April 2019 April 2020 April 2021 December 2018 December 2019 December 2020 December 2021 February 2019 February 2020 February 2021 January 2019 January 2020 June 2019 June 2021 March 2019 March 2020 May 2019 May 2020 May 2021 News November 2018 November 2019 November 2020 November 2021 October 2018 October 2019 Perspective Online September 2019 September 2021

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 2021 Perspective Online Top Story

Letter from the Dean – November 2021

“The internship was life changing for me.”

That sentiment, expressed by Perkins graduate Matt Gaston in this issue’s feature story about our Internship Program, brings vividly to mind my own internship experience.

I worked in churches part-time throughout college and then – as “field education” – during my first two years of graduate school. The seminary I attended did not require an internship, but the idea of having a more immersive and intensive supervised ministry experience appealed to me immensely. In particular, I wanted the chance to work under an outstanding mentor in a setting that would stretch me in new ways.

Through a class on evangelism, I became aware of the brilliant Anglican rector and scholar Michael Green, best known for his classic work Evangelism in the Early Church. Here was something I had not encountered before: a highly-educated (with top degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge), even-handed, and exceptionally articulate evangelist. His church, St. Aldate’s, was known for having a highly impressive ministry with students at Oxford University.

I contacted Michael out of the blue, and he suggested that I come over during my Thanksgiving break to meet with him and several others. I jumped at the chance. So it came to be that I moved to England that next summer and worked full-time under Michael’s direction as part of an amazingly talented staff for the following year.

Talk about being stretched. Michael constantly put me into ministry situations way outside of my comfort zone, such as speaking in grade schools, preaching in a youth prison, leading Bible studies for Oxford undergraduates, co-leading an adult seeker’s group, and even street preaching.

Along the way, I got the chance to interact with an extraordinary group of church leaders who came to St. Aldate’s, including Desmond Tutu, John Stott, David Watson, Billy Graham, and many others. At the same time, I attended seminars and lectures by leading scholars at the university. As you would imagine, it was an incredibly rich environment that greatly expanded my horizons.

My intern year helped me to imagine the possibility of a future ministry in which pastoral and academic interests were mutually pursued. It also helped this young man from central Illinois to believe that he might have what it takes to succeed in a place like Oxford. I returned there to pursue a doctorate three years later, which led to becoming a Fellow at Yale Divinity School, the chance later to spend a year as a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University, and ultimately to come to Perkins–none of which, I feel certain, would have occurred had it not been for the privilege of that internship.

Perkins interns serve in a wide range of places, from local churches to church-affiliated ministries and nonprofits. Their internships may expose them to far different settings than what I experienced at St. Aldate’s, but they do get a similar chance to take a deep dive into ministry, one through which new clarity, direction, understanding, and opportunity present themselves. It is part of what drew me here and one of the best things we do.


News November 2021 Perspective Online

Office of Enrollment Management: Financial Literacy Program

By the Rev. Margot Perez-Greene, Ph.D,  and Christina Rhodes, MPA
Associate Dean of Enrollment Management and Financial Aid/Literacy Coordinator

The financial well-being of students is important, whether they’re fresh out of undergraduate school, a long-time pastor, paying for seminary, or carrying credit card debt. The Perkins Financial Literacy Program (FLP) serves to empower students to make wise financial decisions, provide fully transparent information about the cost of a theological education, and connect students to financial resources so they can effectively take charge of their own financial path through graduate school and beyond.

Since the fall of 2017, the Coordinators of Financial Aid and Financial Literacy have partnered to educate incoming and current students about personal financial health and well-being, a program funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. and implemented at Perkins since 2016.  Starting in January of 2020, Christina Rhodes added a greater leadership role in the program.[1] Though the goal of the grant has not changed, (minimizing stress, shame and guilt about debt, within a hospitable environment), activities are monitored and reimagined annually to serve the needs of as many students as possible.

This fall, a small group of new students are participating in a book study using Saving Grace: A Guide to Financial Well Being, a six-week, faith-based money management curriculum for congregational or clergy groups. Using the expertise of United Methodist leaders across the connection through videos, a workbook, and devotional materials, it provides the text and tools needed to address the topics of saving, earning, giving, spending and debt. Currently, we are the only UMC-related theological school providing this opportunity.

