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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.

News November 2020 Top Story

A Message from the Dean: Meditation on “The Life Everlasting”

“And they lived happily ever after.” That is the fairytale ending we read to our children before switching off the light at bedtime. We reassure them that dragons and witches and bullies do not finally triumph, that virtue is rewarded and that love endures. We reinforce their belief in a moral universe in which happiness is the offspring of goodness and not its chance acquaintance or certain competitor.

But life soon confronts our children with other narratives, stories in which every wrong is not righted nor every injustice overturned. They discover danger, witness prejudice, and experience failure. They learn that things do not always work out as they hope and that they cannot always get what they want. Eventually, they encounter death and with it loss that is not reversed by a wizard’s spell or a heroine’s kiss.

Life thus schools us in doubt. We cannot believe everything we hear. It is right to doubt that we can “lose twenty pounds while eating whatever we want,” or “look ten years younger overnight,” or “get rich working only a day a week from home.” It is right for us to question such extravagant claims, lest we be swindled, lest we be injured, lest we be disappointed. Prudence demands that we become wary of strangers and suspicious of even our own motives. On one level, this is no more than an awareness of sin, in others and in ourselves. More deeply, it is a recognition of the mystery of evil, whose embassy is to thwart and cheapen and diminish human life.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” For many people today, that advice applies preeminently to religion, whose hopes are dismissed outright as wishful thinking. The real world consists only of what is accessible to scientific verification. Therefore, meaning itself is an illusion. The universe has no creator, no purpose, and, ultimately, no future. According to today’s most popular cosmology, in the end there will be only a burned-out and dissipated universe: not noise and fury, but silence and futility, signifying nothing. In this scenario, there can be no “happily ever after.” According to microbiologist Jacques Monod,

[T]he choice of scientific practice, an unconscious choice in the beginning, has launched the evolution of culture on a one-way path: onto a track which nineteenth-century scientism saw leading infallibly upward to an empyrean noon hour for mankind, whereas what we see opening before us today is an abyss of darkness.2

To me, the wishful-thinking argument is a nonstarter. Retrospectively, I might regard as wishful thinking a material universe whose physical characteristics, such as electromagnetism and gravity, are so finely balanced as to make possible the emergence of life and, even more extraordinary, sentience. Who could have predicted a cosmos whose rock would birth Pythagorus’s theorem, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Chartres’s cathedral, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Nevertheless, such a universe exists. Not every desirable object is an illusion.

Our desire for purpose, order, and meaning is fundamental to our existence. Many of the earliest cultural artifacts are religious in nature, and belief in life after death is nearly universal. This does not prove the validity of religion, but it certainly weighs in its favor. As C. S. Lewis put it, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”3 Or, to use Huston Smith’s analogy, wings do not prove the existence of air, but they surely count as evidence. We know instinctively that we are something more than the sum of our parts and part of something more than ourselves. Consider the final chorus of Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock,

We are stardust, million-year old carbon
We are golden, caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden

On the one hand, we are, quite literally, stardust, assemblies of primordial carbon. On the other hand, we are something more, something “golden.” Yet, we are not now fully ourselves; we are “caught in the devil’s bargain.” To get “back to the garden” is to go to the place of wholeness and innocence for which we long.

Christianity is grounded in the hope that we shall indeed arrive at such a place–not the garden but that for which the garden is the prefiguring image, the Reign of God. The core affirmation of Christian faith is that God–not evil, futility, and death–is the final reality in the cosmos. This belief encompasses not only the hope of eternal life but also the expectation that creation itself will be redeemed (Rom. 8:18-25). Why believe in the happy ending? For the first Christians the answer was obvious: because of Jesus’ resurrection.

Many years ago, my wife, Robin, became increasingly ill over a period of weeks. She was tested for numerous ailments, nearly all of which would have proved fatal. After two months, she could scarcely get out of bed, and I began to take seriously the possibility that she would die. My faith was hard pressed. Did I truly believe with Paul that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us,” that “neither death…nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37-39)? It was not easy.

As I meditated on Scripture, I came to value particularly 1 Corinthians 9:1, in which Paul declares, “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” This is one of only a handful of places where Paul refers back to his experience of seeing the resurrected Jesus. Moreover, Paul’s letters provide the only undisputed primary-source testimony composed by an eyewitness of the resurrection. His writings would be invaluable for this reason if for no other.

