Meet our Table Talk guest speakers: Irma Fast Dueck

Get to know the folks who will be leading discussion at our study conference in October


Irma Fast Dueck, Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Canadian Mennonite University, lives in Winnipeg and will be a guest speaker at Mennonite Church Canada's study conference Table Talk 2020: "Does the Church still have legs?" on October 24. She will present on worship in the life of the church.

Briefly describe your academic journey and interests.

Remember Dr. Doolittle’s Pushmi-Pullyu? A llama-like creature with two heads on opposing ends of its body? That animal is me. My vocational journey has always been a push and pull between academia and the church, with a deep love for both. For that reason my research has always moved me towards the practices of the Church such as baptism, worship, communion, discipleship and ministry. At the heart of it all (I can only assume that the Pushmi-Pullyu has one heart at the centre somewhere) is God, the creator of all (after all, “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” Ps. 24:1), Jesus, the embodiment of it all and the Spirit, the animator of it all.

What is most compelling to you about how your work intersects with the life of the church at this moment in time?

I am currently interested in doing theology from the “ground” through field research in the church, attempting to draw out the theology, faith and wisdom embedded deep within our living. Doing theology in this way frequently hits a kind of “sweet spot” where theology, spirituality, life and struggle all intersect. Or to use the Pushmi-Pullyu analogy, it's where the “guts” are located. It’s a messy way of working and at times I yearn for the clarity that working with written texts and the Christian theological tradition offers. Yet I find this work deepens my love for the church and the Christian faith.

In your specific topic for this conference, (OT, NT, worship, mission, etc.), what is the most challenging truth or theme for churches to wrestle with?

I think the most challenging “theological” truth that we are wrestling with is that the church is both a theological/spiritual and a social reality. As the church, we are the body of Christ, both very human and very divine. The practice of worship embodies this “both/and” well, though there is a tendency to see worship primarily as a kind of human production. We risk missing God’s working, nudging, sustaining presence through it all.

Do you think the church still has legs?

My simple answer is “of course!” The church is the body of Christ and Jesus has legs! The church is always more than what we see in front of us. This is blessing. This is gift. Because of this, we are given what we need as the church. This is hope.