Growing up in Cullman, Alabama, English major Adrienne Siegenthaler understands how true to life the snake-handling, charismatic characters of Flannery O’Connor’s fiction can be. She also sympathizes with O’Connor’s bemused yet appreciative attitude toward churches where the “gospel is the crazy, shocking, and unbelievable.” This theme became the crux of her 10 minute SIP presentation Thursday, March 19th.
“While I grew up in a PCA church, in some ways, these other believers are my people, too,” she says, “I need to know how to think about these people.”
Similarly, O’Connor was a well-educated, professing Catholic, but, according to Siegenthaler, she “had a lot of sympathy and represented Southern fundamentalism in a manner that was nuanced and very understanding. Her writing is the opposite of preachy and moralistic.”
Siegenthaler has always been drawn to O’Connor’s writing, but during the first read of short stories, “Parker’s Back” and “Greenleaf,” it seemed as though O’Connor was using “backwoods prophets to show how crazy the Southerners were.” However, after analyzing them for her SIP, she learned to appreciate O’Connor’s lack of derision in portraying Southern fundamentalists and charismatics. “I came to realize that one is a good neighbor when they represent people honestly and faithfully,” says Siegenthaler, particularly when these neighbors are our brothers and sisters in Christ. To some extent, “O’Connor even makes a case for this religion” or, like most good writers, allows the reader to empathize somewhat with her characters’ beliefs.
“Read these stories,” says Siegenthaler, “if nothing else, O’Connor’s writing shows you how to be a good neighbor.”
When foodie Jamison Shimmel spent last summer in Spain, he not only savored the culinary delights of the culture, but also dinner conversations lasting late into the evening and sometimes early morning! After preparing a small feast, he, his roommate, and host parents would gather at the table to delve into steaming paella and meaty discussions.
“In Spain, we found the table to be a platform for having a deep conversation,” says Shimmel. Sometimes the talk would be casual, but other times, amiable debates arose about issues including abortion and the death penalty. Shimmel recognized the opportunity this domestic forum provided for sharing the gospel.
“Being a missionary in Spain is very different than in other countries, and street evangelism is not very effective,” said Shimmel. Despite the nation’s Catholic history, citizens tend to be skeptical of religious involvement. Missionaries recounted tales of only one person coming to Christ about every thirty years. However, Shimmel was intrigued that Spaniards will let their guards down at mealtime discussions.
During this past fall semester at Covenant, Shimmel began to dish up favorite meals from España and see the table as a mission field. His work culminated in his SIP, titled “A Comer,” “a study of Spanish gastronomy and using hospitality as evangelism.”
“I love to experiment with flavors and spices,” said Shimmel. For his SIP, he honed his pan con tomate, flan, and arroz con pollo-making skills and researched traditional recipes for 8 other dishes. In December, he discussed each process in Spanish during a 20 minute presentation and 20 page paper.
Shimmel hopes his experience will provide a loophole for sharing the gospel while visiting Latin American countries as a Spanish teacher. Until then, he rings the dinner bell for friends, explaining that, “Food is the 6th love language.”