Perspective Online Top Story

A Message from the Dean: The Visitation

The Visitation

Luke 1:39-49

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
      and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.

During this time of expectant waiting and preparation, as told in the visitation narrative of Elizabeth and Mary, may you experience anew the fulfillment of God’s promise of hope and new birth. From all of us at Perkins, wishing you and yours a blessed Advent and Christmas season.


Craig C. Hill


Artwork Courtesy Bridwell Library Special Collections and Archives
[Book of Hours. Sarum Use, in Latin]
Illuminated manuscript on vellum
[Flanders, c. 1420]

December 2020 News Perspective Online

Office of Enrollment Management: 2020-2021 Academic Year Plan

By Rev. Margot Perez-Greene, Ph.D.
Associate Dean of Enrollment Management

The Rev. Dr. Margot Perez-Greene, Ph.D.
Associate Dean of Enrollment Management

Every year, the Office of Enrollment Management staff reviews and modifies its Enrollment Management Plan (EMP) based on these data: number of applications, yield, geo market analysis, rate of inquiries, incoming class statistics, new academic programs and initiatives, and cultural contexts dictating a change in courses of action (such as the pandemic). The time and energy expended by the Office of Enrollment Management (OEM) team on careful analysis of all recruitment and admission strategies and outcomes has proven effective and drives new initiatives to increase enrollment.

In March of 2020, most, if not all, institutions of higher learning across the country changed their strategic recruitment trajectories due to COVID-19 and unconditionally began relying on Zoom and Webinar formats to attract students to their schools. Fortunately, Perkins was successful and continues to forge ahead within these frameworks. Creativity seems to be the watchword, however.

Keenly aware that we work within a highly competitive environment (13 UMC-related schools vying for the same prospects), we have initiated a practice that we hope will engage a substantial number of recruits and result in a high yield of enrollment. Campus ministers and key professors have been notified of four options that can easily connect students to our Ministry Discernment Associates (MDA’s) and begin relationship-building between the student and Perkins community.

Option 1: Information Session Student selects the time, Ministry Discernment Associate sets up a Zoom link. Students who choose to join will get the chance to learn about theological education, SMU Perkins, different degree options, and have their questions answered.
Option 2:  SMU Perkins Joins You for Worship We want to join you for your regular worship time!

If you’re worshiping via Zoom, we would enjoy sharing your link and any announcement time you may have available for us. If students want to join a breakout session after service, Perkins can arrange.

If you’re worshiping in-person, we can send you a Zoom link and would be happy to join announcement time via projectors/televisions you are using for the service.

Option 3: Discernment Conversation We can talk with your students about the call to ministry and lead the group in a time of reflection on what it means to follow their call.
Option 4: Vocational Clarity Conversation Unlike the Discernment Conversation, this option addresses the broader scope of vocation. Our time will be spent working through a devotional, outlining the decision-making process, and determining a personal sense of call.

         (Instructions for making connections are included in the letters to campus ministers & professors.)

The MDA’s work with several colleges and universities and have arranged schools in priority via four Tiers, Tier 1 being the highest priority schools. After having to quickly pivot from ground travel to virtual modes, we learned that virtual recruitment has ushered in a creative way in which we can have greater visibility and expand our reach. We are encouraged by these new options for student connection and ask that you spread the word wherever and whenever you can. Thanks for all that you do for Perkins.

As always, we ask for your continued prayers and wish you and yours a blessed Advent, Christmas, and Christmastide. Look for Spring Virtual Events planned in the next issue of Perspective Magazine.

In the peace of Christ,

The Rev. Dr. Margot Perez-Greene
Associate Dean of Enrollment Management

December 2020 News Perspective Online

Office of Development: The End of a Turbulent Year

I have never been more conscious than I am now that none of us knows what will happen in the future.  Last year at this time, I certainly did not expect 2020 to turn out as it has.  After noting that a common destiny of death awaits us all, the erudite Sage wrote in Ecclesiastes chapter 9:

“Go, eat your food with gladness, drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.”  Meaning, of course, that we are alive now, despite being destined for death, and while alive, as much as we can, we should enjoy the life that God has given us.

