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Divine Encounters: Great Books of Modern American Spirituality — Learning Cohort

Wed 09.15.21 @ 9:00 AM - 10:30 AM CDT

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4 Meetings

4 Books

4 Months

This monthly reading group will explore four texts by Christians in twentieth century America who shaped popular Christian understandings of ultimate truth, spiritual knowledge, and the nature of God. We will read works by monk and mystic Thomas Merton, theologian and civil rights activist Howard Thurman, novelist and poet Madeleine L’Engle, and pastor and author A.W. Tozer.

Three themes will guide our exploration of this diverse group of writers:

  • All four authors lived and worked in twentieth century America, and their insights and concerns reflected this era. We will seek to understand them as people shaped by their historical moments as well as people addressing universal spiritual concerns.
  • Each author represents a different tradition of American Christianity, and we will seek to understand their writings both as examples of these traditions as well as unique contributions to the broader church.
  • All four authors drew from a mystic strain of Christianity that explores the boundary between human reason and union with God, often through contemplative practices. We will explore this theme as an aspect of American Christianity and connect it to our own experiences and traditions.

Brief recorded talks by Dr. Hummel will set each text in historical context and highlight key themes. Meeting monthly, we will consider the works as literature and testimonies to how these authors understand God and humanity and also ask what they have to say to us today.


Who is the Cohort for?

This cohort is for students, faculty, ministry leaders, and community members who love to read and who want to explore how the lives of Christians in the past can speak to us in the present. The only prerequisites are a curious mind, a commitment to read, and a desire to discuss.


Frequency and Duration

This cohort will meet four times on Wednesday mornings from 9:00-10:30 AM at Upper House. Coffee will be provided. Participants are expected to attend at least three out of the four discussions.

Sept 15 | The Seven Storey Mountain (1948) by Thomas Merton

Oct 20 | Jesus and the Disinherited (1949) by Howard Thurman

Nov 17 | A Wrinkle in Time (1962) by Madeleine L’Engle

Dec 8 | Knowledge of the Holy (1961) by A.W. Tozer


Cohort Capacity

12 participants. Registration will close when full.


Cohort Leader

Dan Hummel is Director of University Engagement at Upper House. A historian of American religion, Dan has taught American history at UW-Madison both in-person and online. He has written on a variety of topics related to American religious belief, politics, and culture. For more of his biography and writing click here.


Resources Required

Participants will be asked to purchase their own copies of the following editions:

Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain (1999 edition)

Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited (1996 edition)

Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time (2012 edition)

A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy (2009 edition)




Wed 09.15.21
9:00 AM - 10:30 AM CDT
Event Category:


Upper House
365 East Campus Mall, Suite 200
Madison, WI 53715 United States
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