Protestant Educators

Picture of Wayne R. Rood

Dr. Wayne R. Rood (June 24, 1915 - May 20, 2000). During a 44 year career at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, Wayne Rood distinguished himself as a theorist and practitioner of Christian education. “Personhood” centered his theoretical work and “theater” centered his practical work. Theology and theater became the integrative focus of his career. He wrote, directed and acted in religious plays, taught courses on theater and theology, and supervised many theses and dissertations on the subject. Rood was raised and ordained in the Seventh Day Baptist tradition.

Biography

Early Years, Military Service and Education

“Personal” was the organizing and integrative principle in Wayne Rood’s approach to Christian education. Rood (2000) believed this principle provided Christian education with a distinctive content: “In theological matters the square one affirmation [is] God is personal.” (p. 210). He also believed the principle provided Christian education with a distinctive method: “The religious experience is the experience of being mutually related to other persons, including The Person, and the logic of religion treats everything as personally as possible (Rood, 2000, p. 66). In light of Rood’s focus on the personal it is fitting for this article to treat him as personally as possible.

The early years

Wayne Rood, the only child of Ray and Ella Babcock Rood, was born in Neillsville, Wisconsin. Both parents suffered from chronic illness; Ray with diabetes and Ella with arthritis. Though Ray held a significant post as superintendent of schools in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the family moved west in 1919 to find a more favorable climate for Ray’s failing health. It was the discovery of insulin in 1920 rather than climate that saved Ray Rood’s life and enabled Wayne to grow up in an intact family. The family’s core values included music and education. Wayne grew up singing and performing in church and school choirs and plays. He learned early in life to value the performed, oral word. His parents read entire chapters of the Bible aloud every day. The family was actively involved in the Seventh Day Baptist church in Riverside, California, the church which later ordained Rood to the Christian ministry.

Rood’s most extraordinary religious experience during adolescence was his connection to Aimee Semple McPherson’s tent revivals in the early 1930s. As a high school student Rood became a driver for the famous evangelist. Later in life, Rood wrote a loosely autobiographical, three-act play titled “Aimee!” based partly on that experience.

Rood completed his two-year degree at nearby Riverside Community College and then enrolled at Loma Linda University to study medicine. His interests, however, quickly turned to theology and ministry. Rood left for Salem College (now Salem International University), a Seventh Day Baptist school in West Virginia. After earning B.A. and B.S. degrees, Rood enrolled in the Alfred University School of Divinity (also Seventh Day Baptist) in western New York state. He completed a Bachelor of Divinity at Alfred and subsequently finished a Master of Religious Education degree at Hartford Seminary (Connnecticut).

While at Alfred, Rood met and married Anne Loofbourrow. (image06) As Anne describes it: “[I] grew up in a small town where Wayne spent two summers as pastor among the farmer people. There our romance flourished and, in 1940, we married in the little white parish church. We always talked ideas together – spiritual, political, practical – not always agreeing, but mainly on the same wave-length.” (A. Rood, eulogy, May, 2000). Married for 60 years, they raised two children, Suzanne Rood Cox and Wayne Randall Rood. Suzanne followed in her father’s professional interests by majoring in theater in college, studying Christian education at PSR, and becoming Director of Religious Education at First United Methodist Church in Santa Rosa, California. Wayne Randall Rood studied music and became proprietor of The Emeryville Recording Company (Wilhelm, n.d.).

The 1940s and WWII brought several surprising turns in Wayne and Anne’s life. Wayne’s initial ecclesial charge was pastoring Seventh Day Baptist and Baptist parishes in Rhode Island. Anne taught junior high students. War was “in the air” at the turn of the decade, but it was not yet America’s war. That changed on December 7, 1941. The Roods’ theoretical debates about the morality of war became concrete choices to face. After two years, Wayne and Anne made a choice that would mark the beginning of a new life; a life which included geographical moves, changes in work, and periods of separation for the young couple.