In much of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, the word usually translated “meaningless” would be better rendered “vaporous.”  That term comes from the Hebrew word “to breathe.”  As we think about life, we realize that our lives certainly are vaporous, breathy, foggy—the years fly by, and just when we think we have everything under control, we realize that we can’t grasp life at all.

So many things have changed this year!  However, we still have the same responsibility to live godly lives, do acts of kindness, and raise up the next generation who will serve the Church and the world.  Part of that next generation is studying now at Perkins School of Theology.

With the change of administration in Washington coming next month, it is time to evaluate our financial strategies to continue to be wise stewards of the resources with which we have been entrusted.  There may be changes in the tax law, but, as people of faith, we will always give to causes that are dear to us.  At the end of this tumultuous year, let me remind you of some opportunities.

  • IRA roll-over
    • Although there is no required minimum distribution this year, and the minimum threshold for using this strategy has been raised to 72 ½, this still is a wonderful way to fulfill your giving plans and not diminish your operational cash. Remember: You do not get a tax receipt for these gifts, but you also do not have to declare the amounts of the gifts as income. So it’s a wash.
  • Appreciated Securities
    • The fantastic market run-up makes 2020 a perfect year to think about this tool. Make sure to work with your tax advisor as you plan this and other strategies.
  • Real estate
    • Like appreciated securities, real estate has gained greatly in most areas of the country.
  • Planned gifts of various kinds
    • Wills, trusts, life insurance, charitable remainder trusts, and other planning tools are readily available in the tax code. Work carefully with your attorney and tax consultant.

SMU is glad to help as you think about a year-end gift or a gift that may come to Perkins as the sage in Ecclesiastes notes, “when our vaporous days are over.”

For cash gifts you can visit our giving website by clicking here and following the instructions.  Many are using this tool for recurring gifts.  The site will instruct you how that can be accomplished.

Checks should be made out to “SMU” with a memo note: “SMU Fund for Perkins” and mailed to:

Perkins Development
PO Box 750133
Dallas, TX 75275-0133

In spite of all that has happened, enjoy the year-end celebrations—they may be vaporous, but God has given life to us to enjoy as best we can.

With a vaporous but thankful heart,

John A. Martin
Director of Development

December 2020 News Perspective Online

Virtual Advent Service: “For the Time Being…”

Tune into on Thursday, December 3 at 6 p.m. to join the annual Perkins Advent Worship service, which will be held virtually this year. View and download the service bulletin here.

Students and faculty in the Master of Sacred Music (MSM) program have worked hard to make the annual service as meaningful as possible and take advantage of the possibilities that the online format offers, with contributions from alumni.

“We’ve taken what is good about online worship and incorporated those elements,” said Marcell Silva Steuernagel, Assistant Professor of Church Music and Director of the Sacred Music Program. “The advantage is that we could invite people from many different places, geographically, and bring in musicians from all over the world. The online, pre-recorded format was uniquely suited to speaking to our trying and unstable times.”

The title of the service is “For The Time Being…”. Michael Hawn, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church Music, will deliver the homily, reflecting on the twin themes of expectation and waiting.

The liturgy will be composed of five readings that speak theologically to Advent (waiting for the Savior) and the pandemic (waiting for a return to an in-person world, for an end to injustice, and for a sense of stability.) Two of the five readings will be non-Scriptural, including a passage from W. H. Auden’s For the Time Being, and a poem, composed for the occasion and read by Perkins faculty member Hal Recinos.

Each reading will be followed by a collect and then by a short variation on the Advent tune VENI EMMANUEL for organ, composed for the occasion by Steuernagel and performed by Chris Anderson.

With the online format, organizers solicited involvement from participants far and wide, “in a sort of MSM virtual reunion,” Steuernagel said. The Sacred Music program issued a call to alumni of the MSM program, many of whom were preparing Advent and Christmas services for their own congregations, for proposals for musical offerings, including the opening voluntary and four free-standing musical pieces.