In the course of my wife’s illness, I learned to borrow from the faith of Paul and other early Christians who paid with their lives for their unyielding conviction that God in Christ had triumphed over death, in whose victory they believed they would one day share. Fortunately, Robin eventually recovered, but I have never forgotten what it was like to pass so near to death.

Concerning death the Bible is remarkably unsentimental. Paul and other New Testament authors do not tell us that deceased believers will become angels or stars, nor do they say that we shall be melded with some divine force. There is no greeting-card sentiment about God needing more company in heaven. Instead, death is seen as that great enemy which, apart from God’s ultimate and undeserved act of re-creation, would unmake us all. In short, death is real.

According to Paul, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). The hope is for the resurrection of the body, not the immortality of the soul. Eternal life is not a given; it is a gift bestowed only by God. The One who created conscious beings is able to recreate such beings by resurrection. Hence 1 Cor. 15:50: “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” Christians are not required to believe in an immortal soul that exists independent of the body. Instead, Paul writes, “we will be changed” (v. 52), given bodies like that of the resurrected Jesus himself. On this point the New Testament is clear and yet sensibly reserved. Compare 1 John 3:2:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

Most theologians today reject the notion that heavenly existence will be static, represented at its silliest by the sitting-on-clouds-playing-harps stereotype. They see heaven not only as a place of endless praise, joy and fellowship, but also as a realm of ceaseless fascination and development. I am in no position to evaluate these claims, nor, beyond a certain point, do I find such speculations helpful. More concrete and much more useful is Paul’s advice about the present-day implications of our future hope:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:57-58)

The Gospel places demands upon us that conflict at many points with our worldly self interest. To love our enemies is not necessarily going to make us happy. To serve the poor is unlikely to advance us socially or economically. It is no accident that the radical ethic of Jesus is situated within an equally radical proclamation of the coming Reign of God. That is the only context within which it makes sense. To attempt to follow Jesus’ teaching while denying its core affirmation is an exercise in futility. “Eschatological demands require eschatological commitments and eschatological resources.”4

Paul urged the Corinthians to be steadfast and immovable, “always excelling in the work of the Lord.” But being “steadfast and immovable” implies meeting opposition, and “the work of the Lord” is endlessly sacrificial. Is it worth it? Yes, “because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Good deeds may be undone, faithful choices may be frustrated, and loving acts may be rejected; nevertheless, they are not wasted. The Christian philosopher Jerry Walls put it this way:

To recover heaven as a positive moral source is to recover our very humanity….It allows us to hope that the worst things that happen can yet come to a good end rather than to dread the prospect that the best things will come to a bad end. And if it is indeed the Holy Spirit who inspires this hope, it is a hope that will not be disappointed.5

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Is death the end, the final page in the story of our lives? Or can we believe in a happy ending? “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 15:55, 57).

*This is an edited version of a longer sermon that appeared in the book Exploring and Proclaiming the Apostles’ Creed, ed. Roger E. Van Harn (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), pp. 292-97.

2 Cited in Huston Smith, Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), p. 41.

3 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1960), p. 119.

4 Craig C. Hill, In God’s Time: The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), p. 198.

5 Jerry Walls, Heaven: The Logic of Eternal Joy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 200.

News November 2020 Perspective Online

Office of Enrollment Management: November Update

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

Greetings from the staff of the Office of Enrollment Management (OEM)!

First, some good news. Perkins is experiencing the highest enrollment in the last 15 years!

That’s despite the many challenges facing graduate theological education across the nation. All of our colleagues involved in recruitment and admission are feeling the strain, and only a few theological institutions saw an increase of new students this fall. Our enrollment reflects the hard work of the OEM and involvement of the entire Perkins community in our recruiting efforts.

However, it’s time to start thinking about next year. Many of our alumni/ae, students and other members of the Perkins community have asked, “How can I help?”

The answer is, “Send us prospective students!”

Caleb Palmer

As we strategize to recruit students to Perkins for fall 2021 and beyond, we are heeding your request to be involved in recruitment efforts, and we thank you for your desire to invest in the work of inviting those with whom you are connected. We find that you are in contact with individuals who desire to take the deep dive into theological education for personal enhancement; with those who wish to expand their theological reflection and conversation in an ecumenical community; and with those who are called to vocational ministry inside and outside of the church. Now more than ever, the church is seeking leaders who will be ready to lead with calm assurance and confidence through the waves of ever-increasing change. With these factors in mind, for the foreseeable future we have developed virtual events, honed our communications, and deployed new modes of contact to ensure that we are intentionally responsive to those you send our way.

