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Latest News from Bridwell Library

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, November – December 2021

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Fall 2021

The thirteenth issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; a story about the newly renamed Center for Methodist Studies at Bridwell Library; a tribute to Ian Tyson; a staff profile; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Fall 2021 Issue of The Bridwell Quarterly.

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, August – October 2021

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Summer 2021

The twelfth issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; reports on the library’s reopening, the Dante Festival and the arrival of a new major collection; upcoming online exhibitions; a staff spotlight; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Summer 2021 Issue of The Bridwell Quarterly.

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, April – July 2021

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Spring 2021

The eleventh issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; updates on the library’s renovations; upcoming online exhibitions; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Spring 2021 Issue of The Bridwell Quarterly.

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, January – March 2021

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Winter 2021

The tenth issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; recent acquisitions and winter gifts to Bridwell; updates on the library’s renovations; upcoming online exhibitions; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Winter 2021 Issue of The Bridwell Quarterly.

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, July – December 2020

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Fall 2020

The eighth and ninth issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director, Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; passages and experiences of staff; updates on the library’s renovations; upcoming online exhibitions; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Summer / Fall 2020 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

Bridwell Quarterly – Spring 2020

The seventh issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director, Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; passages and experiences of staff; updates on the library’s renovations; upcoming online exhibitions; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Spring 2020 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, February – April 2020

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Winter 2020

The sixth issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director, Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; passages and experiences of staff; updates on the library’s renovations; upcoming online exhibitions; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Winter 2020 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, November – December 2019

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Fall 2019

The fifth issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director, Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; passages and experiences of staff; updates on the library’s renovations; upcoming online exhibitions; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Fall 2019 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, September – October 2019

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, May – August 2019

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Summer 2019

The fourth issue of The Bridwell Quarterly completes the first annual cycle of publishing, and includes a note from Bridwell Library Director, Anthony Elia, passages and experiences of staff, a reflection on the library’s current state of change, and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Summer 2019 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, March & April 2019

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Spring 2019

The third issue of The Bridwell Quarterly features a range of activities and events, not least of which is an old (though now discontinued) tradition, which former Bridwell staff member Charles Baker writes about: Savonarolafest.

Click to read the Spring 2019 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

Bridwell Library – May 2019

The Word Embodied

This fine press catalog, limited to two hundred copies, was designed and printed by Bradley Hutchinson at his letterpress printing office in Austin Texas. Reflecting the style of many of the items featured in the exhibition, the catalog comprises loose folios and sheets housed in a four-flap paper portfolio. The type is Espinosa Nova, designed by Cristóbal Henestrosa and based on the types of Antonio de Espinosa, the first typecutter in the New World, who was active in Mexico City between 1551 and 1576. The paper is Mohawk Superfine and the illustrations were printed by Capital Printing of Austin, Texas. The portfolio was constructed by Santiago Elrod. Images were prepared by Rebecca Howdeshell, Bridwell Library, using an i2S SupraScan Quartz A1 book scanner. 100 pages, folios housed in paper wrappers; color illustrations; 28 x 21 cm. Please visit to purchase your copy.

  • Arvid Nelsen, Curator and Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarian

All of Bridwell Library’s publications, including past issues of the Bridwell Quill and Bridwell Quarterly can be found here:

Bridwell Quill – Spring 2019

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Library – February 2019

Bridwell Library announces an exhibition of some of the earliest and most important publications printed in Greek, which runs through May 20, 2019. The selection offers a glimpse into the richness and significance of materials accessible for study and appreciation at Bridwell Library Special Collections. For more information, visit our website.

From the January 2019 Issue of Perspective Online

Bridwell Quill – January 2019

Read the monthly update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Winter 2018

The second issue of The Bridwell Quarterly explores hidden aspects of the library’s collections, plus some remarkable encounters with people who have visited the library in recent months.

Click to read the Winter 2018 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

From the December 2018 Issue of Perspective Online

Bridwell Quill – December 2018

Read the monthly update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.