Military service

Rood’s military service offers interesting insights into his character and shaped the ideas that would eventually become foundational to his theology. Since Rood was a pacifist and an ordained minister, he could have easily avoided military service entirely. Yet in 1943 he enlisted as an Army chaplain so he could be where there were ten million men in need. (Rood and Rood, 2002). In May 8, 1944 he sailed out of San Francisco on the S. S. President Tyler for the Pacific Theater. He returned just under two years later – March 30, 1946. You Okay, Chappy? recounts his two years ministering to soldiers and provides glimpses of Wayne and Anne’s relationship through their exchange of letters.

Theologically, the military experience convinced Rood that “mutuality is the fundament of personhood, both human and divine.” (Rood and Rood, 2002, p. 117). Rood also came to believe that surprise is a necessary feature of free creatures. “Surprise is purposeful, part of the divine plan for the creation of human beings. We survive and grow as we learn to trust surprise, to adapt to the unexpected.” (Rood and Rood, 2002, p. 117).

Academic career

After his discharge in September, 1946, Rood fully expected to return to parish ministry. A pastoral opening existed at his home church in Riverside, but he had misgivings about serving his home congregation. A faculty opening at his seminary alma mater, Alfred University, proved more attractive and Rood accepted the invitation to become a professor of History and Theology. He and Anne moved to Alfred, New York to begin teaching in 1948. He was simultaneously completing his doctorate in theology at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. His dissertation, “Dark amid the blaze of noon,” explored schooling in the German reformation. With Wayne’s doctoral work complete in 1949, the Roods had every intent to settle into community life and raise their family in this small town in western New York. Despite these intentions, four years later, in 1952, the Roods faced a decision. Would they move across the continent to Berkeley, California to accept a faculty appointment at the Pacific School of Religion?

Whether or not to leave the School of Theology at Alfred University was perhaps the most difficult professional decision Rood faced. Alfred was a Seventh Day Baptist school whose roots lay in the English separatist movement. Alfred was his academic and his ecclesial home. His four years as Associate Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology were enjoyable and he and Anne were ready to start a family. However a dark cloud was also gathering. Rood became caught in the fundamentalist-modernist storm which had stirring within Seventh Day Baptist circles since the 1920s. During Rood’s tenure at Alfred, the storm was unleashed within the seminary. Fundamentalists aimed their attack on the seminary in general and on Rood in particular. After enduring threatening letters and phone calls attacking his theology, Rood accepted the offer to teach at the Pacific School of Religion (PSR).

With this fresh start, Rood determined that four commitments would mark his work at PSR. First, he wanted to continue his theological work. In particular, he wanted to find a synthesis between neo-orthodoxy’s emphasis on God’s intervention in human affairs as the only hope for humanity and American progressive theology which emphasized the perfectibility of persons and societies. Second, he wanted Religious Education to stand shoulder-to- shoulder with other theological disciplines. Students in Religious Education would be as well trained in the classic theological disciplines as any other seminarian. Third, Rood wanted to create a learning laboratory at PSR so students could learn through the practice of teaching children and youth. While the form of this commitment was not realized when Rood’s proposal was rejected by the administration, the idea was implemented through field education and the establishment of a theater program. Finally, Rood committed to working with all masters and doctoral students in tutorial format, meeting weekly with each one. The seeds that flowered during his tenure at PSR were visible in these commitments: theological focus, practical testing, and personal attention.


Contributions to Christian Education

Wayne Rood’s contributions to Christian education may best be understood in three distinct categories: his personal influence on the students and institutions he served; his intellectual contributions to theory; and the artifacts of his work in theology and theater.

His personal contributions

The first category acknowledges that a person’s contribution is measured first by the service provided to his/her generation. Acts 13:36 says that King David “served his generation by the will of God.” The same might be said of Wayne Rood. He served his generation well. He pastored Seventh Day Baptist, Baptist, and community churches. He lectured on college campuses, in churches, and at conferences across the country. He served as the interim Dean of the Chapel at Stanford University. He supervised 98 masters students and 28 doctoral students during his tenure at PSR. At least four former doctoral students hold faculty positions in higher education (Doug Adams, Professor of Christianity and the Arts, Pacific School of Religion; Richard Carp, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Appalachian State University; Jana Childers, Professor of Homiletics, San Francisco Theological Seminary; and George Scranton, Professor of Theatre, Seattle Pacific University).

