aqua-books.jpgmonthly series of conversations on the convergence of faith and life, theology and pop culture. Not a conventional lecture series or bible study, each session will feature a speaker who will kick things off with a 30 or 40 minute presentation, followed by an open format discussion. Your part will be to think, challenge, contribute, add, or even just to listen.

*Since its inception in 2005, ideaExchange has been held at Winnipeg’s Aqua Books. While it looked as if Aqua Books might be forced to close this autumn, we’ve now received word that they will be able continue operations, though in a reduced format. In practical terms, we’re delighted that we’ll still be at Aqua Books for the foreseeable future!

Our 2011/12 season finds us moving from Saturday to Tuesday evenings. Here’s what we’ve got on the plate:

September 27, 2011 – Nicolas Greco – Lady Gaga at the Edge of Glory: why the Church might want to pay attention. A pop music icon, Lady Gaga is best known both for her song “Born this Way” and for her outrageous and sexually charged stage shows. What could she possibly have to say to the church? Join us as we explore that very question. Nicholas Greco is Assistant Professor of Communications and Media at Providence University College and a pioneering fellow of The Canadian Institute for the Study of Pop Culture and Religion. He has recently published “Only If You Are Really Interested”: Celebrity, Gender, Desire and the World of Morrissey on McFarland Press.

October 18, 2011 – Jane Barter-Moulaison – “Jesus is (not) my homeboy”: toward a deeper understanding of Christ. Contemporary conceptions of Christ – both within popular culture and Theology – have a tendency to trivialize and distort his significance by conforming his message too comfortably to the prevailing culture. While this is obvious in the case of the “Jesus is my Homeboy” campaign, it is perhaps less so in the ways that contemporary theology tends to treat Jesus primarily as a moral leader or teacher. This presentation will “go deeper” in understanding Christ by looking at some of the ways in which the fourth and early fifth century theologies give us clues to the radical–and precisely political–implications of the Gospel of Christ. Jane Barter Moulaison is Associate Professor of Theology and Church History at the University of Winnipeg. She is also a priest in the Diocese of Rupert’s Land.  Her forthcoming book, Thinking Christ: Christology and Critics, will be published in Spring 2012 by Fortress Press.

November 22, 2011 – Bill Blaikie – Is religious faith a private matter? How is religious faith carried into the public square? Many of us simply assume that faith and politics should never be mixed. In fact if you believe someone like Christopher Hitchens (God is not Good: how religion poisons everything), the further we keep religious faith from the world of politics the better for all of us. But it this really the case? Or are there other ways of thinking about this issue? Bill Blaikie is an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada, who served as a Member of Parliament from 1979 to 2008 and as Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba from 2009 to 2011. He is currently serving with the Faculty of Theology of the University of Winnipeg. He has recently published The Blaikie Report: An Insider’s Look at Faith and Politics, profiled in the November 5 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press.

December 13, 2011 – Jamie Arpin-Ricci – The Cost of Community: realities, gifts and challenges. For this session we’ll be taking an inside look at what it really means to live in intentional community.  Jamie Arpin-Ricci is an urban missionary, pastor, church planter and writer living in Winnipeg’s inner city West End neighbourhood.  He is the author of The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis & Life in the Kingdom. Jamie is founding co-director of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Urban Ministries Winnipeg with his Australian wife Kim.  They recently adopted their first child from Ethiopia.

January 31, 2012 -Kirsten Pinto-Gfroerer – Why we should not give up on sin; or, how being a sinner isn’t an insult after all. The purpose of this talk to explore the concept of sin, its history and its function in our society and in our lives. We will consider how the concepts of ‘health’ and ‘balance’ and their application as functional therapeutic terms have come to replace the function of sin in our understanding of the self. What do we lose when we lose the concept of sin? Can we be forgiven of our unhealthiness of our lack of balance or are we now enslaved to a new form of sanctification where there is no grace only long work outs and hours of therapy? Kirsten works as one of the parish theologians for St. Margaret’s Anglican Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

February 21, 2012 – Bishop Mark MacDonald will be joining us for this session, and we’re still sorting out the focus of his presentation. Mark is the National Indigenous Bishop for the Anglican Church of Canada, prior to which he offered ministry in a variety of settings and contexts in both Canada and the United States, including ten years as the Bishop of Alaska. An insightful thinker, Mark is passionate in his conviction that we pay attention to the wisdom and experiences of Indigenous peoples. He’s also been known to pick up a guitar now and then…

March 20, 2012 – August Konkel –Is the God of the Old Testament good? Reflections on the person and character of God. Known more familiarly as “Gus,” Dr Konkel is the Principal of Providence University College and a Professor of Old Testament.  His publication record includes commentaries on both the Book of Job and on 1 & 2 Kings.