Samantha Stewart

Recent data show that nearly 38% of this fall’s new students were invited to apply to Perkins by Perkins alumni/ae. (In the application process, students are asked the reason they applied to Perkins.) That is a significant number, and we thank you.

On January 29th, OEM is hosting a drawing for 12 fortunate winners! Nine will receive an SMU Perkins t-shirt (gray photo) and three will receive an SMU Perkins polo shirt. (blue photo).

How do you enter? If you know individuals who are considering seminary, rather than referring them to the website or passing along an email, share this form with them: click here.

If your candidate completes the form and lists your name and email as the person who referred them to Perkins, you will be entered into the raffle. It’s that simple!

Prize winners will be announced on January 29, 2021 — so you have plenty of time to share the link and get your name entered. There is no limit to the number of referrals you may provide.

Again, we are grateful for your support and for all the work you do for Perkins, the church, the community, and in your own places of business and families.


The Rev. Dr. Margot Perez-Greene, Associate Dean of Enrollment Management
Caleb Palmer, Ministry Discernment Associate
Samantha Stewart, Ministry Discernment Associate


“Growing up, all the pastors, youth ministers, and church leaders I
knew were graduates of SMU Perkins. I knew the school’s reputation and quality before I even inquired and that made all the difference for me.”
-First Year Perkins Student

News November 2020 Perspective Online

Office of Development: Philanthropy as an Act of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, although I am not sure we should really call it one.  To be sure, it is a time to give thanks for the blessings of the past, but it also is an opportunity to look ahead as we guide ourselves and our loved ones.

I recently came across an article by Betsy Brill, contributed a decade ago to, titled, “Five Ways to Improve your Family’s Philanthropy this Thanksgiving.”  Although the article was intended for families of great wealth, her suggestions struck me as applicable to us all.  Here is a summary of her five points:

  • Establishing family giving rituals is a great way to instill philanthropic values in children. Consider giving a donation together as a family.

The chosen donation should be appropriate to the age of the children.  Supporting your local zoo because your children like elephants is one suggestion.  Giving to a missionary family because that family has a child the age of one of your children would be a helpful reminder of the importance of their mission work.  There are a host of opportunities available.  The point, of course, is to get the whole family involved, and teach the children (while reminding ourselves of) the importance of giving.

  • Share your legacy plans, noting how you want to be remembered in the world.

We are often not vocal to our own family about our legacy and what we want to see happen with our resources after death.  Sharing our current thinking about our legacy will allow the family to understand what is most highly valued and what is desired for your estate.  At first it might seem awkward to talk about the future in this way, but it is important.  It is worth pushing through the discomfort.  This will teach your children that death is inevitable and that preparation must be made for our passing.  None of us knows when we will die.

  • Develop a family mission statement.

This statement can be extremely simple, such as “Helping to alleviate poverty,” or “Enhancing leadership for the Church.”  Or it can be much more complex, depending on the age of the children.  Entering into this exercise helps the whole family think about your collective legacy.  For many families, a steadfast belief in giving has been passed down from generation to generation.  Just like building wealth over time, a legacy of philanthropy can be handed down through a family.  Like many “habits,” giving is best started at a very young age so that it becomes natural and normal.

  • Reinforce positive money messages, especially during holidays which, in our culture, are consumer-oriented.

We and our families must continually be reminded that Thanksgiving and Christmas are not primarily about the possessions we have and what we get.  Both of those holidays concern what we have graciously received and, therefore, what our thankful response enables us to share with others.

  • Be open with your family about the places you invest your time volunteering as well as the money you give.

We need to remind ourselves that we give time and talent, not only dollars.  Share with your family what excites you about your service to others.  Service to others can be “caught.”  If your children (and others) see your excitement for a project, they might also become enthusiastic.  As you spend time as a volunteer, however, remember not to neglect your own family.

All of us understand that habits are important.  The more we do something, the easier it is to do it again.  To a large extent, the sum of our habit patterns makes up our personality.  Training ourselves and our families to be people of generosity is one of the most important habits we can instill in ourselves and others.  That would be a great personality trait to foster in our entire family.

