News November 2018 Perspective Online

International Students Enrich Perkins Experience

Just a few months ago, Ishmael K. Mathiu, a third generation Methodist and an ordained minister, was serving as mission coordinator for his church in Kenya.

Now, he’s sharing his gifts with the community at Perkins School of Theology.

Mathiu is one of six students in Perkins’ newest class of international students—a substantial increase from previous years, when only two international students were admitted per year. This increase is due to a change in the decision to admit qualified international students and not limit admission to only two. The six students came from Zimbabwe, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and China.

“They truly enrich our classroom and community life in significant and unique ways,” said Tracy Anne Allred, Assistant Dean of Student Life and Director of Community Engagement at Perkins. “It’s a different dialogue when you have that diversity, not just U.S. diversity but the global context of ministry and experience.”

Perkins’ international reputation helped attract the students, but most also had some personal connection before arriving on campus, said the Rev. Dr. Margot Perez-Greene, Associate Dean for Enrollment Management at Perkins.

“Our alums recommend Perkins to their friends and former undergraduate classmates,” she said. “They’re our best recruiters.” Alumni returning to their home countries, combined with strong ties nurtured with overseas institutions such as the United Methodist Church’s Africa University in Zimbabwe, helped feed the pipeline. Francois Kazadi Mukosa, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a graduate of Africa University who toured the U.S. about 10 years ago as the school’s choirmaster; Mathiu visited the U.S. in 2015 through mission connections with First United Methodist Church of Grapevine, located in a Dallas suburb. In other cases, Perkins faculty who travel to other countries for speaking engagements or musical performances also help get the word out.

Perez-Greene notes that international students make incredible sacrifices to come to Perkins.

“Most of our new students have spouses and children at home,” she said. “They are sacrificing two years of their lives with their families to be here. The value they place on being able to acquire this education is nearly incomprehensible to us.”

Mukosa has a wife and three young children, ages 7, 3 and 1, back at home. Mathiu has a wife and two children, ages 15 and 11. Most international students do not have the opportunity to return home during their two years of study.

“This is the first time my family has been split up for a long time,” Mathiu said. “Other times, I’ve traveled for only one or two days. It’s a big sacrifice for them.” He joked that he “campaigned” with his children to get their blessing for his plans to study in the U.S., which led his wife to agree, too.

In the past 10 years, Perkins has awarded full scholarships annually – including tuition as well as room, board and other expenses – to two students. This year, the decision was made to
to provide an opportunity for more international students to be part of the Perkins community.

At a recent tea time for international students, Mukosa played his guitar for attendees. At home, he’s part of a musical group called Band Umoja — “Umoja means unity in Swahili,” he explains – now, he’s part of Perkins’ Seminary Singers.

“In the last two months, we have seen how much richer we are because of these six students,” Perez-Greene said. “They have become good friends. They have provided so much with regard to music, worship, reflection, and conversation.”

Allred notes that, while the new students are part of the scholarship program for international students, there are many others who bring a multicultural perspective – students whose home countries include Mexico, Korea, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Chile, Cuba, and Peru.

“They all add to the diversity that we value here at Perkins and bring that global perspective,” said Tracy Anne.

A memorial service was held on October 18 for M.T.S. student Yan (Judy) He of China, who died Oct. 5. The service, attended by members of the Perkins and SMU community, included an original composition by Dr. Marcell Silva Steuernagel, Director of the Master of Sacred Music Degree Program and Assistant Professor of Church Music. In addition, a quartet of international Perkins students led a congregational hymn in four languages. The homily was delivered by Herbert Coleman, Director of Retention and Student Success. Gifts from the Perkins community and a letter of condolence from former U.S. President George W. Bush were presented to Yan (Judy) He’s mother and sister by Perkins Dean Craig C. Hill.

News November 2018 Perspective Online

Development Update: The SMU Fund for Perkins

Most financial planners instruct us to build an emergency fund so that money will be available when an unexpected expense arises. We all understand that is a sensible plan which we should follow.

The SMU Fund for Perkins acts as an emergency fund for the institution. Money donated to that “unrestricted” account can be used at the discretion of the Dean for various purposes that might arise. He can tap money from that account to underwrite unexpected costs, start new initiatives, or expand current programs.

This year our goal for the SMU Fund for Perkins is $315,000. That is 5% more than last year’s goal. I would love to see Perkins’ faithful donors greatly exceed that goal and surpass our wildest expectations.

Those of you who have met Dean Hill know that he is a careful steward of Perkins resources. Working closely with Business Manager Mark Greim he is charting the course for the next chapter of Perkins’ important mission. Mark, who is completing his first year at Perkins (an extremely successful year, I might add!), has often emphasized the importance of this fund.

You will be hearing more about giving to this fund as the year progresses. I hope you will join me in supporting this effort. To give to the SMU Fund for Perkins click here. You will notice in the “drop-down” menu that the SMU Fund for Perkins is at the top.

Why not make an initial gift to that fund right now? No gift is too small or too large.

As always, I am thankful for the faithful support of Perkins donors!

With a thankful heart,

John A. Martin
SMU Development and External Affairs
Director of Development, Perkins School of Theology


News November 2018 Perspective Online

Perkins Forges Agreements With Nine Partner Institutions

Perkins School of Theology has established partnerships with nine undergraduate institutions to provide a preferred pathway for undergraduates considering a graduate theological education.

Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) were signed between Perkins and nine United Methodist-related colleges and universities in the South Central Jurisdiction during the 2017-18 academic year, with a tenth underway. Agreements have been made with Austin College, Sherman, Texas; Centenary College, Shreveport, La.; Hendrix College, Conway, Ark.; Huston-Tillotson University, Austin, Texas; McMurry University, Abilene, Texas; Philander Smith College, Little Rock, Ark.; Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas; Wylie College, Marshall, Texas; and Texas Wesleyan University, Fort Worth. Another agreement, with Paul Quinn College, is in the works; the two institutions hope to finalize that by 2019.

“This is a way to encourage a pipeline of students from these schools to Perkins,” Andrew Keck, Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives and Special Assistant to the Dean at Perkins.

These new agreements provide preferred consideration and early decision for admission to graduates who have completed all the prerequisites for admission to SMU, giving qualified students early consideration for scholarships and other financial aid at Perkins. The partnerships also provide for annual visits by Perkins admission staff to the partner colleges and universities and reciprocal visits by interested students to SMU. In addition, the partnerships are expected to also include new collaborative academic and enrichment opportunities for faculty and students.

When qualified undergraduate students receive an early decision, that can give them a head start in applying for scholarships, according to Margot Perez-Greene, Associate Dean for Enrollment Management at Perkins.

“They are getting answers earlier in the process, and sometimes first in line also means first in line for a scholarship,” she said.

At the most recent signing ceremony, on March 2, 2018, establishing an MOU between Perkins and Hendrix College, Hendrix President William M. Tsutsui said, “Together, Hendrix and Perkins have inspired generations of United Methodist clergy in Arkansas and across the country. This agreement celebrates that history, as well as our continued commitment to educating future generations of United Methodist Church leaders.”

The Hendrix-Perkins agreement allows Hendrix students with a 3.0 GPA who submit the requisite application materials to receive an early admission decision (October 15) for the following fall semester at Perkins. Hendrix communicates with Perkins regarding undergraduates who are promising candidates for ministry, assists students in the application process, and coordinates annual visits by prospective students to the SMU campus.

The partner universities all have a Methodist or other church connection. Austin College is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Paul Quinn is affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church; the remaining partner schools are all affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

“All of these schools have a tradition of providing students to Perkins,” said Perez-Greene. “The MOUs serve as a way to further encourage and cultivate relationships with those students considering theological education after graduation.”

MOU schools have been encouraged to bring students to the Perkins campus on November 12 for the Fall Convocation, followed by Inside Perkins on November 13, an event which gives prospective students a chance to visit classes, meet faculty and current students and experience the warmth of the Perkins community. Plans are also underway to consider possible programs to convene, support, and resource the chaplains on the campuses of these partner universities, who often serve as liaisons for Perkins.

Personal connections are one of the important ways that students discover Perkins, Keck added; the partnerships help leverage those relationships.

“Some of the best recruiters are current students or alumni with connections to these undergraduate colleges,” Keck said. “When Perkins students return to their alma maters, or talk to friends from those schools, they talk about Perkins, and that generates interest for soon-to-be grads to explore and learn more.”

Another goal, he added, was to encourage undergraduates to cultivate discernment for ministry within the college context “to give students an imagination for what a seminary education might be.” In recent years, theology schools have seen fewer applications; Keck says it’s important to plant the seed at a younger age. In some cases, Perkins recruiters identify students who are interested in seminary education who have not yet connected with the chaplain or campus minister at the college.

“We really do intend these to be a partnership,” said Keck. “We are still working on what are the best ways we can give back to these schools.”

News November 2018 Perspective Online

Student Spotlight: Anna Bundy

Anna Bundy has three passions: Christian community, Southern hospitality, and equality for all people. At Perkins School of Theology, she found a place to pursue all three.

“The moment I stepped on campus, I knew that there was a community of faithful leaders in ministry that were dedicated to growing closer to Christ and each other as well as leading people well in churches,” she said.

Anna Bundy celebrating with friends following a FACE worship service.

Anna Bundy celebrating with friends following a FACE worship service.Today, Anna is a 2nd year Master of Divinity student who expects to graduate in May 2020. She is on the elder ordination track in the Western North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, and an active volunteer in campus organizations. She serves as president of Perkins’ Feminists Advocating for Change and Empowerment (FACE) student group, focused on fostering conversations about equality and theology. She’s also social life chair for Perkins Student Association, a member of The Order of Saint Luke and a member of the worship committee.

A native of North Carolina, Anna jokes that, as an undergraduate, she might have aspired to travel the South and write for Garden & Gun magazine. But her course changed in 2016, with a summer internship at a church in Winston-Salem, N.C.

“I realized that I was the most fulfilled when I was fostering authentic community in the local church by leading bible study, planning worship, and loving the people of the congregation,” Anna said.

After graduating from Appalachian State in May 2013 with a Communication Studies, she chose Perkins for the well-rounded education it offered, with emphases on both theology and practice.

Anna’s favorite Bible verse, Ephesians 4:1–“Live a life worthy of the calling you have received” –serves as a guiding principle in her academic work as well as her community involvement.

“It speaks to the idea that God has called each one of us to do the work of Christ on earth and because of that, we get to choose to live a life in grace and love, spreading the Word of God and love of Christ to everyone we encounter,” she says.

Her Perkins education has opened up new vistas. Dr. Mark Stamm’s Introduction to Christian Worship class exposed her to new ideas about creating worship services;Dr. Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner’s Family Systems class spurred her to add a pastoral care certificate to her degree.

But most importantly, at Perkins, she found a beloved community.

“I am called to foster authentic community and I do that best through encouraging Christians to deeper spiritual relationship with God,” she said. “I want to be a cheerleader, friend, and confidant to everyone I encounter.”

News November 2018 Perspective Online

Faculty Profile: Evelyn L. Parker

To have the most impact in the world, Evelyn Parker believes, Christians must be a visible sign of love and justice. Since 1996, that conviction has spurred her involvement with the World Council of Churches (WCC).

“Churches that identify as Christian need to be visible in the world, in going about the business of being Christ in a world that has hurts and failures and places of despair,” she said. “With the presence of Christ, we can change and transform those situations.”

Parker, an active member of Kirkwood Temple CME Church in Dallas, serves as a representative of the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) denomination to the WCC. Recently, she returned from a conference in Rome, “Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration,” where WCC and Vatican representatives gathered to discuss relevant issues and craft a public statement. The highlight: a chance to shake the hand of Pope Francis.

That’s just the latest in Parker’s WCC work, which spans more than two decades and a variety of positions and responsibilities. She represented the denomination in the WCC’s Faith and Order Plenary Commission from 1996 to 2006. At the council’s 9th Assembly in 2006 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Parker was elected to membership in the Central Committee, the WCC’s main decision-making body between assemblies. That term included stints as secretary/reporter for the Nominations Committee and on the Planning Committee for the 10th Assembly, which took place in Busan, South Korea in 2013. In 2014, she was elected to the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA).

“The Commission represents member churches in places around the world where the church bears witness to injustice and despair,” said Parker. That has included work in South Korea, where she assisted in conversations between the north and south Korean councils of churches as they struggled to deal with political issues that have divided the peninsula for almost 70 years.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to do this ecumenical work,” Parker said. “It’s the natural thing if you want to be Christ present in the world where people are suffering.”

Research focus: Parker’s academic research focuses on religious identity and spiritual formation in African American adolescents as well as adolescents in sociopolitical movements and their understanding of vocation. Her work centers on two projects. One, a long-term study, tracks the experiences of ten black/white mixed-race young women and the intersection of race, class, gender and sexuality in their spirituality. Her most recent project focuses on teen dating violence. “It is a health crisis in the USA and in South Africa, so I’m doing a comparative study,” she said.

Favorite Bible verse: Philippians 4:13: “I can do things all things through him who strengthens me.” That’s just a current favorite, however; says Parker: “I rotate them. I use Bible verses like mantras.”

Book on her nightstand: Home by Toni Morrison.

Fantasy dinner party guests: Michelle and Barack Obama; Parker’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Jerry L. Christian of Kirkwood Temple CME and his wife, Mrs. Doretha Christian; and two members of her church that Parker envisions as lively dinner conversationalists: Mrs. Gwen Hill, 86, and her daughter, Ms. Cecilia Criner. Parker says she’d round out the guest list with students from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, an institution that inspires her to teach creatively. “We’d all talk about whatever the Booker T. youth want to talk about,” Parker said. “So many legends have emerged from Booker T., and I’ve seen some amazing talent there. I know they’d have great ideas for dinner conversation.”

Favorite travel destination: Places that have beaches.

Signature dish: While she’s not much of a cook, Parker makes a mean Blueberry Delight. “It’s like a cobbler,” she says.

Evelyn L. Parker, Ph.D., is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Susanna Wesley Centennial Professor of Practical Theology at Perkins School of Theology.

News November 2018 Perspective Online

Dialogue Examines Theology, Criminal Justice Reform on School Children of Color

In theory, schools should put children on a path toward college or a good job. In reality, for far too many children school leads to incarceration.

Experts call the trend the “school-to-prison pipeline” — the disproportionate tendency of young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds to end up incarcerated – and they blame the trend on increasingly harsh school and municipal policies.

That was a key focus of an interdisciplinary dialogue, “The ABC’s of Theology and Criminal Justice Reform on the Lives of School Children of Color,” at Perkins School of Theology on October 15. Despite a downpour in Dallas that evening, more than 40 students, alumni and other concerned citizens turned up for the program.

The event was jointly sponsored by Perkins, the school’s Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity and Religions, and the United Methodist Church’s General Commission on Religion and Race.

Harold Recinos

“The school-to-prison pipeline is a metaphor for: failing public schools, zero tolerance discipline with policing presence in schools, disciplinary alternative education programs, court involvement and juvenile detention centers, and priority influence given to incarceration over education for a subdivision of American school children and youth,” said Dr. Harold Recinos, Perkins professor of church and society and the president of the Oscar Romero Center for Community Health & Education in Dallas.

Zero tolerance policies, he added, tend to punish children of color excessively for “culturally normative” behavior and put children on a path to more trouble, rather than better behavior. For Recinos, that problem is personal.

“I was one of those ‘bad kids’ in school,” he told the group. “I was very disruptive. We didn’t have zero tolerance policies then, luckily, or I wouldn’t be here today.”

Cynthia Wallace

Cynthia Wallace, a recent Perkins graduate and a program coordinator at the Juvenile Detention Center in Dallas County, noted that ten ZIP codes in the Dallas area have been relabeled as “the cradle-to-prison pipeline ZIP codes.”

“Kids who are born and live in one of those ZIP codes are at very high risk of becoming involved with the juvenile system, and/or graduating to adult prison,” she said. Wallace cited a 2008 study of one of those areas, the 75216 ZIP code, which showed that only two students attending the local high school were prepared for college, yet 681 individuals were sent to prison. That study also reported that, in the combined high schools in the ten ZIP codes, a total of 26 students were prepared for college while 3,100 individuals were sent to prison.

Wallace added that Dallas County’s jail, the Lew Sterrett Justice Center, has one floor just for 17-year-olds who have been arrested.

“Texas is one of only two states where 17-year-olds are treated as adults in criminal cases,” said Cynthia Alkon, a visiting professor from Texas A&M at SMU’s Dedman School of Law. “Texas is out of step. There are legal structures that need to change. Without talking about the legal structures, we’re missing a key piece. That’s one key change that churches and other faith groups could advocate for.”

Edwin Robinson

Edwin Robinson, executive director of Faith in Texas, told the audience that reform to eliminate the pipeline can’t be piecemeal.

“The school-to-prison pipeline is not some sort of thing that is separate from what it means to be educated in the United States of America,” he said. “It IS the education system.”

Robinson added, “When people ask, ‘What do we replace it with?’ I give the same answer God gave the children of Israel: go. There were no GPS coordinates to the promised land. One of the things that stops us from dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline is that we want to have all the answers before we start. We don’t have all the answers. But we do know that what we have is making us sick.”

Recinos cited examples where students’ minor misbehavior was unjustly criminalized, such as 12-year-old Alexa Gonzalez in New York, who wrote “I love my friends Abby and Faith” on her desk with an erasable marker. Considering this an act of vandalism, she was handcuffed, arrested and detained at a New York City precinct.

“What I hope attendees took away was the importance of paying attention to your local school boards and what is happening inside our schools,” said Isabel N. Docampo, director of the Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity and Religions at Perkins School. “It’s relevant not only if you have children in school but for the whole of society. How we treat students has a direct impact on our county’s health, culturally, morally and economically.”

Ubuntu Music

The evening program opened with a mini-concert by Ubuntu Music Project, an after-school music program for underserved students in Dallas. Their faces focused in deep concentration, the young violinists presented an instrumental rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”

Nicole Melki

Ubuntu’s founder and executive director is Perkins graduate Nicole Melki, with Grace United Methodist Church in east Dallas providing support. Most of the participants in the program are Latino children. (Ubuntu is an African principle of the interconnectedness of all people, often expressed as “I am because we are.”)

“These are kids who lack food resources, who suffer from intergenerational trauma from poverty,” she told the audience. “Music is a way of awakening hope and teaching tenacity to strive for success. Otherwise, these children can end up believing that success is only for the privileged. Hopelessness becomes internalized.”

Melki was inspired by her own experience to start Ubuntu. The child of refugees, she said she felt “I was too far behind and could never make something of myself. But everything changed at age 11, when I started playing the violin.”

Melki shared stories of students who were able to surmount obstacles and earn coveted spots in desirable magnet schools through their violin skills – and called on others to find their ways to serve.

“We were able to transform music into empowerment,” she said. “We bring liberation to the oppressed through music. Where is your call to bring liberation to the oppressed? Everybody in this room is called to be an agent of hope.”

News November 2018 Perspective Online

Alumni/ae Update

Perkins Alumnae Meet Archbishop

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during a recent visit to Dallas with (left) the Rev. Leslie Stewart (M. Div. ’14) and (right) the Rev. Rebecca Tankersley (M. Div. ’15).

Two Perkins alums had the opportunity to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during a recent visit to Dallas. The Rev. Leslie Stewart (M. Div. ‘14) and the Rev. Rebecca Tankersley (M. Div. ‘14) met Welby during a vocations conference, “Discerning a 21st Century Call to the Ancient Order of Priesthood.” The gathering was organized by the Communion Partners – a group of theologically conservative bishops who are committed to remaining within the US-based Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada, despite differences over issues including sexuality. Stewart is an Episcopal priest, chaplain at North Texas Veteran’s Court, and vicar at Resurrection Episcopal in Plano. Tankersley is associate rector of Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas.



Magruder Honored at UN Day Awards Ceremony

The Rev. Dr. Wes Magruder (M.Div., ’96), senior pastor at Kessler Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, was one of eight North Texans honored at the annual United Nations Day Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, October 23 at SMU.  The event was hosted by the Dallas Chapter of the United Nations Association of the USA, a national grassroots organization devoted to strengthening the U.S.- UN relationship through public education and advocacy.  The 2018 keynote speaker was the Rev. Dr. Levi Bautista, Assistant General Secretary for UN Ministry and International Affairs of the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church.  Magruder was cited for his work in human rights.


Danners Welcome New Baby

The Rev. Megan Danner (M.Div. ‘10) and husband, Shane, welcomed their new baby girl into the world on October 21, 2018. Ashtin Elizabeth Danner weighed a healthy 8 lbs., 15 oz. and was 21-1/2 inches long. Mom reports they are home and enjoying all the cuddles and love. Megan Danner is the Director of Spiritual & Religious Life and Chaplain at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.


October 2018 Perspective Online

Ministry Dallas: Connects Perkins Students, Staff With Needs of Broader Community

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By Mary Jacobs

Theological education usually means listening and learning in a classroom or studying in a library. But sometimes it might mean getting your hands dirty: milking goats, shoveling dirt, worshipping in a drum circle, or cleaning out a supply closet.

That was how 11 members of the Perkins community – seven students and four staff — began the Fall 2018 semester, with Ministry Dallas, a program that took participants to three different outreach ministries for three days in August just before classes commenced.

At each location — White Rock United Methodist Church, Bonton Farms, and Dallas Bethlehem Center – they worshipped, did service projects, met staff members, and got an inside glimpse of an innovative ministry.

“The goal was to expose students not only to the needs of the people of Dallas but also some churches and organizations that are filling the gaps and reaching out in traditional, but creative, ways,” said Tracy Anne Allred, Assistant Dean of Student Life and Director of Community Engagement at Perkins.

That’s important as students prepare to enter ministry and leadership roles, according to the Rev. Katherine Glaze Lyle, who serves on Perkins School of Theology’s Executive Board. “Dallas is a huge field for ministry,” she said. “But it’s not going to be enough in the future to just do ministry the way we used to do it. It’s got to be ministry in new ways.”

Day 1: White Rock UMC

When Mitchell Boone arrived at White Rock United Methodist Church in Dallas’s funky Little Forest Hills neighborhood in 2012, the church was dying and barely able to even cover its utility bills. Membership had dwindled steadily since 1974. The church’s building was mostly a liability, deserted except on Sunday mornings, when about 120 members drove in from the suburbs. At the recommendation of a consulting firm hired by the congregation, the church added a contemporary worship band on Sunday mornings, to no avail.

Today, however, WRUMC is bustling seven days a week. On weekday mornings, preschoolers fill the Sunday School classrooms. The fellowship hall – before, used only a few times a year – is now home to The Mix Coworking & Creative Space, where small business owners, freelancers, caterers, artists and others work. (The Mix is managed by a partner, the Missional Wisdom Foundation.) Outside is a community garden, host to yoga classes, a composting station, and an herb garden open to anyone who’d like to snip a few sprigs for tonight’s dinner. Most of the garden’s plots are tended by neighbors who are not members of the church. Another unused room now serves as the meditation room for Maria Kannon Zen Center. A gymnasium, dormant for years, is now alive with Peruvian dance classes and pick-up basketball games.

Boone, who is WRUMC’s pastor, shared the secret of the church’s rebirth: meeting with people in the neighborhood, learning about their needs, forming innovative partnerships – plus a dose of humility.

“It’s not rocket science,” he said. “Instead of seeing our mostly empty building as a liability, we asked, ‘How would the neighborhood use this space?’ We realized we do not have a monopoly on the ways in which God is working.”

Ministry Dallas participants worked in the garden, toured the building, met with staff members and artists at The Mix, and enjoyed lunch prepared by Rhonda Sweet, a caterer who manages The Mix’s new commercial kitchen. The group also gathered in a drum circle for worship led by Rebecca Garrett Pace, the church’s Director of Worship.

“The visit gave me a different vision for what a church can be and how it can be plugged into the community,” said Zack Hughes, a second-year M.Div. student. “They are sharing resources and talents; there’s much to be learned from the model that WRUMC is setting.”

Day 2: Bonton Farms

There’s a saying posted on a wall at Bonton Farms: “We don’t grow vegetables. We grow people.”

The urban farm has goats, chickens, turkeys, fresh vegetables, and a mission to serve hurting people in the neighborhood. About three-quarters of the men living in the Bonton area have served jail time by age 25. More than 60 percent of residents have no driver’s license, no car and little access to transportation.

Surrounded by three highways, train tracks and a river, the area is isolated from the rest of Dallas. It’s also a food desert – neighborhood convenience stores are stocked with junk food and booze but few healthy options. A resident can spend hours on public transportation just to get to and from a grocery store. Not surprisingly, Bonton residents have astronomical rates of diabetes, obesity, cancer and other health issues. In hopes of reversing that trend, the farm offers healthy, fresh alternatives.

During their visit, Ministry Dallas participants milked goats and shoveled dirt, and heard the stories of farm employees like Jovan Anderson, who found work, purpose and support at Bonton Farms.

“Before I came here, I’d never been on a farm,” he said. “I just fell in love. Everything I do here, I learn from it.” Another employee shared how he’d recently earned his driver’s license for the first time. Now he’s the driver who shuttles people and supplies for the farm; he’s hoping to eventually earn his commercial license.

Cash donations and produce sales at the Dallas Farmer’s Market and to restaurants (Café Momentum is a big customer) support the farm financially. Plans are underway to add a grocery store and eatery.

Bonton was started by Daron Babcock, who quit his job and sold his home in Frisco in 2011 to move into an abandoned Habitat for Humanity house in the neighborhood. He had no plan other than to serve. Conversations on the porch with neighbors expanded into a Bible study, which in turn morphed into an effort to help residents find jobs, which eventually led to the creation of the farm. For Ministry Dallas participants, Bonton’s story reinforced lessons from the previous day at White Rock United Methodist.

“At both, the focus was turned outward to the community and the main job became listening and walking hand in hand with others,” said Emily Clark, a first-year M. Div. student. “It was such a beautiful reminder of what ministry is all about.”

Day 3: Dallas Bethlehem Center

Situated in one of city’s most economically challenged neighborhoods, Dallas Bethlehem Center is a community center with a preschool, a food distribution program and a dream to do much more. Founded by the United Methodist Women, the Center closed its doors for financial reasons in 2011, reopened in 2013 and is today in rebuilding mode under a new director, Chelsea White.

That resilience in the face of challenges offered valuable lessons for Ministry Dallas participants, according to Lyle, who serves as chair of Dallas Bethlehem Center’s board. The community center is situated in the middle of a food desert. About 80 homes in the neighborhood – including one across the street – are known crack houses. Gun shots ring out day and night. Few residents have access to a car and unemployment is high.

“Yet, the level of resilience and personal resources is also huge,” Lyle said. “The people there have a lot to offer, and it’s important for church leaders to get in touch with that resilience.”

Ministry Dallas participants toured the facility and organized a supply closet used to stock backpacks distributed to kids in the neighborhood. Many were impressed by White’s innovative ideas on fundraising and community involvement.

“Chelsea encouraged us to not view fundraising as ‘Please, fund our cause,’” said Joyce Vanderlip, a second year M.Div. student. “Giving makes people feel good. Done right, fundraising is matching an opportunity to a person with that desire to give.”


Now that the academic year is underway, participants say the Ministry Dallas experience will stay with them as they discern where they might best serve the community. Zack Hughes, who is “on the fence” as to the direction for his Perkins internship and ultimately his post-graduation career, says “Ministry Dallas gave me a lot of food for thought.”

Others said they left the experience with ideas for more effective ways to be in ministry – as well as a sense of hope.

The experience taught participant Richard Anastasi, a second year M. Div. student, to “first, listen to the community, learn what they want and need, love them, and then begin to serve.

“I left each ministry each day inspired and hopeful of what is possible in apparently impossible situations.”


Mary Jacobs, former staff writer for The United Methodist Reporter and the Dallas Morning News, is a freelance writer in Dallas.


News October 2018 Perspective Online

A Message from Dean Craig C. Hill

The fall semester is underway, autumn is upon us and it’s an exciting time to be at Perkins! Our enrollment has increased for the second year in a row—up 14.1% from 2017—the campus is abuzz with energetic students, faculty and staff and our programs are impacting Christian leaders around the world. Indeed, Perkins is living out the vision of being “an academy for the whole church in the whole world.”

Join me for a comprehensive Perkins update via the video below. And as always, thank you for your support of Perkins School of Theology!

Craig C. Hill
Dean, Perkins School of Theology

News October 2018 Perspective Online

Introducing the Perkins Development Office

When you think of the Development Office, you probably think “fundraising,” which is certainly a big part of what we do. Our role is to raise endowment, capital, and annual gifts for the benefit of Perkins School of Theology. We are pleased to have a wonderful group of regular donors and invite all to join in this important effort.

But it’s not just about money. We also believe that Perkins will have its biggest impact when we help to clearly communicate the school’s purpose and actively involve our constituents in achieving those goals. We continually seek meaningful ways for alumni and friends to help Perkins fulfill its mission.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to the people in the Development Office who serve the entire Perkins community, working closely with Dean Hill, Business Manager Mark Greim, and the other Senior Administrators at Perkins.

John Martin
John Martin

I am in my fifth year as Director of Development for Perkins School of Theology. I have had a career in higher education on both the College and Seminary levels. Having served on the Board of Directors and Board of Commissioners of the Association of Theological Schools, I am acutely aware of the stresses faced by schools of theology. Since I began my career in higher education as a professor, I can identify with the desires of faculty members to have necessary resources.

Christina Rhodes
Christina Rhodes

Working with me, as Advancement Associate, is Mrs. Christina Rhodes. Christina joined the team a year ago and brings outstanding writing, editing, and organizational skills and abilities to the tasks of the office. Christina is a graduate of Texas Tech University and has a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Christina and I are here to serve the Perkins community. The Perkins development mission statement is:

To maximize charitable giving to Perkins School of Theology through:
Personal visits to represent the vision of the School;
Electronic and telephone contacts;
Endowment reporting;
Thanking present and past donors;
Partnering with administration, faculty members, the Perkins Executive Board, and other SMU development officers on plans and funding needs;
Careful recording of contacts and gifts;
Keeping information in the strictest confidence.

This will be done in an open and transparent way with each donor’s benefit as the foundation of what we do. We will treat each donor with care and respect, regardless of the size or scope of the gift.

We look forward to interacting with many as we continue to serve as the conduit supplying Perkins with resources to accomplish our important educational task.

With a thankful heart,

John A. Martin
Director of Development