April 17, 2012 – tba

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For the record, this is what we covered last season:

September 25, 2010 Dr Jon SearsFacing the (sacred) fire: Reflections on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Jon Sears now teaches International Development Studies at Menno Simons College, and lives in the Daniel McIntyre neighbourhood with his wife and dog. Regarding this session of ideaExchange, Jon offers the following reflection:

I accepted an invitation to volunteer as a Firekeeper during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada event in June 2010.  With Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal men, in the Oodena Circle at the Forks, I learned to keep the Sacred Fire that burned during the 4-day event. My reflections on keeping the Sacred Fire are part of how I am facing the truths of Indian Residential Schools’ legacies: truths that are the common heritage of all people in Canada. My reflections begin to make personally meaningful what reconciliation might entail, and what are ways to seek it.

October 23, 2010Ignatius Mabasa – a writer, “gospoet” and dub poet based in Harare, Zimbabwe, Ignatius Mabasa will be living in Winnipeg over the fall, working at the University of Manitoba. He is deeply interested in writing (which is all done in his mother tongue of Shona), story-telling and poetry, as well as in the life of faith. We’ve invited Ignatius to join us to tell a story or two, and then to reflect on the ways in which stories help give shape to communities. And if you’re wondering what a “gospoet” is, so were we… so we asked Ignatius and he said “It is a word of my own making, meaning one who offers “gospel poetry.” These poems are set against a background of music, weaving spoken word into song in a truly striking way.  The Winnipeg Free Press recently ran a story on Ignatius, which gives a bit of extra insight into his work and vision.

December 4, 2010 A priest and a rabbi walked into a story… Rabbi Neal Rose and Jamie Howison in conversation around how the two traditions have read and understood the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac, Genesis 22:1-19. Join us for a conversation born of respect and friendship, as Jamie and Neal speak together about this particularly challenging piece of the textual tradition.

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January 22, 2011 – Gord Johnson, artist-in-residence for saint benedict’s table, will offer an evening of music and reflection. Gord is the author of many of the songs that have become “standards” in our liturgies, with eight of those songs being featured on Steve Bell’s Devotion album.

February 26, 2011 – Judith Dueck – The Idea of Religious Freedom, and What it Means – Judith is the Director of Content, Research and Scholarship with The Canadian Human Rights Museum.

April 2, 2011 – Placebo or Prayer? Is there a difference? – an exploration of the intersection of faith and medicine in health and healing, led by Dr. Pierre Plourde, Dr. Donald Dyck, and Helen Mikolajewski. All three of these people are active members of saint benedict’s table, and bring a wealth of experience in the field of health care.

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And while we’re at it, here is the info on our 2009/10 seaon:

holmes_sbt.jpgOctober 24, 2009 – Dr Christopher Holmes – “Christianity is basically amoral:” Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s (Subversive) Contribution to Ethics Today. In this session, Chris Holmes revisits the figure of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (see his session from last season on Bonhoeffer’s resistance to Hitler), this time focusing on the great theologian’s perspective on ethics.  Chris not only teaches theology at Providence College, but also lives and works as a theologian in the local church.  Chris is currently serving a ministry placement at saint benedict’s table, in preparation for his ordination.  Here is how he describes his session:

It is widely assumed that living ethically involves the living of a principled life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer could not disagree more. For Bonhoeffer “there is no Christian ethic.” By calling men and women’s attention away from principles and to the concrete situation of crisis with which God confronts human beings in the giving of his will, Bonhoeffer presents an arrestingly refreshing concept of ethics. The presentation will follow and discuss Bonhoeffer’s early lecture “Basic Questions of a Christian Ethic,” a lecture which he delivered in Barcelona Spain in the winter of 1928 at the ripe young age of only 25.


November 14, 2009 – Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove – God’s Economy in the Economic Crisis. As part of a series of events we’re hosting Jonathan, we’re pleased to be able to offer him up for a session of ideaExchange.  He describes himself as Author+Speaker+New Monastic, which covers off the things that make him tick.  He’s written on Christian peace-making, race issues and the church, radical prayer, the new monasticism, and (most recently) on what he calls “God’s economy.”  The book on which this lecture is based is “redefining the health and wealth gospel,” which suggests that he might just take us on an interesting roller coaster ride…  Of his book, Eugene Peterson says,

God’s Economy is a timely expose of Money’s conspiracy to blind us. It does more: it is an articulate witness that the light of Christ reveals life abundant all around…. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is bearing witness; he has been living for years now what he writes. Trust him. I trust him.

