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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.

February 2019 News Perspective Online

A Message from Dean Hill

I have been contemplating two contradictory aphorisms as we approach this month’s called United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis, a meeting that will deal with the highly contentious issue of human sexuality: “Change is the only constant,” and “Some things never change.”

Perkins has undergone considerable change in recent years, such as the revamping of the Houston-Galveston program and the creation of elective concentrations at other professional schools within SMU. In many essential respects, however, Perkins remains the same. One thing that has not altered is its abiding commitment to serve the Methodist Church, whatever its institutional forms (the UMC, of course, but also CME, AME, AMEZ and others). That mission is central though not exclusive: We are committed to preparing “women and men for faithful leadership in Christian ministry,” irrespective of denominational affiliation. Moreover, that preparation includes not only our degree programs but also the Course of Study School and encompasses the ministry of both clergy and laity.

It is important to remember that change is more or less a constant throughout church history, whether for good or for ill. Most dramatically, one thinks of the great East-West Schism of 1054, when the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches formally broke communion, and of the Protestant Reformation five centuries later. Even in the New Testament period, there is evidence of at least significant tension between different Christian groups, if not open separation, such as actually did occur in the second century.

The history of modern Protestantism in particular, with its less centralized authority, is a case study in diverse opinion. The current situation within the United Methodist Church is, in that respect, nothing new. There have been countless such disputes in the past, and doubtless there will be others in the future. Fortunately, many did not result in open division, but instead led in time to less disruptive but still significant change. In the case of the UMC, two such transformations involved moments of restoration and renewal, first in 1939 (the reunification of Northern and Southern churches) and then in 1968 (the merger of the Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodist Church).

Although the history of disagreement within the church is not particularly encouraging, there is consolation to be found. Across all centuries, the one universal church has endured – and so we believe will continue to endure. Though I am a cradle Methodist, I am grateful that the body of Christ is something so much larger and greater than the UMC. No denomination contains the whole of God’s church.

From its inception, Perkins School of Theology has sought to serve that whole, undivided church, not simply one fraction or faction of it. Our history is one of inclusion: Perkins led the way in 1952 with the admission of five African-American students, resulting in the racial integration of Southern Methodist University two years before the landmark Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka. Students representing dozens of denominations – Wesleyan in heritage and many others besides, including Roman Catholic and Orthodox – have attended SMU’s School of Theology over the past century. Nothing that happens at General Conference will change that. Already, we are a diverse community that welcomes students, staff and faculty from a wide range of traditions and perspectives. We see this as both an abiding strength and a positive goal. This is in concert with the commitments of the larger institution in which we are imbedded, Southern Methodist University, whose nondiscrimination statement reads as follows:

Southern Methodist University (SMU) will not discriminate in any employment practice, education program, education activity or admissions on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, genetic information or veteran status. SMU’s commitment to equal opportunity includes nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

I often tell prospective students that, yes, they will leave Perkins with a deeper and clearer understanding of their own beliefs. That is to be expected. Less obvious but just as important is the need to leave with a deeper, a clearer and a more empathetic understanding of those who hold different beliefs. The church (and the wider world, for that matter) needs leaders able to comprehend other viewpoints and to recognize that they are not the only ones possessing integrity, intelligence and faith. We need leaders who see others first as persons and not as theological or ideological positions, who therefore can transcend boundaries and can find common ground where it exists. That kind of leadership is learned in a place where it is actually practiced, not in an echo chamber where one hears only reinforcing voices, and where outsiders are demonized and dismissed. One of the most remarkable things about Jesus was his continual recognition of outsiders, of “the other” – Samaritans, lepers, centurions, tax collectors, women, the poor – as persons worthy of love, attention and even sacrifice. For his disciples, disagreement can never justify depersonalization.

The simple fact is that none of us is always right about everything, and none of us is always wrong. I have taught with a very wide spectrum of colleagues over three decades, and as far apart as we might have been on some vital issues, there wasn’t one of them from whom I didn’t learn something important. So I challenge incoming students to see what each individual at Perkins has to teach them. (Seeing where they disagree is invariably the easy part.) All of us are more limited in our understanding than we can possibly grasp, and all of us need others to help us to comprehend what we otherwise could not know. A little intellectual humility goes a long way.

