SanDiegoSkylineIf you want to have a large convention in late November, when much of the nation is falling to the siege of winter, San Diego is the place to do it. Thousands of academics in the fields of religion and Bible have gathered here for the annual meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion.

An amazing mobile app enables participants to choose and tag interesting sessions, then click on each for detailed information.

An amazing mobile app enables participants to choose and tag interesting sessions, then click on each for detailed information.

Scores of program sessions will be held on thousands of topics, so many that one can’t possibly attend all that catch his or her fancy. On Sunday, for example, for the morning sessions I’m torn between lectures on Ancient Near Eastern Iconography, Assyriology, Wisdom themes in the Book of the Twelve, and what we’re learning about Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah from studies in history and archaeology.

Wouldn’t you be?

During the three primary 2 1/2 hour session blocks that day, there are at least 11 sessions I want to attend. How to choose?

From the Hilton Bayview, looking east past the long convention center to the Marriott Marquis and Manchester Grand Hyatt, all of which host meeting locations.

From the Hilton Bayview, looking east past the long convention center to the Marriott Marquis and Manchester Grand Hyatt, all of which host meeting locations.

In some cases, it may depend on where the session is held: meetings are held in conference rooms of hotels as well as the convention center that stretch along nearly a mile of the San Diego Bay, so it’s not that easy to hear the first of four lectures in one session and then slide over to another. Attendance strategy may sometimes rely on proximity as much as content.

And, of course, there’s the temptation to skip the academics altogether and enjoy the waterfront, where one can tour the USS Midway, eat local seafood, or simply soak up the ambience of a sunny 70 degree day in southern California.

A 25-foot-tall statue commemorating a famous photograph of a returning sailor kissing a nurse stands beside the USS Midway in Embarcadero Park.

A 25-foot-tall statue commemorating a famous photograph of a returning sailor kissing a nurse stands beside the USS Midway in Embarcadero Park.

A productive Friday has already made the trip worthwhile. I serve as Campbell University Divinity School’s representative on the Review and Expositor editorial board, which had a positive meeting. Some interesting issues are upcoming, including one on “Hauerwas Among the Baptists,” for which Campbell’s theology professor Cameron Jorgenson is serving as issue editor.

Having just returned from Israel and the West Bank, I was particularly intrigued by an afternoon session on a new curriculum designed to help church folk learn more about the complex realities and challenges facing the area. Called “New Paths: Christians Engaging Israel,” the six-session study produced by the Shalom Hartman Institute includes video clips, printed information, and discussion guides. Part of the session was devoted to a discussion of ways the curriculum can be integrated into college or seminary courses, as well. It’s an excellent resource that I look forward to using, and plan to review it more in depth when I’ve done so.

SanDiegoSunriseIn the meantime, here’s to the modern wonder of quickly crossing time zones. San Diego is 10 hours from Israeli time, to which I’d grown accustomed, and three hours from Eastern time, to which I’d almost adjusted. Waking up at 4:00 a.m. could be a bummer, but when it offers quiet time for reading, blogging, and watching the sun rise during a fast morning walk, who can complain?

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