A moving and inspiring conversation on the place of witness in literature and theology took place at Emmanuel Reads, on March 4, 2011. Associate Professor of Theology, Michael Bourgeois, set the context with some brief remarks about the place of witness in Christian history and theology but especially in the weekly practice of preaching. Authors Kim Echlin (The Disappeared) and Marina Nemat (Prisoner of Tehran), spoke about their own writing experiences in response to questions from Johanna Selles, Associate Professor of Christian Education. The commonalities and differences in the writing of fiction and non-fiction on this theme ensured the discussion was deep and wide, full of story, witness and affirmation of the ability of the human spirit to withstand repression and affirm life in the face the death. Observations from Marilyn Legge, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics linked the discussion to other dimensions of witness in Christian teaching and practice. .
Audience members initially responded with silence when the conversation was opened for questions. But once the first was asked, many more followed and personal conversations continued over refreshments once the formal program ended. Participants included members of books clubs, other faculty and ministers. Many commented on the importance of this opportunity to bring the arts into dialogue with theology and urged Emmanuel College to offer similar programs on an on-going basis.
Kim Echlin is author of a number of novels including Elephant Winter and Dagmar’s Daughter. She received the United Church’s McGeachy Senior Scholarship in 1999. Her most recent book, The Disappeared was nominated for the 2009 Scotiabank Giller prize.
Marina Nemat’s memoir of her life in Iran, Prisoner of Tehran, has been called “…one of the finest (memoirs) ever written by a Canadian.” Recently Marina Nemat was an Aurea Fellow at University of Toronto’s Massey College, where she wrote her second book, After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed, published by Penguin Canada in September 2010.
Richard Choe, President of the Emmanuel Alumni/ae Association wrote the article below in response to the evening.