Ann holds a MDiv and ThM from Duke Divinity School and a PhD in Religion and Culture from the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America. Dr. Riggs worked for the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and as Director of the Faith and Order Commission at the National Council of Churches USA. Since 2009 she has been Principal of Friends Theological College, Kaimosi, Kenya.
IPS: At this point in time, where would we find Ann Riggs? What are your current research interests Ann?
Ann Riggs: Returning to the United States after serving as a missionary in Western Kenya for five years, I see the world, the Christian community, the whole human family in different perspective than previously. I wonder how I can best bring these global perceptions and deepened intercultural skills into ministry education and theological reflection in the United States. How can I best contribute to the nurture of on-going dialogue between African theological and ministry voices and North American counterparts?
I have two research and writing projects that are awaiting my giving them more time and attention. One is a chapter in A Realist’s Church: Essays in Honor of Joseph Komonchak, edited by Christopher Denny, Patrick Hayes and Nicholas Rademacher, to be published by Orbis. Peter Bernardi and Stephen Schloesser of the LUC theology department also have chapters in the volume. Komonchak was one of my teachers at Catholic U. and is a leading historian of the Second Vatican Council as well as an influential ecclesiologist.
My essay explores ways that Komonchak’s ecclesiological approach, which gives a substantial ecclesiological significance to the kinds of ministries studied at IPS, provides resources for a fuller engagement between the ecclesiologies of younger churches, including the churches of the two-thirds world, and the ecumenical Catholic, Orthodox and old-line Protestant ecclesiology of The Church: Towards a Common Vision prepared by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches.
A second project is on J.R.R Tolkien’s Christian apologetics and Catholic fundamental theology in The Lord of the Rings. For both believers and seekers, Tolkien’s ability to articulate the profundity of the disturbing presence of evil in our world and give “a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief” in his compelling heroic epic provides an account of the hope that is in us (Cf. I Peter 3:15) and shares reasons the heart has to believe (Cf. Pascal). The wide-spread popularity of Tolkien’s narrative has implications for contemporary fundamental theology, apologetics, evangelization, missions, religious education and spiritual theology.
IPS: What are the best ways to foster creativity and effective outreach to the community?
Ann Riggs: If a church or church group, such as a youth group, are just beginning or are renewing outreach to the community the best kinds of strategies for creative, effective ministry seem to be those that start small and include collaboration with others already involved in that community, while keeping ears and eyes open for larger or unexpected needs others are not yet addressing and for which your group or parish may have the necessary capacity for response.
I have not myself participated in the work of the Baltimore International Seafarers’ Center, back home in Maryland, but I have a strong appreciation for the creativity of this ministry. They provide pastoral visits, praying with and giving Bibles and small comforts to ships’ crews, often in port for only a short period of time and prohibited from entering the city by post-9/11 security restrictions. A crew member on a ship docked at a remote terminal commented, "If you had not visited us, no one would." Many merchant sailors are Greek Orthodox. Among other, larger programs, the Center gives pretty baptismal clothing to sailors who have been at sea when their new baby was born to take home to their child. In addition to the direct value of such ministry, it gives the churches involved a recognized place for participating in the task of monitoring and supporting just and safe working conditions in the port.
As in many other areas in life, keeping informed and in connection with others is a great way to spark creative ideas and increase effectiveness. The website and list-serve of Christian Churches Together in the USA are great places to link to and share resources and ideas for community outreach (http://christianchurchestogether.org.s34286.gridserver.com/). CCT is made up of church bodies, such as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Armenian Orthodox Church in America and International Pentecostal Holiness Church, but also faith-based activist groups such as Sojourners and Bread for the World. The CCT website offers click-through links to Catholic Charities, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Just Neighbors and many more sites. Two other resources for stimulating creativity and supporting effectiveness through participating in on-going learning and reflection I would mention are SCUPE (Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education), of which IPS is a member, and the Global Digital Library on Ethics and the Global Digital Library on Theology and Ecumenism (http://www.globethics.net/web/ge/library/libraries-home).
Beyond keeping in touch with what others are doing that may stimulate and encourage our ministry is the task of participating in generating new solutions to problems and sharing those ideas with others. IPS students and graduates should be among the first to brainstorm with their colleagues on how new problems can be understood, innovative problem-solving can be exercised, and new ministry initiatives can be brought forward in response and mutual support can be given to those new initiatives.
IPS: Could you share with us your insights on Social Entrepreneurship?
Ann Riggs: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently released its 2014 County Health Rankings (http://www.rwjf.org/). One of the categories reported upon is the presence or absence of what are sometimes called “food deserts”, places where wholesome foods are not readily available for purchase within a low-income neighborhood.
Absence of grocery stores might be something a group of activists could choose to lament and protest. Or, alternatively, local faith communities could set out to correct this problem themselves. US churches and other religious groups have the economic and practical capacities needed to organize, open and run food stores wherever these might be needed. Such projects would be called Social Entrepreneurship, that is, business activity carried out to meet social need.
We would expect such groceries to be run carefully, following the social teachings of a particular church body or according to theological social justice norms agreed upon by an ecumenical or interfaith group. A particular interreligious coalition might work with a Shari’ a compliant bank, for instance, if the group included a mosque.
Such markets might be set up as non-profit enterprises or for-profit enterprises or in some hybrid format. They might be arranged so that they could use volunteer labor from churches and other faith groups or receive donations in order to keep prices down. They might include training programs for people in recovery from addiction, recently released from prison or entering the workforce for the first time. They might utilize CSA, community support agriculture, contracting with local farmers in the area to provide produce, dairy or meat, creating a bond between the customers and nearby farmers. They might utilize grants from the US Department of Agriculture or the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. All of these and many more alternatives could be forms of Social Entrepreneurship designed to respond to the need for wholesome food at affordable prices in all neighborhoods to promote nutrition, health and well-being.
IPS: What is your teaching philosophy?
Ann Riggs: All learning settings call for multi-dimensional teaching and learning, as all fields of knowledge have multiple dimensions and students learn in differing ways. In professional school settings like IPS it is particularly important to tie practical skills to other learning. In my up-coming course in Social Entrepreneurship, for instance, we will be working on our planning, budgeting and writing “how to” skills as well as discovering and critically analyzing diverse examples of socially-contributing business enterprises.
IPS: What do you find most attractive about IPS?
Ann Riggs: As a busy missionary I have had opportunity to teach theology and organize and lead many projects, including establishing and revamping business enterprises in Social Entrepreneurship formats. But I have had less opportunity to articulate Christian theology that incorporates insights and responds to these lived ministry experiences. The IPS community of staff and students interested in and committed to theology at its intersection with mission and ministry is a wonderful context for this reflection and work, at the same time that I can pass on to others what I have learned in practical ministry experience.
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Tolkien Reader (New York: Ballantine Books, 1966), 86.