Contributions from participating MSM students and alums will include:

Bryan Page, DPM cohort 2020: composer of the opening voluntary

Julia Boudreaux, MSM 1, organist for opening voluntary and reader

Hilary Seraph Donaldson, MSM alum, reader and anthem conductor

Brad Kisner, MSM alum, reader

Zach Light-Wells, MSM alum, anthem conductor

Garth Baker-Fletcher, MSM 2, reader

Ronnie Wilson, MSM alum, anthem conductor (lead singer)

David Furniss, MSM alum, reader

Edward C. Gibson IV, MSM alum, anthem conductor

Seth Luna, MSM 1, reader

Leanne Seabright, sacred music program student, reader

Allison Shutt, MSM 2, reader

Cameron Normand, MSM 1, reader

Lucas Eaton, MSM 2, reader

Laurie Hanson Roberts, Phyllis Wilson, Debbie Chapman, Carrie Chavarria, Rebecca Garrett Pace, Jan Call, Stephanie Rhoades (all MSM alums) and Tracy DePue (Perkins Spiritual Formation certificate student), anthem

DPM students, assembled cohorts, anthem

Claire Ward, MSM 1, reader

Dirk Damonte, DPM 2017 cohort, anthem composer

Other liturgy participants will include Teresa Rosado, sacred music programs administrative assistant; Mark Stamm, chapel elder; and Dean Craig Hill.

December 2020 News Perspective Online

Distinguished Alumni/ae Award

Perkins announced the selection of the Rev. Donald W. Underwood and the Rev. Dr. Sidney G. Hall, III as recipients of the 2020 Perkins Distinguished Alumnus/a Award. The Award recognizes Perkins graduates who have demonstrated effectiveness and integrity in service to the church, continuing support for the goals of Perkins and Southern Methodist University, outstanding service to the community, and exemplary character. Read the press release here.

December 2020 News Perspective Online

Meet the Nones

Many students come to Perkins to prepare to minister to the faithful. But for an hour in November, Perkins graduate Rachel Roberts (Th.M. ’15) invited them to consider those who espouse no particular faith, in a November 10 Community Hour at Perkins (CHAP) program on “Everything Nones Wish You Knew About Them.”

“Some 90 million Americans identify as ‘Nones,’ and they are redefining what it means to live meaningfully without religion,” she said. “They don’t practice a religion, but most have been influenced by religion.”

Roberts shared her own spiritual journey – growing up in a Christian cult and eventually joining a megachurch as an adult.  After a difficult divorce, she returned to Perkins as a single mom of three and graduated in 2015.

Then she had an identity crisis.

“I felt that some of the things I learned at Perkins were not living out in my church experience,” she said. Bible stories understood as metaphorical among scholars, for example, were taught as literal truth at her church.

“It made me feel incongruent,” she said.

In May 2015 Roberts came across Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study, which showed that a growing number — about 25 percent of Americans — identified as “None.” When asked about their religious affiliations, they checked “none of the above.” She realized that she fell into that category, too.

“I’m not anti-religion,” she said. “I’m influenced by all kinds of religions.”

That realization led Roberts to quit her job, write a book (Confessions of an American None: A Credo of Sorts (2020) and launch American None, a website aimed at the 90 million Americans who call themselves Nones. With the tagline, “Where Love is Greater than Labels.”

Roberts says Nones reject both organized religion and labels. As a result, they find themselves in a unique spiritual space — neither religious nor atheistic.

Nones tend to be younger, left of center politically and live in urban centers and/or on the east or west coast, rather than in rural America. Some 69 percent are former Christians. Sociological shifts behind this emerging cohort include the emergence of the information age, and growing concerns for diversity and social justice issues, which often appear to conflict with religious teachings.  Many Nones consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.”

“Most Nones don’t have a problem with Jesus or his teachings,” Roberts said. “They have a problem with what happens when you get a bunch of humans together and marry self-interest with religion.”

“Those Nones who choose to walk away from their communities of faith often experience disorientation, grief, and fear of rejection by loved ones,” Roberts said.

“I’ve talked to people who are more afraid of telling their parents they don’t believe that Jesus literally rose from the dead than they were of telling them they were gay,” she said.

