Just around the corner

Letters of Paul MOOC

Photo credit: Markus Stenzel, Pixabay
Photo credit: Markus Stenzel, Pixabay

The last time I posted, one year ago, we were in Arizona on Katherine’s sabbatical. I was entertaining the fantasy that “free time” was just around the corner, but life just never slowed down and a year later, I was still waiting… looking for that corner.

A month or two ago, I learned that Harvard was sponsoring a MOOC –“ massive, open, on-line course” on the subject of “The Letters of Paul.” https://www.edx.org/course/harvardx/harvardx-hds1544-1x-early-christianity-927 Katherine had taken a MOOC while we were in Arizona, and she loved it. Given that she spends a lot of time thinking about on-line education these days, I thought it would be good for me to have some experience of an on-line course myself. “The Letters of Paul” seemed like a great topic. I imagined I would audit, watch others work, and eavesdrop on conversation forums to find out what the hot topics are in Paul studies these days.

Finding the corner
The fantasy that I would audit lasted one day. I tried the first assignments and realized that I was learning things so I was hooked. That long awaited “corner” finally showed up. Good thing, because “The Letters of Paul” required a lot more time that I had thought it would.

The “corner” I had been waiting for showed up: not because life got boring here. Oh no… We’ve had the snow storms everyone else in the northeast has enjoyed, plus a critical electrical circuit blew for some mysterious reason, Katherine and I have had to make a couple trips to Boston, and our well-water got a bug of some kind that required lugging bottled water and well-chlorination (no fun in sub-zero temps.) BUT, the time I wanted was there. All I had to do was get up a little earlier in the morning. Katherine did the rest by not minding that some things that were being put off until “after the MOOC.” (Once in a while, she would tell others her troubles and explain that I was taking a MOOC. “On what?” her colleagues asked. “On Paul,” she replied. To which the response was inevitably: “Paul who?” )

Thank you Katherine for helping me see that the corner I was looking for was right in front of me. And thanks to the folks who designed and ran the MOOC: Prof. Laura Nasrallah and her teaching team of Harvard Divinity School graduate students who ran a magnificent month-long program. The material was presented in such a way that it was absolutely accessible to learners having Bible study backgrounds and no such background, believers and aetheists. According to the Huffington Post, as many as 22,000 originally enrolled. I have no idea how many actually stayed in the course. Perhaps we will see those statistics when the course formally closes on March 5.

Turning the corner
I found and turned the corner I was looking for. I have learned a lot about Paul, and I have learned that sometimes you find the time by making the time. I have two reading projects that rose out of and around the MOOC (slavery in the NT era and the New Perspective on Paul) and I have not given up on the Lectionary Project. I decided to refresh this blog and use it as a way to stay accountable now that I have turned the corner.