Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
In this Issue Class of 2019 | 4
Telling Stories | 8
Honor Roll of Donors | center
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PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGI C AL
summer | fall 2019 President
Theodore J. Wardlaw
Telling Stories 9 Telling Stories: An Introduction
Board of Trustees
G. Archer Frierson II, Chair James C. Allison Janice L. Bryant (MDiv’01, DMin’11) Claudia D. Carroll Katherine B. Cummings (MDiv’05) Thomas Christian Currie Jill Duffield (DMin’13) Jackson Farrow Jr. Beth Blanton Flowers, MD Stephen Giles Jesús Juan González (MDiv’92) Walter Harris Jr. John S. Hartman Keatan A. King Steve LeBlanc J. Sloan Leonard, MD Sue B. McCoy Matthew Miller (MDiv’03) W. David Pardue David Peeples Denise Nance Pierce (MATS’11) Mark B. Ramsey Conrad M. Rocha Matthew E. Ruffner Lana E. Russell Lita Simpson Martha Crawley Tracey John L. Van Osdall David White Carlton D. Wilde Jr. Elizabeth C. Williams Michael G. Wright
Trustees Emeriti B. W. Payne Max R. Sherman Louis H. Zbinden
By Paul Hooker
10 Ash Wednesday
8 This year we embarked on a new program to integrate storytelling into the spiritual formation of our students. Illustrations by Heshan Gunasekara.
By Emily Grace Clark
12 New Twist on and Old Story
By Mike Clawson (MDiv’10)
13 Failure in Rehearsal and Worship
Correction: Thanks to an alert and informed Windows reader, we learned that we misidentified the person who graced the cover of the Spring issue. It was, in fact, Noble Monroe, who served twenty-six years on the Seminary maintenance staff. We apologize for the mistake and are delighted that our “Archives” edition worked!
By Diana Small (MDiv’19)
14 “What time is the Magrib prayer?”
By Usama Malik
16 To Listen is to Love
By Steve Miller (MDiv’15)
Center: The 2018-19 Honor Roll of Donors
Austin Seminary Association (ASA) Board
Barrett Abernethy (MDiv’13), President Sheila Sidberry-Thomas (MDiv’14), Vice President Josh Kerr (MDiv’14), Secretary Denise Odom (MDiv’99), Past President Sarah Allen (MDiv’07, DMin’19) Kennetha Bigham-Tsai (MDiv’03) David Gambrell (MDiv’98) John Guthrie (MDiv’06) Paul Harris (MATS’10) Melinda Hunt (CIM’16) Carl McCormack (MDiv’95) Noemi Ortiz (MATS’15) Valerie Sansing (MDiv’00) Rita Sims (DMin’15) Paul Sink (MDiv’00) Ayana Teter (MDiv’06) Caryn Thurman (MDiv’07) Michael Ulasewich (MDiv’05)
Volume 134 | Number 3
& departments 2 seminary & church 3 twenty-seventh & speedway 4 the class of 2019 18 faculty news & notes 20 alumni news & notes 21 live & learn
Selina Aguirre Deborah Butler Jacqueline Hefley Erica Knisely Gary Mathews Usama Malik Alison Riemersma Sharon Sandberg Mona Santandrea Kristy Sorensen
Windows is published three times each year by Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Austin Seminary Windows Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary 100 E. 27th St. Austin, TX 78705-5711 phone: 512-404-4808 e-mail: email@example.com AustinSeminary.edu ISSN 2056-0556; Non-profit bulk mail permit no. 2473
from the president |
President’s Schedule August 25: Preach, Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church, Sandy Springs, Georgia September 15: Preach, First Presbyterian Church, Shreveport, Louisiana September 29: Preach, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, Tennessee October 3: Host, Coffee with the President, Austin, Texas October 5: Speaker, The Presbyterian Outlook’s 200th Anniversary Celebration, Union Presbyterian Seminary, Richmond, Virginia October 10: Host, Partner Lunch, Fort Worth, Texas November 14: Host, Evening with the President, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma November 21: Host, Evening with the President, Houston, Texas
love a good story. Surely my lifelong love for good stories comes in part from my upbringing in the South—so thick with narrative about things funny and tragic and redemptive and familial and complicated. I remember as a child sitting sleepily in my father’s lap one evening as the living-room was filled with various of his siblings and their families, and stories were shared all around—reminiscences, tall tales, “remember when…?” yarns that went late into the evening. When the punch lines were delivered, my father’s shoulders and stomach would quake with laughter and I would wake up for a moment before settling back into not just his lap, but also the comforting serenity of the bonds of narrative being shared by family. It is no wonder that I fell in love with preaching, particularly preaching grounded in a rich stew of storytelling. When I began studying seriously the art of preaching, I discovered—throughout my pastoral career and now my time here—such proponents of narrative as Edmund Steimle and Fred Craddock and Tom Long and Frederick Buechner and Fleming Rutledge and James Forbes and Barbara Brown Taylor and Kim Clayton and Peter Gomes and so many more. It is not an accident that Christians are compelled by story. After all, we follow one “who spoke in parables”—enigmatic stories that aren’t just interesting to hear, but that also crawl into our hearts and souls and transform us and our world before they’re done. The pages ahead offer a couple of captivating stories by students, part of a coordinated project of storytelling that has begun this year on our campus. Students have been gathering in a coffeehouse sort of environment to listen as various of their classmates have told stories and tried their own hands at “speaking in parables.” Rounding out the features are essays by three alumni who testify to the art and value of storytelling. Elsewhere in this issue you will also see news and photos from our 2019 Commencement weekend, as well as introductions to our newest Zbinden Professor and newest vice president along with a peek at our new doctor of ministry curriculum. As I write these words, the campus is (thankfully) about as quiet as it ever gets. But in just a short matter of time, we will crank up Academic Year 2019-2020. New students are arriving, new classes are being prepared, new events are promised, and inevitably we will witness the creation of new stories which will continue to expand the ongoing narrative of this wonderful place. Faithfully yours,
Theodore J. Wardlaw President
ACCREDITATION REAFFIRMED: Austin Seminary received word in July that the Association for Theological Schools (ATS) has reaffirmed its accreditation of our program for ten years. ATS cited the following distinctive strengths of Austin Seminary: our identity as a collaborative community of conversation; faculty who personify an intentionally ecclesial focus balanced by rigorous scholarship; and efforts that have raised nearly $50 million in the last seven years—all in the face of a changing and challenging religious landscape.
