The Best of AAR/SBL

Even Sacred Pauses made an appearance at AAR/SBL this year!

AAR/SBL has been variously described as a giant nerd party (with its own app and hashtag, and yes, I guess I’m steadily growing in my nerdiness since I actually know how to use both), a geekfest (although I don’t know how that’s the same or different from a nerd party, so I guess I’m still not that nerdy), and even Comic Con for boring people (which I find quite fascinating, which I guess puts me in the same boring category).

More formally, AAR/SBL is the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting which draws thousands of scholars, pastors, students and others to present papers, connect, critique, collaborate, dispute, discuss–it always reminds me of Proverbs 27:17 “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” At least that’s my experience and a big part of why I attend, because it helps to sharpen me.

With a day and a half still to go, this list might change, but here are the highlights so far:

Best thing I packed in my carry-on: my nexus 7, so great for checking email, taking notes during sessions, and writing this blog post

Biggest surprise: seeing my Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal listed in an ad in the program book (obviously my publisher and I need to communicate more)

Best conversation about publishing: with Ben Penner from my publisher, MennoMedia/Herald Press (I didn’t know that Ben would be here, and since I live in British Columbia and he lives in Minnesota, this is the first time we’ve actually met in person, so see, we’re already communicating more)

Most inspiring session: Wendell Berry (more on this for my next post on Writer Wednesday)

Best free breakfast: Regent College–a great community of people engaged in doing great things, both friends and people new to me

Best way to take a break: sharing a meal with friends, or going for a walk in Baltimore’s bracingly cold air (and like a true westcoaster, I say, at least it isn’t raining/snowing)

Book I’m most looking forward to when I finally get to the exhibit hall: Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes by Kenneth Bailey as a resource for my preaching series on 1st Corinthians

Best paper:  I’ve spent most of my time here in sessions, so I’ve heard a lot of great papers, but so far my vote for the best of the best goes to “Matthew’s Beatitudes: A Communal Response to Poverty” by Margaret Aymer, Interdenominational Theological Center, who powerfully made the case for the beatitudes as a call to honour and stand with those who are—or are being made—poor. As one young scholar commented afterward, “I found your paper to be really rocking.”

Writing/Reflection Prompt: If you’re at AAR/SBL, what are your choices for best of? If you’re not, what are some other things that sharpen you?


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11 thoughts on “The Best of AAR/SBL

  1. I’ve been hearing about AAR/SBL all my life. It sounds fascinating. Thanks for sharing your highlights. I love seeing the conference through your eyes. What is the hashtag? I’d enjoy the stream, too.

    1. We’re drawing on his Jesus book for Christmas Eve this year – I suggested that Alayne read his chapter on the birth of Jesus, and she’s written an amazing play! I’m looking forward to reading his book on 1 Corinthians now too.

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