Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Culture: Gatherings at the Cathedral
The Trinity Cathedral in San Jose, California was observed prior to the Gathering at the Cathedral on 9-January-2011
PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA - One of the real gems of commercial talk radio in the United States is God Talk, a Sunday morning show on KGO Newstalk 810 in San Francisco, California. Hosted by San Jose State professor Brent Walters, what has been for the past few months a one-hour show at 5 am (after decades of being a three-hour show) presents religious topics in their proper historical context, leading to the kind of insight that one usually only receives in a college lecture.
As a long-time listener to the program through KGO's Internet archive, I have been following the fate of this show as it was almost canceled in the past few months, as reported on this blog. When Walters announced that he would be holding an in-person "Gathering at the Cathedral" while I was planning to be in the Bay Area, I decided to make sure that I could attend.
Somewhere around fifty people gathered at Trinity Cathedral in downtown San Jose last Sunday at 5 pm. The somewhat diminutive 1861 building is simply gorgeous from an architectural perspective, and I probably could have spent time just taking in the stained glass and displays inside.
Brent Walters spoke to the audience at the Gathering at the Cathedral in San Jose's Trinity Cathedral on 9-January-2011
However, we were there for a lecture, and after a brief introduction from the Cathedral's Dean, the Very Reverend David Bird, Brent Walters went right to the topic of the day, the historical context of the Gospel of James. The lecture format worked much better than the radio show for getting complicated material across, as the questions remained relevant, there were no commercial breaks, and the visual slides helped keep focus on the matter at hand.
Furthermore, in a one-hour lecture context, Walters was able to get across material in a way that was much more effective to me. I had no idea of the symbolism of many Biblical names--that the same word was used for both Jacob and James, or for Joshua and Jesus, connecting them. Walters made a compelling case for the Book of James being the oldest Christian document that exists, being written by a brother of Jesus who would lead what was then a Jewish movement when he became an elder at age 40. The context of James considering himself a "slave," meaning that he was repaying the debt of the people, was clearly presented and served as a great case study to the kind of historical analysis that is Walters' bread and butter.
While the content of the evening was why we were there, the real treat for me was getting to see Brent Walters in person and meeting some of the rest of the God Talk audience, most of whom were locals but some of whom were from even farther away in England. Walters was clearly an experienced college lecturer, notable as he walked back and forth in front of the audience, and it was amusing to see his Dr. Pepper bottle next to his Apple computer during the talk. His analogy of Wisdom Literature to using Twitter, while possible to take too far, was something I found quite insightful.
Regardless of the fate of the radio show, the Gatherings at the Cathedral will continue monthly, on the first Sunday of each month. For more information, watch Brent Walters' God Talk web site or contact him directly at the e-mail addresses listed on that page.