Still, Roberts added, Nones feel a need for spirituality when they no longer embrace religious faith, and that’s the conversation that fascinates her. She cited research by Dr. Elizabeth Drescher of Santa Clara University that suggests that Nones instead find meaning through relationships, food, experiences, pets, fitness and giving back to others through volunteerism or philanthropy.

“Living without religion, Nones experience spirituality in simple, everyday living and through connecting with others,” she said. “They are re-inventing what it means to be spiritual beings. However, when faced with crises or difficult life milestones or rites of passages, there is a dearth of spiritual resources for Nones.”

Roberts invited members of the Perkins community to contact her at for further conversation.

“I value thoughts and feedback from my Christian friends,” she said.

December 2020 News Perspective Online

Doctor of Ministry in Houston

Beginning June 2021, Perkins School of Theology will add a Doctor of Ministry (D. Min.) program in Houston, in addition to the existing D. Min. program in Dallas. The doctoral level program integrates scholarly research with the practice of ministry. Courses will be taught at Houston Methodist Hospital.

“This is a great opportunity for people who live in Houston and neighboring areas,” said Dr. James K. Lee, Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program. “Because most D. Min. students are working full-time, this additional location makes this an option for many more people.”

With two international airports, Houston also offers the advantage of easy access by air from many cities in the U.S. Perkins’s three-year D. Min. curriculum includes two years of coursework, with students traveling to Houston for two weeks of courses in person in June and January. The remainder of the program, which includes a directed study and the writing of a dissertation, can be completed remotely.

In the D. Min. program, students build their theological knowledge and gain skills to engage effectively in ministerial work in contexts of change and transition. The program provides the opportunity for advanced study in the areas of vocation, leadership formation, and community building or social entrepreneurship.

Perkins’s D. Min. program is an intense, doctoral level program but with more emphasis on practical ministry than a Ph.D. program. The curriculum follows a cohort system of students beginning each June. Cohorts progress through 24 credit hours of doctoral level courses. Students then work independently in the final 6 credit hours, preparing for and completing the dissertation that brings the course work to bear on a specific practice of Christian ministry.

“The D. Min. program opens up opportunities for those who want to be engaged in higher education as well as the local church and society as a whole,” Lee said.

The D. Min. program in Houston follows the same requirements for admission, curriculum, and graduation as the D. Min. program in Dallas. The deadline for admission to the first cohort is March 22, 2021. Scholarships based upon need are available. Prerequisites for the program include a Master’s degree in theology and three years of full-time ministry experience.

Most D. Min. students continue to work as pastors, although the program also attracts chaplains as well as other working professionals looking to develop leadership and administrative skills.

“The program offers adaptive leadership as well as community building and social entrepreneurship,” Lee said. “It’s designed for anyone interested in creating communities that will last.”

For example, students in the Dallas D. Min. program have worked on dissertations focused on ministry to veterans and racial reconciliation. In both projects, students tap into scholarly work in order to address practical problems in ministry.

“We hope to form pastors as scholars and public intellectuals who can engage their local communities with practical skills, and we hope their dissertations will become a contribution for the academy as well as a resource for the church.” Lee said.

For more information, visit the Doctor of Ministry program page here.

December 2020 News Perspective Online

Perkins School of Youth Ministry

“Uncommon Wisdom for Uncommon Times” is the prescient theme for the 2021 Perkins School of Youth Ministry (PSYM) which takes place virtually January 11-14, 2021.  For a preview, read here or see the original press release below.


Registration is open through Dec. 4 for the 2021 Perkins School of Youth Ministry (PSYM), January 11-14, 2021, a four-day educational gathering for youth ministers. In past years, the event was held on the campus of SMU and at Highland Park United Methodist Church, but this year’s event will take place virtually.

PSYM 2021’s theme, “Uncommon Wisdom for Uncommon Times,” was chosen last April.

“When our design team met, we were just one month into a global pandemic and the national response to Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor was just beginning,” said Bart Patton, Perkins Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry Education “The idea of seeking God for wisdom emerged. That theme has become more and more relevant since April: God, we need wisdom!”