December 5, 2009 – Christmas: how should we keep the feast? A conversation with Gerry Bowler and Aiden Enns. By the time we meet for this session of ideaExchange, many us will be caught up in the flurry of activities that almost inevitably comes our way during the final few weeks before Christmas Day.  Some of us will embrace this time of year in all that it brings – maybe even relishing those trips to the mall to find the “perfect gift” – while others will at least want to ask a few questions about what it all really means.  Well, be sure to carve out a couple of hours on December 5 to consider two very different perspectives on how we might keep the Christmas feast.

As you might imagine, these two will be bringing very, very different perspectives on this issue, which is all the more reason for you to come out and add your own voice to the mix.

Val HiebertJanuary 9, 2010 – Val Hiebert and Dennis Hiebert – Sexual slavery, forced labor, and extracted organs; the horrors of human trafficking. With an estimated 27 million victimized around the globe, human trafficking includes everything from forced sexual labor in brothels, to the debt bondage that produces the jeans we wear and the cell phones we put in those jean pockets, to the harvesting of human organs for sale. Next to trading weapons and drugs, trading people produces the greatest profits for international organized crime in our increasingly globalized world.

Dennis HiebertA complex and troubling issue, we wrestle with the question of how to respond meaningfully and effectively.   Dennis Hiebert is the Chair of the Department of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Sociology at Providence College. Val Hiebert is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Providence College. Last spring they taught over a dozen workshops in local high school classrooms in an attempt to raise awareness among current youths about human trafficking.

February 6, 2010 – Stuart Taylor – Totally Pumped: Creating Income Opportunities for African Farmers, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Capitalism.   Stuart Taylor is currently the Executive Director of International Development Enterprises Canada – a Winnipeg-based non-profit that raises the incomes of families living on a dollar a day through design of extremely low-cost technologies and development of markets that work for low-income customers and producers. Stu holds a Master’s degree in epidemiology from the University of Ottawa, where he developed a keen interest in international health. From 1998 to 2003 he worked with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank as the program analyst, with a focus on the nutritional impact of food aid and food security projects. With his family, he moved to Zambia in 2004 to serve as a volunteer with the Mennonite Central Committee. Together with his wife – an agronomist and former Agriculture Representative with Manitoba Agriculture – he assisted a national church to develop a food security component to its HIV/AIDS programme. They returned to Canada in 2006, at which point he took on his current role with IDE Canada. He has three young daughters and is making steady progress in his facility with crayons, glue and bedtime stories.

March 6, 2010 – Mark Burch – Going Sideways: Voluntary Simplicity as an Alternative to Extinction. This presentation introduces the philosophy and practice of voluntary simplicity as an alternative to our headlong rush toward extinction from over-consumption or falling back into poverty and barbarism. Might it be possible to gracefully step aside and strike out along an alternative pathway of personal, spiritual and cultural development?

Mark Burch is an author, educator, and group facilitator. He has practised simple living since the 1960s, and since 1995 has been offering workshops and courses on voluntary simplicity. He is a former lecturer at The University of Winnipeg, former Director of the Campus Sustainability Office, and former Co-Director of the Simplicity Practice and Resource Centre. He has been a featured guest on CBC-TV Man Alive, and What On Earth?, CBC Radio Ideas, Vision TV’s The Simple Way, and a regular radio columnist on Discovering Simplicity for CBC-Winnipeg. Mark has written four books on voluntary simplicity, his most recent, De-junking: A Tool for Clutterbusting. Mark Burch has taught meditation, intensive journaling, and T’ai-chi. He is a global citizen tending an organic garden who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

April 10, 2010 – Cameron McKenzie – Evil By Design: Foreign Women, The Femme Fatale and Children’s Bibles – How are “foreign women” pictured in the typical children’s bible, and what does that communicate to the young reader?  Drawing on a series of projected images and illustrations, this presentation will explore the ways in which representations of foreign women and/or ‘evil’ women in children’s bibles continue to mark the otherness of these women.  Cameron McKenzie suggests that such illustrations are based in an iconography inherited from a 19th century French tradition of the ‘fille d’Eve’, with its connotations of temptation, eroticism, and evil.  Bring along your favourite childhood bible, and see if it fits the bill…

Cameron is Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Old Testament at Providence College.

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And we might as well keep going, with the ground we covered in the 2008-09 season:

jamie.jpgOctober 4, 2008 -Jamie Howison – “God’s Mind in the Music:” John Coltrane’s search for truth. In the late 1950’s and 60’s,  the saxophonist John Coltrane became something of a jazz-theologian and a musician-mystic, as he sought  not only to say something about God but also to actually explore the nature and presence of God through his music.  The podcast of this session is available on this site.