From the November 2018 Issue of Perspective Online

Introducing Bridwell Quarterly, a new seasonal publication from Bridwell Library.

“In these pages and those of future publications, we hope to speak as a fellowship of colleagues, who support our patrons, neighbors, and friends. We welcome you all to Bridwell Library and hope that you will enjoy reading about the many events, projects, and activities that are happening in our community.” – Anthony Elia, Bridwell Library Director 

Click to read the Fall 2018 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

Bridwell Quill – November 2018

Read the monthly update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.


From the October 2018 Issue of Perspective Online

Perkins Names Anthony Elia New Director of Bridwell Library

Anthony Elia has been named J.S. Bridwell Foundation Endowed Librarian and Director of Bridwell Library at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, effective June 1. He succeeds retiring Director Roberta Schaafsma, who served in that role since April 2007. Read the full release here.

Bridwell Quill – October 2018

Read the monthly update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

December 2021 News Perspective Online Top Story

Letter from the Dean: “For such a time as this”

When Mordecai encouraged his daughter, Esther, as she faced a critical and frightening situation, he wondered if God had brought her to that unique moment “for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14)

The phrase is widely quoted. The time in question was troubled, but God had already provided the means to meet the day’s challenge.

I feel strongly that Perkins is similarly called “for such a time as this.” Our institution is a vital means by which God is meeting deep needs today. It goes without saying that we live in a highly polarized society. Regrettably, this is increasingly also the case in theological education. A great many schools have a uniform party line. You know the day you matriculate what you are expected to think the day you graduate. That has never been true at Perkins.

This legacy is precious, and at no time more so than the present. For one thing, it is simply right. No single group or faction is perfectly righteous and therefore has the authority to exclude all others. No one can say truthfully that they have nothing to learn from all with whom they might legitimately disagree. More than that, it is sub-Christian. Jesus continually scandalized religious leaders by his association with those they regarded as outsiders. He explicitly extended the Levitical commandment to love neighbor to include non-Jews—even the despised Samaritans. Loving others is not optional.

It is also the best and most honorable way to educate. In a setting with a diverse faculty and student body, students have the opportunity to get to know a range of people as people, and not simply as stereotypes. They hear from them why they think the way they do, which more accurately informs all and, quite often, creates mutual understanding. It thus equips students to lead congregations in which disagreement of one sort or another is inevitable, and to reach across divides and to see beyond barriers. It also encourages humility, which is one of the most essential Christian virtues.

Let me put it another way. I quoted in my October online Perspective article the famous line from the jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.: “For the simplicity on this side of complexity, I wouldn’t give you a fig. But for the simplicity on the other side of complexity, for that I would give you anything I have.”  The goal of a Perkins education is not to make everything hopelessly complicated. The goal is to walk students through the complexities so that they might come to a much clearer (and, yes, often simpler) understanding of their faith. Such a faith has not dodged the complexities of history, interpretation, science, and other domains of human knowledge. It is for that reason all the stronger.

The favorite comment I’ve heard about Perkins from an alum is this: “Perkins is a place of unlikely friendships.” At no point in my lifetime has the value of unlikely friendships been greater. Perkins is doing something increasingly unusual and countercultural—and therefore all the more important.

Perkins School of Theology has faithfully served the church since its inception. In that sense, it has always been at work at “such a time.” I do believe, however, that at no moment has the mission of Perkins been more vital, more essential, than it is today. That energizes me and, I hope, encourages you.

December 2021 News Perspective Online

Office of Enrollment Management: Why Perkins Now?

By Rev. Margot Perez-Greene, Ph.D.

These current times appear to be opportunities to tell our stories well and to strive to reach deep into the places where our story connects with individuals called to ministry who are worshiping, serving, and searching for schools of theology. Perkins is a place where individuals are provided the freedom to stretch, learn, and grow in the school’s sacred spaces: the classroom, community events, worship, and study groups.

