>>> You can register for the conference HERE.


Andrew Kern - Steadfast Gratitude

The Great Apostle Paul told us to be “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” How could St. Paul dare tell us to give thanks “always for all things"? Does the name of our Lord Jesus Christ make so great a difference, even now? What does it have to do with what and how we teach, learn, and assess? How does it help handle temptations and trials that we pray not to be led into? This talk reflects on our dutiful opportunity to be steadfast in our gratitude, even when it is hard. Even when it seems impossible. Even when it seems wrong.


Jessica Hooten Wilson - Cultivating a Gracious Imagination By Reading Literature

Many of Flannery O’Connor’s characters work so hard that they feel entitled to rewards. They even assume they can stand before God’s throne on judgment day and defend themselves with their life of work. But, philosopher Josef Pieper reminds us that we were created to be lovers not mere laborers, an easier task when one realizes we have received more than we could ever work for. How to cultivate an imagination that acknowledges our rightful place as lovers grateful for our gifts? I suggest that we read great literature—practicing love for the texts, humility before another’s story, vicarious goodness through the narrative that may become embodied when we close the book. In addition to O’Connor, we might venture into other twentieth-century novelists’ stories who teach us more how to live in gratitude for all we’ve received.


Tim McIntosh - The Problem with Gratitude

Every bridge was built out of a sense of discontent. Every journey from a feeling of longing. Every reform from dissatisfaction. The problem with gratitude is that it requires contentment and contentment doesn’t inspire progress, change, or improvement. Why then should we be grateful?


Nena Harris - The Discipline of Gratitude in the Midst of Grief: Lessons from Job, James, and Virgil

Often, when we think about grief, we consider the loss of a loved one in the physical realm. It is more difficult to perceive that the loss of hopes, dreams, and even a relationship with someone yet living can result in immense grief. In fact, we may even feel guilty for experiencing the intense emotions that grief brings when we have not lost someone to death. Indeed, others may even minimize these types of grief, and so, we suffer in silence. In the clinical world, the stages of grief have been studied to help us understand these emotions. However, there is a missing piece that can help us find deeper, more glorious meaning in our grief. Reflecting on lessons from Job, James, and Virgil, this talk will explore how gratitude helps us to embrace that eternal weight of glory that Paul affirms is awaiting us.


 James Daniels - The Bridge to Gratitude: Bringing the Theater of Glory into the Mundane

John Calvin frequently referred to the world around us as a “theater of God’s glory.” This is the world that we live in – this is the world that we want our students and children to see. This session will focus on the reminder that we live in this glory, and that gratitude stems from realizing that we and our students need the observation skills necessary to experience the world around us in new and fresh ways. How do we incorporate these skills into the classroom and teachable moments to give our proteges the awareness that in “all things, we should be giving thanks?”


Heidi White - Forms of Fidelity: How Literature Teaches Us to Keep Faith

The division between duty and desire is a core predicament of every human life - what we ought to do is not always what we want to do, creating complex dilemmas for adults and children alike. As educators, we strive to form our students toward virtue, but how do we cultivate steadfast faithfulness without reducing it to simplistic moralism? The great stories of literature provide a framework for productive conversation and permanent formation toward the unity of duty and desire. In this breakout session, Heidi White will share examples of the duty/desire conflict in Western Literature; offer ideas on how literature posits forms of fidelity to harmonize the division; and provide simple and practical techniques to engage students in contemplating these questions for themselves.


Joseph Pearce - The Best of All Impossible Worlds: Seeing with Grateful Eyes

This session will reveal how humility and gratitude are necessary prerequisites for the discernment of the Real, drawing on Aquinas, the Romantic Poets, Hopkins and Chesterton.


Karen Swallow Prior - The Virtue of Gratitude in Life and Literature

Gratitude isn’t just a feeling: it’s a virtue that can be exercised, practiced, and possessed. We’ll talk about what gratitude is, what it looks like in some literary works, and consider how we can better attain the virtue that Cicero called “the greatest of virtues and the parent of all the others.


Anthony Esolen - The Refreshment of Inequality

This session will explore how gratitude presupposes some kind of inequality; gratitude is like praise. Equality speaks the language of merit and measurement of just deserts. Gratitude does not speak that language at all. 


Adam Andrews - Bitter Grace: Adversity and Gratitude in the Stories of Flannery O'Connor

If God is love and His property is to show mercy, why is human experience so fraught with suffering - and how is gratitude possible? Adam Andrews confronts these questions by offering a reading of Flannery O'Connor's most powerful fiction, challenging listeners to examine their own assumptions about God and His works.


Jason Barney - Implementing Narration in the Classical Classroom

Narration is a foundational tool of learning in which students are asked to reproduce quality content from memory. It was a simple and elegant mainstay of classical education before the factory model of the modern era crowded it out of the classroom. One of the best proponents of this traditional learning tool was Charlotte Mason, who honed and perfected it in her schools. Charlotte Mason was a late 19th century British educator who sought to bring the heart of the liberal arts tradition into the modern era, just when it was being most assailed by early pragmatists. The practice of narration is one of the best ways to embody the classical principal of self-education. As Dorothy Sayers concluded her essay on the lost tools of learning, "the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men to learn for themselves." Come to this practical workshop on the why and how of implementing narration in your classroom! We'll explore what narration is as a teaching practice, why it's so effective from the perspective of Christian classical education and modern learning science, and how to implement it in your classroom. We'll touch on everything from how to roll out the new practice, how to call on students effectively, the varieties of narration that can be used, and how narration fits in a broader lesson structure.