As an alumnus of Perkins, or friend to the Institution, you know the importance of theological education in this extremely unpredictable time.  Leaders who know how to think theologically are necessary to guide the Church through turmoil and turbulence.  Executives of non-profit organizations must be organizationally astute, and theologically perceptive, in order to navigate in our society.  This is where a culture of philanthropy comes in: leaders in the Church and other good works must be supported by generous families who will stand behind the work that is being performed.  That kind of training is part of the education offered at Perkins School of Theology.

During this month of Thanksgiving, I challenge you to reevaluate your giving in a thankful response to what you have received.

I can be reached at or 214-768-2026 to discuss how you can create habits of giving that will benefit you, your family, and the causes you hold dear.

With a thankful heart,

John A. Martin
Director of Development

News November 2020 Perspective Online

GTE and the Pandemic

Despite the uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Perkins students are encouraged to think ahead and consider registering for Global Theological Education Immersion programs in the second half of 2021 and beyond.

“At the moment, our risk assessment team at SMU is keeping in place restrictions on foreign travel until June 2021,” said Dr. Robert Hunt, director of Global Theological Education. “We’re taking a wait-and-see attitude as to what will happen, but we’re also encouraging students to register now, because these trips must be planned months in advance.”

Two immersions planned for early 2021 have been cancelled: the January 2021 Borderlands Immersion in McAllen, and the Spring Break 2021 Oklahoma Native American Culture Immersion. Even though both are within driving distance, it remains impossible to plan for safe group travel right now, Hunt said.

However, two international immersions are still tentatively planned for the Summer of 2021 — Memory, Religion and Politics in Israel/Palestine led by Dr. Susanne Scholz (June 2021) and the England/Wesley Immersion led by Dr. Ted Campbell (July 2021).  Registration for these Summer Term immersions closes January 30, 2021.

Two factors will ultimately determine whether the 2021 trips “make.”

“Will the countries be open to guests, including travelers from the U.S.?” said Hunt. “And will Perkins students and other participants be ready to travel again by then?”

The availability of a COVID-19 vaccine will also affect the timing.

Immersion trips scheduled for 2022 include two January Term programs: the Palestine/Israel Immersion, led by Hunt, and the Homeless Immersion in Waco led by Dr. Hugo Magallanes. A Spring Break 2022 to El Salvador led by Dr. Hal Recinos is also slated, as is a Summer Term 2022 trip to Asia and the Philippines led by Hunt.

Looking further ahead, to 2023, two January Term trips are planned: the Palestine/Israel Immersion (leader to be announced) and the Zimbabwe or Kenya Immersion led by Hunt. For Spring Break 2023, the El Salvador Immersion led by Recinos is also still on tap.

“Our students are enthusiastic; they want to go on these immersion trips,” said Hunt. “We don’t know for sure that they are feasible, but we still need to plan ahead.”

GTE Registration forms are available upon request to the director: Travel Stipends are available on the basis of need and availability of funds. Complete information is found on the GTE Registration Form. Students must have a valid passport to attend an immersion outside of the U.S.  For more information, visit or contact the Global Theological Education office at

News November 2020 Perspective Online

Rev. Dr. Alyce McKenzie and Sister Helen Prejean

Put two women with shared passions for faith and justice in a Zoom room, and you get a fascinating conversation.  That’s what happened when the Rev. Dr. Alyce McKenzie spoke with Sister Helen Prejean on October 27, as part of the bigBANG! 2020 conference.

With the theme “Equity in Religion,” the freewheeling discussion ranged from justice in the Christian tradition to the importance of passion in activism and the need to tell compelling, human stories to change hearts and minds.

Sister Helen Prejean is known around the world for her work against the death penalty. Her book Dead Man Walking inspired an Academy Award winning movie, a play and an opera. Her latest book is the prequel: River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey, telling her own story in waking up to white privilege in the Deep South and gender inequity in the Catholic Church.

McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins.  The conversation was presented by Dodee Frost Crockett (M.T.S. ’03) and Merrill Lynch.

Passion, Prejean said, has spurred her decades of work for justice. She shared the words of St. Bonaventure (“Ask not for understanding; ask for the fire”) and described the transformative moment when she witnessed, firsthand, the execution of convicted murderer Patrick Sonnier. It left her physically ill.

“What I saw set my soul on fire, a fire that burns to this day,” she said.

McKenzie responded: “When I read your life story, I see the Holy Spirit at work.”

After Sonnier’s execution, Prejean organized marches and wrote op-eds decrying the death penalty. That led to the writing of Dead Man Walking. Without her editor, who helped shape the story, she said, the book never would’ve attracted such wide attention.