His writings have been translated into Spanish, Korean, and Japanese. In addition to his teaching appointments at Alfred and the Pacific School of Religion he taught courses at Silliman University (Philippines), Stanford, the University of Colorado, and Berea College (Kentucky). One former student states: “I took two classes with Wayne when I was a student at PSR in the late 1970s. One course was actually a dramatic presentation of Auden’s “For the Time Being.” It remains one of the best experiences of my seminary years, and of my life. It was wonderful, and he was very creative, and [had] a great sense of humor.” (L. Glenn, personal communication, February 18, 2004).

Rood served his own denomination, the Seventh Day Baptists, by writing a book on its history and procedures. He adapted biblical stories and texts for dramatic presentations and oral readings. He created original scripts. He directed and performed in a variety of plays. He was the founder and director of the Bay Area Religious Drama Service (BARDS). He served as the Dean of Summer Session at PSR for seven years. A person of enormous intellectual and personal energy, Rood expended that energy for the Church’s benefit.

His intellectual contributions

Between 1968 and 1972, Rood produced three significant texts on the theory and practice of Christian education: The art of teaching Christianly (1968); Understanding Christian education (1970); On nurturing Christians (1972). The middle text is described as a “splendid addition to the major literature in Christian education theory” (Wyckoff, 1995). These texts reveal the key ideas in Rood’s understanding of Christian education. Each work’s key themes are briefly summarized in the following paragraphs.

The art of teaching Christianly. Rood arrived at PSR intent on developing a philosophy of Christian education centered on a theology of personhood. His course on teaching became the testing ground for his theory. Rood credits two writers for shaping his focus on the personal. Rood first read John Macmurray’s The Structure of Religious Experience in the summer of 1945, while serving as a chaplain in the Pacific. Later he met Macmurray while on sabbatical in Oxford during the 1965-66 academic year. Macmurray’s primary thesis was that human persons are formed by their actions and by their relationships. As Rood summarized it: “We are, therefore I act.” (Rood, 2000, p. 66). In 1955 Rood read Martin Buber’s classic, I and Thou, while conducting research in West Africa. Rood returned to Buber’s works during his 1965-66 sabbatical. Two years later his reading, teaching and thinking culminated in the publication of The Art of Teaching Christianly. The organizing schema for his ideas was “dialogue” and Rood used this paradigm of personal mutuality to examine the essential components of education: teacher, learner, content, context, curriculum, methods, and evaluation.

His premise was:

The content of Christian faith is unique in education because it conveys the revelation of God. The content of revelation is not a series of ideas or concepts to be placed alongside others in equations or formulas. Revelation means God wants to be known – not known about or even known of. It is self-revelation, initiated by God and carried through by God. (Rood, 1968, p. 19)

In 1970, Rood published Understanding Christian Education, clearly his most ambitious theoretical work. Rood sought to assess the mood of Christian education as it passed through the middle of the 20th century – the “Christian century.” Rood believed Christian education could have an important role in the Christian movement by emphasizing four distinctives: its positive view of change, the emphasis on personal knowledge, the opportunity for encounter between God and humans, and the focus on personal growth (Rood, 1970, p. 84). The book then presents three models for Christian education based on the works of three great educators: John Dewey’s pragmatism which focused on problem solving; George Albert Coe’s personalism which focused on nurture; and Maria Montessori’s essentialism which focused on mastering the classics. These models represented three ways to answer Rood’s pragmatic question: “What kinds of teaching styles seemed to work and when and with whom?” (Rood, 2000. p. 60) Rood concludes the book with a synthetic model for Christian education.