The reason this story is so important now is largely due to unpredictability that we are facing—the aftereffects of the pandemic and uncertainty about the future of the UMC. Prospective students are asking us the tough questions: Will I be accepted at Perkins? Will the Perkins community recognize my religious affiliation and receive my views? Is Perkins still affiliated with the United Methodist Church? Will my conservative or liberal beliefs be welcome at the table? The answer is yes, yes, yes, and yes!

We are a community of faithful believers who are striving to follow and emulate the example of Jesus. We are a community that welcomes faithful believers to the table of religious and cultural difference so that we can learn from each other and go out into the world to make a difference for Christ. We are a community that knows our graduates will encounter difference in their lives and ministries and are doing our best to prepare them for fruitful and compassionate outcomes wherever they may find themselves. And we are learning that our graduates are finding themselves in places where they serve as worship leaders, Christian educators, hospital chaplains, ethical leaders in the community, and lay persons strengthening the leadership teams of the church.

Why Perkins now? Here’s what members of our new fall 2021 incoming class had to say:

“I was told that Perkins was a community that welcomed difference of culture and religious thought and affiliation, and I found that it was so. That really impressed me.”

“At Perkins, they teach you everything and let you make your own decisions.”

“I wanted a school that embraced racial reconciliation, which has become a passion of mine. I am getting a strong immersion into this topic, and for that I am grateful.”

“Perkins did a great job of reaching out to prospective students.”

“The Saving Grace book study Perkins offered (through its Financial Literacy program) was a great way to start my first year at seminary. It helped me be intentional about my spending and renewed in the areas of commitments I had made in tithing and giving.”

“When I asked about the tone of the community, the recruitment staff expressed that all were welcome. It’s really true!”

“My greatest struggle was finances. Perkins was compassionate, willing to educate me and brainstorm together with me where I could find resources.”

“We are taught by a world-class faculty who are teaching introduction classes and all others.”

We are asking that you share these remarks as “talking points” as you speak to prospective students.

A theology school that provides academic rigor and an outstanding faculty is important. Many schools of theology do just that, including Perkins. What we are finding is that prospective students are also looking for a hospitable learning community where their voices can be heard, and differences expressed with freedom, care, and safety. This is the reason for “Why Perkins Now.”

We are asking, now more than ever, for you to share Perkins — who we are, and what our students are saying. Together we are better, and we look to you to send us prospective students who can come and experience first-hand all that Perkins has to offer.

Grace and peace be with you,





December 2021 News Perspective Online

Development Update: Year-End Reflections

The End of a Remarkable Year!

2021 has been remarkable in many ways at SMU.  We rebounded from the COVID-19 shutdown.  Students were glad to be back on campus.  The University announced the public phase of our next capital campaign, SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow.  Already, over the last four “silent years” of the campaign, more than 42% has been raised of the projected $1.5 billion campaign goal.  That includes $20.7 million raised by Perkins, 35% of the total we raised in the previous campaign.

We all know that education is important, but here are some sobering facts about the current realities of higher ed:

  • Average student loan debt has risen dramatically in the last decade as families try to keep up with soaring college costs. The average total student debt continues to teeter around $30,000, according to S. News data.
  • Americans owe more than $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, spread out over 44 million borrowers. That’s about $620 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt!

Most graduates of Perkins, or of any theological seminary, do not enter into lucrative careers.  The type of education that we offer is costly because it is personal, intensive, and comprehensive.  In spite of that, we do not want our graduates to be saddled with overwhelming debt.  That is why we ask friends like you to participate in their education by giving toward scholarships.

December is a good time to make sure you have contributed to the charitable causes which align with your values. To that end, I ask for your help in funding affordable theological education for our students.  Visit to make your contribution today.  While you’re there, why not consider making your gift recurring either monthly, quarterly, or yearly?

Remember, if your donation is sent by mail, it must be postmarked by December 31 in order to count in the 2021 tax year.  If giving online, the gift must be received by that date.

Any gift you make helps to provide leadership for the church and society for years to come as graduates finish their studies and enter into productive service.  Thank you for your part in their education.