Last month, FLP hosted Perkins executive board member Sara Pantin. Having been in the financial services business for over 30 years, Sara has a wealth of experience.  She has moved through many roles including agent, sales manager, senior executive, co-founder and managing partner, to now partner emeritus of Asset Strategies Group, LLC. Sara provided Perkins students with saving and budgeting techniques and tools to help them in their everyday lives.

We would like to invite you to join us on Wednesday, November 10, 11:30 a.m. as FLP sponsors a virtual Perkins Community Worship. This special service will be led by current students, and a fiscally minded sermon will be provided by Perkins alumna Shandon Klein. Shandon currently serves on staff at First United Methodist Church Richardson and is a student in the Graduate Program in Religious Studies (GPRS) at Southern Methodist University.

For sustainability of the program (our grant year ends December 31, 2021), we are researching and discovering materials that will lend support to our students in financial health and well-being and that can be delivered via the newsletter, e-news and Web resource page. We remain committed to the goal of the ECFFM initiative, and the support of the Lilly Foundation that has taught us immeasurably how we can affect financial well-being for our students. Feedback from participants (students, staff, and faculty) maintains our steadfast conviction that this work is relevant and significant.


Margot and Christina








[1] Margot Perez-Greene serves as Principal Investigator for the Lilly Grant.

News November 2021 Perspective Online

In Memory:  William J. Abraham, December 19, 1947 – October 7, 2021

Tributes have poured in after the Perkins community received word that Dr. William J. “Billy” Abraham, 73, died suddenly on Thursday, Oct. 7.

A Professor Emeritus of Wesley Studies at Perkins, Abraham was the Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies from 1995 until his retirement in May 2021. He joined the Perkins faculty in 1985 as the McCreless Associate Professor of Evangelism and the Philosophy of Religion under the leadership of then-Dean James Kirby and Provost Hans Hillerbrand.

“For almost four decades, Billy Abraham’s scholarship and commitment to excellence impacted the lives of countless Perkins students, colleagues, and others across the globe,” said Perkins Dean Craig C. Hill.  “He was a Christ-bearer, both in the academy and in the local church—to which he was profoundly committed—and his death is a tremendous loss to Perkins and to the wider community. Our heartfelt prayers are with his family at this time.”

“Billy Abraham was a scholar known for his academic rigor, a professor known for his energy and his brilliance, and an intellectual known for his ability to hold a thoughtful conversation with those of opposite opinions,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “His legacy of kind graciousness will live on in his students and his many friends.”

Abraham was active early in The Confessing Movement, which challenged The United Methodist Church and other mainline denominations to maintain traditional positions on theology, including the understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman. An early critic of what he viewed as the doctrinal drift of The United Methodist Church, he articulated his concerns in an influential book “Waking from Doctrinal Amnesia: The Healing of Doctrine in The United Methodist Church.”

“He made us think hard, he inspired us, and filled our hearts with joy and holy laughter,” said Keith Boyette, president of the Wesley Covenant Association (WCA), recalling a presentation by Abraham at the WCA’s 2019 Global Gathering. “His impact on thousands of students, pastors, and lay people will live on for years to come.”

Abraham was a prolific author and sought-after lecturer. He earned an undergraduate degree from The Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland; a Master of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary; and a doctorate from Oxford University, Regent’s Park College. He taught at Seattle Pacific University and Harvard Divinity School, as well as SMU. An ordained elder in the Southwest Texas Conference (now Rio Texas) of the United Methodist Church, he served on the General Commission on Unity and Interreligious Concerns of the United Methodist Church (1992-present). He was the recipient of a Pew Evangelical Scholars Program Grant, Pew Charitable Trusts (1993-1996) and Joint Book of the Year Award from the Institute of Christian Studies for Canon and Criterion in Christian Theology (1999). In 2018, he was the recipient of the SMU Faculty Career Achievement Award for his extensive work and dedication to Perkins and Southern Methodist University. Shortly before his death, Abraham was named the inaugural director of the new Wesley House of Studies at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

“He was a theologian who was deeply engaged in the life of the church, not least its political struggles,” said Robert A. Hunt, director of Global Theological Education at Perkins. “He was a teacher of pastors who was deeply engaged in the worship and teaching life of the church. His constant engagement with the church, as worshipper, ordained pastor and missionary meant that he lived with the consequences of both his theology and his teaching and sought in both to manifest the love of Christ rather than just intellectual acuity. Thus conversations with him were real, even if they were fraught with disagreement at the deepest level. Because at an even deeper level was a commitment to the work of Christ in the Body of Christ.”

