January 2022 News Perspective Online

Festschrift Published in November Honors Alyce McKenzie

A festschrift published in November 2021 honors the distinguished career of the Rev. Dr. Alyce McKenzie, Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins and Director of the Center for Preaching Excellence.

Shouting Above the Noisy Crowd: Biblical Wisdom and the Urgency of Preaching: Essays in Honor of Alyce M. McKenzie (Cascade Books, 2021) was co-edited by Perkins faculty members Charles L. Aaron, Jr. Director of the Intern Program and Associate Professor of Supervised Ministry, and Jaime Clark-Soles, Professor of New Testament and Director of the Baptist House of Studies.

“A festschrift is a tradition in academia that honors the accomplishments of a scholar or professor within their lifetime,” said Aaron, who started working on the project in 2013. “Alyce’s festschrift is an edited volume of academic essays and sermons contributed by colleagues.”

Festschriften originated in Germany before World War I; the tradition was carried to the United States by scientists who escaped the Nazis. In the second half of the 20th century, the practice was adopted internationally, and the word festschrift was incorporated into the English language.

“Most of the contributors in Alyce’s festschrift are part of the program unit on homiletics and biblical studies within the Society of Biblical Literature, of which Alyce is a member,” said Aaron.

Perkins contributors include O. Wesley Allen, Jr., Lois Craddock Perkins Professor of Homiletics; Ángel J. Gallardo, Associate Director of the Intern Program; and John C. Holbert, Lois Craddock Perkins Professor of Homiletics, Emeritus.  Aaron noted that the editors made a special effort to assemble a diverse group of contributors, enlisting contributions from Nancy Kasten, a rabbi in Dallas, as well as Black, Asian and Latinx contributors.

“The authors wrote about their interests and research concerning wisdom and preaching,” said Aaron. “They were happy to honor Alyce.”

McKenzie, as the honoree, did not have any input into the festschrift. Typically, a festschrift marks a milestone birthday or career anniversary, but in this case, colleagues simply felt it was time.

“The only occasion was to honor Alyce and her work,” said Aaron.

McKenzie earned an M.Div. from Duke Divinity School and a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. She served 12 years in United Methodist churches before and during her doctoral degree studies. She joined the Perkins faculty in 2000. She is the author of ten books and a frequent guest preacher and lecturer at lay and clergy gatherings. In October of 2015, McKenzie delivered the Lyman Beecher lectures at Yale University, the most prestigious lecture series in the discipline of homiletics. She was named an Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor by SMU in 2012, the university’s highest teaching honor.  She is an ordained elder in the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. McKenzie is also the Director of the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence at SMU, a Center dedicated to fostering transformative preaching in local congregations through peer groups, online resources, an interdisciplinary book series called “Preaching and…” and a variety of workshops.

“Alyce’s work regularly informs not only preachers, but biblical scholars who work on any aspect of wisdom in the Bible, including both the literary genre (e.g., Proverbs, James) and the personified figure of Woman Wisdom,” said Clark-Soles. “My seminary students and I continue to learn from her year after year.”

In the Preface, the editors noted that the guiding image for the book was Proverbs 1:20-33 where Woman Wisdom calls out in the street. The image honors McKenzie’s work reflecting on the biblical sage as foundational for preaching.

“McKenzie’s ministry of homiletic scholarship has called a generation of preachers to pursue wisdom, igniting and feeding the imaginations of listeners along the way,” wrote homiletician Richard W. Voelz in a review of the book. “The essays and sermons in this volume are a collection that not only celebrate McKenzie’s many contributions over the years but extend the sage path she has forged through her teaching and writing.”