Remembering Rev. Dr. Melissa D. Browning

Dear AASR friends,

Rev. Dr. Melissa D. Browning

With deep pain, we share the devastating news that long-standing AASR member Rev. Dr. Melissa D. Browning passed away on April 8th, 2021, after living courageously and to the fullest while fighting cancer for the past several years. She leaves behind her husband, Wes Browning, and their daughter, Olivia. 

Much beloved by her family, friends, community members, students, and colleagues near and far, she played a substantial role in our Association for many years, serving with dedication and integrity. This included serving on the Executive Committee as Assistant Secretary General and Webmaster (2010–2015), for which her husband Wes generously provided technical expertise and web support and continued to do for several years following the conclusion of Melissa’s tenure. As Asst. Secretary General, Melissa served meritoriously and in many instances did the “heavy lifting,” always with grace, cheerfulness, and selflessness. 

Melissa was Interim Director of Contextual Education and International Partnerships at Columbia Theological Seminary and is remembered as an outstanding feminist theologian, ethicist, and activist, with long-standing connections in East Africa and the rest of the world. Melissa’s teaching, community activism, and scholarship, and especially her bold book Risky Marriage: HIV and Intimate Relationships in Tanzania (Lexington 2013), remain a testament to her intelligence and humanity. AASR members remember her as an incredibly pleasant and personable colleague who was deeply loved and admired by many, and a consistently hardworking colleague who did much to build and strengthen the Association. 

You can read more about Melissa’s life and work here, while her personal blog may be found here https://posthope.org/mbrowning.

We remember her family in these moments as they grapple with this painful loss. May the richness of the joy and hope that Melissa offered the world so graciously be an inspiration; and may we as an Association continue to honor her legacy of service, energy, dedication, and love for Africa.

Rest in power, Melissa!

Update: Please read Rev. Dr. Melissa D. Browning’s full obituary here. Details on donations and tributes among others can also be found here https://www.melissabrowning.com/.

Call for Papers: Graduate Students and Early Career Scholars in AASR

The AASR is committed to mentoring graduate students and early career scholars. To this end, we invite graduate students and early career scholars writing about religions of Africa to apply for the mentorship programme. Early career is defined as those who have earned a Ph.D. in the past five years and those who are yet to secure a continuous teaching or research position. To indicate your interest, please submit a.) a 250-word abstract outlining a project you are working on or intend to work on b.) a 250-word bio that includes what you would hope to gain through mentorship, and c.) an abridged CV (two-page maximum).

Please, send these documents to the secretary-general of the AASR, Dr. Nathanael Homewood, at nathanaelhomewood@depauw.edu or secretary@a-asr.org. The deadline is 1 May 2021 by 5:00 PM WAT. Upon review, submissions will receive a response by 15 May 2021.

Those selected will present a 5-7 minute paper on their current project or project proposal at the July 21-23, 2021 AASR Virtual Conference. This project can be at any stage and most certainly does not need to be completed. The goal is to create a space where even nascent ideas can be shared and receive constructive and encouraging input and feedback from members of the association. The experience will demystify the professional presentation and promote mentorship in a context where every question is valued. You will be required to send a draft of your presentation by the beginning of July so potential mentors can have access to it before the virtual conference.

After the conference, each presenter will be paired with a senior scholar who will provide mentorship and advice on the project and career advancement and opportunities more broadly. This mentorship will include a one-on-one session after the presentation, with the possibility of an ongoing relationship.

AASR Update: Upcoming Events

Dear Colleagues,
I want to draw your attention to several upcoming events that we hope you will consider participating in.

Save the Date: On March 24 at 4 pm GMT we will host a virtual AASR General Meeting. A Zoom link and agenda will be provided closer to the date, but we kindly ask that you plan to join us as the new-ish executive shares updates and plans for the next few years.

AAR Call for Papers: You can find the AASR cfp for the 2021 AAR Annual Meeting here. The submission deadline is March 1, 2021, at 5 pm EST. We encourage members to submit proposals for these and the many other panels that create space for conversation about religion(s) in Africa.

