Brazilian Catalyst Marcio Lima and the LCI’s Latin America co-coordinator Alejandra Ortiz were recently interviewed for a Voices of IFES podcast episode all about the Logos and Cosmos Initiative. It was a Spanish-language episode but read on for the English transcript.
During the conversation, Marcio shares about both his career path and spiritual journey, and how his faith nourishes his academic work and vice versa. Marcio is a Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Sao Paulo. You can also learn about his LCI project: a theology and the arts research and mentoring project for students from his IFES national movement.
Alejandra, Co-Coordinator for the LCI in Latin America, explains more about LCI’s vision, how the program is strengthening IFES national movements and what’s on the horizon. We are grateful to Jorge “Toto” Bermudez, General Secretary of CBUU Uruguay and Regional Communications Coordinator, for hosting this episode.
Listen to this episode of the Voices of IFES podcast wherever you usually get your podcasts. For example, it can be found here on Spotify.
Watch the video of the podcast recording below (video is in Spanish with English subtitles).
Read the English transcript of the podcast below.
English-language transcript of the Voices of IFES podcast episode about the LCI:
Toto: Welcome to Voices of IFES. I am Jorge “Toto” Bermudez. Today I will be the host. I serve as general secretary of the movement in Uruguay, Comunidad Bíblica Universitaria, and I also coordinate Communications for the IFES Latin America regional team.
Today we are joined by Alejandra Ortiz and Marcio Lima Junior. Both are part of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative. Ale is the Co-Coordinator of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative in Latin America, and Marcio is a Catalyst at the LCI and a professor of architecture and urban planning.
Welcome, Ale, Marcio. Thank you for joining us on Voices of IFES. We wanted to have you on the podcast to talk about the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, which is one of the ministries of IFES, and which is quite recent.
Ale, Marcio… Could you please introduce yourselves quickly? Then we will have more time to go deeper with each of you. Ale?
Ale: Of course. It’s a pleasure to be here with you…
My name is Alejandra Ortiz. I live in Tijuana, Mexico. I serve with COMPA part-time, the national movement here in Mexico, and with the LCI as co-coordinator. I am married to Abdiel and have two girls.
Toto: Thank you very much Ale. Marcio?
Marcio: Hello everyone. It’s a pleasure to be with you. I am Marcio. I live in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I am an architect, professor of architecture, and I am earning a doctorate in History and the Foundations of Architecture. I also participated as a student of the national movement University Bible Alliance of Brazil (ABUB) and… I am a volunteer advisor.
Toto: Great. Thank you very much for joining us today. We are going to have a really interesting talk, getting to know each other a little bit more, and especially about the LCI. So… Ale, you are a member of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative team, can you tell us a little bit more about this initiative? And why was it created?
The Logos and Cosmos Initiative equips young Christian academics from the national IFES movements to carry out projects that awaken and provoke wonder in both the sciences and theology and the relationship between the sciences and theology.
Then, through the LCI, we offer Catalyst training, mentoring, funding also for their own personal formation and to lead initiatives at the university and in collaboration with the national IFES movements. The Logos and Cosmos Initiative is largely funded by the John Templeton Foundation, which provided the funding for five years of this initiative in Latin America and French-speaking Africa.
Ale: Well, the projects that are being developed bring together theological and scientific perspectives to address challenges, well, very pressing challenges that we have like… mental health, poverty, climate change, this dissociation that exists between academic disciplines and Christian faith within universities and movements, and it’s the Catalysts that are carrying out these projects.
Toto: How interesting, how necessary it sounds for our context here in Latin America! Now… You have mentioned Catalysts more than once. Who are these Catalysts?
Ale: Yes, yes, yes, yes. “Catalysts” is the name we use to designate the people who participate, that is, those who have applied to a year of the initiative and have been selected to be part of a cohort.
We call our participants Catalysts because we believe that they are key people who are producing changes in thinking about science and faith within their movements, their universities… And also, generating seeds of transformation for good processes in our mission contexts.
Toto: Yes… Very appropriate, very appropriate. And… Speaking of Catalysts… Marcio, you are one of those Catalysts! Can you share with us what led you to participate in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative?
Marcio: Yes, of course. I am a Catalyst. I heard about the LCI through the national movement, and when I saw this opportunity to further develop knowledge about science and theology, I said to myself that it would be very interesting, very nice all this, because I knew something from the national movement, from the student community, but I saw this opportunity to further develop these issues within the university.
Toto: That’s good! That’s great. And tell me Marcio, in this last year participating in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, how has it been for you? Is there anything that impacted you in a special way?
