Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Faith for Thought 2013

From 2006-2010, I was involved with an annual student conference that we called "Faith for Thought".  After 2010, I and the other organizers felt it was time to take a break, but I'm happy that FFT will probably be returning for 2013, with a creation care theme.  Below is a version of a FAQ that I've written to help make the project known.  If you are interested and want to hear more, write to me, or to

What is “Faith for Thought”?
Faith for Thought is a one-day conference in State College where we explore together how Christian faith connects with our everyday lives.  Most participants will be students (undergrad and graduate), but the conference is open to anyone who wants to relate real faith – in all its depth – to real life – in all its complexity.  Faith for Thought is about conversation, sharing and learning from one another: it is a safe space for questions.

Is this a new event, or has it been held before?
The first “Faith for Thought” was held in fall 2006, as an initiative of the student ministry at Calvary Baptist Church.  Subsequent “Faith for Thought” conferences were held in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.  The 2010 event, which was held in the Pasquerilla Center on the PSU campus, attracted about 120 participants – both University Park students and visitors from other campuses across Pennsylvania (and a few from out of state).  

What happens at Faith for Thought?
A full day of multi-sensory engagement with our theme!  This includes opportunities to interact with one another over food and conversation (breakfast and lunch are provided); provocative key-note speakers; more intimate break-out sessions exploring issues in greater depth; gathered worship and music; panel discussions; hands-on (tactile) sessions; and a conference bookstore. 

What do participants get out of Faith for Thought?
Here are some comments from participants after a previous FFT: “This is best day I had in a really, really long time. It was like a breath of fresh air I really needed.”  The best thing about FFT was: hearing from intelligent and respected people in academic professions who are also people of faith.  One thing I learned: Better understanding of my purpose in the Kingdom of God and of the purpose of humans on earth”.  One thing I will do right away: Eat slowly. Slow down. Pay attention. Love my neighbors better.”

Tell me about the conference theme.
Each Faith for Thought has had a broad area of focus.  The 2010 theme was “In Practice” – what are the practices and/or habits of a Christian who lives an integrated life?  (You can read about the 2010 conference at our website For 2013 our theme is “Seeds of Hope”.   We will focus on the scriptural understanding of human stewardship within the interconnected community of all creation, the nature of hope in the context of contemporary ecological crises, and the possibility of an authentically Christian response.

Just for the tree-hugger crowd then?
Not really. The big ecological questions – What can we hope for future generations? What does human flourishing look like? How do our actions affect the “least of these”? – are big theological questions too. Many young (and not-so-young) believers yearn for a holistic faith that can  engage these questions seriously, combining theological depth, scientific rigor, and a passion for justice.    We believe that this conference will help participants nurture such a faith.

Who will participate in the event?
Anyone is welcome!  We will promote the event especially to:
  • Penn State students – through our contacts with various campus ministers
  • Members of local churches in State College
  • Young people regionally – through intercollegiate ministry organizations and contacts with regional and national church/parachurch organizations
We hope to see 200-plus participants.

What about the speakers, and the date?
We’re aiming for September 28th, 2013.  The program is still being developed, and I'm not yet quite ready to go public with the speaker line-up, but it will include nationally known scientists and faith-based environmental leaders, as well as a team of breakout facilitators who can enable in-depth discussion.

Who do I contact if I have further questions?
John Roe ( is leading the effort and will be happy to talk further about FFT.  John is a professor of mathematics at Penn State (he served as head of the mathematics department from 2006-2012) and has been deeply involved in Faith for Thought since its inception.  Working with John is an enthusiastic team of students and other volunteers.  Let him know if you want to be part of that!

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