Wes Callihan - To Suffer This Desire

An ineffable longing is at the heart of much of human experience and reflection on that longing drives some of the greatest passages about the meaning and purpose of human existence in both pre-Christian and Christian literature. I'll survey and comment on a connected chain of what I consider some of the best and most heart-rending of those passages in philosophy and poetry that illustrate a single, powerful point.


Justin Jackson - The Book of Job: Creation, Nihilism, and the Hope of Resurrection


Carol Reynolds - A Grateful Heart a Garden Is: Replanting Sacred Music in a Digimodern World

With words flashed on a screen, hymnals out of the pews, and the spread of pop-style accompaniment, singing in worship has been severed from its heritage. What have we lost? Has anything been gained? How do we recover the extraordinary repertoire that defined Christian worship for centuries and reintroduce it to our modern churches?


Brian Phillips - The Brothers Karamazov & the Struggle for a Grateful Soul

Louise Cowan wrote: “The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881), is one of the world’s gravest and most absorbing literary achievements, considered by many the greatest novel ever written.” Often misunderstood and misread, The Brothers Karamazov describes the struggle of every person's soul through the struggles of one family. In this talk, Brian Phillips will introduce the work, explore its connections with other classic literature, and discuss how we can all grow in gratitude and wholeness by heeding its message.


Sarah-Jane Bentley - Ingratitude is monstrous!: Coriolanus and the Consequences of Ingratitude

Nothing does so much un-knit and pluck asunder the concord of mankind as ingratitude' says Seneca in De Beneficiis. In this play, Shakespeare's last tragedy, we see the body of Roman society in a state of discord, patched up by convenient (but unconvincing) peace in the end. I will explore the theological dimension to Shakespeare's presentation of political gratitude and consider Shakespeare's prescience as we reflect on the damaging consequences of ingratitude in the fabric of our society today. While we can be grateful that we are not afflicted with famine, pestilence and war as the antique Romans suffered, we need to repent of our tendencies to be like the characters in the play: shaken by rumour, banishing our defenders and enslaved by ignorance. With humility, appreciation and acceptance, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, these failures will be (and already have been) overcome.


Danielle Dukes -TBD


Matt Bianco - What Aesop's Fables Taught me about Gratitude

Aesop's Fables have much to say about gratitude. Fables, like "The Serpent and the Eagle," teach us to be grateful in all things, even when things don't particularly look like they are very deserving of that gratitude! In fact, many of his fables bear an uncanny resemblance to the Biblical injunction to be grateful for all things, to acknowledge that all things work together for our good. Join Matt Bianco, head mentor for the CiRCE Apprenticeship, as he shares what he's learned about gratitude from Aesop, a hobby he picked up during the quarantine this year.


Christine Perrin - Taste and See: Poetry as a Language and Form for Thanksgiving

Psalm 34 that could be variously titled Glory to God for all things or The Happiness of Those who Trust in God opens with those astonishing ten verses of thanksgiving:

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.
6 This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The [a]angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
9 Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!
There is no [b]want to those who fear Him.
10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.

Alexander Schmemann says about the Homo Adorans (Man the Adorer): “All rational, spiritual and other qualities of man, distinguishing him from other creatures have their focus and ultimate fulfillment in (the) capacity to bless God, to know, so to speak, the meaning of the thirst and hunger that constitutes his life.  Man stands in the center of the world and unifies it in his act of blessing God, of both receiving the world from God and offering it to God.”  

We understand this instinctively if not rationally.  Poet’s by their attention and care and longing are adoring God—collecting a record of man’s reception of the world and affirmation of the world.  The world is a fallen world because it has fallen away from the awareness that God is all in all.  The natural dependence of man upon the world was intended to be transformed constantly into communion with God in whom is all life (Schmemann).  

It seems natural for man to experience the world as opaque and not shot through with the presence of God.  The psalms, our poetic hymnbook, constantly demonstrate what it means to give thanks to God for all things—difficult, pleasurable, sorrowful, glad.  

In this session we will enact or make contact with a language of thanksgiving that is particular—whose shape our tongue makes. Most of us agree that is important to experience literature and to allow it to instruct us in the practice of how to dwell, bask, steep. Naturally, that dwelling has different casts to it, different tones, and you will see that in the variety of poems I have chosen. Thanksgiving does not only follow from joy and contentment.  It lives also in the neighborhood of sorrow.   

I will also share with you a method of reading that helps to develop good close readers of poetry who don’t murder to dissect.  You will find that this simple way of reading together helps you to cultivate your intellectual faculty through contemplation—receptive thinking in time.

The argument of this small collection of mostly contemporary mostly American poems is that the thanksgiving is in large part the blessing.  I chose these poems to show how many poets are alive with us doing such work but also to help us find a language of our own time to expand our resources and imagination about thanksgiving.  King David, Hopkins and Herbert are the all-time thanksgivers and you ought to be knowing and memorizing them, but let’s also include some others:

Olives by A.E. Stallings 

Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden

The Spinning Place by Chelsea Wagnaar

Fisk Jubilee Proclamation by Tyehimba Jess

Gift by Czeslaw Milosz

Singing Bowl by Malcolm Guite

After we have read aloud and listened to and answered these poems we will discuss briefly some broader observations (including but not limited to tone, images, metaphors and formal choices) on the nature of thanksgiving.  


You can register for the conference HERE.