2 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Witness and Wonder shape new Doctor of Ministry curriculum
fter months of conversation and study, the faculty voted this spring on a new curriculum for Austin Seminary’s doctor of ministry program. Beginning in January 2020, students entering the program will choose from two tracks: “Leadership for Witness: Engaging Public Life” or “Leadership for Wonder: Re-Enchanting Christian Life.” “If you are interested in developing and increasing your capacities for leadership, in congregations and in the broader society,” says Academic Dean David Jensen, “Austin Seminary’s doctor of ministry program is very much designed for you. Our ‘Public Witness’ track stresses the prophetic voice of the Christian church amid the pressing issues facing our society, whether they’re environmental, economic, racial, or political. Second, we live in a highly technological, consumer age. Often those two forces smother out the broader and burning questions of meaning in life. Our ‘Wonder’ track is designed to pay attention to mystery and the presence of God’s grace in our life.” The structure of each program involves five courses—including a travel seminar—and the creation of an integrative portfolio. Though each concentration emphasizes specific areas of thought, faculty members will have freedom to shape the courses they teach to suit their specialities. The Leadership for Witness concentration is designed to help ministry professionals reclaim the presence of the church in public society. Classes, taught by resident Austin Seminary faculty, will be augmented by conversations with practitioners in the areas of the justice system, immigration policy and practice, or public health. The courses students take will consider these topics: religion in American life, power, justice, freedom, and preaching and communication. Students will participate in a guided travel seminar to the Texas/Mexico borderlands. Students in the Leadership for Wonder concentration will focus on the reenchantment and reclamation of Christian witness in an age drained of its capacity for awe by the stresses of a society that commodifies all aspects of life. Questions they will consider include, How do we think about what we believe? How do we embody what we claim to believe? How do we share life with one another? and How do we participate in the life of God? Their travel seminar will be to Ghost Ranch, the Presbyterian conference center in New Mexico (the “Land of Enchantment”). One unique element of the program is the integrative portfolio that students will create consisting of “artifacts” and reflections. Artifacts may take the form of essays, sermons, journals, and visual or literary creations. Reflections are short papers that show how the student is integrating class learnings and experiences. Finally, all students will create an integrative project, such as a written thesis, a collection of shorter works closely connected to a research issue or question, or a mixed-media presentation. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about this new program, contact Paul Hooker, associate dean for ministerial formation and advanced studies, at firstname.lastname@example.org; 512-404-4861. v
Alumnus JD Herrera to lead admissions team
he Reverend Jorge Daniel “JD” Herrera (MDiv’15) has been called as the new vice president for enrollment management. The department he heads is responsible for student recruitment and financial aid administration. An ordained United Methodist pastor in the Rio Texas Conference, Herrera has served congregations in Central Texas. An emerging leader in the denomination, Herrera was a delegate to two international UMC conferences; he has served on the Conference Committee of Youth Ministry, the board of United Methodist Action Reach-Out Mission by Youth, the District Vitalizing Congregations Team, and the District Superintendency Committee of the Capital District. Herrera received a BS degree in sociology, with a minor in religion, from Florida State University in 2005. At Austin Seminary he was awarded the Max Sherman and Barbara Jordan Fellowship for his significant potential to integrate faith and public policy. Herrera will join a team wholly composed of other Austin Seminary alumni: William West (MDiv’16) and Megan McMillan (MDiv’19). v Summer | Fall 2019 | 3
Charge to the Class of 2019
“Singers of Life” By President Theodore J. Wardlaw
W Graduation includes first recipients of new master’s degree
ustin Seminary Board Chair Archer Frierson (above with new MAYM graduate José Suarez) conferred degrees on forty-one students during Commencement exercises on May 26. Seven students who completed work in the new Master of Arts in Youth Ministry (MAYM) were awarded the first degrees in that program. The MAYM is offered in partnership with the Center for Youth Ministry Training in Nashville, Tennessee. Students in the hybrid program spend three years serving as youth pastors on a church staff and gather together six times a year in Austin for intensive work with professors. Following graduation, several are continuing employment in those placements. Other graduates included four in the Master of Arts (Theological Studies), three in the Master of Arts in Ministry Practice, seventeen in the Master of Divinity, and ten who earned the Doctor of Ministry degree. The Reverend Dr. Timothy HartAndersen, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and father of graduate Madeline Hart-Andersen, delivered the Commencement address. Professors Cynthia L. Rigby and David F. White were elected by the graduating class to lead the Baccalaureate Service on May 25. v 4 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
hen I sit down to prepare this Charge to the Graduating Class—a longstanding tradition here at the Seminary, and across the tenures of many presidents—I start by rehearsing in my mind two specific things: (1) the events in the world that have happened around us across your time here, and (2) the character of this particular class as I have experienced you. We could go on for hours just listing the events in the world—mass killings, hurricanes, heartbreaking stories on our southern border, gun violence, unrest among nations, more and more evidence of climate change, and the various ways that religious communities have been impacted by all of this. This is indeed a fragile time, not just in this country but around the world. Which brings us to character—your character as a class. You have been fearless, not just in standing for so many important issues of conscience, but also for the gift of redemptive vision that has been at the bedrock of who you are and what you care about. I’ve seen it in your passionate causes, in your righteous indignation, your commitment to affirming life together in community, and, perhaps most importantly—are you ready for this?—in your singing. For the last few months, I have been in a kind of funk as I’ve imagined what our community will be like without your voices in the choir, in chapel worship, in the Advent Lessons and Carols, in the Triduum and the Easter Vigil. And what I will miss about your voices is not just how musically disciplined they have been, but, more profoundly, how clear it is that, for you, singing has been a form of gospel resistance to the world
as it is. Your singing has been a testimony on behalf of the world as it shall be someday. This world needs nothing so much as faithful singing. This past April 15th, the Monday of Holy Week, we all gathered around our screens, brokenhearted, as we watched that unthinkable fire in Paris. That city’s principal icon, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, was burning down. None of us knew what would be left, if anything, when that fire was finally put out. I watched that 850-year-old church—so important not just to Parisians and not just to Catholics, but to all of us—ablaze in huge flames, in the shape of a cross, against the backdrop of that ancient and so very secular city, and the whole image struck me as perhaps the most visible symbol of the anxieties of our time. For many in this time, that church was, at best, a great backdrop for a photograph, or a great venue for a recital. But on that particular Monday of Holy Week, when its very existence was threatened, it appeared to me that the world itself was holding its breath, as what seemed to be in the balance was the loss of the sacred. Then came the singing. And I’m still moved, as maybe you are, by the fact that hundreds and hundreds of people flocked to the West Side of the River Seine to stand watch in the shadow of that burning cathedral, and to sing their “Salve Reginas” and other hymns. They prayed and sang through that awful night, and they prayed and sang for days. They sang in resistance when it appeared that the world was burning down; and I believe that, in their singing, they had in mind a vision of the world as it shall be someday. Notre Dame on that Monday evening stood, even while on fire, as an article of faith,
The Class of 2019
a symbol of spirituality, a reminder to the world of the presence of God. And when it looked like faith itself appeared to be burning to the ground, people of faith were not silent. Indeed, to have been silent in the face of such a thing would have been to lose something quintessential about being human. And so they went there in throngs, and they sang while their world was on fire. What they sang were not the songs of a culture at war with itself, but the music of a faith whose bonds are so strong that—even when they sing in parts—what they are singing is still one song. Ross Douthat writes for The New York Times. About half the time, I’m intrigued with what he writes, but the other half irritates me to no end. I guess that means he’s a good editorialist. He’s also a Christian, a Catholic. On that Monday in Holy Week, it so happens that Douthat was in the middle of writing the first draft of an editorial lamenting the ongoing controversies in Catholicism—the theological arguments, the sex-abuse crises, his defense of Pope Benedict’s critique of Pope Francis—and he had just noted, coincidentally, that at masses on the previous day, Catholics across the world had listened to the reading of a gospel in which the veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom. And then came the fire, and everything about the piece he had been writing was now irrelevant. So he wrote a new piece, abandoning his narrow points in order to make some larger points—points that make sense not just to Catholics but to all of us. The problem with the church in this age, he says, is that “it mirrors the polarization
of Western culture, rather than offering an … alternative.” I like the way he puts that. Just as in these days the polar opposites duke it out with one another in Congress, for example, so it is that we often similarly duke it out in church— in our assemblies, in our conferences, in our special-interest groups, in our congregations, in our seminaries. Until, as Douthat suggests, we become the firefighters inside Notre-Dame, and our rivals are the fire. Our rivals often loom too large in our imaginations—not simply as other firefighters fighting with common purpose, but as the fire itself. Friends, that’s why the church needs singers. Singers like you. The late Loren Eiseley, who was an anthropologist but he wrote like a poet, described so beautifully once a scene that he had witnessed in a small glade where he was hiking. It was a beautiful scene, with the sunlight slanting down through the pines in such a way that the glade was lit like some vast cathedral itself. But into that scene, there arose this raucous commotion. On a large branch, there was a raven sitting there with a red, squirming nestling in his beak. The commotion Eiseley was hearing was the outraged shrieking of the nestling’s parents, who flew helplessly in circles around the clearing. “The sleek … monster,” writes Eiseley, “was indifferent to them. He gulped, whetted his beak on the dead branch a moment and sat still. Up to that point, the little tragedy had followed the usual pattern. But suddenly, out of all that area of woodland, a soft sound of complaint began to rise. Into the glade fluttered small birds of half a dozen varieties drawn by the anguished outcries of the tiny parents. “No one dared to attack the raven,” Eiseley wrote. “But they cried there in some common instinctive misery. The bereaved and the unbereaved … They fluttered as though to point their wings at the murderer. There was a dim intangible ethic he had violated, that they knew. He was a bird of death. And he, the murderer … sat on
there, glistening in the common light, formidable, unmoving, unperturbed, untouchable. “The sighing died.” Eiseley continues: “It was then that I saw the judgment. It was the judgment of life against death. I will never see it again so forcefully presented. I will never hear it again in notes so tragically prolonged. For in the midst of protest, they forgot the violence. There, in that clearing, the crystal note of a song sparrow lifted hesitantly in the hush. And finally, after painful fluttering, another took the song, and then another, the song passing from one bird to another, doubtfully at first, as though some evil thing were being slowly forgotten. ’Til suddenly they took heart and sang from many throats joyously together as birds are known to sing. They sang because life is sweet and sunlight beautiful. They sang under the brooding shadow of the raven. In simple truth they had forgotten the raven, for they were the singers of life, and not of death.” Members of the Class of 2019, I charge you to be such singers of life, even as we acknowledge that the raven can steal the possibilities of life. Even in this age of general postChristian cultural exhaustion—when it is possible, in fact, to witness the cathedrals of our time burning to the ground or otherwise falling into irrelevance—I charge you nonetheless to remember what redemptive thing it was that called you here to begin with. What redemptive thing it was that called our ancestors in the faith to do the same thing in their time. I charge you to remember all of that, and to imagine what it would mean to do that again. To see the world as God sees it, and to be empowered by its possibilities more than its cynicisms, and thus to strive with your lives to leave some new redemptive thing as a legacy. Something faithful. Something worth singing about. By the grace of God, as you go forth from here, be singers of life. v Summer | Fall 2019 | 5
Graduation photos (here and on back cover) by Usama Malik
The Class of 2019: master’s-level graduates above and doctor of ministry graduates at right.
