By Joshua Jones
Out of the plane window there was a spectacular sight, the skyline of Washington, DC, laid out in detail before my interested gaze. The Washington Monument majestically presided over the scene and seemed only a few hundred yards from the wing of the plane as I touched down at Reagan National Airport. After a quick taxi ride down embassy row, with its imposing edifices hidden behind security fences and wrought iron gates, I arrived at my destination, Wesley Theological Seminary. This small seminary for training students for ministry in the United Methodist Church was hosting the Wesleyan Theological Society’s 54th meeting.
it was an exciting trip both as an experience and in scholarly terms
With financial support from the St. John’s Opportunity fund, I was there to present my first academic paper at a scholarly conference. The paper was the product of the last couple of months of research into John Wesley’s pneumatology. I had submitted a somewhat speculative abstract six months before without fully realizing where my research would take me. Thankfully, it brought me here and as I ate dinner in my hotel on the eve of the conference, I was immersed in double checking my wording. Though I was confident in my reading of the primary sources, I wondered if my conclusions would stand up to thorough questioning. Was that last paragraph too much of a leap in logic?
As I was presenting in the afternoon, I chose my morning session carefully. I decided to listen to a scholar whose work I quoted at several key points. I listened with chagrin as the scholar began his presentation with an acknowledgement that he was seriously altering the eschatology chapter (the chapter I quoted and relied on significantly in my own paper) in his well-known tome on Wesley. I waited to hear how much of my paper was about to go on the chopping block. In the end, it turned out alright. The foundation for my position was still relatively intact.
Though I was confident in my reading of the primary sources, I wondered if my conclusions would stand up to thorough questioning. Was that last paragraph too much of a leap in logic?
Presenting my paper was anticlimactic. I was one of several speakers in a smaller conference room. The atmosphere was friendly. The only moments of uncertainty were when the scholar whose presentation I had listened to that morning slipped into the room a few seconds before I was set to speak and slipped out immediately after I finished. After all the presenters were finished, several listeners asked a few thoughtful questions of each speaker and the questions directed to me demonstrated some drawbacks to my argument though it was not perhaps as derelict as I had feared the night before.
All in all, it was an exciting trip both as an experience and in scholarly terms. In addition to presenting, I was able to make some valuable connections with graduate students from the States whose projects correlate to my own work. I am grateful for St. John’s Opportunity Fund for helping to make my journey to the conference possible.