Rood’s career paralleled a tumultuous era in America history and he was located at the epicenter of the upheaval – Berkeley. Both his work and his writing reflect his social location. He opened Understanding Christian education with “This is a time of blast-off.” (Rood, 1970, p. 9) Rood believed he lived in revolutionary times and believed that Christianity needed to be an agent of change:

The Christian movement, too, is devoted to something genuinely reconstructive in history, though in neither the revolutionary sense of the Marxists not in the rebellious sense of Camus. . . The change [Christians] are for is a New Creation. (Rood, 1970, p. 369)

Rood’s vision was for a Christian revolution that would once again “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). It would be a spiritual not a material revolution; a resurrection rather than an insurrection; an inner transformation more than an intellectual change. Rood believed its defining conviction would be “God is actually at work in human history and that it is a Christian’s personal destiny to be on God’s side.” (Rood, 1970, p. 370) Rood promoted a Christian education which would serve this vision of a New Creation. The last book in Rood’s trilogy, On nurturing Christians (1972), represents the blossoming of his two central foci: personhood and theater. In many ways it was a prescient work. Rood anticipated some of the sea changes emrging in late 20th century America in the fields of education (institutional to alternative), communication (message-centered to dialogue), philosophy (linear to multi-linear logic), and epistemology (information- transfer to wisdom). Rood then showed how Christians could become Followers of the Way by being taught the Scriptures in the context of a caring and loving community. His interests remained in a radical Christian education; one that could be a model to the larger culture.

His contributions in theater and theology

Though Rood remained interested in religious education, that interest became increasingly channeled through the media of theater and worship. His introductory course in Religious Education at PSR was titled “Communicating the Christian Faith” (Rood, 2000). The title suggested Rood’s broad interest in diverse ways the Christian faith is passed on to the next generation. In the latter years of his career, Rood turned increasingly toward the stage and sanctuary, rather than the classroom, as the preferred environment for communicating the Christian faith. His perspective, however, remained constant. Whether the setting was the stage, classroom, or sanctuary, Rood’s called for personal performance of the Gospel by the actor, teacher, or pastor. George Scranton, Rood’s last doctoral student, identified this principle in his tribute to Rood: “In teaching Christianity, as with teaching and doing theatre ‘Christianly,’ we are called to embody the message – we become the incarnation of what we teach. . . In attempting to communicate we become the communication.” (G. Scranton, personal notes, March 9, 2004).

“omegAlpha,” a play Rood wrote, produced and directed, perhaps characterizes his creative work at the intersections of theology, theater, and religious education. (image03) The inspiration for this work came while auditing a course on Revelation during his tenure as Dean of the Summer Session at PSR. Josephine Massyingbaerde Ford, professor of New Testament at Notre Dame taught the course and, according to Rood “her analysis revealed the dramatic shape I could not find.” (Rood, 2000, p. 105) During an intense week of writing Rood created the three-act script. He considered the script’s appearance as a revelatory experience.

After creating the script Rood became both its first producer and director. The play premiered at Berkeley’s Trinity United Methodist Church in February, 1979. Its Lenten run spanned six-weeks and 24 performances. The script was a product of a lifetime of theological interest in the book of Revelation. The production employed all of Rood’s theatrical interests. He viewed the entire project as an exercise in religious education –transforming people’s lives. Rood summarized the experience: “The Johannine vision tells us that even as we put away our costumes and rewind the sound tape and cut the light switches, a New Heaven and a New Earth are forming, and that, furthermore, we will each, whatever the events of our living, have mattered in their creation.” (Rood, 2000, p. 128)The transition from classroom to stage was likely completed during his year as visiting professor at Berea College (Kentucky) in 1982-83. Prior to that year Rood understood the conjoining of theology and theater in his own life as “accidental.” At Berea, Rood had time to reflect deeply on this accidental relationship. His Autumn 1982 lecture to the Berea College faculty was titled, “On Piercing to the Roots.” In the lecture Rood proposed a deep integration of theater and theology.

