I loved Richard Topping’s “Theology Through the Lens.” I admired the photographs, products of this re-creation. His theological reflections on God’s creation, the necessity of community, and the importance of focus also inspired me. Photography is no mere hobby; it is an act of interpretative creativity. As leaders in theological schools, we do not think that we have time for such things. Like Richard, I have found such activities soul restoring. During the pandemic, my wife and I combined our two hobbies – kayaking and fishing. It was a perfect outdoor activity in a time of social distancing. As I started to compete in tournaments, I found camaraderie with people different from me, who shared the same passion. There is something powerful about being inches from the surface of the water. Fishing, like photography, requires focus. I am most in touch with myself and God’s creation when my attention is on a smaller unit of the world; as Norman Maclean reflects in A River Runs Through It, “… all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.”

Frank M. Yamada Executive Director Association of Theological Schools



It is tempting to reach for culprits in times of crisis. One of the gifts of Ted Smith’s “Theological education in an age of individualism” is his invitation to reconsider that favorite culprit: individualism. Our seminaries would flourish, we might say, if only people cared. Individuals are abandoning voluntary associations. Seminaries train leaders for voluntary associations. Individuals’ disaffection, thus, harms seminaries, too. It is tempting to blame individualism for our woes. Smith urges us to think again. The problem, he says, is not individualism, but individualization: systemic processes, beyond individual control, that affect most seriously those with the least economic, social, and political power to resist them. Individualization “happens to us,” he says: We cannot harangue people back into community. Even more, Smith implies that blaming individuals contributes to individualization: to individualize blame is to leave these processes unexamined, and to play into them. Engaging these processes, instead, offers institutions an opportunity to become neighbors: to recognize in the unmooring of individuals “some of the deepest needs of our time.” We can rethink our models, not to cater to consumerism, but – with God’s grace – as acts of love. Smith gets helpfully particular. What stays with me is his gentle counsel to turn from seeking culprits, and toward the wily love of God at work in the midst of the crisis, inviting us to join in.

Lucila Crena
Assistant Professor of Ethics and Public Theology Wesley Theological Seminary



Editors Note: Richard Topping’s piece in the Winter 2024 issue received several comments about his photography and his accompanying essay:

“This was a shimmering line: ‘…if the lens is the thing we attend to, then we end up doing more optometry than theology.’ Perfect.”

“Really thoughtful and interesting take on theological work.”


In Trust magazine welcomes your letters! Please email them to editors@intrust.org.


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