Leeds University Short Term Virtual Fellowships: For association members based at African institutions, Leeds University is offering short-term virtual research fellowships to consider “African Knowledges for Global Challenges.” Those interested can find more information here.

Finally, this is a friendly reminder for all members to make sure to renew your membership for 2021. The improved Association website makes it easy to do so. Further, the executive has decided that 2021 fees are “pay what you are able”, ensuring, in light of the global pandemic, that membership is accessible to everyone.

Sincerely,
Nathanael J. Homewood
AASR General Secretary

Letter from AASR Treasurer

20 January 2021
 
Dear AASR Members,
 
Warm greetings and a Happy New Year to each of you!
 
As the Treasurer, with a new Executive committee and a new year, I wanted to take the opportunity to draw your attention to Membership Fees and Finances for the year ahead, with the reminder that it is time to renew your membership for 2021. In the midst of a challenging and uncertain period globally, we have decided to take an unusual step: just for this year, we would like to offer you the opportunity to “pay what you are able” for your memberships rather than charging set fees. We recognise that some may have lost or had their employment/salaries reduced, while for others, job opportunities may be diminished. However, we believe that now more than ever, it is important for us as an Association to come together as scholars and colleagues, and we do not want finances to be an impediment to anyone’s participation. And for those of you who have not yet joined us, this is a great opportunity to do so at whatever cost is affordable to you!
 
As a guideline for your donation, our fee structure is:
 
Scholars from the Global North: 
Fully employed: $60 USD
Students/Retirees/Underemployed: $30 USD
 
Scholars from the Global South: 
Fully employed: $50 USD
Students/Retirees/Underemployed: $25 USD
 
However, in the spirit of “paying what you can,” we equally want to invite those who are able, to consider paying more than these suggested fees. For those who wish to support the AASR as patrons, we invite donations starting at $100 USD.
 
It is important to clarify that we are not taking this step from the position of over-abundance; indeed, our finances are a point of urgent concern and an area where we are focused on building capacity over the next five years. One significant cost we are currently facing is investing in a much-needed upgraded website and technical infrastructure, at the cost of approximately $1500, with some additional annual fees. This will enable us to expand and streamline our global reach while making it easier for members to join/renew and register for events. Additionally, with the need for greater online accessibility, we are pleased that these upgrades will soon enable us to offer more members-only benefits such as topical webinars, access to publications, “zoom coffee with the President,” and more! Please continue to check our website (https://www.a-asr.org/) or follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@AASReligions) for updates on these developments.
 
In closing, may I say that we are grateful to each one of you, our members, for your support and partnership. We can’t do it without you, and we look forward to working together with you in the months and years ahead to achieve greater financial stability for our Association.
 
 
Sincerely,
 
Sara Fretheim, Treasurer

New AASR Executives Installed, 7th September 2020

On September 7th , 2020, the AASR installed its new executive, most notably including the Association’s first female President. The installation, held over zoom, connected members throughout the globe and included many heartfelt expressions of the meaningful work the Association has done in the past, and steadfast commitments to its work in the future.

Most movingly, Njoki Wane constructed relevant rituals to mark the occasion, including libations, laying on of particular fabrics for each incoming member, and kind words of encouragement. Wane installed Damaris Parsitau as President, Abel Ugba as Vice-President, Nathanael Homewood as General Secretary, and Sara Fretheim as Treasurer. In her new role, Damaris shared an inspiring vision of the Association’s future.

Amidst the excitement, it was also a moment to thank two stalwart members of the Association, without whom the Association would be much the lesser. Long-serving President Elias Bongmba (Handing over Remarks [PDF]) has been indefatigable in his efforts to ensure the Association’s vibrancy. Meanwhile, Corey Williams has filled the role of General Secretary with notable organization and grace. While their leadership will be sorely missed, both pledged to remain active in the Association, a promise that many will undoubtedly hold them to.

As the new executive begins its term, it is also an excellent time for members to recommit and reengage with the Association and its varied goals. The Association is only as strong as its diverse and impressive membership, and there are plenty of opportunities for members to
contribute to, dream with, and strengthen the Association. If you are interested in contributing or becoming a member, please reach out to any of the members of the executive.

Nathanael Homewood
Secretary

Zoom meeting
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