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Winter 2006 | Volume 29, Number 1 | Faculty

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 prime minister.

In 1993, the John Macmurray Fellowship began, bringing together theologians, philosophers, 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, “Macmurray’s Spirituality 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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