At the end of this year of great change, let me remind you of some opportunities.

A couple of key provisions of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act were extended into 2021 (and, in one case, increased). Here’s what the stimulus package means for you.

Tax Incentives When You Give to Charity:

  1. The cap on deductions for cash contributions:
    Contributions to public charities are generally limited to a percentage of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI). The CARES Act lifted the cap on annual contributions for those who itemize, increasing it from 60% to 100% of AGI for 2020 and 2021. Any excess contributions available can be carried over to the next five years. (For corporations, the law raised the annual limit from 10% to 25% of taxable income.)  The requirements for deductibility up to 100% of one’s AGI is that the donations must be made in cash (not stock or appreciated securities) and given to a public charity (which would exclude a donor advised fund or most private foundations, but of course includes Perkins/SMU.)
  2. The universal charitable deduction for cash gifts:
    The universal charitable deduction was not only extended in 2021 but given a well-deserved upgrade. The new deduction is $300 for single filers and $600 for married couples filing jointly. This is available to taxpayers who take the standard deduction. This tax incentive is available for cash gifts to qualified charities (but not to supporting organizations or donor advised funds). public charity (which would exclude a donor advised fund or most private foundations, but of course includes Perkins/SMU.)


  • IRA roll-over is a wonderful way to fulfill your giving plans and not diminish your operational cash. Remember that you do not get a tax receipt for these gifts, but in turn, you do not have to declare that amount as income.
  • Appreciated Securities. The fantastic market run-up makes 2021 a perfect year to consider utilizing 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 value 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.  For help from SMU, contact

If you are interested in making a gift online, you can go to and follow the instructions.  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

Thank you for your continued support of Perkins School of Theology.  Feel free to email me with any giving questions at

John A. Martin
Director of Development

December 2021 News Perspective Online

Advent Worship Service

Members of the Perkins School of Theology community will gather for Advent Worship on Thursday, December 2 at 6 p.m. in Perkins Chapel on the campus of SMU.

Titled “Corde Natus Ex Parentis: An Advent Evensong,” the annual service will take place in person.

“This year’s service will offer an opportunity for participants to reflect on the Advent season amid the ongoing pandemic, and will therefore be of a somewhat somber nature,” said Marcell Silva Steuernagel, Assistant Professor of Church Music and Director of the Master of Sacred Music Program at SMU.  “The theme of last year’s service was “waiting,” as we waited for the pandemic to be over. In 2021, we’re still waiting, although admittedly more hopeful as we approach the end of the year.”

The title is a nod to the hymn “Of the Parent’s Heart Begotten,” (The New Century Hymnal #118), written by 4th century composer Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413). (Some may recognize the hymn by its other title: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.”)  The service will feature two original compositions and a few congregational pieces, as well as organ music.

The Advent worship service has traditionally featured alumnae/i of the Master of Sacred Music (MSM) program; in 2019, several alumnae/i who led music programs in Dallas area churches brought their choirs to participate.

“We didn’t want to do that this year, given the ongoing COVID situation, so instead we have a few alumnae/i and current MSM students serving as part of a small ensemble that will perform and lead the service,” said Silva Steuernagel.

Silva Steuernagel added that the word “liturgy” means “work of the people;” thus the importance of ensuring the worship service is authentic and connected to what’s happening in real life at the moment. Trying to force the annual worship service “back to normal” too soon, he said, would only serve to mask the anxiety and trauma that people continue to experience.

The Advent service was instituted in 1959 by Professors Grady Hardin and Lloyd Pfautsch and is closely tied to the development of Perkins’ Master of Sacred Music Program.  A forerunner to this tradition was established in 1948 when Perkins Prof. Fred Gealy led the Seminary Singers, a non-auditioned ensemble of theology and sacred music students, and the Perkins community in a program of Christmas music during the last chapel service of the fall semester.

Worshippers should allow ample time for parking in the Meadows Museum Parking Garage located across the street from Perkins Chapel.

