One day three Ph.D. theologians – Anna, Adanna and Don travelled from Port of Spain to Couva, central Trinidad, to spend quality time with Gloria Bertrand – a non-Ph.D. theologian, yet a professor of theology.
This was a spur-of-the-moment visit to the University of Gloria Bertrand.
Yet, the professor willingly and graciously opened the lecture room of her home and hosted us for over four hours.
Her lecture was wisdom lessons emerging from the complexity of Caribbean/Trini life, not theories from foreign books or periodicals about an alien culture.
Lecture notes were stories…
- Stories of struggles, struggles occurring at the intersectionality of race, colour, ethnicity, religion, marriage, family, church. In the professor’s words, “We [her husband Harold, and herself] struggled through our difficulties and challenges.”
The lecture hall was her simply decorated living room and fruitful garden.
Not sterile rooms with desks, chairs, gaudy colours, and multi-media paraphernalia.
Our modes of recording were our listening ears and hearts, and wide-open eyes,
Not computers, mobile, or notebooks.
Our breaks were unscheduled and spontaneous,
- filled with local food and fine wine.
We were diligent students
Sitting at the wise professor’s feet,
“Feet” that were plodded and struggled through life for over three score and ten years.
As I stood next to the tiny-framed professor washing dishes at the kitchen sink, she quibbles saying, “What a joy to stand next to a big-time theologian washing dishes.”
Her words and joy were equally mine.
We departed this “wisdom space” not with books or paper notes, but with . . .
. . .stories to reflect, critique, and from which to extract wisdom,
. . .fruits from the university’s garden,
. . .newspaper articles and writings of the professor,
. . .colourful quilts, product of the professor’s industrious hands,
. . .even a bowl of fig salad flavoured with garden herbs.
We departed not with paper degree, but with an experience on doing theology in relational space.
The time we spent with Professor Gloria reminded me of the words of Fr. Gerard Reid, uttered almost three decades ago, “The raw material of theological studies is the human experience.”