But the value of a learning community like Perkins is not simply pragmatic. After all, Jesus did not command us merely to tolerate one another. The standard he set us is to love even those with whom we are most at odds. “’If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them’” (Luke 6:32). We might paraphrase, “If you associate only with those who agree with you, what more are you doing than anyone else?” There are fewer and fewer places where it is possible both to learn from and to influence persons of varied opinion, much less to get to know them as unique individuals and, in Christ, to come to love them. The goal is not to turn out students who all think alike, but to turn out students who think both deeply and broadly and who understand and care for others, however different they might be.

In service to and modeling the example of Jesus himself, this is the kind of community Perkins strives to be. We warmly welcome everyone and, whatever the future form of the United Methodist Church, for which we profoundly care and daily pray, we will continue to do so. That, too, remains a constant.

Grace and peace,
Craig C. Hill

February 2019 News Perspective Online

Office of Enrollment: Recruitment Schedule

The new year is off to a productive start for the Office of Enrollment Management. Staff members have already traveled to half a dozen campuses and events in January, with many more visits planned for February and the remainder of the semester.

Members of the Perkins community are invited to follow the schedule of upcoming visits and to alert the staff of potential connections.

“If we’re visiting a place where you know someone we should talk to – a faculty member, a personal connection, a student with an interest in Perkins – please let us know, and we’ll be sure to follow up,” said Margot Perez-Greene, Associate Dean for Enrollment Management.

Do you know a prospective student who is considering graduate theological education? Refer someone here or alert them to on-site information events through Inside Perkins.

Here is the Office of Enrollment Management’s recruitment travel schedule for January and February:

January 2-5
National Festival of Young Preachers
Caleb Palmer

January 13-15
UMC Lead Conference (New Orleans, La.)
John Lowery

January 16
Louisiana State University Wesley Foundation (Baton Rouge, La.)
John Lowery

January 17
Lakeview Summer Camp
John Lowery and Caleb Palmer

January 24
Texas College (Tyler, Texas)
John Lowery

January 24-26
Calvin College Worship Symposium
Caleb Palmer

January 29-30
Southwestern University (Winfield, Kan.)
John Lowery

January 31-February 5
Belmont University Wesley Foundation,
Vanderbilt University
and Nashville area tour
Caleb Palmer

February 5
Prairie View A&M (61st Annual Ministers Conference)
John Lowery

February 6
Texas Southern University
Texas Wesleyan Foundation
Stephen Bagby

February 14 (tentative)
Midwestern State University
Caleb Palmer

February 15-17
Mississippi Statewide Wesley Foundation (Morton, Miss.)
John Lowery

February 18-21
Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
Caleb Palmer

February 21-23
Texas State University Wesley Foundation Mission Dinner
and area tour (University of Texas – San Antonio, LaFe Intervarsity, Texas Lutheran University)
Caleb Palmer

February 22-24
All-Campus Wesley Retreat (Van, Texas)
Central Texas Conference
John Lowery and Stephen Bagby

February 2019 News Perspective Online

Office of Development: Perkins Facilities and Capital Projects

Noise fills the air around Perkins! Usually we desire peaceful, quiet surroundings so that reading, conversation and contemplation can take place. But sometimes noise is good, when it means that our facilities are becoming even more useful, accessible and productive. That is what is happening right now.

Bridwell Library. Thanks to a substantial gift from the J.S. Bridwell Foundation of Wichita Falls, Texas, a long-planned renovation is taking place. Interior work has begun, and soon exterior construction will commence to create an accessible front entrance allowing people with mobility issues access to the building from the Quad (south) side. In addition, a new elevator is being installed at the front of the building for easy access to all areas of the library by everyone.

You will see a number of other changes. The circulation desk will be moved toward the front door so that patrons can receive help finding their way around the library. New lighting, signage and other accessibility features including restroom updates will be installed. Doctoral carrels will be relocated and storage enhanced.