The first year was a very good experience. The intellectual formation we received allowed us to be introduced to different authors, to explore the dimensions of science and theology. To learn how these two areas need not be opposed and disconnected. Because we understand that the reality of God impacts all things and Christ is reconciling all these things to himself.
Marcio: So, we understand that as Christian academics we have to look for these interfaces, to show that our worldview has a lot to contribute to the world… And I think one thing that impacted me a lot is from the point of view of developing a broader anthropology of the human being.
Marcio: And another aspect that was very striking to me. The care of the program in developing a Christian life and a wise spirituality, since we are not only a brain, but a complete being that has feelings, and we were created to relate with God. So, the program encouraged us to listen to God’s voice to guide us on this path of research, work and personal relationships. We were also challenged to see our work as scholars as part of God’s action for the renewal of the world and as agents of God’s kingdom and participants in its history. In this sense, I am reminded of a class offered to us by Professor Sarah Williams, which dealt with the dimension of spirituality in academic work, and it was very impactful!
Toto: How interesting, isn’t it? This question of academic life as work, but the academic as a spiritual person, also needing to cultivate his spirituality. How nice to be able to think about the development and challenges of both! This question throughout your life, right? Thinking about the space where you grew up, in the church… Also, in the space where you were formed, Marcio, in the university and even in the student ministry, the concepts about science, academia, and about religion, about faith and how they were linked, not always, I imagine, went in the same direction as the way they are working in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative. Have you noticed any difference, in that sense, in what you had heard in your formative years and the proposal of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative?
Marcio: Yes, I think I can speak from two points of view. One from the formation in the national movement. I see the Logos and Cosmos program as a continuation of my formation within the evangelical student community, right? Because I already knew how our life should not be dichotomous, but that we should integrate everything as knowledge and reality of God. However, in my religious upbringing, as a child, I grew up in an environment where there was a distinction between secular or material life and spiritual life. We were presented with a gospel in which these two dimensions of human life are separated and where these two spheres need no connection with each other. It was like this dualistic view, more Platonic than Christian really, between the material world and the spiritual world, between the body and the soul.
In my religious upbringing, although there was no opposition to science, to academic study, faith and science were treated as two distinct areas, one of secular life and one of spiritual life. However… What we are developing in the Logos and Cosmos program is quite the opposite, it is the understanding that there is no secular life and a religious life. The reality of God permeates the whole cosmos, our whole life in its various manifestations. Since we are indivisible, it is sin that fragments us. Therefore, we do not need to have a dualistic vision, but a holistic vision, connected to this reality between science and university.
Toto: How reassuring I imagine it is for academics, for those of us who develop the intellectual life, to be able to think about our lives in this way, in a holistic way! It is liberating, it is hopeful because it also makes us think of all the things that God can redeem in us and through us. As you were saying before, Marcio, you are a professor of architecture, of urban planning. You are doing a doctorate in history and fundamentals of architecture and urbanism at the prestigious University of Sao Paulo. What is it that led you to train in this area?
Marcio: Yes… I think it is a sense of vocation, and… Before studying architecture and entering the university, I had a previous training in pedagogy. So, when I entered the university to study architecture, I also intended to dedicate myself to teaching. That became clearer to me, when I came to understand that God distributes gifts and talents so that we can serve the Kingdom and people. Based on this, I understood that this would be my way of acting, considering my personal inclinations, my academic background… It is an opportunity to serve the kingdom of God and people.
Toto: That’s good, that’s good! Because at times we may have some tensions that are not necessary, don’t we?
When the Lord really wants to strengthen that for which we feel a vocation, for which we have an inclination and that which really makes us feel fulfilled also in the development of our work and our intellectual work. Now Marcio… Thinking of you as a professor in your field, I am interested in knowing a little more, that you go a little deeper in this that has already been mentioned, in how your faith nourishes your work and also now, vice versa, how academic work can nourish faith.
I guess… Not everything is a garden of roses. In some moments tensions appear, conflicts appear, what are those tensions, those conflicts that you have had as a Christian in your context?
Marcio: Yes… Of course, it’s never a [rose] garden [a piece of cake]. But we keep cultivating this garden so that things can be seen. But… I think I can speak in two different ways. I see faith as shaping my work as a teacher and as a scholar.
The first is related to social injustices. In Brazil and in Latin America we see a large number of people who have no house to live in or they live in their homes without light or structural stability, for example. In that sense, my work focuses on stimulating and sensitizing students about the need to get involved in, for example, popular housing projects, in the qualification of degraded areas, in providing decent spaces for human existence, not only structures and sanitary facilities but also in the existential and human aspect.
