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January Series Brims with Storytellers

January 5, 2022

Kristi Potter, the director of Calvin University’s January Series, which starts on Monday, Jan. 10, says she’s excited to see how the power of storytelling can help in bridging some of the cultural divides we face today.

“This year we are going through a lot of stuff. We are still in a pandemic, and we still have so much division among us,” said Potter.

“But when we listen to one another’s stories, it leads to greater understanding, it produces in us empathy, and it positions us better to contribute to the flourishing of society.”

Potter, who has been involved with the month-long, free lecture series for a quarter century and has served as its director since 2007, will be stepping out of that role after 2022.

She says it’s time for her to step into a new chapter.

“Over the years, I’ve loved hearing really great stories and then having the ability to share them with a wide audience,” said Potter. “And it is so gratifying to continually hear from attendees who listened to a speaker and to learn that the talk broadened their perspective on an issue or infused in them a new passion. That’s why the January Series is so special and why I am confident it will continue to inspire people.”

During Potter’s time as director, the January Series has expanded to reach a worldwide audience through remote webcast locations in over 50 cities throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. In 2021 the audience expanded even more with the addition of on-demand virtual viewing reaching a record 98,000 people around the world.

A few of the world-renowned storytellers on the 2022 docket include

  • Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers, cohosts of the popular podcasts Pantsuit Politics and The Nuanced Life. The two Christian women prove that people with opposing political perspectives can have calm, grace-filled conversations about politics.
  • Max Stossel, an award-winning artist named by Forbes as one of the best storytellers of the year. Stossel worked for a social media company where he designed some of the notification structures meant to distract people. He’s now educating students, parents, and educators around the world about social media’s impact on our lives and creating resources to help manage that impact.
  • Brad Montague, author of the New York Times bestseller Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome and an illustrator whose work is regularly featured in Joanna Gaines’s The Magnolia Journal. His newly released Becoming Better Grownups was written after interviewing school children.
  • Colum McCann, an Irish-born international bestseller who is among the world’s foremost storytellers. His work moves seamlessly from troubles in Ireland to the Romani camps of Eastern Europe to the dizzying heights of the World Trade Center to the friendship of two fathers, one Jewish and the other Palestinian, who lost their daughters to the ongoing conflict in the Holy Land.

The January Series kicks off its 35th-anniversary year on Monday, Jan. 10. The free lecture series runs for 15 weekdays through Friday, Jan. 28.

Speaking on Monday, Jan. 10, will be Angela Williams Gorrell, assistant professor of practical theology at Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, and author of the book The Gravity of Joy.

In her book, Gorrell draws from her own search for authentic Christian joy as she reflects on our collective need for a counteragent to despair. In her talk she will articulate a vision for communities that yearn for joy in response to tragedy and that work together to find it.

Slated for Tuesday, Jan. 11, will be L. Gregory Jones, who will speak on “Trusting Institutions: Rediscovering the Power of Christianty’s Surprise.”

Known for his books on forgiveness, Christian leadership, and social innovation, Jones is passionate about reshaping cultures within and across organizations. He will be discussing the significance of institutions in the spread of Christianity and why trust is so important in renewing them (and developing new versions of them) today.

Also speaking will be theologian N.T. Wright, who will focus on the New Testament book of Galatians.Wrapping up the series will be Newberry Award winning author and Calvin University English professor Gary Schmidt.

For more information on the speakers at this year’s January Series, visit the site here.