Master of Divinity
Graduate, denomination, and future plans Caroline Sue Barnett
PC(USA), Heartland Presbytery Seeking a call
Matthew Aaron Cardona
UMC, Rio Texas Conference Associate Pastor, Bee Creek United Methodist Church, Spicewood, Texas
Andrew Michael Frazier
PC(USA), Heartland Presbytery Pastoral Resident, First Presbyterian Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Andrew Willis Gerhart
Unitarian Universalist Seeking non-ordained ministry position in the Austin area
Jennifer Elizabeth Hallberg
PC(USA), Grace Presbytery Summer CPE program, Tampa General Hospital, Tampa Bay, Florida, while completing ordination requirements
PC(USA), Presbytery of the Twin Cities Summer CPE program, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Minneapolis, while completing ordination requirements
6 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Debra Jane Head UMC, Rio Texas Conference Associate Pastor, Gruene United Methodist Church, Gruene, Texas
Ezequiel Isaias HerreraRodriguez PC(USA), Mission Presbytery Rio Grande Valley Evangelist, McAllen, Texas
Todd McNeil Jones
UMC, Rio Texas Conference Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry, First United Methodist Church, Harlingen, Texas
Lisa April Long
UMC, Rio Texas Conference CPE Residency, Seton Medical Center, Austin, Texas
Megan Hamilton McMillan PC(USA), Trinity Presbytery Admissions Associate for Ecclesial Partnerships, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Derrick Shaw Ouellette
UMC, Rio Texas Conference Pastor, Highland Lakes United Methodist Church, Buchanan Dam, Texas
Alexandra Elizabeth Pappas PC(USA), Grace Presbytery Pastoral Resident, First Presbyterian Church, Shreveport, Louisiana
Devon Michele Reynolds
PC(USA), North Alabama Presbytery Seeking a non-ordained position while completing ordination requirements
Estela Contreras Sifuentes
PC(USA), Mission Presbytery Administrative Assistant and Accounting Clerk, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Diana Lynn Small
Episcopal CPE Residency at St. Vincent Hospital, Indianapolis, Indiana; her new play, “House Play,” will premiere in May 2020
Angela Grace Williams
PC(USA), Providence Presbytery Seeking a call
The Class of 2019 Master of Arts (Theological Studies) Graduate, denomination, and future plans
Daniel Mensah Awuah
Evangelical Presbyterian, Ghana Seeking employment in the US for one year before returning to Ghana
Episcopal; Spiritual Wellness Coach, Calyx Wellness Studio, Austin, Texas
Axolile Ntsika Mandaba Qina Uniting Presbyterian Church of South Africa; Defending his masters thesis at Stellenbosch University; further graduate study in Europe
PC(USA); PEAS, Outdoor Education Specialist, Austin, Texas
Master of Arts in Ministry Practice Graduate, denomination, and future plans Roy D. Collins Jr.
UMC; Senior Pastor, Dewville United Methodist Church, Nixon, Texas, and Hospice Chaplain, Guadalupe Regional Medical Center, Seguin, Texas
Webster Donald Kaisi Jr.
Master of Arts in Youth Ministry Graduate, denomination, and future plans
Katharine Davies Bair
PC(USA); Director of Youth Ministries, First United Methodist Church, Fort Worth, Texas
Jordan Andrew Burk UMC; Seeking employment
Zachary Alexander Cheeseman UMC; Youth Director, Katy First United Methodist Church, Katy, Texas
Teresa Lynn Kingsbury UMC; Regional Director, CYMT Texas
Victoria Leigh Schwarz
Katherine Elizabeth Reed
UMC: Music Director, Berkeley UMC and teacher at Widen Elementary School, Austin, Texas; pursuing ordination
Caleigh Kay Smith
2019 Graduate Awards
José Ignacio Suarez
Donald Capps Award in Pastoral Care Andrew Frazier
UMC; Director of Children’s Ministry, Northern Hills United Methodist Church, San Antonio, Texas
UMC; Youth Director, Bulverde United Methodist Church, Bulverde, Texas
Roman Catholic; Director of Youth Ministries, Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church, Austin, Texas
Doctor of Ministry
Graduate and title of doctoral project
Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Pastor, Karonga Old Mission Church, Karonga, Malawi
Chidester Preaching Award Alex Pappas Rachel Henderlite Award Estela Sifuentes Hendrick-Smith Award for Mission & Evangelism Webster Kaisi
“Gather Us In: Intergenerational Worship as Faith Formation”
“Remembering and Reclaiming Sabbath in an Age of Fear”
Joe K. MacDonald
Ethel Lance Human & Civil Rights Award Angela Williams
Carl Kilborn Book Award Diana Small
Charles L. King Preaching Award Madeline Hart-Andersen
“Preaching for Generosity: A Textual Analysis of Stewardship Sermons”
“Providing Homiletical Resources for Leadership Growth”
“Generational Mentoring: Using Past Saints as Present Examples”
“Our Sacrifice of Praise: Examining a Congregational Culture of Stewardship and Giving”
“Promulgating Two-Way Prayer to the Recovering Community in Southeast Texas”
“Words for the Next Day: Reformed Theology after Suffering”
“Articulating Their Faith: Helping Young Adults Use Theological Language to Express Their Commitments to the Marginalized”
“A Theological History of the Trinity as Interpreted Through Bowen Emotional Systems Theory”
Max Sherman & Barbara Jordan Fellowship Caralee Sadler John B. Spragens Award Matt Cardona Summer | Fall 2019 | 7
8 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
orman Maclean, in A River Runs Through It, tells of a conversation between himself, when he was a young writer, and his father, a Presbyterian minister. They were reflecting, indirectly, on the violent death of Norman’s younger brother. “You like to tell true stories, don’t you?” asks the father.