Perkins Chapel. A steam leak last spring caused damage in Perkins Chapel. Unfortunately, the damage included the organ. Fortunately, some of the damage will be covered by insurance. Dean Craig Hill and the SMU administration have decided not only to fix the damage, but also make upgrades in the Chapel infrastructure. Last fall, the Chapel closed while the painting was repaired. In the fall of 2019, floors will be refinished, pews renewed and a new sound system installed. In a final phase, time yet to be determined, video capabilities will be installed along with HVAC improvements. A wonderful $931,000 gift allowed us to start the project, which will total approximately $3 million, including the organ.

New Parking Center. All who traverse the SMU campus know that parking is at a premium. A new parking facility is being constructed on the west side of Perkins behind Prothro, Selecman and Kirby halls. The facility will be jointly used by SMU and Highland Park United Methodist Church, as is the case with a number of parking facilities on campus. Although the construction makes getting around on campus temporarily less convenient, a finished, ultramodern parking facility will make life easier for decades to come.

We can all be thankful to be a part of the SMU community, which continues to thrive. I am thankful for supporters, past and present, who have and are giving resources so that our facilities are second to none.

With a thankful heart,

John Martin
Director of Development
Perkins School of Theology

February 2019 News Perspective Online

Baptist House of Studies

As a United Methodist affiliated institution committed to ecumenism, Perkins has always attracted a diverse body of students. Now there’s a place at Perkins for Baptist students to call home while connecting with the broader Baptist world.

Initiated in 2018, the Baptist House of Studies is building a community for Baptist students to learn about their tradition and a network of resources to support them in their path toward ordination or other professional positions in Baptist churches.

“The Baptist House’s offerings will be multipronged, but the first aim is to signal to the world that Perkins is interested in welcoming Baptist students who want a seminary education,” said Jaime Clark-Soles, director of the Baptist House and professor of New Testament at Perkins.

Clark-Soles, an ordained American Baptist minister, was invited by Perkins Dean Craig Hill in July to launch the Baptist House of Studies, with help from fellow faculty member Isabel Docampo and George Mason, senior pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas. Organizers are planning a February 25 kickoff gathering at Mason’s home, with Dallas-area Baptist leaders as well as leaders from other congregational traditions

“Many of us outside the Baptist tradition don’t realize what a wide range of denominations and churches exists under the Baptist umbrella,” said Perkins Dean Craig Hill. “There are many Baptist students who will fit quite comfortably at Perkins, who want the education we offer, and who will bring important insights and perspectives to our community. We are eager to serve and to learn from them.”

Ecumenical education

Organizers say that having a Baptist House on campus will give all Perkins students an opportunity to benefit from the distinctive emphases of the Baptist tradition, including freedom of religion, freedom of individual believers to interpret the Bible, “soul freedom” (engaging God according to one’s conscience without coercion by human authorities) and church freedom (i.e., the autonomy of local congregations).

“Baptists will learn greatly from their United Methodist sisters and brothers, understanding their perspectives and reflecting on the differences and similarities, and vice versa,” said Mason, who is a longtime leader in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. “In an increasingly pluralist world, they will need to find common cause with Christians wearing other uniforms rather than huddling up only with their own team.”

Plans are underway for Mason to teach a course in Baptist history and polity in the 2020-21 school year and to establish connections with a variety of Baptist churches, denominations, agencies and institutions.

“We’re building relationships with churches that will partner with us to set up internships and other opportunities for Baptist students,” said Docampo, director of The Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity and Religions at Perkins.

Given that Baptist congregations are autonomous, Baptist pastors aren’t appointed by a connectional system. That means they must seek employment individually and, for Baptist pastors, handle some additional responsibilities. By connecting Baptist students to Baptist conferences, retreats and educational opportunities, the Baptist House will assist these students in networking, preparing for and fulfilling their call.

The Baptist House of Studies will also provide spiritual formation, mentoring and preparation for ordination for students as well as special programming open to all Perkins students, SMU, the Metroplex community and beyond.

“We’ve always had a few Baptist students at Perkins,” said Docampo, who is an American Baptist. “Part of this is about being intentional about creating a community and opportunities for them.”

While welcoming all Baptist students, the program will also help fill a niche by serving students affiliated with moderate to progressive Baptist traditions, such as the Alliance of Baptists, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Baptist Peace Fellowship and American Baptist Churches USA. While there are Baptist-affiliated theology schools in the North Texas area – such as Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth – most are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Docampo thinks the niche offers many possibilities for broadening Perkins’ reach.