The editor convinced her to open the book with a vivid description of the crime that Sonnier committed, abducting and murdering two teens in Louisiana.  He also confronted Prejean about her avoidance of members of the victims’ families, who had publicly called for Sonnier’s execution.

“I’d never done this before, so I thought it was better to stay away,” she told the editor.

“It was cowardice, wasn’t it?” the editor replied. “Admit your mistakes. That makes your story human.”

Following his guidance, Prejean was able to bring the reader from horror for the crime itself, to horror for the execution, and then to a spirit of forgiveness.  That made the book more powerful, it became a bestseller, “and I’ve been on the road ever since, until COVID-19,” Prejean said.

McKenzie said the power of storytelling in Prejean’s books is similar to that in sermons.

“That’s a powerful preaching technique,” she said. “You can tell people about God all you want, but if you can invite them into a scene, and have them take a seat,” that’s more impactful.  At Prejean’s invitation, McKenzie shared an example of scene-setting to preach more effectively. When describing Paul’s teaching about humility in Philippians 2, for example, McKenzie brings listeners into Paul’s prison cell – describing the stench, the chains around his ankles, the noises, the constant anxiety.

Prejean said her newest book, River of Fire, is an effort to help people understand the realities of systemic racism and the poor, based on her experiences living in an African American community in the inner city. There she said, she saw “the other America.”

“I saw what it was like to live without healthcare, and I saw what the police were doing to their young men,” she said. “It was like a different world. People in the suburbs are so separated from the suffering of the poor.  When they ask, ‘Why don’t they get a job?’ or ‘Why don’t they keep their kids in school?’, it’s because they don’t understand what intergenerational poverty does to people.”

McKenzie said she hears similar concerns as director of the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence.

“I talk to pastors who ask about how to preach about systemic racism, when their congregation doesn’t think systemic racism is a thing,” she said.

Prejean noted that pro-life advocates in the Catholic church have often focused solely on protecting the life of innocents – while believing that those who are guilty of crimes deserve to die. Through dialogue with Pope John Paul II, she was able to make progress. But she also noted she found acceptance of her ideas in United Methodist churches.  McKenzie mentioned the historic Wesleyan commitment to “social holiness” as well as the official United Methodist opposition to the death penalty.

“Methodists have welcomed me,” Prejean said. “I’ve done more talks in Methodist churches than Catholic churches.”

McKenzie ended the conversation by sharing a paraphrase of two verses from Psalm 41 she had read in a devotional earlier that morning.

“Blessed are they who have concern for the poor.
In time of trouble, the Lord will rescue them.
In their integrity God upholds them,
And sets them in God’s presence forever.”

“These verses describe you!” she told Prejean.

News November 2020 Perspective Online

Healthcare Chaplaincy

Providing spiritual care to those who are sick or hospitalized demands a variety of specialized skills, especially given today’s multicultural environment. To prepare students who feel called in this area, Perkins School of Theology will offer Master of Divinity students the opportunity to concentrate in Healthcare Chaplaincy, beginning next semester.

“This is a unique opportunity for students to study theology and learn from seasoned chaplains and hospital administrators at the same time,” said Dr. Hugo Magallanes, director of Perkins’s Houston-Galveston Extension Program and Associate Dean for Academic Programs. “This concentration was designed to strengthen our partnership with Houston Methodist Hospital, a leading research hospital in the nation.”

Since the fall of 2018, students in the Houston-Galveston Extension Program have reported in person to Houston Methodist Hospital to attend many of their classes. The hospital provided classroom space, along with tech support and meals, for the two one-week sessions every semester. (Currently, the Houston-Galveston program is fully online, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is expected to return to Houston Methodist when it is safe to do so.) Perkins and Houston Methodist are both affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

“As far as we know, we are the only seminary in a U.S. hospital,” said Magallanes. “It’s an incredible benefit for our students, to have access to a world-class research hospital.”

The Healthcare Chaplaincy concentration is open to all Perkins students, in Dallas as well as the Houston-Galveston program. However, Dallas students will need to travel to Houston in order to complete the concentration requirements not available in Dallas. To enroll, students must submit a “Concentration Declaration Form.” There is no required timeline to enroll as long as students will be able to accommodate 18 hours/credit in their Master of Divinity program to fulfill the requirements of this concentration.