November 1, 2008pierre_gilbert2.jpgPierre GilbertThe Devil made me do it… Or did he?  On the Relationship between Spiritual Reality, demons, and human experience. The modern world has been unsure what to do with the biblical texts around the world of the demonic, and has often swung between total unbelief and a kind of unhealthy overbelief.  This session of ideaExchange will take us straight to the heart of this territory, to see if there isn’t maybe a a sane and reasoned middle way.  Dr Gilbert is a professor at Canadian Mennonite University, and the author of Demons, Lies & Shadows. A Plea for a Return to Text and Reason, published by Kindred Press.  A podcast of this session is available on this site.

alanaimages.jpegDecember 6, 2008 – Music and conversation with Alana Levandoski.  As she prepares for the winter 2009 release of her second CD, Alana is taking a bit of time out to spend an evening offering up some of her music, thoughts, and reflections.  If you’ve not yet heard Alana in concert, this will be a great introduction to her work.  By the way, ideaExchange got its start thanks to Alana’s original vision, so this is a sort of “coming home” for her.


January 10, 2009Dr Christopher Holmes –  The One Who Threw a Spoke into the Wheel: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Resistance to Hitler. Chris not only teaches theology at Providence College, but also lives and works as a theologian in the local church.  He preaches regularly at his home parish of St Margaret’s in Winnipeg, and has been welcomed as a guest preacher at saint benedict’s table.  Here is how Chris describes the evening’s topic:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of the theological giants of the 20th century. At the age of 39 he went to death as a martyr, being found guilty of taking part in a conspiracy to assassinate the Führer. This talk will explore what drove Bonhoeffer-a committed pacifist-to partake in the plot to kill Hitler, and to disavow his pacifist convictions. It will also draw some lessons that can be learnt from Bonhoeffer and applied to our own day, as we participate in the struggle for justice.

carol-thiessen.jpgFebruary 7, 2009 – Carol Thiessen – Climate Change Refugees: what do they have to do with me? With more and more evidence suggesting that climate change is likely to displace hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and even countries, one of the questions seldomed asked is that of the international – and even personal – responsibility for the people Carol calls “climate change refugees.”  This conversation promises to be challenging, provacate, and probably more than a little unsettling, yet it may well be one of the most significant issues over the coming decades.   Carol Thiessen holds an MSc in Global Ethics from the University of Birmingham, UK (2005), and her dissertation work focused on climate change refugees and the requirements of justice. She currently teaches development ethics in International Development Studies at Menno Simons College, and has written a number of climate change guides for the Manitoba NGO “Climate Change Connection”.

kara-mandryk.jpgMarch 7, 2009Kara MandrykThe Simple Life: Monastic Spirituality Outside the Cloister Walls. In her recent book Flirting with Monasticism, Karen Sloan writes “Not everyone is called to the monastic life, but many of us would be blessed if we were able to live more monastically.” For those of us who won’t be taking up vows, can we reframe and adopt the three primary monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in an effort to live more monastically?  This is a question of particular significance for a church community that bears the name of Benedict, one of the key founders of monastic life.  Kara holds a Doctorate in Worship Studies from The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies, and is Assistant Professor of Worship and Christian Spirituality at Providence College.

bram_tunisia.jpgApril 4, 2009 -Bramwell Ryan – Faith and Fourth: What’s on the Other Side of the Media’s Collapse? Bramwell Ryan is a journalist and producer. As a content producer and controller, an ex-publisher, ex-editor and ex-producer of newspapers, magazines and radio/television, Ryan is fascinated by the collapse of the media (as we know it). There are parallels between the panic and angst in today’s media and the spiritual exhaustion with the state of the church when Martin Luther grabbed a hammer and headed to the church in Wittenburg.   Bram specializes in multi-platform content and creates video, audio, print, photographic and web material for media outlets and NGOs.  His stories range from coverage of the largest caribou herd in the world to underage prostitutes in Bangladesh; grave robbers in Haiti to post-tsunami rebuilding in Sri Lanka; the life of a Swiss shepherd to AIDS testing in rural Zambia.

Most sessions of ideaExchange are available as audio recordings. If you’ve been unable to join us for any of these evenings, you can click here for the free iTunes podcasts.

“What is the meaning of life?” asked the student of the rabbi.
The rabbi replied, “That’s such a wonderful question,
why would you want to exchange it for an answer?”

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