By Paul Hooker
Paul Hooker is the associate dean for ministerial formation and advanced studies at Austin Seminary. The author of Days and Times: Poems from the Liturgy of Living (Resource, 2018), he exercises his storytelling acumen primarily through the medium of poetry.
I answered, “Yes, I like to tell stories that are true.” Then he asked, “After you have finished your true stories sometime, why don’t you make a up a story and the people to go with it? Only then will you understand what happened and why. It is those we live with and love and should know that elude us.” Maclean reminds me why we are so fond of stories. We watch them on TV, we spend hours in movie theaters, we read novels by the score, and whenever we gather with friends we tell them, sometimes repeatedly. Why? Because stories are the way we make sense of the world, “understand what happened and why.” Every human culture has understood this. Ancient shepherds, looking at the stars after the sheep had settled in for the night, created narratives about characters outlined in the night sky, and the stories not only entertained them but explained their lives and their world. Jesus used parables to convey his message, because he knew that the stories could access the trust of his hearers in ways that lectures could never do. These days, storytelling seems to be making a comeback, as a form of both entertainment and spiritual formation. Storytelling forums are springing up in all sorts of venues, and there are coaches to help the storytellers learn to tell their stories more effectively. We’ve done some of that here at Austin Seminary. The Seminary community is engaged in a multi-year project in which students share stories about their lives and experiences as a way of learning about each other and deepening the connections within this community. We tell ours and listen to each others’ stories in order to “understand what happened and why.” Part of what makes storytelling so powerful is that a story needs no external verification to be true. It simply exists, sui generis, as its own self-defined universe. To enter the world of the story is to set aside one’s suspicions or need for proof and accept the terms of the story itself—what Coleridge once called “the willing suspension of disbelief.” To experience someone else’s story is to share, even if only for a while, the world of the storyteller. To participate in a story is to understand something one cannot understand any other way: what it is like to be someone else. A story is a bridge across the chasm of our selfisolation, a pathway to community. Enjoy the stories—and stories about storytelling—in this edition of Windows, and see if, by the simple act of reading them, you are transported beyond yourself, and your world is made a little larger. v Summer | Fall 2019 | 9
Ash Wednesday By Emily Grace Clark
t was my first Ash Wednesday in a pastoral
role and my first Ash Wednesday in an advocacy role, but it was not my first Ash Wednesday as a participant. That year of my life found me working out of a small church with many transient folks camping under a bridge less than a block away. I helped get food, clothing, IDs, mail, and medical treatment for many of them. This Wednesday, the pastor, Mark, also had me mixing up the ashes for the Ash Wednesday Service. That day we had decided to have a service for the homeless in addition to the other work we were doing. Earlier that morning, Mark explained that the ashes I was mixing had come from burning the palms from last year’s Palm Sunday, as was the tradition. He also explained how I should make something of a paste from it and begin to study my lines for the ritual ceremony. I’ve attended one church or another my whole life, and I love the days surrounding Easter more than anything. It’s always been a mystical time for me. I appreciate ritual not as someone who was raised to appreciate it might, but as a victim and survivor of ritual violence. The physicality of certain rituals in which we take part as Christians has been helpful in my own healing. I love the Eucharist, also called communion. I’ve imagined my baptism power to be real since I first learned to honor it; I imagine it in nearly every swim or bath I take. I deeply love the way we celebrate resurrection power in communion. Yet, Ash Wednesday has always been somber and private for me. I’m honestly not sure why. This particular Ash Wednesday, I was a pastor to thousands of hookers, pimps, junkies, and con artists. My church recruited me to help with their street ministry, and it had grown in ways no one expected
that first year. Mark and I were hanging on, barely, and I was invoking my baptism power every single morning. It was a very intense time. Earlier that week, two plain-clothes detectives had come to tell us that a violent serial rapist who’d been released from prison hadn’t reported for parole, and they were concerned he was hiding on the streets. They showed us his picture. I do not use the description “violent serial rapist” capriciously. This man had pled guilty to and been found guilty of aggravated rape charges and was a repeat offender. As the detectives talked, I made eye contact with Mark across the room. We knew the face in the picture. The detectives explained to us that this man was particularly violent and asked us to call them if he came in that week, as they suspected he would. Mark and I had built a proud place of peace. We were a place where
Emily Grace Clark is a junior MDiv student from Austin. She wrote and presented this piece as a participant in one of the Seminary’s “Practicing Beloved Community Through Stories” storytelling / spiritual formation groups this year. 10 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Telling Stories criminals mixed with law enforcement regularly. I had never participated in turning in someone who hadn’t asked me to do so with them. Later that morning, I looked up from mixing ashes to see the man with the face we knew staring at me from behind a glass door separating us. Mark seemed to appear out of nowhere, and I recall almost telepathically agreeing with him that I would talk to the man in my office, and Mark would make the phone call from his. I remember looking at the man before I buzzed him in, knowing that I was participating in his capture, choosing duplicity and being complicit in an act of ratting someone out—an act punishable by death on the streets. I felt detached. I was certain of the moment and not at all angry or hurt, or disgusted or any of the feelings I’d imagine feeling staring at his face and knowing what I knew about him. I felt a deep love for the man. I have struggled for years with anger toward my own perpetrators, and in this moment, I felt a release of all the weight of my own victimhood, release from my anger. For so many years I had been looking for someone evil—someone to blame and someone to whom I could assign my anger. However, in the time it took to stare into his piercing green eyes, I felt compassion. He wasn’t a free man. His eyes had the look of the deeply haunted. I saw his life as more than the moments of cruelty he’d perpetuated. I felt the presence of his matriarchs. I decided I wanted to instill my interactions with him with as much genuineness and truth as I could without bringing more danger to the situation. I figured I might be the last person he talks to “on the outside.” I also wanted to behave in a way I could be proud of if this was an act I would die for. I thought all this in a second’s time, and then I buzzed the man in. He sat in the chair opposite of me. I wasn’t afraid.