Just today… I was reading a phrase of a contemporary architect, an Uruguayan, who said that: “some houses do not have a single sign of having been made as a whole, thinking that they could be inhabited by men capable of talking to the stars”. In this sense, the second aspect to which I have dedicated myself most in recent years is to understand architecture and the arts as a manifestation of what the human being is in all its depth. Our goal is to understand how the existence and essence of the human being is manifested through artistic languages and how they can be privileged means to understand the mystery of life. I understand the arts as something that leads us to participate intentionally and intensely in the physical, emotional, and imaginative characteristics of the human being. And I also believe that architecture is a written book and that there is a profound relationship between architecture and worldview, how those who built [those structures] understood the world.
The question I ask myself is whether architecture and other artistic languages can point us in a unique way to knowledge of God or the world or ourselves. Whether these languages can speak to us about these issues. And… the difficulties that I see in the university is that many times this topic of faith is a topic that is thought of as an intimate, private, subjective forum… And that it should not be dealt with in the university. But I see that it is totally the opposite because the university is the environment to ask all the discussions, questions, even questions related to faith and worldviews.
So… sometimes there is blockage in people, but when you talk in a way that you can understand, that gives you an academic form, it is possible to dialogue.
Toto: How interesting, thank you very much, Professor Marcio Lima, because we can really see your passion! This way of looking at architecture, one, as someone outside this area would say “the purpose of architecture is to provide us with sustainable housing and little else”. But how much more there is in this approach between architecture and the arts! I loved what you were saying about seeing them as a language and listening to what they can tell us about God, that we can also say through them to our fellow human beings, to other human beings… That we talk about things that have to do with the kingdom of God. What a beautiful vision! We are getting into this Logos and Cosmos Initiative, we are beginning to understand that it is a vision that encompasses the whole university, the way of linking ourselves with the academic work.
Ale… I would like you to tell us a little bit more about the current status of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, what is coming up in the short and medium term.
Ale: Of course. Look… In March 2022, we started the second year of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, and in April a new cohort of Catalysts for both level 1 and Catalysts for both level 1 and the Catalysts that advanced to level 2. So now… We are now with Catalysts who are in their first year training and developing a project at this first level, and the Catalysts who are in level 2, in their second year, are carrying out projects that link their own academic discipline with the needs of the national movement. And [they] are in full action, in this second level, second year. And well…
This year we will also have our first face-to-face meeting, in September, in Chile. A consultation for all the Catalysts of both levels, for the mentors, for those of us who work in the initiative… Very excited to see each other, to learn together, to listen to each other. And well… Again, in February of next year we will be calling for the third year of the initiative, to start again with a cohort and some Catalysts from level 1 and level 2 would advance to the next level if that were the case.
Toto: Uh-huh. How nice, how nice the prospect of meeting face to face, of being able to embrace, to put body to those faces that one sees in Zoom or in other conference media! But above all to be able to share the table, to be able to continue generating links, friendships! And undoubtedly enhancing, without a doubt, what the different works are, right?
You mentioned the link between the Catalyst and the national movement because listening to the experience, one could get the idea that this is something developed by some in the academic world, something very separate, right?
How have the Catalysts been working in this sense with the national student movements of IFES? How can we see the benefit of the Logos and Cosmos initiative for the movements as a whole, beyond the Catalysts? Has there been any experience, any reaction from the national movements in this sense, Ale?
Ale: Yes. I love your question Toto because… Actually, this has been one of the most important things for us at the moment we have been carrying out the initiative.
From the very inception of the projects, from the moment of thinking about them, we have tried to ensure that the Catalysts are in dialogue with their national movement, with their local movement, in conversation with regional workers, with the general secretary, with student leaders and also trying to see how the Catalyst’s own academic discipline, their own concerns also respond to the needs of the movements, how to enter into dialogue with this.
We have sought that the projects respond to the needs of the national movements, very specifically and in accordance with each national movement… We have seen very nice things, for example… Some student movements are entering into conversation with things that are happening in the university or even with some authors who talk about issues of interest, based on the initiative of the Catalysts to bring issues to the table!
Ale: One example here, in Central America, is a Catalyst that is working on climate change and care for creation and is going to do this together with the students of their national movement. Also… We are seeing, for example, in Chile, that a network of Christian professors and academics is being generated from the Catalyst’s initiative, and it is something that the national movement itself had wanted to reactivate and had not been able to. So, we are seeing these type of projects and initiatives of the Catalysts that are directly benefiting the national movements.
An Ecuadorian Catalyst who is developing a training module for her movement on the arts, which is her area, her academic discipline… These are some of the examples of how national movements are benefiting through the LCI.
Toto: That’s great! That’s great, Ale! Well… And since we have a Catalyst here with us, we will take the opportunity to ask you Marcio: what is the project you are carrying out? Can you tell us a little more about it?