He is survived by his wife, Muriel;  a daughter, Siobhan;  and a son, Shaun. Another son, Timothy, died in 2012.

A Memorial Fund has been created to perpetuate Abraham’s missionary, intellectual, and spiritual legacy. Donations may be sent to Billy Abraham Memorial Fund care of Siobhan Abraham, 6214 East Lovers Lane, Dallas, Texas 75214. A memorial service took place on Oct. 30 at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, where Abraham was a Sunday School teacher for many years.


Read more tributes and features:

Read More About Billy Abraham:

News November 2021 Perspective Online

Internship Program at Perkins

As an M.Div. student, Allyson Penny completed courses in church history, preaching, worship and spiritual formation.  Now she’s putting what she learned into practice — as a Perkins intern at FAM Houston, a United Methodist affiliated agency serving refugees, immigrants and others in Houston.

Penny leads a Bible study on Tuesday nights and a women’s empowerment group on Thursdays.  She spends most Wednesday mornings visiting the homes of Congolese women who live in the neighborhood. On Saturdays, you might find her working at the agency’s farm, Shamba Ya Amani (Swahili for “farm of peace.)

“The internship really gives you hands-on experience on how to use what you’ve learned at school out in the world,” Penny said.

Internships like Penny’s are a key part of the Perkins experience.  An internship is required for the Master of Divinity or Master of Arts in Ministry degree; most students complete the internship during their final year of study.

“The internship is the praxis of ministry,” said Chuck Aaron, director of the Intern Program. “It’s a chance to integrate the knowledge and theological reflection disciplines learned in the classroom with the practical demands of faithful leadership within a congregation or agency.”

While many students intern in churches, a significant number choose church-affiliated ministries and non-profit agencies. Wherever they are, student-interns learn ministry skills in a supervised setting, with guidance from trained Mentor Pastors and Lay Teaching Committees and support from mental health consultants. Internships run nine months, generally following the academic calendar. Students intern on a full or part time basis; M.A.M. students are required to work 20 hours a week; M.Div. students work 25-35. Interns take on responsibilities and test their preaching, teaching, pastoral care and community ministry skills, in preparation for eventual careers as pastors, chaplains or non-profit managers.

Students gain experience in the day-to-day aspects of ministry – from working with committees and learning how to budget to managing the interpersonal dynamics of working with colleagues, constituents and church members. “They’re seeing the humanity of the church – the instances when people argue, or when pastors get chewed out from time to time,” Aaron said.

Penny says that her internship has given her plenty of experience ministering face-to-face.

“I’m going into these women’s homes, sitting with them, listening to them,” Penny said. “Many have had trauma. From pastoral care classes, I’ve had some preparation for knowing how to react to moments of vulnerability and to respond appropriately.”

Learning about interpersonal dynamics is another key component of the internship experience. For Shunda Wilkin, a third-year M.Div. student, that includes discovering the finer points of working within a denominational structure. She’s interning in the office of the Presiding Bishop Prelate, Thomas L. Brown, Sr. of the 6th Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church in Atlanta.

“Having to work between the echelons of the organization is an art form that I’m learning, with guidance from my Mentor Pastor, the Rev. Pansy Washington,” she said. “I’m learning that it’s not just about getting information or getting things done; it’s about taking care of people – finding out how their world is going and advocating for whatever they’re doing. That’s what you don’t get in class.”

Wilkin also worked with a Lay Teaching Committee to create a learning covenant to determine which projects she’d focus on while interning. She’s helping complete a directory for the pastors and others serving in the district, with plans to ultimately put the directory online, and assisting with planning and preparations for the 2022 CME General Conference in Cincinnati. 