Attendees at the worship service must follow the university-wide COVID-19 protocols in place at SMU. Currently, that means that masks are strongly recommended. Seating will be arranged to help maintain social distancing. (Attendees should check this page closer to the date for changes or updates to COVID protocol.)

“We encourage worshippers to sing along, but from behind their masks,” Silva Steuernagel said.

Likewise, the overall tone of the service will reflect the caution with which most people are still approaching their Christmas plans.

“While we’re creating a service that is hospitable to the in-person format, we’re not yet back to singing together for 90 minutes as we did in the past,” Silva Steuernagel said. “But we can, and must, continue to nurture hope through the Advent Season.”


December 2021 News Perspective Online

Curriculum Review

Taking a Close Look at the Furniture: The Future of Theological Education and Its Curriculum

by Rebekah Miles, Chair of the Perkins’ Curricular Review Committee

Dan Aleshire, retired director of the Association of Theological Schools, often draws on the image of furniture to describe current transformations in theological education.

“In a time when so much has changed and continues to change… what should be the future of theological education? Some people want to get rid of all the furniture and start over, while others want to refinish a few pieces but otherwise keep everything just as it is. There is another option.  [M]aybe the task this time requires most is to go to the attic and retrieve some things that were put in storage because they were too valuable to give away. Their usefulness had not ceased, though their use had, for a time.”

At Perkins we are taking a close look at the furniture and its arrangement as it relates to the curriculum, and we would like to invite you to join us in this task.  Many of you will be receiving a survey about our curricular review that we hope you will return. We need your feedback.

More than 50 years ago, in the fall of 1970, Perkins kicked off a new curriculum. Following a zany, uncharacteristic period in the 1960s when students were allowed to design their own courses of study, Perkins initiated a curriculum that will be familiar to many of our M.Div. graduates from the last 50 years.  Students were required to take two course sequences in Old Testament, New Testament, Church History, and Systematic Theology, along with courses in Moral Theology and the practice of ministry, including preaching and worship. Also required of all M.Div. students was a massive credo, written in the final semester of systematic theology. Since that time, Perkins has seen four major reviews of the curriculum, led by Joe Allen (1981-82), Charles Wood (1989-90), Jouette Bassler (1997-98), and Evelyn Parker (2006-07). While each of them made small changes, as did the Committee on Academic Programs, the curriculum today is very close to the one put in place in 1970. The furniture has been rearranged with a few chairs reupholstered and a few new lamps added perhaps, but the basic pieces are not too different from what they were when the curriculum was new.

Aleshire sometimes offers a dynamic twist on the image of furniture rearranging, likening his career to that of a boat captain who awaits strong winds and high waves. “I feel I’ve spent the last 10 years unbolting all of the furniture on the ship, and we haven’t hit the waters that will shift the furniture all around, but we will… Then we’ll have to see what the furniture looks like on the other side.”

In this metaphor the furniture shifts with unavoidable external pressure – such as the wind and waves in the case of the sea captain or changes in church and world in the case of the theological school. Certainly the church and world are strikingly different from what they were in 1970 when this new curriculum was put in place. The United Methodist Church had just formed and members were optimistic about their future. Nixon was early in his presidency, the Democrats still dominated Texas politics, and leaders in Washington regularly worked across party lines. The first hand-held calculator had recently been invented and marketed by Texas Instruments and the prototypes for personal computers were in the works, as was the data networking system which would ultimately become the internet.  In Texas the population was less than half of what it is now and the Dallas populations about a third, with much less ethnic diversity. Perkins faculty and student body in 1970 were also much less diverse than they are today. We live now in a much different world and church, and both continue to change rapidly and unpredictably.