Program leaders say the concentration responds to student interest as well as market demand for chaplains.

“We are seeing a large number of students and prospective students who are interested in chaplaincy, especially hospital chaplaincy,” said Dr. Dallas Gingles, associate director of the Houston-Galveston Extension Program. “There is also a growing demand in clinical settings for chaplains and others who are capable of serving the spiritual needs of patients and providers, as well as for those who are capable of serving on ethics boards and shaping the culture of the institution. We think that this concentration will help our students develop these skill sets.”

Perkins students have a unique opportunity given the school’s connection to Houston Methodist Hospital, according to the Rev. Dr. Charles R. Millikan, an ordained United Methodist clergyman and the hospital’s Vice President for Spiritual Care and Values Integration.

“It’s the number one hospital in Texas, and it’s among the top 20 in the U.S., an Honor Roll hospital in the same league as the Mayo Clinic, Mass General, Yale, or Mount Sinai,” he said. “This is a highly professional, academic medical center and one of the best in the country.”

In addition to the requirements of an M.Div., students in this concentration must complete 12 hours of required courses, including Level 1 Clinical Pastoral Education, Bioethics, and Health Care / Holy Care, a January term immersion course that gives students hands-on experiences at Houston Methodist Hospital. In addition, students must complete six hours (two courses) in core electives, choosing from 13 options including Disability Studies, the Bible and Theology; Patristic Anthropology and Soteriology; Ethics, Theology, and Children; Ethics, Theology, and Family; Contemporary Moral Issues; Evil, Suffering and Death in the New Testament; among others.  Students in this concentration will also be required to participate in two one-day events (one per semester), in which the students will attend a lecture sponsored by Houston Methodist Hospital, participate in a shadowing program, and share their personal reflections with seasoned hospital chaplains and administrators.

While Perkins M.Div. students can formally initiate this concentration next semester, the last portion of the concentration (the “additional requirements”) likely will be delayed until students are able to be physically present at Houston Methodist Hospital. Program leaders hope that students will be present as early as Spring 2021.

The Healthcare Chaplaincy concentration is one step toward certification as a professional chaplain, which requires a bachelor’s degree, an M.Div., and a full year in a clinical pastoral education (CPE) residency. Houston Methodist has the largest CPE program in the state of Texas, with 24 CPE residents.

Millikan adds that chaplaincy offers career opportunities at a time when employment options for M. Div. graduates are dwindling. A growing number of other institutions – hospitals as well as corporations and the military — will look to add chaplains in the coming years. Millikan noted that when he joined Houston Methodist 15 years ago, there were just 12 chaplains on staff; today there are 85.

“John Wesley said, ‘The world is my parish,’” he said. “As the church contracts, the seminary needs to look at the ‘new parish,’ because places like hospitals and the workplace offer another avenue for ministry.”

News November 2020 Perspective Online

I Am Here

Members of the Perkins community who attended the September 30 online Chapel service got a special treat: the world premiere of a new anthem, composed by a Perkins Doctor of Pastoral Music (DPM) student and performed for the first time by the DPM students.

The new anthem, “I Am Here,” was composed by the Rev. Dirk Damonte, and pre-recorded and presented at the Chapel service.

Damonte said he composed the song as a response to the “twin pandemics” of COVID-19 and the struggle for racial justice in the U.S., with inspiration from the message of peace in Colossians 3:15-17.

“This is a time when we can’t sing together, due to COVID, and when a significant part of our population can’t breathe and is struggling with that,” he said.

DPM students each contributed vocals, recorded on their cellphones. Damonte, who is Minister of Music & Worship Arts at Los Altos United Methodist Church in Los Altos, Calif., recruited members from his congregation for the instrumental track on guitar and drums, and he played the keyboard. To assemble the components, he enlisted the help of church members Kristina Sinks, who edited the video, and for the audio, Bill Hare, a Grammy-award winning sound engineer and producer (“Bill has produced groups like Pentatonix and is considered one of the best in the world for engineering acapella recordings,” said Damonte.)

“Dirk has the tech resources at his church to make a solid production,” said C. Michael Hawn, director of the Doctor of Pastoral Music Program and University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church Music.

Mark Stamm opened the worship service, welcoming the DPM students and noting that the DPM program was approved in 2015, with the first cohort entering in June 2016, through Hawn’s vision. The program awarded its first Doctor of Pastoral Music degree, to Kevin Turner, in May, who was part of the anthem choir. Hawn, joining from Richmond, Va., led the service of prayers, singing and scripture reading, centering on the theme of breath, along with the DPM students.