Theater is a form of art which specializes in evaluating, interpreting and illuminating human events. It tends to be interested in the personal and emotional realities of life, to use the language of dialogue and dance, story and change to discover the possibility of meaning in human affairs.

Theology is a form of religion which specializes in accepting, penetrating and celebrating divine-human events. It tends to be interested in the personal and spiritual realities of life, to use the language of relationship and movement, commitment and confession to reveal the certainly (sic) of meaning in human affairs. (Rood, 2000, p.201)

Following the year at Berea, Rood returned to PSR as Adjunct Professor of Theater and Theology. His focused efforts culminated in the creation of an interdisciplinary program in theater and theology at PSR. He was convinced that participation in theater would help seminarians improve their communication skills, enhance their ability to work cooperatively, and enable them to think more creatively. Rood poured himself into writing, producing, directing and performing. He summed up this decade-plus effort: “seventy-three people went up for fifty performances of eleven plays, I taught six theater courses twenty-six times, wrote four textbook manuscripts and eight play scripts.” (Rood, 2000, p. 228). Clearly theater was now center-stage in his life and remained so until he retired again in 1996. (image02 is from the play, “A Sleep of Prisoners” – Wayne Rood is the upper right actor).

Rood died on May 20, 2000 in Berkeley, California. Family, friends and former students paid tribute to his life through two posthumously published works (Theater and theology and You okay, Chappy?) and by establishing the “Wayne Rood Fund for Theater and Theology” at the Center for the Arts, Religion, and Education in Berkeley.

Summary

Rood’s legacy to the field of Christian education should be gauged not only by the artifacts he left behind but also in the life he lived. The artifacts include his three primary texts aimed at a systematically conceptualized theory of Christian education: The art of teaching Christianly, Understanding Christian education, and On nurturing Christians. Each text offers a coherent answer to the basic questions any Christian educator must include in a personal philosophy: Who are the teachers and learners? What is the content? Where is the context? How does the process work? Toward what ends do we work? Rood’s artifacts also include a wealth of educational resources, including scripts, sermons, meditations, and liturgies. But artifacts by themselves do not tell the entire story. Rood’s ongoing contribution to Christian education will require studying his artifacts in the context of his life and his historical moment. When his legacy is measured by both artifact and example, Rood will be remembered as a Christian who thought carefully and worked creatively to understand best how God’s gospel could be taught.

References

  • Rood, W. R. (1968). The art of teaching Christianly. Nashville: Abington Press.
  • Rood, W. R. (1970). Understanding Christian education. Nashville: Abington Press.
  • Rood, W. R. (1972). On nurturing Christians. Nashville: Abington Press.
  • Rood, W. R. (2000). Theater and theology. Berkeley, CA: Author
  • Rood, W. & Rood, A. (2002). You okay, Chappy? Berkeley, CA: Author
  • Wilhelm, R. B. (n.d.). Wayne Rood. http://www.storyfest.com/waynerood.html (2004, February 17).
  • Wyckoff, D. C. (1995). Religious education, 1960-1993: An annotated bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Bibliography

Major works by Wayne Rood

  • Rood, W. R. (1949). Dark amid the blaze of noon. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Pacific School of Religion.
  • Rood, W. R. (1963). Religious values in dramatic literature: a list of dramatists and scripts. American Theological Library Association Summary of Proceedings, 17, 141-154.
  • Rood, W. R. (1965). Religious dramas. Encounter, 26, 514-524.
  • Rood, W. R. (1967). Words and the Word. Religion in Life, 36, 371-381.
  • Rood, W. R. (1968). The art of teaching Christianly. Nashville: Abington Press.
  • Rood, W. R. (1970). Understanding Christian education. Nashville: Abington Press.
  • Rood, W. R. (1972). On nurturing Christians. Nashville: Abington Press.
  • Rood, W. R. (1973). Art and religious experience: The language of the sacred. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 41, 632-634.
  • Rood, W. R. (2000). Theater and theology. Berkeley, CA: Author
  • Rood, W. & Rood, A. (2002). You okay, Chappy? Berkeley, CA: Author

