Immersion: Life's Greatest Teacher

Educators have long known that the best way to learn a language, understand a culture, or learn a profession is through immersion –  engaging the whole person in experiences that provide a clear context for understanding.

It’s easy to imagine how immersion works in the realm of, say, medicine, linguistics, or architecture. But what about the cerebral world of theology – a discipline replete with abstracts, soaring ideas, and puzzling paradoxes? The image of the student in a library buried in volumes of Barth, Tillich, and Aquinas is not immersion. Submersion, perhaps, but not immersion. Immersion does not happen through books alone. Immersion happens through engagement with the world.

At the OMNIA Institute, we have perfected the immersion experience as a critical teaching tool to engage students in creating what we call a contextual theology. Through a carefully designed sequence of questioning, engaging, and processing, we help students to know – not just in their heads, but in their bones – what it means to be homeless, hungry, displaced, or poor, Buddhist, Muslim, or Hindu, blissful, fearful, or inspired. We meet with authors, experts, and thought leaders as well as those who are living the experience. We help students to know – not just to know about – the real lives of others so that together we can begin to build a theological understanding – a contextual theology – that empowers us to truly minister not to the condition but to the person. It is the careful sequencing of engaging the head, heart, and hands in ministries of both mercy and justice.

Why Participate in an Immersion

An OMNIA Institute board member who participated in our immersion last November at Nogales, Mexico remarked that it was a transformative experience for him. Another participant – a seminary professor – remarked how helpful it was to conclude the trip by building our own contextual theology based on what we had just experienced in Nogales.

Those who’ve participated in other immersions – exploring transitional urban communities, experiencing food deserts, being in the presence of over 50 religious communities at the Parliament of the World’s Religions – expressed similar degrees of personal transformation.

If you really want to understand an issue, you need to look at it from the perspective of those who are most affected by it – those in the margins. That’s what immersions do. The OMNIA Institute is planning an exciting schedule of immersion experiences for the upcoming year. Take a look:

Border Wall, Nogales, Mexico & US

Border Wall, Nogales, Mexico & US

Journey to Nogales, Mexico
November 1-4, 2017

Each year we return to Nogales, Arizona to the US-Mexico border where we explore the human side of the immigration crisis. Contact us for more information.

Buddhist Temple Fresco, Sri Lanka

Buddhist Temple Fresco, Sri Lanka

Journey to Sri Lanka
Ongoing (2017-18 date to be determined)

This one-of-a-kind Immersion Experience focuses on models of Interfaith cooperation and pluralism, and includes visiting historic Buddhist Temples and other religious sites.