I felt God with me, and I felt it was important that I was the one to do this job on this day. The man wasn’t aggressive, but his presence was intense. He was excited to tell me about his day. He wanted to share his new accomplishments with me. I made small talk with him about his new house and his new roommate. I sensed that he was trying to recreate himself. He explained that he’d been doing work on a place in exchange for room and board, and he was proud of himself. He also mentioned the owner of his new place was a woman. Because I knew he hadn’t registered as a sex offender or checked in with his parole board, this moment helped define his character for me. His landlord had no idea who the man with the face we knew was. The man mentioned easily how he had “done time” and was so grateful to have his freedom and have his own space again. I was sure in those moments that he was both a man and a monster and that all the things I’d wanted to believe about someone being completely bad or completely good were wrongheaded. In one moment, I was sure that this man had done great harm and also that he cared very much for the new environment he was creating. He felt. He wasn’t cold. He wasn’t charming, either. He wasn’t at all what I’d imagined a serial rapist to be. As we opened his mail together, he described a spaghetti dish he made the night before, and I made a few phone calls about his bills. All that conversation on a pretense only I knew, and all while the police secured the perimeter. After almost twenty minutes, Mark came into my office and I took my cue to leave. The plainclothes casually walked into my office and arrested the man. Mark whispered a muffled “good job” to me and stuffed the plate of ashes into my hand. “Now go ash the guys outside and keep everyone from noticing what’s happening here.” I was shaking as I walked into the yard, where thirty or so women and men stood or sat chain-smoking. I remembered the lines, and whispered, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return,” as I imposed the ashes on the foreheads of these lost and lovely sheep. I was so totally aware and with God in those moments. I felt a stronger connection with the sacrifice Christ made for all of humanity. Totally aware of the gut-wrenching balance of justice and mercy, of a trivial smoke, and the rest of a man’s life. I’d given him his last conversation. I thought these things as I imposed the ashes on my flock. I went back into the church foyer to find the detectives hadn’t taken the man out yet. He set his green gaze on me
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New Twist on an Old Story By Mike Clawson (MATS’10)
rowing up in the church, the highlight of my year was our annual summer camp beside a springfed lake in northern Michigan. For one week we would step outside our normal routines to more intentionally reconnect with one another and with our deepest commitments. We’d laugh and play and sing, share meals together with friends both new and old, be inspired by provocative speakers and engage in deep conversations late into the night. I still look back on those camp experiences as among the most meaningful and transformative of my entire life. I’m not alone in this experience. The oldest religious site in the world, the 11,000-yearold Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, was also a place where nomadic tribes would gather for a kind of camp meeting or religious festival. The archaeologist who worked on the site speculates that civilization may have, in fact, arisen from gatherings like this. Since the dawn of history, humans have known that when you gather large groups together for intense experiences around their highest ideals—festivals, camp meetings, revivals, even political rallies—new possibilities suddenly emerge. As Brené Brown writes in Braving the Wilderness (2017), large collective gatherings are “more than just people coming together to distract themselves from life … instead they are an opportunity to feel connected to something bigger than oneself; an opportunity to feel joy, social connection, meaning, and peace.” That is why organizing a festival arose as a natural
choice as I studied (first at Austin Seminary and then at Baylor) the ways faith is evolving in the twenty-first century and considered how I could influence that evolution in positive directions. My vision was not just another music festival, but something more holistic and purposeful, an event that would include both music and art, but also conversation around big ideas in science, philosophy, religion, and more; spiritual practices for health and wholeness; social action for the common good; and authentic, playful connection. It would be guided above all by the conviction that if we want better lives and a better world, then we need a better story, a more life-giving narrative about who we are and how we should live in the world. A story centered on practical compassion, collective liberation, and radical reconciliation. And that’s exactly what we did. For three days this past March, over 1000 people gathered on the campus of Huston-Tillotson University, an HBCU in the heart of historic east Austin, for the first annual New Story Festival. We partnered with dozens of like-minded organizations—including Austin Seminary—to host a festival that would both amplify the good work already being done by so many amazing groups and help draw these diverse communities together into even closer collaboration. Attendees came from as far away as Australia and as close as the Huston-Tillotson dorms to be inspired by Nadia Bolz-Weber, Charles Eisen-
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Mike Clawson earned a Master of Divinity from Austin Seminary and the PhD in Religion from Baylor University. He is a religion scholar and event organizer in Austin, Texas. He is the founder of the Spiritual Transformation Project, co-founder of the New Story Festival (newstoryfestival.com), and social impact coordinator for Compassionate Austin. 12 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Failure in Rehearsal and Worship By Diana Small (MDiv’19)
hile earning an MDiv at Austin Seminary, I was also the artistic director of Salvage Vanguard Theater, a twenty-five-year-old non-profit theater company in Austin. I wrote plays, directed, and performed experimental theater, sometimes on Austin Seminary’s campus. The seminary campus became an essential rehearsal space for me and my theater-making collaborators. Much has been written about church as theater. One popular metaphor places the congregants as performers and God as the audience. I want to challenge this, because it anthropomorphizes God and puts a great deal of pressure on the congregant to earn God’s applause. I wonder if it could be helpful instead to grapple with the idea of church as the rehearsal and God as the story. The purpose of rehearsal is to get to the next rehearsal, a little stronger, wiser, and more confident in the story-making at hand. So too, is liturgy an act of practice and preparation for more practice and preparation—a life’s work of uncovering and discovering the storied reality of God. What distinguishes rehearsal from a performance? Both involve a level of physical and mental preparation. Both require activation of the body and generosity of the spirit. There is always someone discovering the story, whether they be artists in rehearsal or the audience during a performance. There is always some version of an audience in rehearsal (the directors, designers, other actors) and there is always some version of practice in performance.
The greatest distinction between the two is that the rehearsal room is where the artists have the freedom to fail. We must try out many ideas in rehearsal to discover the story and discover how best to tell it. We are dependent upon failure in this pursuit. When theater artists make safe choices to avoid failure, the story lacks depth. Examples of safe choices are responding to the text exclusively from your own personal givens—not considering your biases or blind spots—and flattening the tonal dynamism of the text depriving it of humor, sadness, and fear of depth and mystery. Failure requires that the artists make brave choices—choices that plunge into the unknowns. Failure is therefore dependent upon trust between all artists—we must trust each other that our choices are made thoughtfully and earnestly. We must trust in the power of story that every choice has the potential to teach us something significant about our purpose in the story. Story, here, not only means the particular play’s narrative plot points and themes, but also the story of people coming together to make something resonant of peace, justice, and love. I trust that in reading this you are making connections between the theatrical rehearsal process and the practices of Christian worship. I trust that failure has a significant place in the act of Christian worship. We must explore this more with our congregations. The resources are there because whether or not there is a theater art-
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Diana Small is a theater maker and chaplain from California who now lives in Elwood, Indiana, on her husband’s family farm. She has an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin and an MDiv from Austin Seminary. More at dianalynnsmall.com. Summer | Fall 2019 | 13
“Usama, what time is the Maghrib prayer?” By Usama Malik
f I had ever had a “deer in the headlights” moment in my time here at Austin Seminary, it was then, courtesy of my advisor and beloved friend, Dr. Whit Bodman. However, it was this moment that sparked a transformational change in not just my seminary career, but in my life as a whole; one I would have never expected, but one I would never trade for the world. This moment came in the first evening of Dr. Bodman’s class “Islam and Christian-Muslim Encounter” during the Fall 2017 semester. As usual with evening classes I somehow managed to show up a few minutes late, not knowing what to expect, and having a million thoughts racing through my mind (mostly concerned with what Dr. Bodman would think when he saw me walk in late). As the only Muslim in the class (and the Seminary), clearly first impressions upon my classmates were a high priority to me! As soon as I walked in and sat down, I got the question that felt like the heaviest gut punch I could receive, knocking the wind out of me. Normally this would be a given, right? I mean, Muslims are supposed to be praying five times a day, and as someone who even had a mobile app installed for the prayer-time reminders, surely this was as easy as it would get. For some reason, however, I drew a blank. Not a blank that was simply a memory lapse, but a genuine blank: I honestly had no idea what time the evening prayer was. Knowing that Dr. Bodman was only asking in order to accommodate me and not as some kind of pop quiz question, and without any remote idea of the exact time, I immediately threw out 7:30 p.m. for no other reason than it was the actual halfway point of our class. Dr. Bodman said, “Great!” and class proceeded as normal. Upon checking my phone, it turned out the Maghrib prayer was actually at 6:30 p.m., but it was too late to change my answer. After all, how would it look if the class learned I didn’t even know my prayer times? For the rest of the class I sat silent, perplexed by the
entire situation. Sitting in my apartment afterwards I just could not wrap my mind around why Dr. Bodman’s question hit me like an arrow to the heart. Why was I not able to even answer the simplest of questions properly? For years my mom would tell me to pray, but why were Dr. Bodman and his innocent question still making rounds in my mind at midnight? To give an idea of how significant prayer is within the Muslim tradition, aside from being one of the Five Pillars of faith, it is stated in tradition by the Prophet Muhammad that, “The line between disbelief and faith is the prayer.” Thinking this through led to a very telling moment: I had been living a lie. At that moment I realized that in my entire life thinking myself to be living as a Muslim, I was in fact living in disbelief. It was in this moment that I happened to pick up one of my books on Islam and immediately opened to a page with a quote that would forever change my outlook here at the Seminary: “A Muslim is one who leaves a place better than they find it.” When I examine this moment with Dr. Bodman, in terms of where I am now and where I was then, I can think of nothing else to explain the turn of events besides being a series of tests from God. I had just completed my first year at Austin Seminary, and objectively, many things that were previously going well for me had begun to dissipate. In all honesty when I first came to Austin Seminary, I entered with my guard up, perpetuating the notion in my mind that I was an outsider, that I didn’t belong at a Christian institution, and that this place was simply a transitional step before enrolling at UT Austin for my master’s of science in social work. Many of my undergraduate friends, connections, and even job were at the university, so both my mental and emotional attachments remained there. I guess I projected more or less a “Prodigal Son” vibe: I was mentally checked out of seminary life, thinking that I had everything made outside campus, and all I needed to do while
Usama Malik is a senior Master of Divinity student from Round Rock, Texas. Sharing the stage with four other students, he told a longer version of this story during the spring Seminary community storytelling event on April 23. He began his tenure as student body president in August. 14 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
here was just to cross my T’s and dot my I’s and I’d be set. This emotional disconnection showed in my lack of presence in the Seminary’s community life, evident when I returned for classes in the Fall 2017 semester and was asked by a classmate—with whom I entered Austin Seminary—if this was my first year! By the time I walked into Dr. Bodman’s class, however, I had lost my job at the university and several of my close friends had graduated. My wife, Sara, who was just a good friend at the time, had actually gotten engaged to someone else. Life was anything but ideal, and I felt increasingly isolated as each of the things I held dear was taken away. What this moment with Dr. Bodman further exposed within me was that aside from all these things, I also lacked a basic foundation in my faith. Though I took much pride in being the only Muslim in the seminary, objectively I wasn’t even the most “Muslim” person in the class. I was challenged: was I truly leaving this seminary better than I found it? I came to the realization after that moment that I had not been doing my due diligence to the Seminary or its community members and fellow students, and that something had to change. Furthermore, I also realized I was not doing my due diligence to my faith, and that my representation as a Muslim on campus was not genuine.