In light of the virtual format, Patton said, organizers of the event have “totally reimagined the schedule,” with new content, new and creative approaches to music and worship, and plenty of time built in for breaks, family and work. The four days of the conference will follow a rhythm, with gatherings in the morning, midday, and evening for worship, study and reflection.

“I think we’ll have some of the best modules we’ve ever offered at PSYM this year, with new voices, new leaders, and even some surprises,” he said.

For the second year in a row, the PSYM will offer the option of attending a Mental Health First Aid training module to earn certification in that area.  Other workshop tracks will focus on racism, adaptive leadership (maintaining leadership through cultural change), planning and organization.

Under the direction of the Office of External Programs at Perkins School of Theology at SMU, PSYM coordinates training programs to support those in the church whose ministries focus on youth and young adults. PSYM has been engaging and equipping youth workers every January since 1988.

Patton emphasized that, while youth leaders cannot gather in person this year, it’s more important than ever to set aside time for learning and mutual support. At PSYM, attendees will have opportunities to gather in a virtual lobby for informal conversation and idea-sharing.  And there will be swag — participants can choose to receive a virtual kit, through the mail, with a PSYM branded memo pad, pen, stickers and other items.

“Our youth ministers have spent the last year giving, virtually,” he said. “They are tired. Our hope is that they will be able to receive, virtually, through year’s PSYM program.”

“As we always emphasize, PSYM is not merely a conference,” said Patton. “We’re a school for youth ministry. We strive to foster a robust community of learning where every youth worker is empowered to share their experiences, contexts, successes, and failures.”

December 2020 News Perspective Online

Must Reads

Looking for some inspiring and informative reading for the holiday season? Check out the Center for Preaching Excellence’s new video series, “Must Reads,” featuring interviews of authors of books of interest to preachers.

“The Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence is committed to helping pastors as they strive continually to be effective and faithful proclaimers of God’s good news,” said Dr. O. Wesley Allen, Jr., Lois Craddock Perkins Professor of Homiletics. “We’re convinced that one element of that process entails reading good homiletical literature that pushes us to think in new ways about why and how we preach.”

The series launched November 12 with Allen’s interview of Rev. Dr. Lisa Thompson, author of Ingenuity: Preaching as an Outsider. Thompson is Associate Professor and the Cornelius Vanderbilt Chancellor Faculty Fellow of Black Homiletics and Liturgics at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

Must Reads is the third video series launched by the Center during the pandemic under the theme of “What’s a Preacher to Do?” The first focused specifically on Preaching During the Pandemic and the second on Preaching in a Pandemic of Racism.

“Due to the pandemic, we are pivoting to providing more online resources for preachers,” said Dr. Alyce McKenzie, Director of the Center. “For Must Reads, we chose books of interest to preachers, as they are seeking guidance and resources in these difficult days, given the challenges of COVID-19, racism and a divided country.”

In Ingenuity, Thompson introduces a theology and practice of preaching that emerges from the faith and wisdom of black women. In the Must Reads interview, she elaborated on the challenges that black women preachers face as perceived outsiders in the pulpit – as well as the gifts they can offer.

“The more people we get around the table, the more knowledge that we have, the more access we have to the holiest truth,” Thompson said.

Episode 2 featured David Ward, author of Practicing the Preaching Life (Abingdon Press, 2019) and Associate Professor of Homiletics and Practical Theology at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana. Ward views preaching as a spiritual practice – similar to prayer, self-care and justice-seeking – that can help form a way of life from which great sermons emerge.

“Ward recommends health and spiritual practices that preachers can follow, to help maintain their ability to fill others, rather than become empty vessels,” said McKenzie.

Other featured authors scheduled thus far include:

Joni S. Sancken, author of Words that Heal: Preaching Hope to Wounded Souls.  Sancken is associate professor of homiletics at United Theological Seminary in Dayton Ohio and an ordained pastor in the Mennonite Church USA. She uses trauma theory and biblical theology to show how preaching can aid the healing process.