In this new context, what do we need from theological education for the formation of Christian leaders?  Do we need a few tweaks in the arrangement, a retrieval of the well-worn, or a whole new set of furniture? How do we best take the gifts of our tradition and make them useful and holy for our time? We want to hear from you – email me at


December 2021 News Perspective Online

Perkins to Offer Course on the Work of William J. “Billy” Abraham

Perkins School of Theology will offer a new course, Contemporary Issues in the Philosophy of Religion: The Work of William J. Abraham (TC 8308) during the Spring 2022 semester.  The course will be open to Perkins students as well as to anyone with an interest in Abraham’s life and writings.

Instructors will survey the work of Abraham, a Perkins faculty member emeritus who died suddenly October 7, 2021. Abraham joined the faculty in 1985, and was the Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies from 1995 until his retirement in May 2021.  Abraham was a prolific author, a sought-after lecturer and an evangelist who helped plant churches in different parts of the world.

Bruce D. Marshall

“He is one of the most important Christian thinkers of his generation,” said Bruce D. Marshall, Lehman Professor of Christian Doctrine at Perkins. “Not only was he a very productive scholar but also a very creative one who had a tremendous impact among theologians and beyond the academy.”

Marshall will co-teach the course with Rebekah Miles, Susanna Wesley Centennial Professor of Practical Theology and Ethics, and Dallas Gingles, Site Director of Perkins’ Houston-Galveston Extension Program.

Rebekah Miles

The class will meet on Mondays 1 p.m. to 3:50 p.m., January 24 through May 2, with the first hour taught via lecture in the Great Hall of Prothro Hall. A seminar will follow in Prothro 209.  Recorded lectures will also be available for viewing afterward. The course will also be available via livestream. Course leaders also hope to incorporate guest lectures from Abraham’s former students via recorded videos or Zoom. For non-students, Perkins will offer the option of auditing the course at a reduced fee.

Dallas Gingles

The class will study several of Abraham’s works, including: Divine Agency and Divine Action (Oxford University Press), the third volume of which is Abraham’s Systematic Theology; Canon and Criterion in Christian Theology: From the Fathers to Feminism (Oxford University Press); and Among the Ashes: On Death, Grief, and Hope (Eerdmans), a reflection on the nature of death and Christian faith, written after the death of Abraham’s son Timothy. The instructors also plan to cover at least one of Abraham’s books on Methodism/Wesley studies in the course.

“His writing covers an extraordinary range,” said Marshall. “He wrote for theologians, engaging theological questions at the highest intellectual level, but he also wrote works for lay Christians and even nonbelievers. Many of his books published 30-40 years ago are still in print.”

The fee to audit the course and attend the lectures is $310. Space permitting, anyone auditing the course may also choose to attend the seminar portion of the class, at a fee of $930. Persons interested in auditing the should contact Joe Monroy, Registrar and Director of Academic Services, at or call 214-768-2152.

“This is an opportunity for people outside of Perkins to encounter his work and to understand the impact he made on the church, the academy, and the world,” said Marshall. “Everyone is welcome.”

December 2021 News Perspective Online

Fall Convocation

The presenters and attendees came from a variety of faith backgrounds, cultural traditions and geographic locations. Some attended in person, others joined virtually. But all turned their attention to a fundamental form of human connection: telling stories.

With the theme, “Speak Up! Stories for a New Day,” the 2021 Perkins Fall Convocation brought together theology professors, authors, activists, performers, pastors and laypeople for two days of programming at Highland Park United Methodist Church.

Keynote speakers included Amy-Jill Levine, who is Rabbi Stanley M. Kessler Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Hartford Seminary and University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies Emerita as well as Mary Jane Werthan Professor of Jewish Studies Emerita at Vanderbilt University; Lillian Daniel, pastor and author of When Spiritual But Not Religiousis Not Enough; and Patrick B. Reyes, Chicano educator, administrator and institutional strategist.

The program opened with worship, with Alyce McKenzie, LeVan Professor of Preaching and Worship, offering a sermon, “The Oncoming Story,” centered on Luke 21:25-38. The passage urges the faithful to be alert for a dramatic oncoming event: the Son of Man coming in a cloudwith power and great glory.