“As a Latina feminist who is also very progressive, I’m excited about the prospect of creating a community that will nurture people in the Latinx community,” Docampo said.

British concept

The “house of studies” concept originated in British universities; in the U.S., several seminaries have a Baptist House of Studies, including Emory, Duke, Vanderbilt and Brite Divinity. The Baptist House of Studies doesn’t occupy a physical space – although that’s a possibility down the road. Instead, it is creating a network for fellowship, support and resources for Baptist students. And given the large number of Baptists in Texas, Clark-Soles said, the field is ripe for harvest.

“This will assist in the recruitment of Baptist students to Perkins by assuring them that they can get what they need to serve well as Baptist ministers,” she said. “At the same time, they’ll benefit from the vast resources of Perkins and SMU, in the setting of a large metropolitan area with many arts and cultural offerings.”

Mason adds that the presence of the Baptist House of Studies at Perkins will also benefit students from other congregationally autonomous traditions.

“The Baptist House will also offer hospitality for our free church cousins in denominations like the United Church of Christ (UCC), Disciples of Christ, Anabaptist (Mennonite) and nondenominational churches, all of which operate within a basic congregational polity,” said Mason.

While Baptist students at Perkins will be the first priority, leaders also hope the Baptist House will evolve into a connecting point that could bring Baptist leaders, laypeople and the wider community to the SMU campus for special events. Fall 2019 will see Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee, speak on religious freedom at Perkins. The Baptist House of Studies will host the Baptist-affiliated Shurden Lectures at Perkins in the spring of 2020.

Said Clark-Soles: “I see no reason not to dream big and see where it takes us!”

February 2019 News Perspective Online

Global Theological Education Immersion Trips

Deborah Creagh recalled the feeling of “walking where Jesus walked” on stones where his feet might have trod. Zach Hughes will always remember the resiliency and strength of the people he met in El Salvador who are working for justice. Ashley Smith will never forget an unexpected encounter in a museum that confronted her with the reality of life in Palestine.

Creagh, Hughes and Smith are among those in the Perkins community who returned to campus this semester with heartfelt memories and fresh perspectives, following their travels on the 2019 January term Global Theological Education Immersion Trips to El Salvador and Israel/Palestine.

A group of 15 students journeyed to the Middle East for the Israel/Palestine trip, led by faculty members Jaime Clark-Soles (Lead Teacher) and Robert Hunt (“Tour Wrangler”) from January 1-16. Another group of 13 students, led by Hal Recinos, traveled to El Salvador to meet with human rights groups and faith groups, January 6-13.

The trips gave students the chance to meet people and gain a better understanding of conflicts and problems in each region. Many students came home with a renewed determination to serve.

“The trip has really stirred something in me,” said Smith, an M.Div. student who traveled to Israel/Palestine. “The conflict is real, and it’s still happening today. I came home with passion and energy to read and research more, and I hope to get back there.


Participants on the 16-day Israel/Palestine trip visited Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Megiddo, Nablus, Taybeh, Nazareth and Cana, among others, with a side trip to Petra, Jordan. Also on the itinerary were key sites that figure prominently in the life of Jesus, including Manger Square, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Sea of Galilee.

“Experiencing and seeing where things occurred in the Bible in real time made Scripture come alive,” said Deborah Creagh, an M.Div. student who will graduate in May. “It provided the frame for the stories and verses that had only been in my imagination.”

Some participants were surprised by the close proximity of the biblical landmarks.

“Coming from the U.S. – especially Texas – it seems they are all a stone’s throw away from one another,” said Kurt Maerschel, an M.Div. student who will graduate in 2019.

Students say the trip gave them a better understanding of the conflict between Israel and  Palestine – and how it affects ordinary citizens in both communities. For Smith, that moment came at an exhibit in the Walled Off Hotel in the Palestinian territories. While she was viewing the exhibit, a phone began to ring insistently. Finally, she picked up the receiver and heard a voice warning, “You have five minutes to evacuate your home before the missile comes.” Echoing phone alerts from the Israeli army before attacks, the call was designed to give visitors a sense of the peril of life in Palestinian communities. Smith said she stood for several moments, holding the phone, stunned. Seeing her tears of dismay, a Palestinian woman hugged her.