“We felt this was an important topic, because many people are experiencing loss, trauma, isolation and worry now,” said McKenzie. “The words of a preacher can connect with soul wounds in ways that are healing.”

Jerusha Neal, author of The Overshadowed Preacher: Mary, The Spirit, and the Labor of Proclamation (Eerdmans,2020). Neal is Assistant Professor of Homiletics at Duke Divinity School. She writes that, as the bearer of Jesus to the world, Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit; today’s preachers are overshadowed as well. Her book is a thought-provoking challenge to a status quo that has historically privileged masculinity and whiteness.

Karoline Lewis, author of Embody: 5 Keys to Leading with Integrity (Abingdon 2020.)  Lewis is Marbury E. Anderson Chair in Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary and previously taught at Candler School of Theology, Columbia Theological Seminary, and Augsburg College. Her book explores how pastors and other leaders feel trapped in systems and institutions where actions and decisions often seem to have little to do with the scripture they read or the theology they profess. They are swept into leadership norms that resemble business models more than mission. She offers insights for those who struggle with a disconnect between their own theology and their leadership.

For more information and to view the videos, visit the Center’s website.

December 2020 News Perspective Online

Student Spotlight: Allison Shutt

When she graduates from Perkins in May with her Master of Sacred Music (MSM) degree, Allison Shutt hopes to find a job as a director of Music Ministry Outreach.

Never mind that the job title hasn’t been invented yet.

Shutt believes music can bring the community into churches, and help churches reach people in the community. She’s tried it herself, with some success.

She grew up attending Davidson United Methodist in Davidson, N.C. Faith was important in her household, and she still enjoys frequent theological discussions with her mom and dad.

“I’ve always had an interest in theology,” she said. “I remember in eighth grade, I wanted to start a Bible study group but none of my friends were interested. Maybe because we were in eighth grade!”

Still, Shutt never considered ministry as a career until she was an undergraduate. She interned at Davidson UMC in the youth department while attending Furman University as a music major.

“That degree program was gearing me toward a career as a band director,” she said. “I knew I didn’t want to just be a band director but didn’t know what I wanted to do.” Her primary instrument was the saxophone, which didn’t prepare her to work in a church.

At Davidson, however, colleagues encouraged her to consider ministry. (One of them, Kevin Turner, later became the first graduate of Perkins’s Doctor of Pastoral Music program.) The internship turned into a job after graduation.

“That’s when the call began to ministry began forming within me,” she said.

At Davidson, she experimented with ways to create bridges between the church and the community through music. She reached out to nearby Hinds Feet Farm in Huntersville, N. C., a day and residential program for adults with traumatic brain injuries.

“I called to see if they had any musical activities, and they told me they’d love to have one,” she said. She started a handbell choir for adults with brain injuries. Shutt found songbooks for people who don’t read music – songs with lyrics with words circled where each player needs to ring the bell, and pieces using a numbered, color-coded system. The group concluded with a concert.

“I’ve always had a passion for people with disabilities,” she said. “I’d really love to do something that allows people to come into the doors of the church.”

Music, Shutt believes, has much untapped potential for reaching many different groups.

“I love the ability of music to advocate and be that neutralizing ground,” she said. “It allows people who aren’t as comfortable coming into a church to be comfortable and be a part of the church.”

While at Davidson, Shutt learned of Perkins’s MSM program through Turner. She liked the way Perkins’s MSM program melds music and theology.

“I didn’t want just one or other,” she said. “I wanted to look at music through a theological lens and bring musical training to the theological classroom as well. Perkins was that perfect fit of allowing both disciplines come together. I get my music education from Meadows and my theological education from Perkins.”

At Perkins, she’s concentrating in choral conducting while pursuing ordination in the United Methodist Church as a deacon. Before the pandemic, she was a member of the Seminary Singers, where she enjoyed planning and leading worship services, and also sang with the Meadows Chamber Singers. This year, she’s studying remotely, from her home in Davidson.

Shutt isn’t certain what kind of job she’ll find when she graduates. But she looks forward to the adventure.

“I’m not sure if I’ll end up in a church, going into the community, or in the community, going into the church,” she said. “Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing what God has in store for me.”