“So how do you prepare for oncoming negative events?” she asked. “Have you ever perused the laminated map on the interior door of your hotel room that tells you [what to do] in case of fire? Have you ever actually removed a safety card from the seat pocket in front of you? Why bother to prepare for things that probably aren’t going to happen?

“But there is a dramatic oncoming event that is going to happen to everyone on the face on the earth… the coming of the Son of Man.”

As attendees embarked on a two-day program focused on storytelling, McKenzie urged: “Find and name your story of where and when the oncoming story of God’s victory over evil and despair and injustice is breaking into your story. Then gather your story up in your arms. Hold it to your heart. Lift your head and stand up. For your redemption is drawing near.”

The worship continued with brief testimonies by Perkins student Benjamin Chimwenga Simba, who shared his story of a dream that led to his call to accept Jesus and become a minister, and recent Perkins graduate Rosedanny Ortiz, who shared her story of prayers answered in her struggles with infertility.

Amy-Jill Levine

In the opening plenary, “Learning to Ask the Right Questions: Stories by and about Jesus,” Amy-Jill Levine offered a look at the parables of Jesus.

I can’t come up with better stories than the ones Jesus told,” she said. “I’m Jewish.  I don’t worship Jesus. My heart is filled with my own Judaism. But my gosh, Jesus is smart. These stories work on me.”

She urged attendees to approach the parables as stories, not as moral lessons or allegories where the landowner or authority figure in the parable always represents God.

“Instead of beginning with, ‘What does this text mean?’ begin with ‘What does this text mean to me?’” she said. “What does this text do? Approach it like a painting or music. How does it make me feel? Does it make me feel consoled? Indicted? Challenged?’”

Levine cited the saying that ‘Religion is designed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.’

“Parables do the afflicting,” she said. “Parables tell you stuff you know but don’t want to acknowledge.”

Lillian Daniel

Lillian Daniel opened the Tuesday morning lineup with another plenary, “Spirituality without Stereotypes, Religion without Raging, Stories that Bridge the Divide.”

Daniel noted that typical portrayals of Christians in the media don’t represent most Christians in mainstream congregations.  She thinks that, in part, that’s because most aren’t comfortable talking about their faith.

“In mainstream Christianity, we have a ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy when it comes to our faith,” she said. “Mainstream evangelism in the last 50 years has basically operated under the idea that, if we don’t say anything about Jesus, if we get together and act nice, if we don’t tell anyone what to believe, we will seem humble, and they will come.”

In particular, she added, mainstream Christians are ill-equipped to talk to the growing number of people who describe themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious.’ One strategy to better connect, Daniel said, is telling stories.

“Stories are a way to evangelize without making truth statements about doctrine,” she said.

Sharing personal stories can be risky, however, especially for pastors. In considering whether and how to share a personal story in a sermon, Daniel advised preachers to ask two questions: Is the story about God and in service to the Gospel? Is the story fully cooked and crafted?

“Good storytelling requires practice to hone it and shape it,” she said. “Don’t confuse spontaneity with vulnerability. Tell a real story, and don’t leave God out of it.”

Patrick Reyes

In the third plenary, “Closing the Story Gap,” Patrick Reyes invoked a common storytelling framework, the “Hero’s Journey” made famous by Joseph Campbell: the call to adventure; mentors and new skills encountered along the journey; conflict; and at the peak, the achievement of a goal. That’s followed by a return home to share the wisdom acquired, and eventually the end of the hero’s story.

“I think this whole thing is bogus,” said Patrick Reyes, in the third keynote of the Convocation. “For so many people in my community, there’s a purpose gap. What if you never receive that call to adventure? What if no one says you’re special? What if you’re constantly told you’re not good enough?”

He contrasted the Hero’s Journey with the reality that many people of color and children born in poverty will face: no call to adventure, no opportunities or mentors, periods of hopelessness, and ultimately a return to the status quo.

“One in seven children are born in poverty in the U.S.,” he said. “The Hero’s Journey doesn’t reflect real life. The communities I work with are just surviving.”

