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SFTS CHIMES | Summer 2013
Noel also views his partnership with
The Hannah Project
as a
reunion with the people of Marin City. He is looking forward to
forging even stronger ties with the community through a tutoring
partnership with New Liberation Church and potentially with a pro-
gram to introduce students to the possibility of pursuing ministry.
Noel’s passion for art began as a boy, when he spent much of
his free time with a pencil and sketchpad in hand. A New York na-
tive, he frequently traveled to Harlem to visit his extended family.
Through the extensive art collection of an aunt and uncle, he first
discovered paintings from the Harlem Renaissance, which continue
to influence his painting style. Choosing to pursue academics later in
life, he never received formal artistic training, but he independently
studied historical and contemporary artists to learn different paint-
ing techniques.
Noel’s passion for art blends seamlessly with his passion for theol-
ogy. He believes that because creativity and inspiration come from
outside of oneself, all artistic expression is spiritual and attributable
to a higher power. “Everyone acknowledges that when they’re most
creative, something has come from outside of them that is being
expressed, so we will name it God.”
Noel frequently uses art in
class to illustrate how varying
interpretations of art translate
into varying interpretations of
God. Looking at a European
painting through the per-
spective of an enslaved Afri-
can American in the 1820s
brings different meaning
than when interpreted from
the cultural perspective of a
student today. In the same
way that cultural experience
changes the meaning of a
painting, Noel explains,
“Different people view God
differently, so if you analyze
the culture, you are analyz-
ing people’s view of God.
God is a construct of the
culture. People are project-
ing a notion of God from
their cultural perspec-
tive, or they are receiving
God’s revelation of God’s
self within their culture.”
Noel’s paintings, he says, “contemplate, celebrate, and represent
the African diaspora’s social/religious/cultural experiences in North
America, the Caribbean, and South America. These paintings at-
tempt to express the profound sense of hope, determination, and joy
that Blacks extracted from life during their tragic encounter with
To view some of Noel’s artwork and for more information on his
role as a professor and theologian, please visit his biography on the SFTS
Rachel Howard is an SFTS communications associate.
leads international
borders conference
By Rhian Roberts
he term border invokes many
meanings. Borders have a direct
impact on identity—whether
they occupy geographical or ideological
space, whether they are friendly or antag-
onistic, whether they protect and guard or
provide a point of entry. A conference on
borders, then, also becomes a conference
on identity formation and the making of
communal meaning.
Through the leadership and
guidance of professor Annette
Weissenrieder and the support
of alumnus the Rev. Robert Koe-
nig’s annual gift in honor of the
late James Muilenburg, professor
of Hebrew Bible at San Francisco
Theological Seminary, a panel of
scholars gathered at the seminary
to discuss how artifacts and writ-
ten texts inform our concepts of
boundaries. The presenters them-
selves crossed borders—oceans and
state lines—in order to share their
research. Even as the topic of “lan-
guage as a border” arose, the confer-
ence embodied this reality. Present-
ers were challenged to appropriate
ancient material, as understood in
their own contemporary languages
and contexts, into yet another con-
text. Even so, a simple translation of
their scholarship underwent a dozen
more filters, since many of the stu-
dents who attended the conference
were also international.
Considering borders heightens one’s
awareness of a multidimensional, inter-
disciplinary world of history, politics,
theology, and anthropology, just to name
a few. UCLA scholar Jacco Dieleman’s
close survey of ancient amulets revealed
how linguistic patterns and technology
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