Sunday Forum

Navigating the Modern Wilderness

Sundays, September 15 - May 24, 2019-2020
10:00 - 11:00 a.m., in Keith Hall

Wilderness has a major place in Judeo-Christian tradition. In contemporary living, it plays out in two ways: “Good Wilderness ” and “Bad Wilderness.” Good Wilderness is a physical place of retreat and contemplation. Bad Wilderness is an intellectual/psychological place of solitude, alienation, exile, and sin. The 2019-2020 Forum series will examine how we live in and around Wilderness and the nature of community and civilization. Presentations will include how to identify, confront, and escape the alienation of Wilderness by looking at Scripture, theological reflection, psychological and sociological insights, literature, art, other major religious practices, and everyday life experience.

The first half of the Forum series will explore images of the wilderness in the Old and New Testament, including the experiences of Jesus in the desert and how we as individuals share this wilderness experience in daily life. We then look at the concepts of sin and exile, and how ethical reflection can be altered by wilderness experiences. The second half of the series focuses on living outside of the wilderness in community – looking first at the meanings of salvation and reconciliation in the formation of civilization and society. Because living in community means interacting with those of other faiths, we will also spend time reviewing the fundamentals of Judaism and Islam. The series concludes with “rules of life” that shape Christian live in community. 

Continuity in the 2019-2020 series will be provided by the return of four popular speakers, each of whom brings a unique perspective and understanding: Dr. Barry Seltser, Dr. Kathleen H. Staudt, the Reverend Dr. James Farwell, and the Reverend Dr. Francis H. Wade. Biographies are below.

Click here for the 2019-2020 Sunday Forum brochure.

The Program


September 15
Overview and Definitions - Barry Seltser

September 22
The Reverend Canon John Peterson, guest speaker

September 29
Wilderness and Desert Themes - Barry Seltser

October 6
Wilderness in Scripture - Barry Seltser


Jesus in the Desert

October 13
Jesus in the Desert: The Temptations - Frank Wade

October 20
Jesus in the Desert: The Setting - Kathy Staudt

October 27
Jesus in the Desert: Lessons Learned - Jim Farwell


The Individual/Psychological Wilderness

November 3
Personal Wilderness - Kathy Staudt

November 10
Community Wilderness - Kathy Staudt


The Wilderness of Sin

November 17
Original Sin: Theological Views - Barry Seltser

November 24
Modern Sin - Frank Wade

December 1


The Exiled Community

December 8
Israel in Exile - Barry Seltser

December 15
An Exiled Community - Frank Wade

December 22

December 29

January 5
Early Church Desert Fathers - Kathy Staudt


Ethics and Exile

January 12
The Ten Commandments, Law, and Constitution - Guest Speaker

January 19
Continuing Stewardship in Exile - Barry Seltser

January 26
Bonhoeffer’s Theological Exile - Barry Seltser

February 2


Salvation, Redemption, Grace after the Wilderness

February 9
Transition: From Wilderness to Civilization - Barry Seltser

February 16
Salvation (I): Who and How? - Barry Seltser

February 23

March 1
Salvation (II) - Jim Farwell


Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Community

March 8
Options for Reconciliation in Community - Barry Seltser

March 15
Liturgies of Reconciliation and Forgiveness - Frank Wade


Living with Other Faiths in Community

March 22
Interfaith Approaches and Religious Diversity - Jim Farwell

March 29
Christian Views of Judaism, Supersessionism - Barry Seltser

April 5: The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

April 12: The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day

April 19
Islamic Basics: Theology And Practice - Guest Speaker

April 26
Islam In the Modern World - Dr. Fareed Yasseen, Iraqi Ambassador to U.S., guest speaker


Rules of Life for Community

May 3
Useful Rules: Perspective A - Frank Wade

May 10
Useful Rules: Perspective B - Kathy Staudt

May 17
Useful Rules: Perspective C - Jim Farwell

May 24
Summary Session - Jim Farwell, Barry Seltser, Kathy Staudt, and Frank Wade


Dr. Barry Seltser (B.A., Ph.D. Yale) has taught religious studies at two universities and offered adult education courses at churches for over 25 years.

Dr. Kathleen H. Staudt (A.B. Smith, Ph.D. Yale) teaches theology, spirituality, and literature at Virginia Theological Seminary and Wesley Theological Seminary. She is a leader of retreats and education programs, and is the author of three books of poetry, as well as a scholarly study of poet and artist David Jones.

The Reverend Dr. James Farwell (B.A. Catholic University, M.Div. General Theological Seminary, Ph.D. Emory University) is Professor of Theology and Liturgy at Virginia Theological Seminary. Farwell has taught at General Seminary and Bethany College. He served for 20 years as a parish priest and is the author of two books on liturgy.

The Reverend Dr. Francis H. Wade (graduate The Citadel, M. Div. Virginia Theological Seminary) was ordained in 1966 and served as Rector of St. Alban’s Parish, Washington, DC, and Interim Dean of Washington National Cathedral. His sermons have been widely published. Meditations from his tenure as Chaplain to the House of Deputies at the 2000 General Convention of the Episcopal Church were distributed by Forward Movement Press and recorded by The Episcopal Media Center under the title Jubilee People, Jubilee Lives. Currently an adjunct professor at Virginia Theological Seminary, he is the author of The Art of Being Together: Common Sense About Life Long Relationships.