Practical Experience, Plus Reflection

The internship is a course with requirements and assignments, including the Internship Seminar, in-depth reflection papers, assignments to fulfill particular competencies, regular supervisory sessions with the Mentor Pastor, and feedback and evaluation conferences.

Reflection is an important part of the experience, Aaron noted. A Perkins grad himself, Aaron recalled his own internship as a chaplaincy intern at Timberlawn, a psychiatric hospital in Dallas. That confronted him with theological questions.

“At the time, I was wrestling with my understanding of human nature,” he said. “I met patients whose own brains worked against them. They had physiological problems keeping them from being themselves.  It pushed me in a new direction in my understanding of what it means to be a human.”

Students who opt to intern at church-affiliated ministries or non-profit agencies must make arrangements to preach at church at least four times over the course of the internship. While most internships are at churches or church-related organizations, not all are United Methodist, Aaron said.

“We are flexible,” he said. “We want to help the student any way that we can.”

Matt Schroeder, a fourth-year M.Div. student, is following his interests by interning at The Julian Way, a ministry to people with disabilities.

“It made a lot of sense because I wanted to serve the disability community,” he said. After getting to know Justin Hancock (Master of Church Ministries, 2008) and Lisa Hancock, the ministry’s founders, he added, “I hope to give back to the ministry, given everything they’ve done for me.”

At The Julian Way, Schroeder is organizing community events and helping write a curriculum aimed at helping congregations to become more welcoming and inclusive with people with disabilities.

“The internship gives us an opportunity to live those things out that we’ve learned in school,” said Schroeder. “Everyone’s experience with their disability is different. We all have different needs and gifts. Rather than project my own needs and desire onto the people I serve, this is an opportunity to meet them where they’re at and to see where my own misconceptions are.”

Aaron noted that the last three academic years have been particularly challenging for interns because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Interns learned how to do everything online,” he said. “They didn’t get many chances to meet people in person. They couldn’t visit in hospitals or nursing homes in person, only via FaceTime or phone.”

But internships have always confronted interns with tough situations that can challenge their ability to see God’s presence.

“When a young mother dies and leaves children behind, that’s hard, even for experienced pastors,” Aaron said. “Interns might meet an unsheltered person who comes to the church who is in pretty bad shape. They may ask, ‘Where is Jesus’ Good News in this?’ Sometimes the answer is that Jesus is in solidarity with those that suffer.”

Turning Point

Thirty-five years ago, a woman walked into First United Methodist Church in Allen, Texas, and asked to see the pastor. The only “pastor” on duty was an intern, so the woman was ushered into his office. She burst into tears as she shared that husband had just told her he didn’t love her anymore and wanted a divorce. He was leaving her with their three children. She hadn’t seen it coming. The intern simply listened and then prayed with the woman. She thanked him and said, “You’ll never know how much your presence meant to me.”

That moment was a turning point for the intern on duty – then a Perkins student, now the Rev. Matt Gaston, senior pastor of FUMC in Plano.

“I had taken just one pastoral care class by then, so I knew enough to be empathetic, to be present, and not talk,” he said.  Gaston never saw the woman again.

“I realized, I’d experienced a call to ministry, and I never looked back,” he said.

Before his internship, Gaston envisioned he’d ultimately end up in a business career; by the time he completed the internship, he decided to pursue ordination. Not only has he pastored half a dozen United Methodist churches since then, he has also served as a Mentor Pastor to about a dozen Perkins interns in the churches he served. It’s his way of paying it forward, to help create opportunities for other students to have the same transformative experience.

“The internship was life changing for me,” Gaston said. “Through my internship, I experienced God’s call, and it hit me over the head. I know firsthand how transformative experiential versus theoretical ministry can be.”

Gaston said he believes that no other seminary has an internship program as comprehensive as the program offered at Perkins.

“The unique part is the thoroughness of the process that holds interns accountable for reflecting theologically on their experiences,” he said. “Those theological reflection papers are reviewed by the Mentor Pastors. We raise questions, challenge their assumptions, and help them think more clearly as pastors-in-training.”

“Lay teaching committees and mentor pastors take their work very seriously,” Aaron said. “They feel a deep sense of connection with their interns, and they build a strong bond.”