He proposed a different way to approach story, centered on “purposes, people, places and practices.”

Instead of the individualistic path envisioned in the Hero’s Journey, Reyes invited attendees to consider a communal process of “seeing how our stories fit together.”

“Our lives are non-linear,” he said. “They are in conversation with other people. We can co-construct a story together.”

Other Sessions

Rounding out the two-day program were performances by Bandan Koro, an African dance ensemble; closing worship led by Dallas Indian United Methodist Church; and a Slam Poetry Open Mic event led by Mike Guinn.  Participants also had an opportunity to test some of the ideas in a practicum session following each plenary.

During a break on Tuesday, participants were invited to connect with other attendees informally to discuss a set of conversation-starting questions popularized by French writer Marcel Proust, such as: “What is your greatest fear? What is your idea of perfect happiness? What is your greatest regret?”

In a panel discussion on Monday night, the three keynote speakers reflected on the power and meaning of story.

“A good story has tension, complexity, and a hanging ending that leaves readers thinking,” said Daniels. “As preachers, we need to resist the urge to end every story with a moral or a lesson.”

She recalled a joke about a child during children’s time in worship. When the pastor asked, “What’s furry and has a long tail and collects nuts?” the child piped up, “I know the answer is Jesus, but it sounds like a squirrel to me!”

A willingness to let stories speak for themselves will allow preachers to connect more powerfully, Levine added.

“I try to break people out of, ‘What does the story mean?’” she said. “A good storyteller will speak to people where they are.”


December 2021 News Perspective Online

Nominations Open Through Dec. 17 for 2022 Woodrow B. Seals Laity Award

Nominations are now open for the 2022 Perkins School of Theology Woodrow B. Seals Laity Award and will be accepted through December 17, 2021. The annual award is presented to a layperson in the United States who exemplifies an exceptional commitment of service to Christ through faith and action in the church, community and world.  For more information on how to make a nomination, read the press release here.

December 2021 News Perspective Online

2022 Perkins School of Youth Ministry

Registration is now open for the 2022 Perkins School of Youth Ministry (PSYM), a four-day educational gathering for youth ministers taking place January 10-13, 2022. Last year’s event was held virtually, but this year PSYM returns in-person to Highland Park United Methodist Church, near the campus of SMU, in time for its 35th anniversary.

PSYM 2022’s theme is “Finding Forward.”

“We think that moving forward is best done in a learning community,” said Bart Patton, Director of the Office of External Programs at Perkins and the event’s organizer. “We hope the program will spark attendees’ imaginations as they envision the future, together, as a community. We’re always better together.”

Participants may choose from two main tracks: Foundations (for those who are still in their first two years of ministry) or Workshops (for those who’ve completed Foundations). Perkins’ Certification in Practical Ministry in Youth Ministry program will also take place concurrently during the same week.

Patton noted that this year’s schedule is somewhat different. In the past, attendees selected three workshops; this year they will select two, allowing more time for focused, intensive learning.  More time is also allotted for attendees to connect with each other.  The program will offer both practical, specific training as well as more theoretical offerings, such as courses in John Wesley’s views on spiritual formation in youth and on taking creative risks.

Many PSYM participants attend year after year; some have attended annually for almost all of the program’s 35 years. This year, program organizers will award collectible pins to repeat attendees denoting the number of years they’ve attended.

Many favorite instructors also return every year. Terry Parsons, a Dallas psychotherapist and ordained United Methodist minister, has taught a module on mental health at every one of the PSYM gatherings for the past 35 years.   He’ll return in 2022 to lead a workshop entitled “Ministering in the Age of Anxiety.”

After two years that posed many challenges to youth ministers due to COVID-19, Patton hopes that PSYM will help youth ministers look to the future.

“For every struggle we’ve endured over the past two years, we’ve also been offered new opportunities,” Patton said. “This is about finding forward together with honesty, excitement and imagination. And as we always emphasize, PSYM is not merely a conference. We’re a school for youth ministry.”