepreneurs gather at Princeton

Multi coloured sign: FARMINARY

Welcome to the farminary, one of the social enterprises visited during a conference in the US (Jonny Baker)

MA student Rosie Hopley reports on a recent visit to New York and Princeton for a conference on spiritual entrepreneurship, hosted by Princeton Theological Seminary.

The conference was convened by Kenda Creasy Dean, Professor of Youth, Church and Culture at Princeton. Over three days, activists, pioneers, and educators explored what might be the future of seminary training for people preparing for a vocation in social enterprise. It was a stretching and inspiring time, and I was impressed by participants’ willingness to imagine what learning could look like in the next 10, 20 and 30 years.

Nassau Hall, Princeton University
Classic view of Princeton Univeristy’s Nassau Hall (Jonny Baker)

It was exciting to map out ways of learning, considering topics such as creative collaboration, constructive disruption, storytelling. One thing that got us thinking was exploring various theologies and their role in entrepreneurship- theology of risk, theology of compassion, theology of failure. I was introduced to new topics such as seeing the value of play in learning, and it was a privilege to share examples of the best collaborations I have seen in the UK.

What were my lasting impressions?

It’s not often I have an opportunity to travel overseas to meet believers from different cultures. I love it when I can do it, and this is no different. It’s wonderful to see the manifold wisdom of God reflected through his global church. What was different this time was my consciousness of visiting the US as a foreign black woman. I couldn’t help but notice the poverty and sickness among people, as we travelled into New York. On the subway, walking around Times Square, Central Park and wandering through Harlem. I kept thinking I was walking in a film set, seeing places I’d only ever seen on screen before.

Rosie hits the streets of New York

But getting to know people over the few days of the conference helped to ground my experiences, and I recall wonderful conversations with activists working on the Mexican border to help children separated from family. And others working with formerly incarcerated people, on the returning citizens workforce development programme. A highlight of the trip was our visit to The Farminary which has pioneered leadership training within the setting of a farm. If I could have signed up for a module there and then, I would have!

Hearing from poet Michael Baughman brought a visceral aspect to our worship, and his advent poem will be one I’ll remember for a long time.

Admiring the chickens at the Farminary

It was fantastic to see the imagination, energy and hope which these activities and educators brought to the conference, and I considered myself extremely fortunate to be there. One morning, I had some spare time and hung around in the lounge, drinking coffee and reading. I came across a JPS Torah commentary on Genesis, and couldn’t help sending a quick video of it to some theology student friends I have in Europe and Asia – giving them a laugh as I geeked out on this find.

God is doing a new thing, and we can be hopeful that he gives us the eyes and ears to perceive it. I’m thankful that this wonderful trip gave me some time out to see it.

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