It was with this realization in mind that I determined myself to begin to at least be true to the Pillars of my faith, and establish the prayer. Thus, I began to pray regularly right away. However, it was not just this personal change in my prayer life that was the hallmark of that moment. Since then, my life changed substantially for the better. I truly found faith, and in doing so saw the importance of my being a Muslim in the participation and betterment of the Seminary community, regardless of what tradition each of us is following. None of this would even be possible, had it not been for that moment with Dr. Bodman. That’s the beauty of it: sometimes it’s the places and people from whom we least expect something so transformational to enter our lives, something we can only see if we are present to our surroundings. In my first year, such a question would perhaps have gone unnoticed. But as I entered my second year, increasingly isolated and thus having to be more present to my surroundings here at the Seminary, the question resonated. From being someone akin to a ghost in my first year on campus to becoming the 2019-2020 student body president, I can truly attest to the power that being present to your surroundings has to opening doors and changing your life for the better. v Summer | Fall 2019 | 15
To Listen is to Love By Steve Miller (MDiv’15)
here is a banner hanging from a light pole on the Austin Seminary campus that reads, “The first duty of love is to listen.” That places love at the center of storytelling. It sums up the total gravity of the work I do and why storytelling holds the key to the survival of humanity. I am the founder of the Truth & Reconciliation Oral History Project, a project in tandem with eleven HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities), that documents racial trauma and allows loved ones of color to share an experience—in a safe space, to someone willing to listen in love—about a time they were racially discriminated against. The stories are archived at Baylor University and placed on the internet so they can be viewed all over the world. We are strategic in this because it allows loved ones without color to listen and view from a place and time of their own choosing, which helps break down the natural instinct to avoid bad news. We also use these stories to inform public policy and as examples to the church so it may be compelled to work toward racism’s resolution—because the church has been a most egregious and unwilling listener. Our work attunes to the groans of people of color. A groan is that prolonged wordless sound brought on by and expressive of excessive pain and grief. To give voice, then, is to (1) have a right to express an opinion, (2) participate in a decision, and (3) reveal the intensity of the related pain. Through this process, our participants give words to their pain and participate in decisions about its articulation. Many verses in the Bible mention the children of Israel groaning, then God hearing their cries and acknowledging their sorrows. God expects us to do a similar thing—to hear and listen and acknowledge the groaning and cries of another. Ontologically, when we hear a story of deep emotional and physical pain, that something is just not fair, everything within our being tells us to act, to go beyond listening. Our holiness compels us. But we have not always acted—because of fear or shame or simply because we genuinely just don’t know what to do. Acknowledgement, then, doesn’t simply mean someone
listening intently and nodding, “I feel your pain.” Real listening admits to the problem’s existence, recognizes its truth or validity, expresses gratitude to the storyteller, and accepts an inherently legal obligation to help provide a solution. For the storyteller of color, the story reveals the groaning too deep for words. This is often the case when people articulate the racial oppression they experience and how the majority have often discounted those stories in a number of hurtful and inhumane ways. But what about the listener of no color? Robert Perkinson in his book Texas Tough masterfully explains how we have become hardened, positing that the sheer violence and callousness it took to maintain slavery and Jim Crow for so long has so injured its practitioners and collaborators that violence and callousness have become inheritable traits, possibly even coded into the DNA. Thus, both telling and listening expose the deep wounds of each. I, therefore, argue that harm has been done to storytellers and listeners alike. I cannot heal without being attuned to the wounds of another. To fail in that is not to love at all. From the work that I do, I have come to know that everyone needs healing, those who have experienced racism and those who have been injured by their own need to obtain and maintain oppressive structures. And I have discovered that storytelling can start the healing process for both the storyteller and the listener, and we must create a space for it. v
Steve Miller is founder and executive director of the United States Christian Leadership Organization. In 2018 he was named one of eleven US Ashoka Fellows, which will help to fund his work with the Truth and Reconciliation Project. 16 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Telling Stories Ash Wednesday
from across the foyer. He didn’t seem angry, and he wasn’t protesting. He was crying softly, stoically. He had the look of resignation and humility about him. He was in handcuffs and I still had the ashes in my hands. I didn’t feel I could or would stop myself. I asked him if he wanted me to ash him. He said, “I’m a very bad man, ma’am. I’m probably going away for the rest of my life. Would you?” I reminded the man of Paul, a murderer and a hot-tempered man whom God used to start the church. I charged the man with the face we knew to go into prison and be light. Then I imposed ashes on his head. Whispered the words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return,” as tears slid down both of our cheeks. I prayed with that man, and then I watched the detectives take him away. I went back to my desk and sat down. It wasn’t my first Ash Wednesday, but it was the first Ash Wednesday I really understood the deep wound that the world carries, the reality of the blood shed for us, and the reality of our desperate need for divine intervention. I hadn’t connected fully with the ritual of Ash Wednesday until this one. I had kept it like a private secret between God and me. I thought of it as a personal understanding of ransom for my own life. But that night, I felt I understood something new and profound about scandalous Grace. I trembled in my bed that night at the very thought of what had occurred that day. I trembled and thanked God for the honor of being able to put my own wounding to use. I trembled and thanked God that he was the God to both of us that night. The serial rapist and me. v
stein, Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Over the Rhine, and dozens of other presenters, workshop leaders, musicians, and artists. It was like a bigger, better, and even more lifechanging version of those summer church camps so many years ago! We can’t wait to do it again next year, because, for me, the New Story isn’t just about recapturing the magic of those youthful camp experiences. It is a way to spark the kinds of personal and social change that our world so desperately needs. Just as summer camp transformed my early life, my hope, my dream, is that through similar events like the New Story, new, transformative possibilities will likewise be birthed both for the church and for the world. Find out more and sign up for updates about New Story 2020 at newstoryfestival.com. v
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Discovery Weekend for prospective students October 25-27, 2019 austinseminary.edu/discovery
Find your own voice. Rehearsal
Continued from page 13 ist in your congregation there are other practitioners engaged with these essential principles of choice and failure: athletes, painters, potters, teachers, writers, scientists, engineers, chefs, farmers, plumbers … God has provided the failureexperts we need for worship. Have we established trust? v Want more? Check out the EBW event, “Telling our Stories Matters,” September 22-25 (see page 21) Summer | Fall 2019 | 17
faculty news notes
