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Opening Up Theology

Scattered across the Arboretum, 19 rising high school junior and senior boys worked on team-building activities. Some are blindfolded, depending only on clues from fellow participants to get to where they need to go. Others are being carried across imaginary lava, trusting they won’t be dropped.

While it might sound like a lot of other week-long summer camps, the first-ever Scroll program at Wabash College could not be more different.

Scroll: The Wabash Institute of Theology for Youth is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, which seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask critical questions about current issues, and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service. 

The young men arrived on the Wabash campus Saturday, July 22 and stayed through Sunday, July 30. For those eight days, the students went through an intense learning experience that included classroom instruction led by faculty and expert visitors. During this first institute, the focus was on how to think about poverty from a Christian perspective and what they should do about it.

“My sense is that the students found the classroom instruction helpful, but they were especially impacted by seeing poverty first-hand and learning from people whose lives had been transformed for the better,” Associate Professor of Religion and Scroll Director Jonathan Baer said. “I hope that the young men who participated in Scroll take home a deep conviction that Christian theology speaks powerfully to the challenging and complex issues pertaining to poverty and that they can be part of meaningful and lasting efforts to address human suffering in this area.”

The young men also spent several hours of every day in community service with organizations that serve people living in poverty or working to move out of poverty, including Trinity Life Ministry and Habitat for Humanity in Crawfordsville, IN; Wheeler Mission Ministries in Indianapolis, IN; and Merciful HELP Center in Carmel, IN.

“Scroll has been an incredible experience that will live with me for the rest of my life,” said Sam Vermette of Baltimore, MD. “It's necessary that everybody experience this type of thing in their lives, so that we may not only understand how blessed we are, but how much people need our blessings as well. Being at Scroll helped me understand God's grace in so many different ways and inspired me to take everything I have learned to make a change in the world.”

Subsequent summer institutes, from 2018-20, will focus on theology in relation to criminal justice, sickness and health, and oppression.

Funding for Scroll was provided by Lilly Endowment Inc. and paid for all expenses such as housing, food, books, and off-campus outings. Additionally, in order to offset wages from summer jobs, each Scroll participant received a stipend of $350.

Applications for next summer’s program (July 21-29) will open in January 2018.


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