“I think it helps when we take God out of a box that we put God in, and just meet people where they are and for who they are,” Smith said.

“Because of the Global Theological Education Immersion course, I now know people personally on both sides of the conflict,” Creagh said. “My prayers have changed to be for those on both sides of the wall.”

El Salvador

For the past 15 years, human rights groups in El Salvador have received delegations of Perkins students, thanks to connections forged through the work of Hal Recinos, Perkins Professor of Church and Society. This year’s trip took students to San Salvador and other communities around El Salvador.

The group met with Pro-Búsqueda, a San Salvador-based association of Salvadoran families who have suffered from the forced disappearance of their sons and daughters due to the civil war in El Salvador.

Zach Hughes, an M.Div. student on the trip, was heartened by Pro-Búsqueda’s success stories.

“The director told us of an instance where they reconnected a young man, orphaned during the civil war and then adopted by a family in Australia, with his Salvadoran mother,” he said. “She confirmed that his nightmares of war were in fact memories of the day they were separated.”

Group members also met with several Christian Base Communities of El Salvador (Basic Ecclesial Communities of El Salvador), in San Salvador and in the Department of Morazán, to discuss human rights and building a culture of peace. (Departments are municipalities, akin to provinces, in El Salvador.) The group also visited El Mozote, site of a massacre in 1981, in which the Salvadoran Army killed more than 1,200 civilians.

“Students heard firsthand from a village member about the military war crimes that took place and cost the lives of innocent men, women and children,” Recinos said.

The group met with Rev. Medardo Gomez, Lutheran Bishop of El Salvador, human rights activist and four-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and the Tata (Chief) of the Lenca people in the Department of Morazán. While visiting the Lenca people, they participated in a ritual of cleansing with the community, enjoyed a communal meal and heard about the state of indigenous rights, and social, economic, cultural and spiritual development among the Lenca.   Some students played soccer with the village children in a cow patch; some of the female students danced with the village girls.

The group also met with staff and students at one of the Romero Center Schools to discuss the role of education in breaking the spiral of violence, producing a culture of peace and anti-gang prevention. Recinos co-founded the Romero Center, which supports five schools in marginal communities in El Salvador.

Recinos says he hopes the experience gave students perspectives on both politics and faith, and how they relate in facing El Salvador’s challenges.

“By entering into conversation with the people of El Salvador, students get in touch with the push factors responsible for forcing flight from Central America to the United States,” he said. “Moreover, they learn that Jesus, who was born on the road, had nowhere to lay his head and lived each day in the shadow of death, is the one who urges us to serve those who are thirsty, hungry, ill and outcast.”

Summer 2019

Registration is now open for two immersion trips planned for the summer term: the San Diego Borderlands Immersion (May 19-30) with Susanne Johnson, in conjunction with the Center for the Study of Latinx Christianity; and an England/Wesley Immersion led by Ted Campbell (July 10-22).

February 2019 News Perspective Online

Perkins School of Youth Ministry

By the time the Perkins youth ministry conference concluded, Rev. Elizabeth Murray had a newly crafted sermon in hand and a strategy for helping a shy young person at her church feel more connected to the youth group.

“I got much more than just theory,” said Murray, who is Youth Minister at Lexington United Methodist in Lexington, S.C. “I left the conference with a To Do list and some tangible ideas to use right away.”

Perkins School of Youth Ministry Conference. Photo by G. Rogers, SMU Photography.

Murray was one of about 175 youth ministers and workers from 11 states and seven annual conferences who traveled to Dallas for the annual Perkins School of Youth Ministry, held January 7-10 at Highland Park United Methodist Church.

With the theme “Breathe,” the gathering gave youth ministry staffers a place for fellowship as well as practical instruction.

“We have a core group of participants who come year after year,” said Bart Patton, the conference coordinator. “The conference has evolved into a community of learning, where people are excited to not only to grow, but also to be around a group of others who ‘get’ what they do.”

