This past semester Dr. Andrew Irvine, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion, has introduced a new course, entitled “Liberation of Theology,” that can now count as the religious course required within Maryville College’s core curriculum.
This course takes a more hands-on approach as compared to the New and Old Testament courses that have been previously offered. Irvine’s new class gives students an opportunity to explore the idea of religion through many different lenses.
“Religion is often thought of as existing in its own space,” Irvine said. “Theology of Liberation challenges all of that.”
Irvine believes that religion is inherently connected to how we organize our society, distribute wealth and think critically about the lives we lead.
Most of the class consists of students participating in discussion and posing questions about topics related to the course.
“The students really have shaped the course,” Irvine said.
The Theology of Religion course allows students to truly discover new approaches to religion by engaging them in the local community. Students who take Irvine’s course are required to attend New Province Presbyterian Church once a week where they will participate in the Welcome Table. Students will either dine or serve guests who have come from all over the area and may be in need of a meal or simple hospitality.
Irvine is a member of the church and is also part of a national gathering of scholars called the Wabash, who have been thinking of ways to engage students.
“I thought this class was an obvious place to experiment with the idea of engaging the community in a positive way,” Irvine said. “I eventually settled on the Welcome Table because it’s a weekly occurrence and an easy way for students to connect.”
Irvine often asks the students to connect their experiences at the Welcome Table with the practices taught in the course. Students will focus on reflections on their services and the effect it has had on their own lives.
“There’s a tremendous need in the community, and not just for food,” Irvine said. “The Welcome Table is about offering hospitality and strength,” said Irvine. “It’s a great opportunity for students not just to serve people in need but to become part of the community.”