faculty notes | Retired Professors Whit Bodman (comparative religion) and Lewis Donelson (New Testament) were granted emeritus status by the Austin Seminary Board of Trustees at their annual meeting this spring. Gregory Cuéllar (Old Testament) was given a summer research spot as an Academic Visitor at the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford. Bill Greenway (philosophical theology) was the 2019 Visiting Osler Scholar at the John P. McGovern Academy of Oslerian Medicine at The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston. Over the course of three days, May 20-22, he gave lectures to seven groups comprised of various medical students or doctors, highlighted by an evening lecture, “Meta-Ethics, Emmanuel Levinas, and Medicine: A Diagnostic Model for the Medical Humanities.” This spring as part of Zondervan’s publication of a new edition of the NRSV, he wrote a brief essay, “Six Bible Reading Strategies for Progressive Christians.” Carolyn Helsel (homiletics) was the Mo Ranch Women’s Conference workshop leader, May 30-June 2. During June she was faculty in residence for the Engle Institute of Preaching at Princeton Theological Seminary. On August 14, she was the speaker for Backstory Preaching. Two poems by Paul Hooker (associate dean), “The Wasp” and “Jesus’ Dream,” were published in April on ecclesio.com. His poem “Apophasis” appeared in the July 8 issue of the Presbyterian Outlook. v
Professor Asante Todd (MDiv’06) with graduate Daniel Awuah (MDiv’19) of Ghana and student Danita Nelson 18 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Alumna Bobbi Kaye Jones appointed to Zbinden Chair
he Board of Trustees of Austin Seminary has called The Reverend Bobbi Kaye Jones (MDiv’80) as professor in the Louis H. and Katherine S. Zbinden Distinguished Chair in Pastoral Leadership and Ministry, effective July 1, 2019. Like her three predecessors in the chair, she will teach out of her pastoral experience in the practical areas of ministry: church administration, congregational leadership, stewardship, and liturgy. An ordained minister in The United Methodist Church (UMC), Jones retired in 2018 from her appointment to Tarrytown United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas, where she served for six years. She was District Superintendent from 2008-2012, preceded by tenures in Austin and Corpus Christi United Methodist congregations. She served as senior pastor of St. John’s UMC in Austin (2001-2008), co-pastor of Grace UMC in Corpus Christi (1997-2001), senior associate pastor of First UMC, Austin (19841997), and associate pastor of Memorial UMC, Austin (1981-1983). “I am so pleased that the Reverend Bobbi Kaye Jones is assuming the mantle of the Zbinden Chair,” says Seminary President Theodore J. Wardlaw. “She has served across her career as a best-practices model of parish ministry for our students to learn from and emulate. As an effective pastor, preacher, teacher, and leader, she demonstrates the synthesis of all of the disciplines of theological formation that blend so well to form a picture of integrity for the sake of the church. Our students will be blessed by her presence among us, and I look forward to her service on our faculty.” A graduate of Austin Seminary, Jones has been actively involved in all facets of her alma mater since earning her degree in 1980. She has long been an adjunct faculty member (1995-2011) and served on the alumni association board (19982001) and board of trustees (2017-2019). She was named a distinguished alumna in 2004. Jones’s ministry has extended to several state and local organizations such as Texas Freedom Network, Common Good Community Development, Freestore Austin, and The Ecclesiastes Project—for all of which she was a founding member— along with Campfire Organization of Central Texas, Imagine No Malaria, and Interfaith Action of Texas (iACT). She is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin Plan II honors program. She is married to the Reverend David Gilliam and is mother to three daughters. v
good reads | Exit West, a novel by Moshin Hamid (Riverhead Books, 2017)
igration—induced by war, climate change, and the failure of governments to provide viable lives for their citizens—is a key feature of the twenty-first century. Mohsin Hamid’s awardwinning novel (short listed for the 2017 Man Booker Prize) infuses magical realism into a story of two migrants to produce an exploration of loss and adaptation. Driven from their unnamed homeland by war, Nadia and Saeed are able to travel via “doors” that (quite without explanation) appear at various places in the world. As traffic away from conflict moves more and more people to places like London and San Francisco, immigrant communities grow up. Nationalistic backlash ensues. The book operates well on two levels. First, it is a poignant story of human dislocation told with a minimalism worthy of Icelandic sagas. “But that is the way of things,” the narrator tells us, “for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.” Second, Hamid invites readers to explore the phenomenon of global migration writ large. The artifice of travel via doors (which do not sink like overloaded boats or require weeks of trekking by foot to reach safety) brackets some of the messiness of migration while highlighting the immensity of problems caused when hundreds of thousands of people leave their native lands and show up in my neighborhood.
As I write this review in May 2019, there are tens of thousands of migrants in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. Christians reading the book can ask themselves a series of difficult questions: Is there an ethical difference between the desire to welcome some refugees and welcoming everyone able to emigrate? Would Hamid’s imagined world be better if some governments used force to make other governments attend to the basic human needs of their citizens so that the root causes of migration went away? What should our own government do in the face of unprecedented migration from Central America and the prospect of climateinduced refugees in coming decades? How should American Christians respond? When the ancient Greeks meted out punishment for grievous crimes, they issued the sentence of permanent exile. The Helene Odysseus, having sacked Troy, is miserable in his wandering until he sits with Penelope by his own hearth in Ithaca. In Exit West, Hamid narrates the enduring losses of leaving home with a whispered prayer for a world that welcomes strangers. v —Reviewed by Dr. Timothy Lincoln, research professor in theological education and director of the Stitt Library
Professor Bridgett Green with Caralee Sadler (MDiv’19)
board actions | The Austin Seminary Board of Trustees took the following actions with regard to faculty at its spring 2019 meeting, May 24-25: • Authorized a search for a faculty position in Evangelism and Missions • Appointed Bobbi Kaye Jones as professor in the Louis H. and Katherine S. Zbinden Distinguished Chair of Pastoral Ministry and Leadership for a three-to-five year term, effective July 1, 2019 • Reappointed Paul Hooker as associate dean for ministerial formation and advanced studies, effective July 1, 2019, for a renewable annual term • Reappointed David Johnson as associate professor of church history and Christian spirituality, effective July 1, 2019, for a renewable annual term • Approved a six-month sabbatical leave for Timothy Lincoln, associate dean for institutional effectiveness, director of Stitt Library, and research professor in theological education, from July 1-December 31, 2020 • Approved a six-month sabbatical leave for David White, The C. Ellis and Nancy Gribble Nelson Professor of Christian Education, from February 1-July 30, 2020
Austin Seminary faculty preach each Tuesday morning throughout the fall and spring semesters. Listen to the sermons on our new digital archives platform:
www.austinseminarydigital.org/collections/show/26 Summer | Fall 2019 | 19
alumni news notes
class notes | 1950s Gerhard Leiser (Ecumenical 1952-53) tells us, “I profited greatly by my work as pastor in the Evangelischen Kirche in Baden. By the grace of the Lord I can participate [in] life in church, family and community. I would be glad to provide information if somebody wants to hear about German churches and theology or plans to travel to Germany.”
1980s Margaret, wife of Stephen Plunkett (MDiv’80), died May 18, 2019, Denton, Texas. Caroline, wife of Miles White (MDiv’84), died on September 25, 2018. Tim Brewer (DMin’89) retired from the Rio Texas Annual Conference, June 7, 2019. Maury Millican (MDiv’89) is associate pastor at The Worship Place, an interdenominational congregation in Georgetown, Texas. He continues to serve as a chaplain in the US Army Reserve.
1990s Bernice Wells (Dipl’98) is staying active in retirement. She continues to substitute teach and is the education coordinator at St. Peter’s UMC (Austin, Texas). She has started work on her memoir which addresses her call to ministry.
2000s Lonnie Phillips (DMin’01) retired from the Rio Texas Annual Conference, June 7, 2019. In May Jason Cashing (MDiv’06) received the doctor of ministry degree from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Tim Blodgett (MDiv’07) was installed as general presbyter for Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery on June 2, 2019.