Participants chose from one of three options: Foundations Training covering ministry basics like curriculum, budgeting, organization, programming and safety; four workshops, each focusing on a key area (practice of youth ministry, theology of youth ministry, spiritual leadership in youth ministry and congregational youth ministry); or Youth Ministry Certification courses for those pursuing Certification in Youth Ministry through the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the UMC.

The Foundations course was ideal for Nautica Washington. She was just a week into her job as Communications & Youth Coordinator at Walnut Hill United Methodist Church in Dallas when the conference began.

“I learned behind-the-scenes things such as budgeting, planning mission trips and communicating with the church – other staff members as well as the congregation,” she said. “That’s allowing me to focus on what’s more important, which is helping youth grow in their faith.”

About 95 percent of conference participants come from United Methodist or pan-Methodist churches. Murray, who has attended other youth ministry conferences, appreciated that Wesleyan focus.

“Sometimes I have to kind of pick and choose from what I hear at other conferences, which may be more skewed to megachurches with hundreds of youth and large staffs,” she said. “At the Perkins event, you felt like everyone was on the same page. Everything I gleaned was relevant.”

Patton, who is Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry Education at Perkins, says that, while the Dallas conference is the flagship, the conference program will also be offered in Houston in May and in Eastern Pennsylvania in November to make the curriculum available to more youth ministers. For 2020, conference leaders plan to offer an option for participants to self-submit topics for workshops they’d like to teach themselves.

Perkins School of Youth Ministry Conference. Photo by G. Rogers, SMU Photography.

“We’re listening to the leaders who are emerging from our own community,” he said. “It’s part of our commitment to be a true learning community.”

A key focus of this year’s conference was to encourage youth ministers to have the confidence and skills to involve the entire congregation in youth ministry, rather than viewing youth programs as separate.

“Some of our youth ministers feel alone, isolated and overwhelmed,” he said. “They’re tasked to do a job that was never designed to be done by one person. We’re moving away from models that emphasize entertainment and toward more sustainable models for spiritual formation and discipleship.”

“What I took away most was finding out that most other youth directors go through the same challenges that I do, even the ones who have been doing this for a while,” said Kaitlyn Jackson, Director of Youth Discipleship at St. Barnabas United Methodist in Arlington, Texas.

All of the participants interviewed for this story said they plan to return next year. Following the advice of course leaders, Washington set up a meeting with her church’s pastor immediately upon her return. One of the first items of business in that meeting was asking to make room in the budget for her to return to the conference next year.

“The conference showed me that I don’t have to do youth ministry on my own,” she said. “We’re a community with so many resources, and we can nurture and support one another.”

February 2019 News Perspective Online

The Art of Servant Leadership

A newly installed art display in Prothro Hall offers visitors a chance to contemplate the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, inviting consideration of how the ancient biblical story speaks to the here and now.

The display centers on a painting by Luke Allsbrook, the artist whose modern nativity scene has been on display in Prothro Hall for the past year and a half.  Titled “Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet,” the 2018 oil on canvas painting measures 68 inches by 80 inches and depicts the moving scene described in John 13. The piece is on loan from Allsbrook.

Next to the painting is a montage of photos of students, faculty and other members of the Perkins community involved in service projects in their churches and communities.

“The idea is to show the foot washing along with modern expressions of it, with photos of Perkins people actually engaged in acts of service, reflecting how that model is being lived out contemporaneously,” said Dean Craig Hill.

Hill added that he especially appreciates Allsbrook’s detailed depiction of the facial expressions of the disciples, who were dismayed and confused by Jesus’ actions.

“What readers of the Bible often miss about the story is its inherent scandal,” Hill said. “To wash someone’s feet was a public demonstration and confirmation of your low status, typically performed by the least important person in the household. Luke’s painting captures the disciples’ puzzlement and concern in a way that very few artists have. It is remarkably poignant and thought-provoking.”

February 2019 News Perspective Online

Student Profile: Victoria Sun Esparza

When Victoria Sun Esparza graduates in May, she’ll earn two seemingly disparate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology, and a Master of Arts in Design and Innovation from SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering.

The two fields may seem different, but Sun Esparza already sees how they’ll come together for a career that makes her passionate.