Yvette Lau (2019 cohort), a DPM student based in Hong Kong, presented a dance interpretation of Psalm 13, with music in Chinese, via video, and Darnell St. Romain (2020 cohort) from Dallas and Nicole Gray (2019 cohort) from the Houston area provided a dialogue sermon.  The service culminated with the virtual performance of the anthem by Damonte, a member of the 2017 cohort.

In composing the anthem, Damonte said, “I tried to convey the longing and the pain of this time. The verses are questions, asking if God is still here, and God’s answer is, ‘Yes, I am here.’”

“The text is particularly appropriate for our times,” said Hawn. “It speaks to the context we’re all in now.”

Excerpt from “I Am Here”
Words and Music by Dirk Damonte

When breath is choked off,
when singing brings fear,
when touch causes pain,
are You here?

When leaders don’t lead,
when death lingers near,
when the church isolates,
are You here?

Used by permission.

“Dirk uses an accessible and popular musical style, but with lyrics that have a justice orientation,” Hawn said.  Four DPM students performed brief solos, each posing a question, “Are you here?” followed by a refrain, “Oh yes, I am here! Draw near, have no fear!”

Hawn noted that there are 19 students in the DPM program, and given the situation with COVID-19, there’s no way to gather in the same physical space. Normally, each cohort meets two weeks each year in Dallas, but this year the 2020 cohort met online only in June.

“This creative project was a way to build up and continue some deepening relationships,” he said.

“Every single person in the DPM participated, from Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, and all across the U.S.,” said Damonte. “It was very moving to see every single one of us taking part and singing together.”

Click here to watch the video of “I Am Here.”

News November 2020 Perspective Online

Advent Worship

Like many other annual events, the Perkins Advent Worship service will go virtual this year. Students and faculty in the Master of Sacred Music (M.S.M.) program are working to make the annual service as meaningful as possible and take advantage of the possibilities that the online format offers. And alumni of the program are invited to contribute, too.

The service will weave a variety of voices into a liturgical tapestry that will be streamed on on December 3, Thursday, at 6 p.m. The service will also be available on Perkins YouTube channel.

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

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

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

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

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

News November 2020 Perspective Online

Labyrinth Walk

In these days of COVID-19, members of Perkins community have few opportunities to gather in person just for fellowship. One of the first took place on October 5, when students, faculty and staff were invited to walk the Ruben L.F. Habito Labyrinth together with its namesake, Ruben Habito, Professor of World Religions and Spirituality. The gathering was sponsored by the Office of Student Life and Community Engagement.

About a dozen people participated, wearing face masks and keeping a distance of six feet or more. The labyrinth is located outdoors between Selecman and Prothro Halls.

Habito opened the gathering with a brief message, inviting participants into a period of silence and prayer. During medieval times, he noted, labyrinths provided ameans of making a sacred pilgrimage if one could not undertake an actual journey to a holy place or to the Holy Land. Pilgrims engaged the body, the soul and the mind in the walk along the labyrinth’s path.

“The twists and turns of the labyrinth are analogous to a pilgrimage,” he said. “The center represents that place where we are in full communion with God and at our ultimate destiny.”

Participants then embarked at a slow, meditative pace toward the center of the labyrinth.

That center space, Habito said, symbolizes a place “where we can all be gathered together in God’s loving embrace. But the love of God is not just to be found in the center, at the culmination of the journey. It is there throughout the circuitous route of the entire circle, supporting you as you take each step.  You are embraced in that Divine Love with each step of your journey of life. From birth, you are already given that unconditional love, as a free gift of grace. Just as Jesus was told in Mark 1:11, when he was baptized in the Jordan – ‘You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased’ — you are addressed with that same affirmation at every moment of your life.”

At the conclusion of the walk, participants shared how they felt affirmed and empowered by the experience of walking the labyrinth.

The Labyrinth was given in honor of Habito by Dodee Frost Crockett and William B. Crockett, Jr., and was dedicated September 11, 2009. The path is about one-third of a mile long. Labyrinths are ancient human symbols that date back at least 4,000 years. The labyrinth symbol was incorporated into the floors of the great Gothic pilgrimage cathedrals of France in the 12th and 13th centuries. The most famous extant design is in the nave floor of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres outside of Paris, which is now more than 800 years old.