2010s Len Carrell (MDiv’14) has been called as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, Tennessee. Stephanie L. Cripps (MATS’10), and her husband launched Acacia, a nondenominational church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2011. They plan to open a second location in January 2020. Ron Phares (MDiv’11), has been called as pastor to North Shore Unitarian in Vancouver, Canada. Kelly, husband of alumna Jenny Tucker (MDiv’11), died in June. She retired from the Rio Texas Annual Conference on June 7. Shane Webb (MDiv’11) has been called as pastor to Woodhaven Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas. John Russell Stanger (MDiv’12) and Guthrie GravesFitzsimmons were married June 1 at Louisville Seminary. Barrett Abernethy (MDiv’13) has been called as pastor at Mt. Vernon Presbyterian Church, Sandy Springs, Georgia. Kimberly Smith-Stanley (MDiv’13) was installed as pastor at Round Rock (Texas) Presbyterian Church, on November 18, 2018.
Attending the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington D.C. in June were alumnae Layton Williams (MDiv’14), Meagan Ludwig (MDiv’13), Laura Walters (MDiv’11), and Sarah de la Fuente (MDiv’15).
ordinations & commissions | Lindsey Becker (MDiv’14), ordained by the Presbytery of South Louisiana Jo Kretzler (MDiv’14), commissioned by the Rio Texas Annual Conference, June 8, 2019 JD Herrera (MDiv’15), ordained by the Rio Texas Annual Conference, June 8, 2019
Osvaldo Benitez (MDiv’17), ordained by the Rio Texas Annual Conference, June 8, 2019
James H. Sparks Jr. (MDiv’64), May 19, 2019, Keller, Texas
Alex Lee-Cornell (MDiv’14) was named interim pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Dallas, Texas.
Ben Masters (MDiv’17), ordained by The Presbytery of Geneva, Dec. 1, 2018. He serves two yoked congregations, Hector Presbyterian Church and Lodi Presbyterian Church in Lake Seneca, New York.
Hierald Osorto (MDiv’18) serves as director of Religious and Spiritual Life at Ithaca College.
20 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Ezequiel Herrera (MDiv’19), commissioned as an evangelist for the Rio Grande Valley by Mission Presbytery, June 22, 2019
in memoriam |
Hilary Marchbanks (MDiv’17), ordained by the Rio Texas Annual Conference, June 8, 2019
Rebekah Tucker-Motley (MDiv’17) was called as pastor at Orange Presbyterian Church in Orange, Virginia.
Matt Cardona (MDiv’19), commissioned by the Rio Texas Annual Conference, June 8, 2019
John Hinkebein (MATS’16), ordained by the Rio Texas Annual Conference, June 8, 2019
Josh Kerr (MDiv’14) has been called as pastor at First Presbyterian, Claremont, Oklahoma.
Rob Grimes (MAMP’17) retired from the Rio Texas Annual Conference, June 7, 2019.
Jasiel Hernandez (MDiv’18), ordained by Whitewater Valley Presbytery at Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, June 9, 2019
Eugenia Zavaleta (MDiv’57), April 6, 2019, Tempe, Arizona.
Louis W. Adams (MDiv’66), September 29, 2018, Granbury, Texas Ilene B. Dunn (MDiv’80, DMin’97), May 4, 2019, Austin, Texas Don R . Chanslor (MDiv’91) April 28, 2019, Cheyenne, Wyoming Thomas L. Loftin (DMin’92), March 19, 2017, Round Rock, Texas
Submit your nominations for the 2020 ASA Awards Deadline: September 13
upcoming from education beyond the walls | September 10 | 787 Studio | Non-Violent Communication | Martha Lynn Coon | This short course on the fundamentals of non-violent communication will be helpful for anyone building or living in community. Non-Violent Communication provides hard skills for conflict transformation and creative, needs-based solutions. September 14 | Caregiving: Remembering our Creator in Older Adulthood | Professor Phil Helsel | Older adulthood is a season of many changes, including increased flexibility, the capacity for broadened thinking, and joy. This workshop will show how the changes of aging are not just conditions of loss but opportunities for spiritual transformation. September 22-25 | Telling our Stories Matters: Rooted in Narrative—God’s and Ours | Chuck DeGroat | in partnership with SCRAPCE | As teachers, Christian educators, and pastors, we are called to tell stories, to listen to stories, and to remember stories. We are called to invite people out of their hurried lives into an intentionally reflective space where they can hear God’s story. Today, quick fixes are offered in many forms, but rarely do they satisfy. The unhurried process of storytelling and story listening invites us into a sacred cadence that can reform our hearts and even rewire our brains. September 30-October 2| Just Worship | in partnership with Presbyterian Association of Musicians | Just Worship explores the intersection of justice and worship. Participants will discern God’s call to work for justice, discover how worship itself is justice-making, and join in exuberant, Spirit-filled worship that welcomes the coming reign of God. Austin Seminary faculty include Jennifer Lord, Eric Wall, Carolyn Helsel, and Margaret Aymer. October 3 | 787 Studio: Theater Practice for Community | Theater has long provided powerful tools for investigating questions, creating communal space for transformation, and understanding issues from multiple and complex points of view. Experience first-hand a small treasure of fun and engaging tools to foster dialogue and build community, and hear from practitioners who utilize theater to explore complex stories and engage communities in and toward growth. October 21-23 | REFOCUS: Postcolonial Mission: Engaging Youth in the Future of Christian Mission | Bill Buchanan | Join other youth ministers from the Synod of the Sun to explore what it looks like to go beyond colonial paradigms of short-term mission with youth, and instead engage young people in the intersectionality of poverty, race, privilege, and power. October 29-30 | Thrive Pre-Retirement Seminar | PC(USA) Board of Pensions | Whether you are fifteen years, ten years, or five years from retirement, it’s never too soon to start planning. Whether you are a clergy or lay member or guest, this seminar helps you explore steps you can take now to thrive during retirement. November 1 |Day of the Dead: A Conversation about Souls | Two rich traditions converge on this day and both celebrate and honor ancestors in distinct ways. Join us for breakfast and lively discussion about how Dia de los Muertos can help break open new understandings for Christian life and practice and stimulate thinking about life beyond death. November 7 | Bodies at Worship | Professor Jennifer L. Lord | A surviving mosaic of an ancient Roman catacomb portrays worshipers standing with arms outstretched, palms upturned in an ancient posture of prayer. How do our postures, gestures, and movements participate in meaning-making for worship? We will explore different bodily approaches to worship so that we can be intentional about our embodied leadership and participation. November 16 | 787 Studio: Re-imagining Ritual in and for Community Life | Join the exploration as we reconsider the role of ritual in our life and communities. We’ll discuss how creative approaches to ritual design might provide areas of reflection in our daily and community lives in spaces and places both new and old. The Joy Collective gathers, resources, and supports youth ministers for teaching and learning joy as a central part of the Christian life. EBW provides the youth-tested curriculum prepared by seminary faculty from across the country. A new virtual learning community is forming! All are welcome. To learn more, contact Melissa Wiginton at mwiginton@ austinseminary.edu.
December 6 | Writing the Body | Donna Johnson | In her poem, “Earth,” Anne Sexton saw God as all soul, longing for a body. This longing found holy expression with the birth of Jesus. Join us in welcoming the Advent season with a creative writing class focused on reconnecting you to the physical world—through joyful embodiment.
AustinSeminary.edu/ebwworkshops Summer | Fall 2019 | 21
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2020 MidWinters February 3-5 Currie Lecturer
Luke A. Powery Dean, Duke University Chapel and Associate Professor of Homiletics, Duke Divinity School Westervelt Lecturer
Bishop of the Rio Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church Jones Lecturer
Dana Hughes Transitional Presbytery Pastor, Denver Presbytery Preacher
Keatan King Associate Pastor, St. Philip Presbyterian Church, Houston, Texas
the Classes of 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 & 2010-19
The magazine of Austin Seminary celebrates storytelling. Read essays by current students and alumni.