Joy and the Vernal Season of Adolescence

October 30-31, 2014

How is adolescence a season of life uniquely capable of experiencing joy, uniquely vulnerable to suffering the consequences of joyless existence, and uniquely open to formative experiences that shape a life oriented to joy? 

More than 100 years ago, G. Stanley Hall coined the term “adolescence,” arguing that it was a “golden stage” when life glistens and crackles - a “vernal season of the heart” uniquely open to experiencing and sharing joy and love and uniquely susceptible to suffering their absence. Erik Erikson saw that adolescence was “a vital regenerator in the process of social evolution; for youth selectively offers its loyalties and energies to the conservation of that which feels true to them and to the correction or destruction of that which has lost its regenerative significance.”  How is adolescence a season of life uniquely capable of experiencing joy, uniquely vulnerable to suffering the consequences of joyless existence, and uniquely open to formative experiences that shape a life oriented to joy? 

Contributing Scholars

Caroline Ainsworth
The Congregational Church of New Canaan

Caroline Ainsworth is the Minister to Youth at The Congregational Church of New Canaan in New Canaan, Connecticut, where she was a charter member of the middle school youth group, a student leader of the high school youth group, and a high school advisor to the middle school youth group. She received a degree in Education from Northwestern University, and for the past six years, she has served her home congregation and the larger New Canaan community caring for over 250 youth.

Michael A. Bird
Christ Church

The Rev. Michael A. Bird is the Rector of Christ Church in Bronxville, NY, where he has served for over 10 years. He has previously served as a priest in New Canaan, CT, and as a teacher in Houston, TX, and Philadelphia, PA. His pastoral and practical experience has been primarily focused on the issues young people face in a rapidly changing world. He currently serves as a member of the General Seminary Board of Trustees. 

Kenda Creasy Dean
Princeton Theological Seminary

Kenda Creasy Dean is the Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church, and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. She is also the coordinating pastor of Kingston United Methodist Church in Kingston, New Jersey, and also an ordained elder in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference. 

Kenda Creasy Dean, “Ode to Joy: The Adolescent Experience of Joy as Arousal

Frederick Edie
Duke University

Frederick Edie is Associate Professor of the Practice of Christian Education. His research interests include exploring the relationships between Christian worship and Christian identity, creating rich contexts for the formation of Christians, and constructing “full-bodied” epistemologies. 

Frederick P. Edie, “Adolescent Joy and Christian Worship: Awakenings and Deepenings

Matthew Kuan Johnson
University of Cambridge

Matthew Kuan Johnson graduated Magna Cum Laude, with distinction in the major, from Yale University. He majored in Cognitive Science (concentration in morality) and had early election to Phi Beta Kappa. His primary areas of research are moral psychology, theory of mind, experimental philosophy, embodied cognition, and neuroethics. He is currently a Master’s Candidate in Social and Developmental Psychology at the University of Cambridge. 

Matthew Kuan Johnson, “Opportunities and Obstacles for Joy during Adolescence: Perspectives from Cognitive Science

Lisa Miller
Columbia University

Lisa Miller is Professor and Director of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College. She has published over 80 articles on spirituality, mental health, and thriving and is Principal Investigator of numerous funded research studies. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Spirituality in Clinical Practice and editor of Oxford University Press Handbook of Psychology and Spirituality.

Lisa Miller, “Spiritual Awakening; Joy and Depression a Unified Pathway; ‘Two Sides of the Same Coin’

Rodger Nishioka
Columbia Theological Seminary

Rodger Nishioka is the Benton Family Associate Professor of Christian Education at Columbia Theological Seminary. He focuses on equipping pastors to be teachers and leaders in the church’s educational ministry. He is particularly interested in building a congregation’s youth and young adult ministries. 

Rodger Nishioka, “Searching for Joy: A ‘Tangled Portrait’

David White
Austin Seminary

David White is the C. Ellis and Nancy Gribble Nelson Professor of Christian Education and Professor in Methodist Studies at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. His recent publications include Dreamcare: A Theology of Youth, Spirit, and Vocation and Awakening Youth Discipleship in a Consumer Culture, as well as a number of journal articles. 

David White, “Rejoicing in Adolescence: A Parable of God

JTF Logo The Theology of Joy & the Good Life project is made possible by the John Templeton Foundation with additional support from the McDonald Agape Foundation.