In many ways, the pandemic has made Priscilla Pope-Levison’s job more complicated – but she’s embracing the challenge while staying as productive as ever.
As Associate Dean for External Programs, Pope-Levison coordinates events such as the upcoming Fall Convocation and the Summit for Faith and Learning, all of which have moved online in the past year.
“I’m so proud of our team,” she said. “They are all creative people, and they’ve really had to pivot to make the online format work.” She noted that the team has launched a new platform, Mighty Networks – similar to a closed Facebook group – that will allow participants to engage with other virtual attendees before, during and after each event.
Before the pandemic, Pope-Levison’s job involved frequent visits to United Methodist and other churches in the North Texas area.
“I think it’s important for a Perkins representative to show up at these churches and to strengthen our connections,” she said. ““I try to tour each church, join a staff meeting and get to know the pastor.” The visits in turn shape planning for external events and help boost attendance.
Pope-Levison is a co-principal investigator in the Reboot Youth Ministry Initiative, and recently learned that she will serve as co-principal investigator (along with Bart Patton) in another Lilly Endowment supported initiative, “Testimony as Community Engagement.” The project will work with 30 churches, 10 per year for three years, within a 250-mile radius of Dallas to encourage and equip people to tell stories within their church as well as the community beyond the church walls about God’s presence and activity within their lives.
In addition to her work with external programs, Pope-Levison also writes and publishes often. Over the past summer, she says, she was particularly productive, completing a chapter on feminist theology for a theological dictionary.
“Our work is still as demanding as ever, but it seemed like there was just more time to focus on some of the things I’m working on in terms of my own research,” she said.
Pope-Levison just had a new book released in October, Models of Evangelism, published by Baker Academic. The book looks at eight different models of evangelism, from biblical, historical, theological, and practical perspectives, and is the product of Pope-Levison’s two decades of teaching evangelism.
Another of Pope-Levison’s research interests is the first generation of women in the Methodist Deaconess movement, which started in the mid-1880s. The Methodist Review recently published her essay titled “Expanding the Historiography of Methodist Settlement Work,” looking at the settlement and community work of three Methodist women in Chicago in the early 20th century.
“It’s not part of my current Perkins job description in external programs, but I try to keep my academic work alive,” she said.
Women’s Studies, History of American Christianity, Wesleyan Studies, Contextual Theology, Evangelism, Ecumenism
Book on her Nightstand
“I’m a big reader of mysteries,” she said. Anne Perry’s two series about Victorian detectives are among her favorites.
Fantasy Dinner Party
She’d like to invite Mary E. McDowell, Iva Durham Vennard, and Lucy Rider Meyer, three women she profiled in her article in the Methodist Review. “These women came from small towns to attend a training school in a big city,” she said. “They lived in community with other women and they went out into horrible, urban squalor to minister to the residents. I would love to meet them in person.”
Her husband of 38 years, Jack Levison, has an office down the hall at Perkins; he’s also a faculty member. “We met in graduate school and have a wonderful time together,” she said. “Every day is an adventure.” The couple has two grown children: Chloe, an SMU graduate who is working in corporate communications and pursuing an MBA at Indiana University, and son Jeremy, also an SMU graduate and a full-time videographer at Justin Boots in Ft. Worth.
Pope-Levison enjoys spinning – wool, angora rabbit, goat — a skill she picked up in the 1980s. She also knits and dyes her own fibers. She and Jack travel extensively, and have lived in in Scotland, Germany, and Italy.
Something About her Most People Don’t Know
Pope-Levison has played the piano since age 3 and majored in piano as an undergraduate.
Question She’d Ask at the Pearly Gates
Instead of a question, she said, “I want to meet Priscilla and Aquila!”
Personal Spiritual Practice
Pope-Levison follows a number of different spiritual practices: meditation first thing in the morning, using an app, Pray as You Go, from the British Jesuits, which is 15 minutes of music and Lectio Divina; the Ignatius Examen in the evening before bed. About eight years ago, she led a retreat on contemplative practices in Seattle, and has been meeting once a month ever since for Lectio Divina with seven of the women who participated in that retreat.
“What’s really guiding my life right now is the Sarum Prayer,” she said. “Our church used it as the guiding prayer during Lent. It reminds me that what I say, what I think, what I do — I want all that to be invested in the divine presence.”
The Sarum Prayer
God be in my head, and in my understanding
God be in my eyes, and in my seeing
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking
God be in my heart, and in my thinking
God be in my hands, and in my doing (Priscilla added this line)
God be at my end, and in my departing.