Report on the National Society for Scriptural Reasoning Meeting, Toronto 2003: Song of Songs

Chad Pecknold,
University of Cambridge

The Meeting was held on a Sunday evening from 9-11pm in a Toronto Convention Center room just large enough for about 70 of us to think with and through the Song of Songs . It is difficult to capture the excitement of these meetings — and doing so in retrospect, nine months later, is next to impossible. All participants had read the three central papers featured in this issue of the journal, by Omid Safi ‘On the “Path of Love” Towards the Divine: A Journey with Muslim Mystics,’ Ellen Davis on ‘Reading the Song Iconographically,’ and Alon Goshen-Gottstein on ‘Thinking Of/With Scripture: Struggling for the Religious Significance of the Song of Songs.’ And about 15 people had already submitted commentaries on them, reflecting our custom of thinking deeply on the issues at hand prior to our meeting. So the excitement was primarily a result of all of these investments of time, energy, commitment, friendship, profound respect of our sacred texts, compassion for the world, and love of God.

Omid Safi was unable to be with us and his paper was represented by Qamar ul-Huda. Ellen Davis and Alon Goshen-Gottstein were present, and represented their own papers. Kurt Richardson chaired the meeting, and the Committee Chairs Peter Ochs, Dan Hardy and Basit Koshul helped to guide our discussions throughout the evening. Each of the main contributors gave a précis of their paper and then the floor was open for discussion, the shape of which can be seen through the excellent commentaries that attend this issue, and in the editorial introduction to this issue. These discussions were enriched and enabled by our small group study, in which we spent a half hour in small groups with selected texts from each of our three traditions. Each group generated its own set of engagements, all of which had some bearing on the Song . It is not surprising how many directions this particular text moves at once — and this too was reflected in small group text study. Having many small groups, each made up of Jews, Christians and Muslims, sitting in the same small room was itself a sign of how dynamic our scriptures are when read in a community that always makes room for the other as a condition for its own faithfulness to God. There is something special about Scriptural Reasoning, and that is found as much in our sociality as in the content readers will find in this issue.

© 2003, Society for Scriptural Reasoning