My project aims to develop a research program in theology and the arts for students of the national movement. The program consists of training, mentoring and support for the students’ own research. It will then feature a foundation course that will focus on the relationship between the arts and the basic Christian motif of creation, fall and redemption. This is intended to provide further theological, historical, and philosophical foundations to the links we find between the Christian faith and the arts.
I am now in the final phase of compiling the bibliography, which will allow me to begin the process of writing the theoretical framework of the course that will be offered for the entire movement, for all those interested. After the course, we will have a mentoring program for the students. They will have to develop their own research project in which they will relate arts, architecture and theology. At this moment, I am also preparing a workshop for our national ABUAB congress that will talk about an aesthetics of the eschaton: arts, justice and the kingdom of God.
Toto: That’s great, that’s great! I thought I understood that this workshop that you will be giving in September will be open to students from the neighbouring country, Uruguay, who would like to participate… But we’ll talk about it later, Marcio. Don’t get nervous, it’s not necessary to clarify it now [laughs Marcio and Ale].
But how interesting! Are you going to be doing those tutorials yourself, or how will that part of the project implementation be?
Marcio: Yes, of course, Toto, we can talk… and open this workshop for all Latin America. And yes… We will continue to talk about this. So, yes… I am going to teach this course on the fundamentals, and I am going to do the mentoring. This year the tutoring will be limited because we only have one tutor, which is me… So we have a call for students to submit their projects for me to do an evaluation and those that are selected will get these tutorials with me.
Toto: That’s good. Marcio, how could we be praying for you, thinking about this project?
Marcio: I am glad Toto that we are all a community that continues to pray for each other. For this, I ask you to help me in prayer, asking God to give me grace and wisdom to develop this proposed project, and to pray for my health. I need health to continue with all this, with this agenda.
Toto: Very well. We take note and we will be accompanying you…
And our friends who are listening, surely also, so that this project may have an impact and be of great blessing for many, without a doubt. And Ale, how can we be praying for you? For the team? For the ministry of Logos and Cosmos?
Ale: Yes, thanks for the question. Well, for me…. In a particular way, for wisdom and strength and reactivity also, to be co-directing this project with Josué Olmedo here in Latin America… For the beautiful challenge we have, and in particular for life here with two small daughters while I continue working in the ministry… And for the team, well… As I said, we are co-directing this project with Josué, here in Latin America, and also in the executive team are Gustavo Sobarzo in Chile and Jouseth Moya from Ecuador. So, pray for us and for the face-to-face consultation that we are organizing in Chile, in September of this year, for all of us who will be there both as mentors and Catalysts.
Toto: Very good. We take note and ask the Lord for health, wisdom and grace for Marcio and for wisdom for you and Josué as coordinators of the project in Latin America, for family life, that it may continue to be sustained, for the teamwork, the work in COMPA’s ministry, and of course for Gustavo, for Jouseth, we ask the Lord to strengthen them, to bless them. And in a very special way, we pray for this face-to-face consultation in Chile, which we are sure will be a celebration and a celebration. But, to tell the truth, I am a little envious that I will not be able to be there in September with you. But well… I hope to see photos, videos… and to be able to follow this meeting.
Hey… One last question for Ale: how can the friends who are listening to us get involved with the work of science and theology that the Logos and Cosmos initiative is doing?
Ale: Sure. Well look… You can visit our LCI website which is lci.ifesworld.org/en. There you can check our blog, you can click on one of the registration forms also to subscribe to the Maravillas newsletter. And well… In February 2023, we will open another cohort of Catalysts, there will be another selection process stay tuned! And… Finally… Very important also, you can take the “Engaging the University” course that opens now in October because this is one of the requirements, for example, to be able to apply to the LCI next year in 2023.
Toto: This course is an online course, free of charge, which is on the IFES platform, right?
Ale: That’s right! This same course that opens in October of this year and that opens every year really.
Toto: A course that, if you’re not interested in participating and going deeper into the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, it’s worth doing anyway because it’s going to give you a platform or at least help you to start thinking about this how to connect academic life with spirituality, with your area of science and how to serve from there. Thanks for joining us! It was so interesting to hear a little bit more and learn about the Logos and Cosmos Initiative! I hope you have a good idea, or now at this point, a little more information about the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, the people involved, the dreams, the challenges. If you want to be part of it, don’t hesitate to go to the website that Ale told us about: lci.ifesworld.org/es. It is in Spanish, there you will be able to read the blog and also subscribe to the Maravillas newsletter that will update us, four times a year, a little of what is happening. Thank you Ale, thank you Marcio, thank you friends for listening to us! Don’t forget to subscribe to hear more about Voices of IFES and share this episode with anyone you think might be interested in the Logos and Cosmos initiative. God bless you!