News November 2021 Perspective Online

Q&A with Fall Convocation Presenter Michael Guinn

If you’re planning to attend the Fall Convocation at Perkins November 15-16, hang onto your hat. On Monday evening, attendees will be treated to a Poetry Slam Open Mic program led by nationally renowned spoken word author and actor Michael Guinn.

Guinn is a two-time National Poetry Slam Finalist, Toronto International Slam Champion and four-time Austin International Poetry Festival (AIPF) Slam Champion. He has more than 20 years of stage, film, radio and public speaking experience.

Guinn’s presentation is part of the Fall Convocation’s packed lineup of storytelling, music, dance, worship, conversation and keynote speakers Amy-Jill Levine, Lillian Daniel, and Patrick B. Reyes, all connected to this year’s theme, “Speak Up! Stories for a New Day.”

We caught up with Guinn for a preview of his program; here are excerpts from the conversation.

Give us a preview of what youll do at Fall Convocation.

What I’m planning to do is to provide a really high energy, highly engaging creative writing exercise where participants will be able to just “get free” as we call it. I’ll provide writing prompts. They’ll be able to share their work. I’m going to give them some tenets of performance to help get them out of their comfort zones and bring a little bit of their own personalities out. They’ll be able to create on the spot and then share in the moment, so there’s no chance to think about it and get hung up.

This sounds like a lot of fun, but some people might hear that and say, Oh, heck no!”

To them I would say, I was once an “Oh, heck no!” guy and here I am! This exercise gives you a little bit of insight into how people feel when they’re on stage. Once you invest yourself in the exercises you learn to overcome stage fright. You see that it’s not so bad to share from the heart, that there are people who resonate with what you have to say, that you have value and you have a voice.

Will people be writing poetry?

This is a spoken word poetry free write session, so you don’t have to be a poet. You don’t have to be an actor or a polished speaker. You just have to be willing to come in with an open mind and follow some of the prompts. Everybody is going to write. But not everybody has to share. My job is to create a safe and supportive environment where people will say, “Oh, what the heck, let me get in there and do this. If so-and-so can do it, I can do it.” I’m really good at creating that kind of safe, supportive atmosphere.

Your bio says you address mental health and wellness in your work. Will that be part of your presentation?

Spiritual wellness is always part of every presentation. It’s about giving attendees little prompts, to be able to write and create on the spot. I want them to have the freedom to think outside the box, whatever that is. Everybody is going to be engaged. Plus, there’s a sense of the community that arises when people start to laugh and to share.

The theme of the convocation is storytelling. Youre a storyteller, both through the spoken word and as an actor. Talk a little about why stories are so important. 

Storytelling serves as a good historical marker. It’s a way of recording, for people to understand what happened before they were born. The process of how we tell stories is also important — so that we use the kind of language that stands out, so people remember the details of the story. I’m not talking so much about an academic approach, like with similes and metaphors and alliteration. It’s more about using colorful imagery and language in telling the story and having the story have a rhythm to it. To me, those stories are the ones that stand out and those are the ones that we remember.

Anything else you want people to know, to encourage them to attend?

This is a creative writing exercise where the participants can share their own work from the writing prompts. When you have a safe, supportive atmosphere, people will laugh, cry, and be highly entertained and highly engaged. They will connect to each other and there will be an immediate sense of community.  From that, anything can happen. I look forward to seeing everybody transformed!

News November 2021 Perspective Online

Advent Worship Service

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

Titled “Corde Natus Ex Parentis: An Advent Evensong,” the annual service will take place in person. Organizers hope to also offer the service online via livestream, pending several logistical issues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


News November 2021 Perspective Online

Alum Profile: Josefrayn Sánchez-Perry

Recently named an assistant professor at Loyola University Chicago, Josefrayn Sánchez-Perry (M. Div., 2014) teaches historical theology and focuses on early modern theologies, colonialism and Indigenous traditions of Mesoamerica.

Sánchez-Perry says that Perkins courses in church history taught by Bruce Marshall and Carlos Cardoza-Orlandi, along with his own Mexican heritage, awakened his interest in the “edges” of Christian orthodoxy, and how Christians have interacted with indigenous and Native peoples of the Americas.