Reviews by Wayne Rood

  • Rood, W. R. (1967). A theology for Christian education. [Review of the book A theology for Christian education]. Religion in Life, 37, 617-619.
  • Rood, W. R. (1968). Readiness for religion. [Review of the book Readiness for religion]. Religion in Life, 37, 478-479.
  • Rood, W. R. (1968-1969). The creative role of interpersonal groups in the Church today. [Review of the book Interpersonal groups]. Religion in Life, 38, 157-158.
  • Rood, W. R. (1969-1970). The Church: Mirror or window? [Review of the book The Church: Mirror or window?]. Religion in Life, 39, 152-153.
  • Rood, W. R. (1969-1970). Groups alive: Church alive. [Review of the book Groups alive: Church alive]. Religion in Life, 39, 153.

Reviews of Wayne Rood’s books

  • Grimes, H. (1970). Understanding Christian education. [Review of the book Understanding Christian education]. Perkins Journal, 24, 41-42.
  • Rogers, D. (1970). Understanding Christian education. [Review of the book Understanding Christian education]. Religion in Life, 39, 314-315.
  • Cookson, R. L. (1973). On nurturing Christians. [Review of the book On nurturing Christians]. Religion in Life, 42, 287.
  • Grimes, H. (1974). On nurturing Christians. [Review of the book On nurturing Christians]. Perkins Journal, 27, 59-60.
    Artifacts of Dr. Rood’s career are housed in the Archives of the Flora Lamsom Hewlett Library at the Graduate Theological Union, 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA 94709. Though not catalogued at the time of this writing, the artifacts include lectures, sermons, scripts, worship services, and other unpublished materials.

Excerpts from Publications

On the Christian educator’s responsibility to know the faith, from “Words and the Word” –

“It means achieving for oneself a working vocabulary of a least a hundred specifically Christian words, knowing as much as possible about their meaning, their historic usages, their theological interpretations, their interrelationships. . . All this spiritual effort to grasp the special content of spiritual words and clarify it (sic) in use is hard and actual work, and it is one of those tasks I understand Christian education to be about at every level.” (380)

On God’s movement toward humankind as an aspect of “dialogue,” from The art of teaching Christianly –

“The first movement is initiative, and it is an act of love. Since the chasms are always present, someone must take the risk of acting first from his side. Man did not invite the incarnation; God acted, “in the fullness of time,” and offered the world his Son, taking the implicit and ultimately actualized risk that men would not accept either the act or its reasons.” (34)

On the importance of keeping Christian education personal, from Understanding Christian education –

“Christian education is apt to emphasize personal knowledge. The very content of the gospel and the Christian faith are constituted by the personal Word of God addressed to man. The incarnation demonstrated, to anyone who understands the ultimately personal language is to know is to be known. Thus the community of those who need each other and worship with each other in the name of God is the home base and the context of Christian education.” (84)


Recommended Readings

Books and Articles

(1967). Words and the Word. Religion in Life, 36, 371-381.

This article argues for the Christian educator’s responsibility to thoroughly know the content of the Christian faith.

(1968). The art of teaching Christianly. Nashville: Abington Press.

This book shows how Rood wove his core theological and philosophical convictions into a coherent approach to Christian educational theory.

(1970). Understanding Christian education. Nashville: Abington Press.

This is his most demanding text. It provides the reader an opportunity to see how Rood critiques educational theorists.

(2000). Theater and theology. Berkeley, CA: Author

This work perhaps best embodies Rood’s central principle of the “personal.” It’s autobiographical and offers a picture of the life experiences which helped form his ideas and direct his work.


Author Information

Robert R Drovdahl

Robert Drovdahl, Ph.D. Michigan State University. Professor of Educational Ministry at Seattle Pacific University. In 1974, I first read Wayne Rood’s Understanding Christian Education in a Philosophy of Christian Education course with Dr. Lois Le Bar at Wheaton Graduate School.

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