Tea Time with God

If you think “friendly discussion about religion” is an oxymoron, you haven’t tried Tea-ology yet.

Shannon Farrand-Bernardin, assistant chaplain for Christian and interfaith life, introduced Tea-ology, a weekly discussion group at which students from all religious backgrounds discuss timely theological topics while sipping tea.

teatea Photo: Greg Mably “Many of us find the word theology frightening,” says Daniel Quintero ’20 (Naples, Fla.), who has led several Tea-ology sessions. “People are afraid that religious conversations will be heavily one-sided, without any room for differing views.” But Tea-ology embraces conflicting perspectives, Quintero says, and makes no assumptions about participants’ theological experience.

“Theology is just conjecturing what you think about God,” says Farrand-Bernardin. “You might think that a religious student would be more qualified to do that—but that’s not the case. Students who are agnostic or atheist are especially welcome in Tea-ology. Often they have spent a great deal of time considering what they believe.”

“In many ways, Tea-ology stays true to the call of Carleton, because we’re engaging in rigorous academic activity and challenging previously held conceptions,” Quintero says. “It is a friendly yet intellectually challenging environment in which all individuals can openly discuss topics that otherwise do not get much attention.”

Spring term discussion topics included black theology, sexuality and theology, and womanist theologies. Through it all, Farrand-Bernardin and the students upheld a positive atmosphere, despite the potentially sensitive topics.

“Sometimes people have strong objections to a particular idea because it just doesn’t fit within their framework,” says Farrand-Bernardin. “We place an emphasis on sustaining a relationship here. Even if we disagree, we continue to participate as a group. That’s Tea-ology’s greatest strength.”

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