“I’m fascinated by the intersection of design-thinking and solving problems that resist traditional solutions,” she said. Design-thinking, she says, is a methodology that can be applied to any field, to help understand a problem at a deeper level – and she thinks it can help churches and faith-based organizations.

Sun Esparza at White Rock United Methodist Church.

As a sort of laboratory for her dual areas of academic work, Sun Esparza is working as Director of Family Ministries at White Rock United Methodist Church. She is also a part of the team exploring new approaches to church through a second campus called Owenwood Farm and Neighbor Space (formerly known as Owenwood United Methodist Church). White Rock took ownership of Owenwood two years ago after the latter church closed. Instead of selling the 4.5-acre property, the North Texas Annual Conference supported White Rock’s desire to use the church building and land to serve the community. As a result, Owenwood is renting out space to nonprofits and community partners, including an after-school program, an urban farm, a diaper distribution program and other programs for young kids.

“We want to see our neighbors connected to God and to one another,” Sun Esparza said. “But first we need to help meet their basic needs.”

Sun Esparza’s background in design-thinking pushes her to focus on people more than solutions when it comes to solving problems. As a result, she has helped the staff at White Rock and Owenwood engage the community in creative ways to learn how the church might serve them better. Sun Esparza is teaching the staff how to develop deeper relationships with the community in untraditional ways, like doing laundry at local laundromats and hanging out at skate parks, to better understand the community’s normal, everyday lives.

Sun Esparza and her husband, Josh Esparza, campus pastor at Owenwood Farm and Neighbor Space.

One new approach being taken at Owenwood is Dinner Church. Instead of gathering for worship on Sunday mornings, neighbors gather over free meals for fellowship and conversation. Victoria is helping design the experience of Dinner Church along with her husband, Josh Esparza, the campus pastor at Owenwood. Because Owenwood’s neighborhood is a “food desert” – an urban area lacking grocery stores selling healthy food and produce – Dinner Church as well as the urban farm will continue growing to help meet basic needs while creating community.

Sun Esparza is also working with groups across the country as a design consultant, including the North Texas Annual Conference, to help bring design-thinking to churches as they search for fresh ideas for ministry.

“It’s helping churches to think more innovatively,” she said. “It’s taking a problem, thinking more deeply about it, going out to the community and starting to test and prototype new ideas.”

Candidly, Sun Esparza shared that she has at times vacillated between two choices – a career in design versus working in a church setting. Church work and ministry have proved frustrating at times. (Before coming to Perkins, she worked at CitySquare, an urban mission and community development program in Dallas.) But having one foot in each of those two different worlds, she believes, helps her think more creatively.

“Institutions exist to survive,” she said, “but innovation happens on the edge.”

As another example of her innovative thinking, Victoria practices an unusual form of spiritual formation: composting.

“I’m a big believer that it’s a really important spiritual practice for me,” she said. “It’s taking the waste and trash in my life and intentionally caring for it, so that it breaks down and turns into a place for new life to grow.”

Victoria is attending Perkins along with her husband, Josh – but that wasn’t exactly by design. The couple met when they were teens, while attending a Southern Baptist church; now they’re both United Methodists.

“We were both really looking for an education that would give us some space to learn together, to give us new language to think about God and the world and the role for the church, and to grow in that together,” she said. “As it happens, it made more financial sense for us to attend together rather than one at a time. It feels accidental, but I think this is what we are both supposed to be doing.”

February 2019 News Perspective Online

Faculty Profile: Harold J. Recinos

Given all that he has accomplished, you might assume that Harold J. “Hal” Recinos came from a privileged background. He is a professor, a poet, an ordained United Methodist minister, an author, a long-distance runner, a champion martial artist, an activist and a humanitarian. But most of all, he is a man with a heart for the poor – because he was once homeless himself.

Recinos at a worship service in El Salvador with the Rev. Medardo Gomez, bishop of the Lutheran Church of El Salvador.

The child of destitute immigrant parents, Recinos spent four years on the streets of New York in his early teens, shooting dope and scrounging food from dumpsters. What eventually saved him was education and faith.

“The two most secure places for me were school and church,” he said. “I loved them both. Even while I was on the streets, I spent time in the library. It was warm and I could read.” Books taught him that life could get better.

