In an interview, Julian Hobdy was once asked: Did he see himself in the future as a pastor or as a professor? His answer: Yes.
“I have no need to bifurcate,” he said. “I believe persons living out their deepest beliefs also have the responsibility to bring that same love and transformation far beyond the walls of the local church. The pulpit and the public park are equal grounds.”
The quest for those dual goals is what brought Hobdy to Perkins, although after a bit of detour. Originally, he planned to attend Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth on a full scholarship. But a visit to the campus of Perkins changed his mind.
“I just had a powerful encounter with the community here,” he said. “I felt welcomed and embraced. I was impressed by the environment and resources available at SMU and how the various colleges would be open to students who are part of the SMU system in general. Plus, Dr. Perez-Greene was relentless (and I’m so glad she was)!”
(Perez-Greene is Associate Dean for Enrollment Management at Perkins.)
Now, Hobdy is a second-year M. Div. student, concentrating in Theology and Social Justice, and on a path to serve both in the pulpit and public square. He’s a certified candidate for ordination as an elder in the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, and serves as Online Pastor of First Methodist Mansfield in Mansfield, Texas. He’s considering doctoral studies, and also hopes to research and publish work on the intersection of issues concerning race and religion.
“Ultimately I plan to continue to serve in the local church, but I hope I can continue to engage in public theology discourses,” he said.
Church is in Hobdy’s DNA; he grew up in Brentwood Baptist church in Houston. “I am a certified church rat,” he said. “My mother was in the choir and worked in the church. If I wasn’t at school or home, I was at church. I was the kid that everyone had to stop and say, ‘Quit running in the halls.’ I don’t know myself apart from a local church. I always feel beholden to the local church because I’ve benefited so much from it.”
Hobdy says two life goals drive him: “To truly learn to love God with all my heart, mind and strength, and to help other people do the same thing,” he said. “My goal is helping people find the “aha” moments in life where life and faith connect.”
Next year, he’ll serve as President of the Perkins Student Association (PSA) for the 2021-2022 school year, having served as the PSA’s Justice in Action chair over the past three semesters. He’s also a Student Ambassador for the Office of Enrollment Management, engaging in dialogue with prospective Perkins students, a Perkins Scholar, and part of the Minister-Author-Scholar-Teacher (MAST) Program, which offers resources and training to a select cohort of Perkins students interested in writing or creating other media for the church and academy
He’s also active in the Black Seminarians Association. Last summer, he co-led the inaugural Breath of Life prayer event, held at Perkins in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis. When the Floyd verdict was announced in April, he penned an open letter to our student body, which the Bishop of the Central Texas Conference distributed via his blog.
The events of the past year and a half – the pandemic and the fight against racial injustice – have confirmed his commitment to a kind of public activism in conversation with a theological framework.
“Two quotes have been messing with me for the last year and a half,” he said. “One is from civil rights activist Septima Clark: ‘The greatest evil in our country today is ignorance. We need to be taught to study rather than to believe.’”
The other is a line from Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
While juggling all of his studies, his church responsibilities and his civic engagement, a few key spiritual practices keep him grounded. Any time he’s walking outdoors, he’s also praying. He enjoys playing piano, serving with his brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and tussling with his kids. He also benefits from holy conferencing, which he describes as “being in conversation with very close friends and family particularly on theological matters, which reminds me of why I am chasing the goals I am currently chasing.”