The Rev. Carmen Lansdowne is also called Kwisa’lakw by one of the aboriginal peoples of Canada’s central northwest coast. The name, given her by tribal elders at a ceremonial potlatch, means “woman who travels far,” and acknowledges the globetrotting work of this 34-year-old doctoral student in Interdisciplinary Studies. Lansdowne serves on the World Council of Churches (WCC) executive committee, representing 560 million Christians in 110 countries and territories.
Take a black sermon, print it in a book, then read it, and you have no idea what it means because it has been abstracted from the living worship of the black church, says the Rev. Dr. James Noel, (Ph.D. ’99), Farlough Professor of African American Christianity at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. The sermon’s meaning, he says, is determined by the hymns sung, the testimonials, the prayers said before and after the sermon’s delivery, as well as what went on that week for parishioners.
“My fascination is with religious experience and its various modes of expression,” he says, “especially African American religious experience, which is different than that of Europeans or white Americans. The disciplines generated by both the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment aren’t adequate for elucidating black religion, and this has implications for theological education.”