At age 16, a Presbyterian minister took Recinos into his family’s home in the New York area, helping him overcome his addiction and encouraging him in his education. Eventually, Recinos went on to earn graduate degrees in theology as well as a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from American University.

While interning at a church working with the homeless in New York, Recinos discovered the Nuyorican Poets Café, a center for poetry, music, hip hop, video, visual arts, comedy and theatre on New York’s Lower East Side. (Nuyorican is a portmanteau of “New York” and “Puerto Rican.”) There, he met the late poet Miguel Piñero, who encouraged him to share some of his earliest poetry.

“I think of poetry as my way of doing graffiti on public culture and representing the edges of society – giving voice to the barrios, the communities rendered voiceless and invisible by the more established sectors,” he said.

This spring, he’ll publish his 14th book, and eighth volume of poetry, Stony the Road. It’s a collection of poetry focusing on themes such as racism, police brutality, anti-immigrant sentiment and the treatment of unaccompanied youth who cross into the U.S. at the southern border. Recinos’ previous books have been well-received; as reviewer Frederick Luis Aldama wrote, “With surgical precision, Recinos singles out just the right word and image that drop us deep into the pains, sorrows and joys of what it means to be Latinx in the United States today.” (See an example of his poetry in the sidebar.)

Recinos keeps his academic work grounded in the world through his work in Dallas-area urban communities and in El Salvador. He recently returned from an immersion trip in El Salvador, where he introduced Perkins students to Salvadoran human rights leaders.

Along with his wife, MariaJose Recinos, Recinos founded the Oscar Romero Center for Community Health & Education, a Dallas-based nonprofit with the mission “to positively impact the health, education and well-being of children and their families in the North Texas area, and in El Salvador.”

Doing this work in struggling and marginalized communities, Recinos said, “reminds me of the importance of living life by staying close to crucified people. Their lives matter to God, and they need to matter to the church.”

Book on the nightstand

The Letters That Never Came, by Mauricio Rosencof, an autobiographical novel, based on the life of Rosencof, a Uruguayan playwright, poet and journalist who was imprisoned and tortured by the government for 12 years.

Fantasy dinner party

“I’d invite Gabriel García Márquez, the Colombian novelist; Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Peruvian theologian and Dominican priest regarded as one of the founders of liberation theology; Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet; and Miguel Piñero, the Nuyorican poet. I would ask the question that Gutierrez poses to us: ‘So you say you love the poor. What are their names?’ I’d serve pupusas – it’s a Salvadoran staple, a thick corn tortilla stuffed with a savory filling like beans.”


Wife MariaJose, a therapist and SMU graduate; three grown children: Jesse, a computer analyst, Claire, a nursing student, and Samuel, a recent graduate of Emory School of Medicine in orthopedic residency; two children at home, Elijah Joshua, a sophomore at SMU, and Hannah Sophia, a fifth grader; and a dog named Zeb.


Recinos with his coach at an International Kung Fu Championship, where he picked up 15 medals (14 Gold, 1 Silver.)

Recinos is a three-time international tournament Grand Champion martial artist (2012, 2013, 2015). He teaches at the Hebei Chinese Martial Arts Institute for his coach, and the institute’s founder, Master Wuzhong Jia, and has won numerous medals at international competitions for Kung Fu and Chinese Martial Arts. Said Recinos: “I like the discipline of martial arts. It’s a way of learning how to discipline your own soul.”




Question he’d ask at the Pearly Gates

“We lost my brother, Rudy, to drug addiction on Easter Sunday in 1985. I had struggled with him, to get him off drugs and into a drug detox program, but he went back. So my first question will be, ‘Is Rudy here?’”

Personal spiritual practice

A lifelong distance runner, Recinos runs 8-10 miles every morning. “No matter where I go, my running shoes are with me,” he said.

Cooking specialty?

“None. I’m a terrible cook. It’s really problematic for my kids when Maria is traveling. The kids forbid me to cook.”


River Calling ©

Click to read “River Calling ©”, a poem by Hal Recinos from his forthcoming ninth collection of poetry, Cornered by Darkness; expected publication in late 2020.