This weekend, as some of the readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home know, I was in Evanston, IL where I was the speaker at the First Presbyterian Church of Evanston‘s men’s retreat. The event was held Friday night and Saturday at Techny Towers Conference & Retreat Center in nearby Techny, IL.
I gave four talks over the course of about 24 hours. My goal was to get the men to examine the distance (or lack of distance), between American values and the Kingdom of God. We discussed a variety of events, ideas, and movements that define the American past (immigration, slavery, abolitionism, democracy, individualism, ambition, consumerism, Protestantism) in light of biblical passages such as The Sermon on the Mount, the account of the early Christian Church in Acts 2, and St. Paul’s description of the kenosis in Philippians 2. My last talk focused on Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.
One of the things I enjoyed about the retreat was the small group discussion following each talk. My group included a Northwestern University (and former Julliard) voice coach, a retired education professor at Northeastern Illinois University, a political scientist who teaches American government to Chinese students, a landscape designer and graphic artist, and a few businessmen. Thanks to Steve, Ed, Larry, Jim, Gordon, and Wally for some great conversations. It is always good to talk about matters of faith and American history with such thoughtful people.
I learned a lot from the men at my table and the others I got a chance to meet during breaks and meals. For example, my discussion with Andy about Augustine brought me back to things I had learned about the early Christian church but had not thought about in a long time. Garth forced me to think harder about Acts 2 and the success or failure of the Plymouth colony. (He also had a brand new copy of the Virginia journal of Philip Vickers Fithian). I had a great conversation with LeRoy about providence and George Washington.
I also want to thank Jim Wildencraft and Dwayne Dobscheutz for inviting me to speak. They were gracious hosts. I know that they took a chance inviting an American historian to speak at a church retreat. It was also great to catch up with Barb Dobscheutz, an old church history classmate and a fine scholar of American religion. I later learned that Barb was influential in bringing me to First Presbyterian Evanston. Thanks.
Here are some pics: