August 2022 Perspective Online Uncategorized

Student News

Fourth of July Parade

Perkins was well-represented in the Park Cities 4th of July Parade. Richard Anastasi, Michaela Calahan, Fernando Berwig Silva and Tongula Steddum participated in the university’s float, along with other SMU students and staff. The event was organized through Development and External Affairs via Community Engagement. Tracy Anne Allred, Assistant Dean of Student Life, helped recruit participants as part of a University-wide initiative to coordinate community engagement activities and programs.

Doctoral Fellowship

Shandon Klein has been named a 2022 Doctoral Fellowship recipient by the Louisville Institute. The program offers two-year fellowships of $3,000 a year to doctoral students considering theological education as their vocation. In addition, the cohort of ten Doctoral Fellows meets three times during the fellowship. Klein received an M.Div. in 2022 and is currently a D. Min. student.

Women’s Gathering

Div. student Eunbyul “Stella” Cho participated in the 2022 United Women in Faith (United Methodist Women Assembly) in Florida through the Scranton Women’s Leadership Center, which supported her attendance at various leadership opportunities while in her home country of South Korea. At the Florida gathering, she was able to see Rev. Dr. Hea Sun Kim, the Director of Scranton Women’s Leadership Center in Seoul and the first Korean female ordained in United Methodist Church. “She is not only my mentor, but also the mentor for lots of future female leaders all over the world,” Cho said. She also expressed her gratitude to Perkins staff and the Perkins Students Association for its support for the trip. “I am grateful for special moments that I will cherish forever and glad to share this experience with Perkins community,” she said in a Facebook post.

Methodist Foundation Scholarship

Perkins student Annie M. J. McGregor Meek was one of 52 students to receive scholarships from the Methodist Foundation for Arkansas. Meek is a member of Trinity United Methodist Church in Little Rock. The Foundation gave $52,000 in scholarships to 52 students receiving 2022 Dollars for Scholars awards to begin or continue their education at United Methodist colleges, universities, and seminaries. For each recipient, the student’s local church gave $1,000 and the United Methodist Higher Education Foundation matched that contribution. The Methodist Foundation for Arkansas gave $1,000, along with the student’s selected college contributing $1,000 for a significant $4,000 scholarship award to each student. Three SMU students were also among those receiving the scholarship.

Stephanie Bohan

Perkins student Stephanie Bohan was recently featured in a story in the Oak Cliff Advocate, “Fierce Females: Four Women Who Keep Oak Cliff Roaring.” Bohan, who lives in Oak Cliff with her husband, Michael, was named CEO of Dallas-based adoption nonprofit Hope Cottage in May. Read the story here.






Alumnus Profile: Robert Hasley

As a young man, the Rev. Dr. Robert Hasley (M.Th. ’77, M.Div., 1978) wondered how his grandmother could always say, “Everything is gonna be all right,” even in times of suffering or uncertainty. Those words helped put him on his path to ministry and were so significant that he later wrote a book titled Everything is Gonna Be All Right.

Now, those words are on his mind again, as he faces a serious medical diagnosis.

Hasley, 70, is founding pastor of St. Andrew UMC in Plano, Texas. He planted the church in a school in 1986; today, the church has 6,500 members. Just before Hasley stepped down from his role of senior pastor in July 2021, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.

The church recently broke ground on a new chapel named in his honor, and Plano Mayor John Muns proclaimed the day, Nov. 7, “Rev. Robert Hasley Day” across the city. Among the accomplishments he cited were Hasley’s leadership as St. Andrew helped build more than 20 Habitat for Humanity homes in Plano’s historically Black Douglass Community, found housing for over 300 Hurricane Katrina victims and along with his wife, Sharon, helped found The Storehouse of Collin County, a food pantry at the church.

Hasley talked with Perkins Perspective about his journey and how his Perkins education guided him. Here are excerpts.

Tell us about how you first sensed your calling to ministry.

I grew up in First UMC in Magnolia, Arkansas, where I was very active in the church’s youth program. I was there every Sunday morning and Sunday night serving as president of the youth group. I preached my first sermon at that church, as a part of the youth worship.

Another great influence was my Grandmother Stephens, who was the organist and pianist for First UMC in Gurdon, Arkansas. She had a deep faith and was very service-oriented. One of her favorite sayings whenever I was going through a tough time was “Everything’s gonna be all right.” That was her statement of faith — that with Christ in your life, you know God’s going to watch over you, be there for you, and sustain you. “Everything’s gonna be all right” was kind of a driving force for me early on to think about ministry, think about faith and what it means to have Christ in your life and be an instrument of God’s grace.

Another person who had a great deal of influence on my life was the youth director at the church in Magnolia, Billy Boyd Smith. He went on to attend Perkins and served as an associate pastor at Highland Park UMC for over 40 years. He was truly selfless in his service for Christ.

When I was a freshman in college, one of my closest friends was killed in a car accident. He was my age, 19. In the midst of my profound grief, I realized that could be me. I could be here today and gone the next. That led me to ask, “What am I going to do with my life?”

I actually had a moment in my college library. It wasn’t an audible voice, but it was as if all these life experiences I’d had until that point came together and pointed me in a direction, to give my life to the Lord and to be used according to the Lord’s will.

So your path to ministry was lined with a cloud of witnesses.

That’s a good way to put it.

You spent 10 years at an established church, Highland Park UMC, and then you started a new church, St. Andrew UMC in Plano. How did your Perkins education prepare you for ministry in those two different situations?

At Perkins, I was blessed to have a new cloud of witnesses. Perkins was known across the country for its academics. If you wanted to learn how to think critically, Perkins was the place to go.

I learned a lot from John Deschner and Schubert Ogden, both systematic theology professors. One was more conservative, and the other was more progressive. They team-taught and would debate each other as a part of the class. I learned to respect different opinions and different theologies just by the way they respected each other. Each would stand up for his viewpoint. They wouldn’t apologize for their differences but accepted their differences and still cared for each other and loved each other.

I learned a great deal from Virgil Howard. I’ll never forget how he highlighted the poetry in the gospel of John and the beauty of the way the author of that gospel told the Christ story. And, I’ve always loved that gospel in part due to him.

Fred Carney taught ethics, a phenomenal class. It taught me all the different ways to ask, in any decision or situation, “What is the right thing to do? What is the most loving thing to do?”

What has enabled you to be so effective in ministry?

I think my gift is relationships. When I preach, I preach in a relational way. I usually tell a story and then tie that story to a scripture. I share how I experience God working in that story or how God’s grace touches our lives.

I think my upbringing was also important. My mom was a Methodist. My father was a Baptist. In dinner conversations, I would hear a progressive approach to religion and I would hear a conservative approach to religion. At the end of those conversations, they would kiss each other on the cheek and let each other know they still loved each other, even though they disagreed. That was a wonderful way to grow up.

My father was hired as superintendent of schools to integrate the school system in Magnolia. From him, I learned that diversity is not something to be feared. It is a blessing.

Tell us about starting St. Andrew UMC.

I spent 10 years at Highland Park UMC. I was fortunate to be able to be successful in growing a college ministry there. I would go out to visit all the dorms and the sororities and fraternities and invite kids to come be a part of this ministry. It worked, and I just loved those years. Then the senior pastor, Dr. Leighton Farrell, asked if I would plant a new church. They sent me to Plano to start a congregation. I was appointed on May 1, 1986, and the church had its first worship service on September 7, 1986, in Shepton High School in Plano.

I remember being anxious before our first worship service in the school. We were meeting in the room used as the cafeteria and auditorium. I had to preach from the stage. It was a big room to start a church. I was worried. The night before that first worship service, my 7-year-old son grabbed my arm and said, “Dad, everything’s gonna be all right. Tomorrow’s gonna be a giant day.”

We had over 500 people show up to that first service, many of them visitors from Lovers Lane UMC and Highland Park UMC, two churches that were supporting our church plant. The word got out that something was happening at Shepton. The next Sunday, all those visitors were gone but we still had 280 people show up.

Can you tell us a little bit about your health situation?

I had been talking to Bishop McKee about my successor at St. Andrew, and plans were made for Arthur Jones to become senior pastor on July 1, 2021. I would remain on staff as founding pastor. Just before I was about to turn over the reins, in April 2021, I had an abdominal pain and was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.

The cancer is not curable, but the doctor started a chemo that has slowed the cancer to such an extent that that I’m still here today. I told my doctor, “What I would like is a quality of life. I want to still be in relationships with my family and friends in church. I’d like to continue to work.” If he could allow me to do that with the treatments and allow me to function and have a quality of life, then that’s what I want. I don’t need to linger. <Laughs>

Do you still believe everything is gonna be all right?

Yes. Here’s what I decided: Whatever time I have been given, I am happiest when I have a purpose and when I’m in relationship with people I love. You have to decide: Are you dying with cancer, or are you living with cancer? I’m going to be living with cancer. I’m going to live my life to the fullest and make each day count.

I’m working on a new ministry at St. Andrew for people who are retired. I brought a whole group of people together who are about my age, and we are starting this ministry. It’s a way of keeping our members who are 50 and older engaged and involved. We are going to launch this ministry in September.

I’m also spending a lot of time with family. Sharon and I have five grown children and five grandchildren. I have got plans to see my two granddaughters in Crozet, Virginia. I’ve always wanted to go to Cooperstown, New York, to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, so I took my boys there. We visited my best friend from high school, who is a heart surgeon in New York City, and saw the World Trade Center honoring the victims of 9/11. We’re just doing things and we’re talking at a depth that we haven’t talked in a long time. We feel closer to each other now than probably we’ve ever felt.

My oldest son just took me on a five-day trip through Arkansas, going to all the places where I grew up. He wanted to hear all the stories. And most of the stories I told were true. Except when I started talking about football exploits. I may have stretched those a little bit.


A Christian Affirmation for Juneteenth

Leader: As we commemorate freedom as African Americans, let us not forget the trials and tribulations faced by our ancestors forced into slavery for hundreds of years
People: Thanks be unto God for granting freedom and giving us victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Leader: Let us continue to emphasize the importance of education and the advancement of the African American race.
People: Thanks be unto God for granting freedom and giving us victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Leader: God has granted us freedom, let use it wisely, guard it carefully, and embrace it totally.
People: Thanks be unto God for granting freedom and giving us victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Leader: Allow this Juneteenth celebration to serve as a reminder of our tenacity, our ability to hold on to hope and to our God.
People: Thanks be unto God for granting freedom and giving us victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Leader: Let all people of all religions come together and acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to negatively influence American society.
People: Thanks be unto God for granting freedom and giving us victory through Jesus Christ our Lord! We are more than conquerors through Jesus who loves us so.
Leader: Allow other ethnic groups to be sensitized to the conditions our ancestors endured and help them to understand why racism and bigotry cannot have the last word.
People: Thanks be unto God for granting freedom and giving us victory through Jesus Christ our Lord! We are more than conquerors through Jesus who loves us so.
Leader: Let all African Americans continue to hope for a better tomorrow while remembering and rejoicing over our triumphant heritage.
People: We will not forget the “Middle Passage.” We will continue to tell our ancestral story of bondage that gave way to freedom, both physically and spiritually. We shall forever strive to advance the Kingdom of God through liberation and excellence.
All: Thanks be unto God for granting freedom and giving us victory through Jesus Christ our Lord! We are more than conquerors through Jesus who loves us!


From The African American Lectionary, © 2011.


“Preaching to an Empty Tomb”

by Alyce McKenzie
Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director, Center for Preaching Excellence

I wake up every morning these days with an initial, hopeful thought, “A new day!” quickly followed by a thud of remembrance in the pit of my stomach– “But it’s another Corona confinement day.” And I am someone whose job is not in jeopardy, whose fridge is full, and who has the companionship of my spouse. Others are waking up to a new day with more than a morning slump, but a persistent sense of being entombed, shut off from others and struggling to feel the presence of God all day long. There is profound biblical precedent for this feeling. The Israelites: another day of captivity in Babylon. Paul: another day under house arrest. The poor of Jesus’ day: another day under Rome’s heel. Fast forward to April, 2020. Another day in ICU cut off from family and friends.  Another day at home cut off from loved ones in ICU. Another day caring for the sick, stocking shelves, delivering needed services. Entombed in loneliness, sorrow, anxiety.

A few days ago Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams warned that “This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives.” Images of makeshift morgues, businesses closed, people laid off, health care workers pleading for more supplies, first responders falling ill, and crowded intensive care units …. it is indeed a sad week.

Holy Week is the saddest week we experience every liturgical year. It is the week where we see the worst in human beings inflicted on the best of human beings, on the Son of Man, the representative human being who is also the Son of God. It is the week where we see the attempted destruction by human beings of One who is a gift from the very heart of God. Most Holy Weeks, despite the brutality, violence, injustice, and poverty in the world, we experience an upwelling of hope in our souls. But this Holy Week, my sense is that, while many people experience the empty tomb, it’s not in an Easter Sunday sort of way. Instead, they experience themselves trapped within it, devoid of divine companionship, with no one to roll the stone away. A confinement that is beginning to feel, not just claustrophobic, but permanent. Like Lazarus, never emerging from his tomb. Like Paul, in prison with no release date and no reason for rejoicing. Like the Israelites looking up from their toil, squinting to discern a path appearing through the sea, but seeing none.

In this saddest week of many of our lives, this Holiest week of the year, events are offering a very convincing argument that death has a sting that is stronger than life. Slogans like “We are all in this together,” and “We will get through this” provide some solace. Images of human kindness warm the heart: people delivering food, sewing masks, holding neighborhood dance parties, delivering thank you cards to grocery store and sanitation workers, and holding up appreciation posters for medical workers. Pictures of babies and flowers on Facebook bring a smile. Much as I appreciate the slogans, much as I love both babies and flowers, we need hope from a source deeper than solidarity through shared human misery and comfort, more abiding than images from the cycle of life.

Christian preachers this week stand at the entrance to the empty tomb and preach to those within it. What is it we all need to hear?

We need to give credit for every good and kind thing we see happening around us to God, the author of life and love. We need to refrain from blaming God for the virus, a claim that reflects our human need for explanation, not the character and actions of the God in the world. We need to refrain from offering the sunny promise that “God will fix this.” While God works in everything for good, such glib assurances absolve us of the need to respond to God’s actions with acts of generous courage.

We need Paul’s reminder that “We walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), that, despite the inherent uncertainties of our risky lives, despite the signs of death all around us, we have a God who is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

We need the reminder that this God offers us, not only a present help, but a future hope: the overarching Scriptural assurance that, thanks be to God, kindness will win out over brutality, peace will win out over violence, joyous hope will win out over despair, and unity will win out over division. Our eternal life with God will win out over death.

We need Paul’s insistence that “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

We need Isaiah’s assurance that, for Christians, is epitomized in God’s raising God’s Son from the dead and securing for us the ultimate victory over violence, selfishness and death.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
Making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

We need the light of resurrection to illuminate the angst of the Garden and the anguish of the cross, to gleam through the edges of the stone rolled against all tombs.

That is quite a long list of “We needs.” The good news we preach this Holy Week and Easter to people entombed in anxiety and despair, ourselves included, is not ultimately about what “We need.” It is about what, by God’s grace, we have. Or, more precisely, Whom. This One is standing right before us, ignoring social distancing guidelines, closer than hands and feet. This One passes through thick walls and locked doors to stand before traumatized disciples to breathe on them the Spirit, the breath of life and peace.

This One stands at the entrance to Lazarus’ tomb, and, if he can’t or won’t come out, goes in after him.

Whatever tomb we are in this Holy week, it is not empty of God.  It is filled with the presence of God who raised God’s Son from the dead, whose love is stronger than death, and from whom we can never be separated in this life or the next. Thanks be to God!


The Good Samaritan and the Coronavirus

By Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner
Professor of Pastoral Care and Pastoral Theology, Perkins School of Theology, SMU

(Note: This blog includes a Fitness Journal for Confinement at the bottom, which you are invited to print and complete for yourself during this time.)

When I was a young girl at Madison Heights Methodist Church in Memphis, my Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Proudfit, taught me that a parable was a story with a hidden meaning. Ever since then, I search for that hidden meaning or the mystery of each parable I read.

The parable of the Good Samaritan in a Lukan parable (Luke 10:27ff) contains the mystery of the interconnection of three loves. [You shall love your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.] Love of God and love of neighbor alone can truncate the holy triad without the inclusion of love of self. All three  are embedded in the commandment uttered by Jesus to a lawyer trying to trick him.

What would the Good Samaritan do in today’s pandemic? Robbers had taken a man’s health away much like a virus would. They robbed him of his vitality and left him for half-dead. Practicing extreme social distancing, the rabbis went much more than six to nine feet away from the wounded traveler who could possibly contaminate them. The Good Samaritan comes, stops and, without gloves or mask, lifts the man onto an animal. Knowing that this sick individual needed specific care, the Good Samaritan takes him to an inn and hands the ill person over to an innkeeper.

Perhaps the rabbis were the wisest in this scenario. Perhaps we caregivers are not called to be the Good Samaritan. An accomplished graduate of Perkins, Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) Supervisor Precious (Willacin) Gholston spoke in my Caring Congregation class last week. She recounted her vocational struggle while at Perkins. She did not want to carry the load and responsibility like the Good Samaritan, always stopping where there was a need. I reminded her that she was not the Good Samaritan. She credits this remark with freeing her to find her vocation. She is now manager of CPE programs at Methodist Health System, Dallas, and watches over the spiritual care of many people. She is just trying to follow in the footsteps of the Good Samaritan, footprints neither she nor I will ever fill. But what a journey!

The Samaritan spent a night at the inn. Most likely the Samaritan knew there would be someone else on the journey to Jericho whose health would be stolen from her. There would be someone whose vigor and strength were plundered. In my faith imagination, I would like to imagine the Samaritan had a leisurely breakfast outside the stucco inn on the patio following a restorative night’s sleep. Then the Samaritan offered to come back, check on the ill guest and repay the innkeeper. This is the story of loving yourself enough to pace yourself although love of neighbor and love of God have always been the most prominent features of this parable. Love of self is equally evident if you search for a hidden meaning.

How do I follow this act as a pastoral caregiver? What would the Good Samaritan do in this pandemic?

The importance of the Incarnation, the doctrine and belief that Jesus lived among us, touched people, healed people and interacted in the physical realm with women and men, will become increasingly evident as we remain isolated from one another during this pandemic. Now the physical interaction with people that Jesus demonstrated – and the hands-on lifting that the Good Samaritan probably used to get the wounded person on a donkey – are temporarily suspended from our ministries. We pastors have anointed with oil, held the hands of the dying, baptized with water and washed the feet of others. We have held the host in our hand, broken bread and given it to those partaking in Holy Communion.  We pastoral counselors are used to meeting with counselees, watching for physical signs of the “presenting problem,” paying attention to eye contact and posture, decoding the “scripting” (where family members sit in family counseling). Now that is taken away, in part, although social media has made certain observations possible.

May we never forget the significance of God with us, in the flesh, as one who physically mingled and ate with those around him. When you are examined for ordination, tell of this experience of “staying in place” and your heightened understanding of the importance of the Incarnation.

This pandemic is a critical event. A crisis is a response to a critical event. You can choose, in part, how you respond. I assure you that this will be one of the most memorable learning experiences you will have in your theological training. Lean into it. You are not alone. If your candle of hope starts to flicker or diminish in this dimness we are experiencing, let the community that surrounds you – even if it is online through Zoom – hold that candle of hope for you.

The more I try to understand a parable, the more I realize that I cannot plummet its depth. However, this I do know: The Good Samaritan, in whose footsteps I try to follow – stumbling sometimes, for sure – took care of himself, took care of herself. To love ourselves and care for ourselves was not a suggestion in Jesus’ response to the lawyer. It was a mandate, a commandment.

In closing, I offer you a protocol that will help you through each day of the pandemic. Remember to rest and restore yourself “at the inn.”



Fitness Journal for Confinement

Name _______________________

Date  _______________________


  1. What do I need to let go of or relinquish? What burden do I need to release to God?
  2. In this space (after letting go), what is the Holy Spirit trying to give me, a child of God?


Bi-weekly entries (make an entry in the middle of the week and at the end of the week)

Daily entries (feel free to make daily entries during this time of home confinement)

Physical exercise (Two hours per week minimum is recommended.) How much exercise are you getting? Daily? Weekly? What kind of exercise?

Nutrition (This includes dietary changes and accomplishments as well as hydration, drinking 5-6 glasses of water per day.) Since your last entry, how much water have you drunk daily, on average? Any positive dietary changes (for example, more fiber, more vegetables, vitamins and fruit)? Be specific.

Play or leisure (Two hours per week minimum.) How much, and what?

Rest How much sleep do you need each night? Have you made progress in allowing for this amount? Since your last entry, how much sleep have you averaged each night? 

Time alone Were you able to spend time alone since your last entry? How much do you need? Did you allow for this? Are you nurturing the artist within? The inner child? Watch the Disney movie “The Kid” to see the inner child of the protagonist. (Note: Every person has an artistic capacity, often expressed as the “artist within.”)

Biblical and theological insights that arose during the week or the day.



Online Communion and the COVID-19 Crisis: Problems and Alternatives

By Mark W. Stamm
Professor of Christian Worship
(for UMC Discipleship Ministries)

As the COVID-19 crisis has intensified, with worship services canceled and/or moved online, United Methodists have begun to grapple with disruptions in Communion schedules. We can view services online, during which we can sing, hear scriptures and sermons, and participate in prayers, but the Lord’s Supper doesn’t work very well, and probably not at all. We have here a sacramental dilemma. Eucharistic participation and devotion have increased over the last several generations, a dynamic that many of us have both experienced and encouraged. That dynamic is epitomized by a line in the opening paragraph of This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion–“We want more.” 1 Given the COVID-19 crisis and our inability to gather together, what shall we do now?

In the face of this challenge, some have begun to raise questions about celebrating Holy Communion online. Should we do it? This is not a new question, by the way, having been discussed in 2013 and before, leading the Council of Bishops to declare a moratorium on the practice that spring.2 To the best of my knowledge, that moratorium remains in place, and I affirm its wisdom. Nevertheless, I present myself here neither simply as defender of the Council, nor as member of some mythical “liturgical police” force. Indeed, I am convinced of the general pastoral goodwill of those who advocate for Communion online and hope to remain in collegial relationship with you, regardless of what you do. Church trials and threats to the same don’t solve much, if anything at all.

However, in my role as scholar-teacher and as fellow pastor, I urge churches and pastors not to offer Communion online and to explore better theological and spiritual alternatives. In this short article, I offer some reasons to avoid the practice and then follow that with a description of alternative possibilities. Although I have not previously written about the issue of online Communion, those familiar with my work may recognize the reframing of themes that I have engaged over the past twenty years or so.

Toward Avoiding Online Communion

The most compelling reason to avoid online Communion resides within the very nature of the
Lord’s Supper itself. Here’s a question that I often ask: When we hear Jesus say, “Do this for the remembrance of me” (I Corinthians 11:24) what is the “this” in the “do this?

Understandably, many will focus on receiving the consecrated bread and wine/juice. But, consider that the “this” in “do this” points to something much wider than the receiving of the bread and cup. I have long argued that we should keep the whole action in mind, from gathering together through confession and reconciliation, from offering the bread and wine through Great Thanksgiving to, yes, our taking of the bread and cup, and even to the dismissal that sends us forth in mission. “Do this” involves all of that, which is one reason why St. Paul admonished the Corinthians Christians to “wait for one another” (I Corinthians 11:33). Doing the work together matters.3

Granted, we may insist that we can approximate the dynamics of a gathered community within an online service, and perhaps there is an argument to be engaged here. Still, I have difficulty moving past the image of a person at home holding up bread and juice in front of the pastor on the screen. Be that as it may, let’s think forward to the time beyond the COVID-19 crisis. If, during the crisis, we decide to create an exception to the long-standing norm that requires gathering for Holy Communion, then down the line, we may have to live with the precedent that we had set. Here, I am admittedly invoking the proverbial “Law of Unintended Consequences,” urging us to remember that the directives requiring the church to gather for its eucharistic celebrations reflect deep wisdom, and, indeed, they are as old as the church itself.

So then, we shouldn’t allow online Communion now if we’re not willing to do so after the COVID-19 crisis is over. In a sense, all of us are the unwillingly absent member of the church that I reference in my book Extending the Table: A Guide for a Ministry of Home Communion Serving.4 As to serving our more routinely homebound members, we have extended table practices, and we can (and should) return to them when the crisis is past. But, remember the embodied character of those visits. Church members represent the embodied prayer and presence of the faith community, and they bring that to our absent members, along with the consecrated Communion elements. They should do so even if that involves significant time and effort. Before the current crisis, it has appeared to me that at least some of the arguments for online communing of the unwillingly absent were veiled appeals to the inconvenience of in person visitation. Yes, arranging visitations can be quite inconvenient, but remember that every ordained United Methodist must answer the historic questions, one of which asks, “Will you visit from house to house?”5 Furthermore, the parable of the sheep and the goats addresses the whole church on this matter, reminding us that the faithful are called to visit Christ in the person of the unwillingly absent prisoner or sick one (Matthew 25: 36, 43).

What about using extended table practices during the crisis? One might argue for some version of extended table with a small group of persons in a congregation gathering with their pastor for a Service of Word and Table and then carrying the consecrated bread and wine to those sheltering at home. While it would represent a significant stretching of the practice, it would not, on the surface, contradict the directive in This Holy Mystery discouraging use of extended table permissions to serve Communion to churches without pastors.6 Under the circumstances, however, the risks of such a large scale effort would be significant, both to those who would go (pastors and laypersons) and, yes, to those who would receive them. Could we do extensive visitation without violating “do no harm?”7 Likely not. If the COVID-19 crisis persists for months on end, we may need to imagine ways to minister in the home to large numbers of people, and we could work on some of those. But I don’t think we’re to that point yet, and even then, I think we can do better than simply having persons hold a piece of bread and some wine or juice in front of a computer screen.

Indeed, at present we might assume that most of those who attend church regularly are, shall we say, fairly well-communed. Note that United Methodists whose churches observe a typical first Sunday of the month Eucharist have not yet missed a Communion, and wouldn’t do so until April 5. Speculation about the need for on-line communion may be a spiritual version of the panic buying that we have seen in our grocery stores, as in “Right now, I have eggs and (other necessary household items!), but what will happen to me if I don’t have them in several weeks?”

Generally speaking, at this point we do not yet have a sacramental crisis or a situation of severe sacramental deprivation. I’m not exactly sure what such deprivation would look like, but again, we’re not there yet.

Thoughts Toward Alternatives

So then, what shall we do, and how shall we think about our current strange situation?

I’m reminded of a set of conversations that I had twenty-five years ago, during one of my first experiences in teaching a home Communion workshop to laypersons. I was discussing the limits and possibilities of various ordained and lay roles, their limits and possibilities, when a class member began pressing me, “What happens if someone asks me for Communion, and there has been no corporate service?” That person increased the intensity by asking, “What if a person in need calls me in the middle of the night and needs Communion? What should I do?” I responded that extended table is a fairly modest practice, and that it really doesn’t cover such a scenario. Further, I said that as an ordained elder in this church, it was not within my power to give such permission. Both of us seemed frustrated by the exchange.

I pondered it overnight and an insight came to me that I shared it with the group. That is, in such times of need, we should take seriously what I Corinthians 12:27 claims about us, that “(we) are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” As we engage that text, we should note the multivalent ways in which Paul uses that phrase “body of Christ” and derivatives of “body” throughout I Corinthians chapters eleven through fifteen—in reference to the sacramental matter (I Cor. 11:24), for the church and its members (I Cor. 10:17, I Cor. 12 at numerous points), for our resurrection hope in resurrected bodies (I Cor. 15:35-41). All of the above. My response comes back to me in discussions such as the current one. It may not always be possible for us to give Holy Communion. Nevertheless, in and through our service to one another, we can always give the Body of Christ, indeed ourselves, even when we cannot give the sacramental body. I invite you to reflect on what this insight may mean for you today and in the days ahead.

Here’s another thought: While we’re all homebound, reflect on the sentiment expressed in Percy Dearmer’s hymn “Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether.” After discussing the Christ who is present whenever “two or three are met together” in his name, in the third stanza he wrote,

All our meals and all our living,
make as sacraments of thee,
that by caring, helping, giving,
we may true disciples be.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
We will serve thee faithfully.8

When I sing Dearmer’s hymn, my thoughts often turn to the narrative in the second chapter of Acts. Note its claim that the first Christians “devoted themselves … to the breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:42). I hear that text in all of its multivalent possibilities, along with the claim that “day by day … they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts” all the while taking care of each other (Acts 2:42-47). What were they doing? Were they engaged in an early version of the Lord’s Supper, perhaps some manner of fellowship meal, or perhaps one then the other? There is no answer to these questions, and in times such as these, the text interrogates us. Perhaps we’ve made too large of a distinction between the Eucharist and other meals. As Dearmer suggests, formed by the Lord’s Supper, we do well to sense Christ’s presence in “all of our meals.” More and more, I am convinced that the Risen One abides there. Right now, we should cherish every opportunity we have to share meals together, even in our own households. In like manner, those who insist that Christ wants to welcome all persons should resist the temptation to hoard.

And so we find ourselves in the midst of a eucharistic fast, but realize that this pandemic will pass. In all likelihood, we won’t be exactly the same communities on the other side. We may need to grieve, both for persons lost and for other losses, large and small, that cannot be recouped. Thus, we will have work to do, with and for one another.

But, remember that Easter is coming. It’s on the calendar for April 12, and we’ll observe it even then, likely in somewhat muted form. But realize Easter faith is never merely a matter of the calendar, that every Sunday commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that the power of the Resurrection is at work in our midst. When the need for quarantine and social distancing come to an end, and it’s appropriate for the church to celebrate together, I suggest several things:

  1. That you have the most festive Eucharist that you can muster, even if it’s sometime in
    the middle of July.
  2. As Christians have always done, compensate for the fast that we have endured with a
    time of feasting. My biggest fans will expect a baseball reference, so here goes: Take a
    rain check on all of the Communion Sundays you have missed and then resolve to make
    them up. Who knows? If you end up celebrating Communion three, four, or five weeks
    in a row, you may wonder why you would ever want another Sunday without it.
  3. If you are one of those churches that already has a weekly service of Holy Communion,
    and there are more of those than you may imagine, returning to the Table may cause
    you to rejoice even more deeply. But if that’s the case, don’t keep your joy to
    yourselves, but consider extending it by hosting a community meal. Invite all of your
    neighbors, just because that’s the sort of thing that Christians do.
  4. You may also want to consider expanding and strengthening your extended table
    ministry, with renewed commitment by asking “Who is missing?”9

Through it all, always remember that God’s grace abounds


1 The United Methodist Book of Resolutions, 2016 (Nashville, Tennessee: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2016), 727.
2 Note the following from UM News: “Moratorium, study, urged on online communion.” By Heather Hahn, October 4, 2013.
3 Mark W. Stamm, “Constant Communion in Sacramentally Underserved Places: A Solution from Below,” Sacramental Life (30:3, Ordinary Time 2018), 27-28.
4 Stamm, Extending the Table, Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2009.
5 The United Methodist Book of Discipline, 2016 (Nashville, Tennessee: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2016), paragraph 330.5.d (15) and paragraph 336.15.
6 “This Holy Mystery,” UMC Resolutions, 2016, 764-65.
7 “The Nature, Design, and General Rules of Our United Societies,” The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2016 (Nashville, Tennessee: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2016), para. 104, p. 78.
8 Percy Dearmer, “Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether,” 1931, stanza 3. The United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville, Tennessee, 1989), 632.
9 Stamm, Extending the Table.


‘Doing Church’ Online: Some Insights

By Dr. Marcell Silva Steuernagel
Assistant Professor of Church Music and Director, Master of Sacred Music Degree Program

An interesting dynamic emerged at Perkins School of Theology amidst the Covid-19 crisis. Even as we talked about what to do with our own chapel program (a shout-out to Dr. Mark Stamm, chapel elder extraordinaire), we were contacted by several churches looking for guidance in this transition to online community life. In the last few days, I’ve talked to church leadership across Dallas, in other parts of the US, in Scandinavia, and in Latin America. I’ve coupled the results of these conversations with several online dialogues (thanks to all the Liturgy Fellowship people who have been intensely discussing the subject on Facebook!), and would like to offer a few insights about how to “do church” online in a variety of ways.

First things first: there is no ONE definitive way to establish an online presence. The Internet has certainly been overflowing with all sorts of church-related content in the last few weeks. Depending on what content you have engaged with, you might be thinking: “why is my church not doing this?” Well, you might not have to. The question is not what you can replicate, or even what looks and sounds better in digital format. The question is: what is the right format for your community? For some of the bigger churches that have the technology, know-how, and personnel to pull it of, high-quality video productions of a full service might work well (in fact, I talked to one worship leader who reported increased attendance; more than Christmas Eve!) Your church might not have the necessary parts in place to pull this off, and I encourage you to consider different possibilities. Here at Perkins, we’ve settled on a regular rhythm of daily prayer via Zoom; a circular format that allows us to center into our community life twice a week, even if remotely. In any case, for most midsized and smaller churches, simplicity and practicality are paramount, because you must be able to churn out content on a regular basis.

Second: watching a talking head online for forty minutes is not fun. When congregations gather to hear a sermon, they are surrounded by communal expectations about what they are doing. We come together to study scripture, and this face-to-face dynamic anchors us into place. We can go longer. We might laugh at a witty joke, respond to the preacher, pray together as we go about it. These dynamics are completely different online. What was a pleasurable, participatory “live” experience becomes a digital ordeal. Preachers, remember that your congregants are sitting at home in front of a screen. If you don’t find ways to interact and engage with them, they may “tune out” and go make have espresso instead. As Anthony Diehl says in a Facebook post: “less is most certainly more when live-streaming into a living room. Smaller bands, simple use of graphics, little or no camera switching, and shorter services all felt appropriate.” One pastor mentioned the “rom-com” timeframe as ideal. While some families might be able to sit down in front of a TV and watch a sermonette together, others–especially those with smaller children–might take advantage of putting the kids in front of a cartoon for twenty minutes while they listen to a sermon.

My third point raises a question: how do we define “rich engagement” online? Think, again, of a face-to-face community experience. When we talk to people live, all sorts of minute interactions happen: micro-gestures, posture changes and other body language, touch, smell, laughing, background sounds. “Live” interactions are rich in a unique way. When we move online, communication may at first seem too dry, because it is not colored by these same interactions. So we need to find ways to make them rich. The pastors at my church have been peppering their sermons with quotations of children’s Sunday school songs, overlays of meme reactions to their witty remarks, and cross-references from one week to another. Are you allowing for participants to give feedback, either synchronously or asynchronously? Can people chat amongst themselves during the week, or even during the sermon, to process whatever prompts they’ve been given? Ask these questions as you think of format and delivery for your online content. One church here in Dallas is paying careful attention to the passing of the peace during the liturgy, allowing Zoom participants to say a word about who they are and how they’ve been coping with the quarantine. Another is taking advantage of Facebook watch parties, which seems to be a great way for people to gather online and go through content together.

Fourth: practice! It doesn’t matter if you’re delivering content live on Facebook or pre-recorded on Vimeo; make sure you practice. Preaching and/or worship leading for a camera provides unique challenges. One challenge is the lack of immediate congregational feedback or buy-in. One worship leader I talked to mentioned the importance of rehearsing through your transitions. How are you moving from Scripture slides to headshot (and remember, what looks good on a 30-foot screen can look really cramped on a small tablet screen)? If you move around, do you carry your iPhone around with you? Fixed camera or moving shot? How do you cue other people in if you’re editing multiple pieces into a final product? Ask yourself these questions, and then practice before recording.

My fifth and final point is a personal perspective on all of this. It is my impression that developing a community narrative is more important than delivering pristine content. Having to go online for one week only is one thing; doing it for consecutive weeks is a different ballgame. You want to make sure that whatever you’re doing, you are doing it in a way that weaves together a narrative that can help sustain community life throughout this difficult period.

The good news is that there are a TON of great resources out there to help first-timers get started, and the rest of us improve what we’re doing online. Sarah Bereza’s latest podcast, called “Keeping contact with your congregations and choirs” offers a number of insights into how to keep the ball rolling.1 Churchjuice can help you navigate the mysteries of Zoom and social media.2 Barna’s State of the Church website offers a toolkit and the latest news about how churches are going online.3 Hannah Cruse, one of our own M.S.M. alumni, started a “Covid Choir Hymn Sing” on her Church Musician’s Assistant YouTube channel.

There are many more resources out there, and we at Perkins have compiled some of these, along with posts by our own faculty members, on our own website. View the Perkins resource page here. We are living a unique moment, and the learning curve involved in this transition might be uncomfortable for some of us. Stay committed. People need Jesus’s message of hope and love as we move through this season of confinement and uncertainty. While it may seem as if congregations are pulverized and diluted, we need each other. As Lillian Daniel says in This Odd and Wondrous Calling, “Practicing our faith is like dance. Each even tis unique and unrepeatable, but we are moving in patterns and steps of a tradition and a people.”1 It’s time to learn a new dance. We’ll figure it out.

1 Lillian Daniel, This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), p. 3.


Preaching to an Empty Room Part Two: Preaching What You Practice

by Alyce McKenzie
Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director, Center for Preaching Excellence

Linda Clader in her book Voicing the Vision: Imagination and Prophetic Preaching, points out that, while we are often told that we should practice what we preach, it’s just as true that we inevitably preach what we practice. What am I going to practice this week in preparation for preaching to an empty room, preaching in the absence of real, live bodies?

I’ll be preaching to an empty room Wednesday, March 25 at 11:30 a.m. to the weekly Perkins School of Theology Chapel service, to be held on zoom this week. I going to preach on Proverbs 3:5-8. The sermon title is “Faith Amid Our Fears” Between now and then I’m going to practice what I’m going to preach. I’m going to practice cultivating my faith, in every way I can think of in this Coronavirus confinement.

I’m going to practice making soup. Beef barley to follow the chicken noodle and split pea I made earlier this week. I’m not going to practice baking anything, because I have no defenses against baked goods in these anxious times. Making soup could be a metaphor for creating a sermonic recipe that is homiletically nourishing, but it could also just refer to some really good soup.

I’m going to practice gratitude, for loved ones, food, shelter and clothing, and meaningful projects I can work on from home, including the exegesis of the text and context for the sermon on Proverbs 3:5-8.

I’m going to practice intercession- prayers for those who are physically and economically vulnerable and for their dependents.

I’m going to practice having a routine:

  • Making my bed
  • Doing my morning devotions and journaling
  • Working on my sermon
  • Exercising every afternoon whether I feel like it or not.
  • Making a contact with a friend or family member to ask how they’re doing.

I’m going to practice looking for the joy and even humor in everyday life. I’m currently writing a book with my colleague at SMU, Professor Owen Lynch called A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Pulpit: Preaching and Humor (Westminster John Knox Press, 2021). I’m going to practice looking for humor (not cruel or flippant, but appropriate) and being grateful for those who are generating wholesome humor for these fearful days.

  • If you buy 30 rolls of toilet paper, tithe 3.
  • If you roll your cart out of CVS with 10 bottles of hand sanitizer, have you forgotten that for you not to catch Covid-19 other people also need to sanitize their hands?
  • In three weeks we will know what color hair everyone really has.

And much, much more …

I’m going to continue to practice the presence of God in the routine activities of each day of this Corona confinement. I’m inspired by the story of Brother Lawrence, a 17th century French monk, who wrote the spiritual classic The Practice of the Presence of God. Born Nicholas Herman, he served as a soldier in the Thirty Years War and sustained a serious injury that left him with chronic pain. At mid-life he entered a newly established monastery in Paris and took on the religious name Lawrence of the Resurrection. He became the cook for the community which grew to over one hundred members. After fifteen years, his duties were shifted to the sandal repair shop, but even then, he often returned to the busy kitchen to help out. Throughout his life he practiced conversation with God during the most mundane of tasks, like mending sandals or chopping potatoes for beef barley soup! Brother Lawrence developed the ability to converse incessantly with God throughout the entire day, regardless of what he was doing.  Henri Nouwen, when he encountered Brother Lawrence’ thoughts for the first time, considered them to be simple, naïve and even unrealistic. But he gradually became aware that the cultivation of God’s presence “is not just a nice idea for a seventeenth-century monk but a most important challenge to our present-day life situation.” Nouwen, Henri, J.M., Foreword, The Practice of the Presence of God, trans. John Delaney (Image, 1977):10.

This week, whether making my bed, preparing soup, or crafting a sermon, I’m going to practice what I’m going to preach, be it on a Wednesday or a Sunday: recognizing and trusting in the Presence of God.

More from Dr. Alyce McKenzie:
Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director, Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence.

Read Part 1 of Dr. McKenzie’s blog: “Preaching to an Empty Room”

Listen to Dr. McKenzie on the Louisiana NOW Podcast: “Preaching to an Empty Room, A Conversation with Alyce McKenzie
The Louisiana NOW podcast is hosted by Todd Rossnagel, produced by Mary Burleigh and sponsored by The United Methodist Foundation of Louisiana.


Preaching to an Empty Room

by Alyce McKenzie
Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director, Center for Preaching Excellence

Our current situation calls for a change in wording of the childhood rhyme:
“Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and there are the people.”

Our revised Covid 19 version is:
“Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors, where are the people?”

The answer is, at home. In this odd situation, the room is empty, not because no one is interested in being present, but because they are social distancing to prevent the spread of Covid 19. As they watch the livestream, or follow on Facebook live, we preachers are presented with a very strange assignment: preaching in an engaging and passionate manner to rows of empty seats. As one who has done quite a bit of preaching and teaching to empty rooms, I have a few theological reminders and a homiletical suggestion. They address the question: how can we preachers appreciate and make the best use of this mandatory opportunity to preach to an empty room?

First, a theological reminder: the room is never empty.

My colleague at Perkins, Dr. Mark Stamm, in a recent article focused on a collect he has written, “Prayer for a Denomination in Troubled Times,” points out that all Christian prayer is corporate prayer. In the Lord’s Prayer, God is addressed with “our,” not “my.” Says Stamm, “So, then, even when we pray by ourselves in a solitary place, we should imagine that we are joined spiritually with our sisters and brothers around the world…” “All Christian prayer is corporate, especially prayers offered within the worshiping assembly. Read the article by clicking here.

What appears to be solitary prayer is never just solitary prayer. The same can be said of preaching to a virtual audience. It’s not a game of solitaire. Every week we preach, even to a crowded sanctuary, there are additional invisible worshippers present: the communion of saints. I hold the whimsical hope that they gather more closely around us to encourage us when we preach to empty seats. The room has never been empty and never will be.

Second, a homiletical reminder: In a physical setting that shouts “MONOLOGUE!” we do well to remember that preaching is (or should be) deeply dialogical. Preaching to an empty room calls for the accentuation of the preacher’s discipline of prayerful, empathic imagination in the preparation of our sermons. It is a commonplace of homiletical textbooks to encourage preachers to be in relationship with their congregations beyond the pulpit, to know their fears and dreams, their strengths and shortcomings, and to engage them in dialogue, both real and internal, in the process of preparing to preach. Sermon preparation involves exegeting the congregation as well as the text, allowing congregational considerations to shape the sermon’s theme and purpose, its use of image and story, and its communication plan. Perhaps the most eloquent expression of this advice is Fred Craddock’s emphasis on “empathic imagination.” He advises the preacher to go through the congregation, picturing individual’s faces and asking, “What is it like to be…?” A single mother struggling now more than ever to pay the rent. A gym owner who has had to close his doors and lay off his trainers. A doctor who has had two patients die of the Corona virus in the past week. A healthy 25 year old who feels the lockdowns are an overreaction. An elderly couple who are already socially distanced whose medications are running out and whose fridge is almost empty. “What’s it like to be…?”

