(This article was published in the September 2013 issue of TrevEchoes - written by Dillon Jones.)
India, Bulgaria, Albania, Rome, Civil Rights landmarks in the south and the Vanderbilt University library were some of the stops on the University Chaplain’s sabbatical in the spring of 2013.
Tim Green, dean of the Millard Reed School of Theology and Christian Ministry and University Chaplain, took a semester away from campus to travel and write two books.
“The sabbatical as a whole was intellectually the best time of growth for me in a couple of decades,” said Green. “In terms of its influence on my understanding of my place in the community and my walk with Christ, it was the most renewing, rejuvenating, revitalizing time of my life.”
Sabbatical leaves are paid leaves of absence granted to teaching faculty of universities every seven years.
Much of Green’s sabbatical was spent traveling the world.
“India is a place I’d wanted to go for years,” Green said, “and it was beyond anything I could imagine.”
Soon after arriving in New Delhi, Green visited the site of Gandhi’s assassination, a humbling experience that set the stage for a fortnight of soul-searching, exploration and discovery. The majority of his Indian experiences were adventures undertaken by himself and a native tour guide whom accompanied Green throughout his two week stay.
The two primarily explored the cities of Old and New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Green’s guide had quickly picked up on his passenger’s interest in religion and took him to various temples of Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism.
“I was needing to be thrown into a 100 percent different, other world,” Green said.
The friendship that grew between Green and his driver, who spoke relatively little English, was influential for Green.
“We had great conversations. They were some of my favorite moments of the trip. I needed that guidance and perspective,” Green said.
Green’s final visit was to the site where Gandhi’s ashes were spread, a place that according to Green is considered a place of closure for his admirers. The visits to the Gandhi sites served as “perfect bookends” for the India trip he said.
Stateside, Green retraced the steps of other legendary human rights activists. Beginning in Atlanta, Georgia with the burial site of Martin Luther King, Jr., Green visited numerous locations associated with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
His journey took him from Atlanta to Tuskegee, Alabama, home of the famed Tuskegee Airmen and Tuskegee University. From there, Green traveled to Selma, Alabama, the location of the Edmund Pettus Bridge across which activists marched en route to Alabama’s state capital, Montgomery.
As he drove across this very bridge, Green played a recording of “We Shall Overcome” sang by Mahalia Jackson.
“There was a brief moment when I felt like I was with them, they were with me,” Green said. “There were major tears.”
Green drove the path taken by these activists into Montgomery, visiting the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where King, Jr. had pastored. Finally, Green visited Birmingham, Alabama, the city that housed many of the greatest tragedies and triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement.
“That journey was a revolutionary experience,” said Green. “It may have actually beat out India.”
Other travels included a month-long trip to Europe during which Green taught three weeks of courses in Bulgaria and Albania. The other week was spent in Green’s favorite city of Rome, Italy.
Green also spent his leave working toward finishing two books.
“I spent hours and hours and hours at Vanderbilt’s library,” Green said. “A lot of my travel was there.”
The larger of the two projects is a now completed commentary on the Old Testament books of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah.
Pending editing, the book is more than 400 pages long.
The second book is, according to Green, “not an academic project,” though it is based on nearly a decade of academic study and research. According to its author, the book explores the word “holy” and the theme of Christlikeness. Its working title is “The God Plot: Living Beyond Clichés."