“In those courses, I learned about the centers in the history of church doctrine, orthodoxy and belief,” he said. “But I also started to explore: if these were the boundaries that orthodoxy had created, what’s outside of these edges?”

He wrote a paper exploring Easter Week practices in Guatemala, looking at Mayan influences and traditions that became part of Christianity there. That paper won the 2014 Albert C. Outler Award for Best Essay in Theology.

“I wanted to grapple with the meaning of people introducing their own practices and concepts, that didn’t necessarily fit within the theological frameworks of Catholic Christianity—but more specifically with the ideological presentations of Christianity,” he said. “Are there ways to understand this process? What is it these communities are introducing to this religious tradition?”

While pursuing his M.A. and Ph.D. in religious studies at the University of Texas at Austin, he developed an interest in indigenous languages, and worked on an online, open access Nahuatl-language curriculum with the help of Nahuatl-speakers Sabina Cruz de la Cruz and Catalina Cruz de la Cruz. Nahuatl was the language of the Aztecs. Nahuatl has been spoken in central Mexico since at least the fourth century CE, and today is spoken by about 1.5 million people. The project involved native speakers, professors who knew the language, web developers and grant writers. The course was designed for those at the undergraduate level and above. Anyone with an internet connection can access the course.

Sánchez-Perry added that his time studying Greek during his undergraduate program at Northwestern College in Iowa provided an excellent foundation for learning an indigenous language.

“Greek is agglutinative – that is, it has little parts that you put together to form intelligible sentence structure,” he said.  “The indigenous Nahuatl language is not like any European language, including Spanish, but it is like Greek, Latin or Hebrew in that it is also agglutinative. So my studies in biblical languages were a great introduction to understand basic Nahuatl.”

Sánchez-Perry’s dissertation is a study of the way that Franciscan and Dominican Catholics interacted with Nahuatl speakers in the colonial period, but also how they violently enforced the Christian religion. “Nahuatl speakers knew how to read and write in their own language, using their own complex hieroglyphic script, but Christian friars forced them to learn Latin, Spanish, and a Roman alphabetic version of Nahuatl.” Learning Nahuatl revealed to him the intricacies of how language is a big part of theology and religion.

After graduating from Perkins, and before pursuing his M.A. and Ph.D., Sánchez-Perry also spent two years as a chaplain at Parkland Hospital in Dallas as part of the CPE program. That was another very formative experience.

“I wanted to take a break during those two years, but it wasn’t totally a break,” he said. “Being a chaplain in a hospital where people are suffering, where there’s turmoil and a lot of emotional conversations, gave me a different outlook. All the things that I learned in seminary were suddenly contextualized in the hospital.  It changed my pedagogy and my whole demeanor as an academic. I became more pastoral in my approach.”

At Loyola, he is working on his first monograph, which focuses on household ritual specialists in Aztec city-states before and after European occupation, and how Spanish local officials and Christian friars both abdicated and co-opted Nahua religious systems to enforce the Christian religion and European civility.

Sánchez-Perry is excited to have landed a tenure track position at Loyola University, in part because it’s situated in Chicago. He lives in the northern Chicago area with his wife Alli and their two dogs, both rescues. Chicago offers access to two important institutions: The Art Institute of Chicago and the Newberry Library, a research institution with 1.6 million books, 600,000 maps, and 5 million manuscript pages spanning the Middle Ages to the present. That allows him to take students to the Art Institute and the Newberry to view and appreciate medieval Christian art as well as indigenous art.

“When I’m teaching undergraduate and graduate theology students, I talk about Christianity’s contact with indigenous groups,” he said. “It’s not always positive. We have some difficult conversations. I’m trying to get students to really think through the complicated history of the church.”

News November 2021 Perspective Online

Student Spotlight: Melissa Garza

A dedicated Mustang, Perkins was a homecoming for Melissa Garza

As a devoted and enthusiastic SMU alum, Melissa Garza has returned to campus for all but four Homecoming weekends in the past 27 years. She even co-chaired the 25th reunion for her undergraduate class. When she decided to pursue a seminary education a few years ago, coming home to SMU as a Perkins student made perfect sense.

“SMU was instrumental in making me who I am,” she said. “I found my niche, my people, my voice at SMU.”