Simply put, the preacher needs to take care to cultivate the dialogical quality of the preaching event in preparation for an occasion where it looks monological.

Next, a word about the preacher’s presence.

Preaching to an empty room calls for the cultivation of the preacher’s presence. In reflecting on this quality of the preacher, I’m indebted to my colleague Dr. Ron Allen in his book Interpreting the Gospel: An Introduction to Preaching, in his chapter “Embodying the Word.”

Allen is convinced that the most important aspect of embodiment (a word he prefers to “delivery”) is the preacher’s sense of presence. This quality is hard to define. It cannot be isolated in the way we can catalogue voice, eye contact and gestures. It permeates and empowers all those things. It is communicated by the preacher’s posture, tone of voice, and movement.

It is something the congregation can feel more than describe. Some call presence passion or conviction. It is the sense that what the preacher is saying really matters to her and ought to matter to me. It is an inner intensity that spills into the sermon. Presence, from the perspective of listeners, is a sense that the preacher is aware of the immediacy of the living God, fully present with the congregation, and centered within themselves. Presence is called forth by the awareness of God with us, by the congregation and by the occasion.

Ironically, this quality of presence is most difficult to convey where its lack will be most sorely felt: the virtual pulpit.

Ron Allen points out that the preacher cannot put on presence like an Alb, Geneva gown or John Wesley preaching robe. It grows from prayer and other Christian practices, a deep certainty of one’s call, and from being in relationship with God and the community.

Simply put, the preacher needs to cultivate presence in preparation for an occasion that seems to be more about absence.

Now, a few homiletical suggestions for online preaching/worship.

To enhance the dialogical quality of the event:

  • Build in dialogue by following the preaching with zoom conversation in small groups.
  • Break the sermon into several segments, each offered by a different preacher.
  • Break the sermon into segments, each followed by conversation/questions.
  • Do a live twitter feed during the sermon.

To enhance the sense of the preacher’s presence:

  • As always, but with perhaps greater intensity, prepare spiritually for the event.
  • Precede the sermon by a mantra that calms and energizes you. “Thank you God for this opportunity.” I suggest writing an opening prayer a few days prior to the preaching event and letting it marinate in the mind and heart. Here is one I have used.  “Thank you for your Presence, for the communion of the saints, for those worshipping online, for one another, for this unique occasion. We know that nothing can separate us from your great Love. In gratitude for that knowledge, we now gather, separate from one another, but united in You. Amen.”

More from Dr. Alyce McKenzie:
Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director, Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence.

January 2020 News Perspective Online Uncategorized

Internship in England

Internships give M.Div. students at Perkins an opportunity to integrate coursework of Bible, theology and ethics with ministry practice in the real world. Now, Perkins students have the chance to do this in another culture, broadening their understanding of Christian expressions from those found in the U.S., thanks to a partnership between Perkins and the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

Third-year student Cori Clevenger is currently interning in England in a three-point charge in Methodist churches in the Midlands area of England. Her internship is part of a pilot program that organizers hope will become ongoing.

“This is an opportunity for Perkins students to see how Methodism in Great Britain is lived out,” Docampo said. “It’s a chance to get another perspective on the Christian faith and the world, and to critically reflect on these.” Currently, students are being interviewed for one or two potential internships in England in the 2020-2021 school year.

The unique internship evolved from discussions almost two years ago between leaders of Perkins and Cliff College, one of the ministerial training sites for the Methodist Church of Great Britain.  In addition to the UK internship, the resulting partnership between Perkins and Cliff has led to still-emerging global theological education initiatives.

England is a natural for Perkins students, Docampo said, because it’s the birthplace of founder John Wesley and of Methodism.  (The program is separate from Perkins’ partnership with Wesley House, Cambridge in England that provides an international study opportunity for two recent Perkins graduates each year.)

“This program is different from the previous post-Internship program between the Perkins Intern Program and the Methodist Church of Great Britain that ended approximately 16 years ago,” Docampo said.  “In that program, Perkins students who had completed their U.S. based Internship for course credit would be selected for a one-year post-Internship in England and given an appointment at a ministry charge.  In this brand-new program, Perkins is sending students to do their year of internship for course credit in Great Britain instead of the U.S.” Also, in this new program, Cliff College is part of the partnership and that makes it possible for students to take classes in England while also completing their internship.

Just as with internships in the U.S., the intern in England is supervised by a mentor pastor and a lay committee. The Rev. Loraine N. Mellor, chair of the Nottingham & Derby Methodist District, traveled to Perkins in 2019 to prepare for the partnership. She’s sharing mentoring duties with the Rev. Ann Anderson, minister of Grassmoor Methodist Church and Clevenger’s on-site supervisor. (Because Clevenger has a 3-point charge, Mellor functions in a more supervisory role due while juggling other responsibilities, and Anderson offers day-to-day practical and pastoral guidance.)

Mellor says interns can bring a new perspective to parishioners in the churches they serve.

“Students from Perkins give to our congregations a flavor of another culture and they see the Bible come alive through others’ experiences,” she said. “The building of relationships also enables a greater dialogue which allows us to reflect upon what unites us as well as what divides us, that is in theology and practice but also about what it means to be disciple and a follower today. The Perkins interns also bring a different way of worshipping which challenges our presuppositions, and again this creates a place for conversation and dialogue which leads to understanding.”

A lay committee comprised of church members at the churches in England meets with the intern each month to assess them on the goals they have set forth in their Learning Covenant in the areas of leadership, self-awareness and theological reflection on the practice of ministry.

“Technology has helped us quite a bit,” Docampo said. “We have trained the lay teaching committee over Zoom, an online platform for web-based conferencing, and I am able to also conference with Cori and her mentor pastor, Loraine, as needed.”

“We paired Cori with Ann Anderson, an experienced minister, which meant that we could quickly respond to any challenges and anxieties that might occur,” said Mellor. “We believe this is a good model.”

The three congregations that Clevenger is serving this year have each reacted differently to their American pastor.

“One is an elderly congregation that wanted some Bible teaching which they have responded to eagerly and been very appreciative of the way in which she has led this,” Mellor said. “The second congregation includes many professionals who are early retired.” After some initial friction, she said, “Cori has won them around and they very much look forward to her leading worship and joining them on other occasions.” The third church, located in a low-income community, has been open and inclusive. “She has quickly become one of them,” Mellor said.

“Loraine, Ann and the lay committee members have taken their mentoring roles very seriously,” Docampo added. “This is very important, given that I have a student so very far away, and critical to the future of our partnership.”