School Counseling Professor Gives Keynote Address at Oxford Conference
DURING A 2002 SABBATICAL, Christopher Sink,
professor of school counseling and psychology
at Seattle Pacific University, was “introduced”
to 20th-century philosopher John Macmurray. Fast-forward to
October 2005. That’s when Sink flew 4,800 miles from
Seattle to address the annual conference of the John Macmurray
Fellowship at Oxford University.
While in England on sabbatical, Sink first learned of Macmurray
from Michael Fielding,
professor of education at the University of Sussex. Soon after,
Sink began to research the philosopher’s writings, and
he realized that Macmurray’s philosophy had a lot to
contribute to his own area of expertise: counseling
and building community in schools.
“I’d had theoretical underpinnings to my work,
but with Macmurray I also gained philosophical
underpinnings consistent with my Christian faith,” says
Sink. “Macmurray filled in the gaps for me.”
A Scotsman born in 1891, Macmurray was a Christian and a
philosopher who emphasized the union of philosophical theory
with real-world action. His best-known works were Interpreting
the Universe (1933) and Religion, Art and Science
(1961). Mostly forgotten by the time he died in 1976, interest
in his work was reawakened, in part, after it became known
that his writing had influenced a young Tony Blair, now British
In 1993, the John Macmurray Fellowship began, bringing together
educators, and others. This year, when organizers learned
of Sink’s take on Macmurray’s
work, they invited him to give one of two keynote addresses
at the annual conference.
Sink says he is not an expert on Macmurray,
but he saw that the philosopher’s work addresses what
educators say is often missing from schools: a sense of community.
He also recognized that Macmurray’s ideas were built
on a foundation of the teachings of Jesus.
So when asked to participate in the conference,
Sink agreed, and on October 29, he delivered the lecture,
and School Counseling.”
Afterward, conference participants engaged in a lively debate.
“This provided me an opportunity
to talk about faith in an open forum,”
he says. “Facing Oxford dons and other notable Macmurray
scholars was academically and personally
challenging, but the opportunity allowed me to further refine
my thinking in this area.”
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