Garza, a third-year M.Div. student, received a full tuition scholarship for her undergraduate education as a University Scholar; now she’s attending graduate school as a Perkins Scholar.

“The scholarship has been a blessing especially this last year since I was laid off due to COVID,” she said. “SMU and Perkins have been so good to me, and I’ve always been a strong believer in giving back.”

Recently, Garza took on yet another Homecoming duty. She came to Dallas to help host the Perkins tent at this year’s SMU Homecoming. As a veteran of so many past Homecomings, she was already equipped.

“I was excited to be able to pull my SMU decorations out again,” she said. “It’s a great way for the Perkins family—students, faculty, staff, and alumni—to have fellowship outside of the classroom.”

Garza currently serves as the Houston-Galveston program rep for the Perkins Student Association (PSA). When the H-G program gathered for a week of in-person classes this fall–for the first time in 18 months–she took a leadership role to welcome everyone back.

“Since we had been exclusively learning online for so many semesters, this was the first face-to-face week for many students,” she said. “I kind of adopted the role of ‘welcome committee.’”

Garza assembled welcome bags with SMU face masks, Perkins swag and a guide to Houston to help students find their way around. She invited The United Methodist Texas Annual Conference to host breakfast for two of the 10-hour class days. To encourage community building and take advantage of Houston’s diverse faith community, she arranged unofficial field trips to St. Basil the Great Greek Orthodox Church and St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church.

“I got a lot of positive feedback on those, so I have other extra-curricular activities in the works for our second face-to-face week in November,” she said. “I feel there was a special need to build community because we had been so far apart due to COVID. The face-to-face weeks are really important to H-G students.”

Seminary marks the beginning of a second career for Garza. After graduating from SMU in 1994, she worked as a graphic designer, most of those years at United Way of Greater Houston, until a layoff due to COVID in 2020.

“I felt like I had the call to ministry,” she said. “It was not a dramatic call. It’s been part of who I am for a long time. I just hadn’t been ready to step out until three years ago. But I have always had a great love for The United Methodist Church.”

Garza’s post-graduation career plans are still in flux, but she’s considering working in campus chaplaincy or hospital chaplaincy.

“From my classes, I’ve learned that pastoral care is not just focused on a congregation … it’s serving people who are in need and who want hope,” she said. “I feel like that is what I’m led to do – to offer hope, to spread the word of God in a way that is just loving and supporting.”

Garza enjoys mission work; pre-COVID, she traveled every summer to Jamaica, which is like a second home to her.

“We go to an area in the St. Mary parish near Port Maria,” she said. “I’ve had the joy of watching the kids there grow up over the years.  The people are lovely. Their discipleship is like nothing I’ve seen. In praise and worship and love – the people there are truly a community.  They really understand what it’s like to be the community of God on earth.”

On one of her first trips, Garza painted a mural on a wall at Free Hill Primary and Infant School.

“Every time I show up the pastor says, ‘Here’s your painting project,’” she said. She continues to enjoy painting – it’s a hobby as well as a spiritual practice.

When she arrived at Perkins, Garza regretted that her grandmother, a woman of strong faith and an advocate for education, had not lived to see her attend seminary. A reading in her first-semester Christian Heritage class led to an “aha” moment – a conviction that, somehow, her grandmother is still with her.

“I came across a phrase in The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, that said, ‘In Him they confide every undertaking, for man, indeed, proposes but God disposes, and God’s way is not man’s,’” she said. “It reminded me of something my grandmother used to say: ‘Uno propone y Dios dispone.’ [Editor’s note: Proverbs 16, translated, “One proposes and God disposes.”]

When I read this passage – it was a real joy.”

News November 2021 Perspective Online

Faculty Update: November 2021

Ted Campbell Lecture at Bob Monk Event

Dr. Ted A. Campbell was the featured lecturer at a special homecoming event honoring Dr. Robert “Bob” Monk at McMurry University on October 15. Campbell lectured on “The Methodist Who Uttered the Dreaded ‘C’ Word,” a nod to Monk’s scholarly work examining Calvinist influences in Methodism. Monk served on the faculty at McMurry as Professor of Religion for 31 years, retiring in 1995.