SPRING 2022 / SMU PERKINS SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY Perspective
WORLD-CHANGING PREACHERS Shaped Here
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
IN PERSPECTIVE 3 Letter from the Dean 4 Preaching Education at Perkins 10 Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence 13 Unique Collaborations 14 Discerning a Calling 16 Panel Discussion: The Challenges of Preaching Today 20 Technology and the Future of Preaching 24 Zan Holmes Profile 26 The Objects of Preaching: Bridwell Treasures
COMMUNITY UPDATES 28 Friends We Will Miss
29 William J. Abraham Tribute 30 2021 Distinguished Alumna 32 Baptist House of Studies Baugh Foundation Grant 33 News Roundup
34 The Gift of Giving 35 Calendar of Events 35 New Faces at Perkins
On the cover: The Rev. Dr. Alyce McKenzie, director of the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence. Photo by Hillsman Jackson. Photo Illustration by Corrie Demmler.
Dean: Craig C. Hill, Professor of New Testament, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University Editor: Connie L. Nelson, Executive Director of Public Affairs and Alumni/ae Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org Assistant Editors: Matt Jacob, Associate Director of Public Affairs and Alumni/ae Relations; Rachel Holmes, Assistant to the Executive Director of Public Affairs and Alumni/ae Relations Contributors: Anthony Elia, Mary Jacobs, John Martin, Matt Jacob Photographers: Bridget Anderson, Kevin Gaddis, Hillsman Jackson, Matt Jacob, Mary Jacobs, Kim Ritzenthaler Design and Production: Paper Patina Perspective is published by Perkins School of Theology. The Perkins Office of Public Affairs and Alumni/ae Relations retains the right to determine editorial content and manner of presentation. The opinions expressed in Perspective do not necessarily reflect official University policy. Letters to the editor and contributions to Alumni/ae News are welcomed. Send correspondence to:
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Letter A wise professor once said that a primary goal of theological education is to equip pastors to “simplify without distortion.” That capacity is nowhere more essential than in preaching. FROM THE DEAN
A first-rate theological education walks students through a variety of complex subjects, not so they are left unable to speak simply, directly and understandably, but precisely so they might do so without being simplistic, without skating over ambiguous or difficult issues of interpretation and faith. To be sure, an overly simplified message can be compelling: “God wants you to be wealthy, period.” Or, “All suffering is the result of sin, period.” Or, “All true Christians agree with my reading of this text, period.” At some point, however, shallowness will be found out, especially by those in need of a more informed and substantive faith. We long for thoughtful, knowledgeable, relevant and inspiring preaching, not platitudes and bromides. We long for head and heart each to be given its due. At the other extreme are preachers who seem to glory in impenetrable complexity. They might sound learned and impressive, but you’re never quite sure what the point of it all was – other, perhaps, than to sound learned and impressive. This is preaching as clanging cymbal, not clarion call. It is more inclined to complicate the simple than to simplify the complicated. It suggests a sermon in search of a purpose. Those entering seminary sometimes feel that they have landed in an “obscurer than thou” competition. The more byzantine, the more incomprehensible the argument, the more intelligent it must be. It took me years to realize that the opposite is actually true. The best theologians and preachers I have known have also been the easiest to understand, the best at conveying complex ideas comprehensibly. Turns out, being opaque is easy. Being clear is not. Consider, for example, how one preaches on one of the Bible’s apocalyptic texts, such as Daniel or Revelation. If you are unaware of the complexities of history and interpretation, you’ll neither include them in your preparation nor convey them in your
preaching. Ignore context, and such texts will almost inevitably be interpreted inappropriately – even irresponsibly. Overly complex preaching on an apocalyptic passage could include a lengthy aside on the extrabiblical texts 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra along with numerous Hebrew and Greek word studies. (Or Coptic, if you really want to shine.) Not that such preaching is necessarily a sign of great learning. I noticed something interesting as a college chaplain. The brilliant Christian scholars who came to preach were without exception models of simplification without distortion. I credit that to the fact that they knew their subject thoroughly, that they had learned over time to teach effectively, that they were secure in their identity and that they were therefore remarkably unselfconscious. The exceptions were persons who approached the pulpit more as challenge or burden than as opportunity or gift. Indeed, I often had to remind myself, “Please don’t try to be impressive. What we all need is a word from God.” So it is that a Perkins education aims to prepare students to simplify without distortion, especially in their preaching. Proclamation that is both inspired and informed, thoughtful and clear, is a vital tool for reaching and equipping those who will advance the church’s mission in the decades to come.
Grace and peace,
CRAIG C. HILL Leighton K. Farrell Endowed Dean, Perkins School of Theology Southern Methodist University
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WORLD-CHANGING PREACHERS Shaped Here
PERKINS EMERGES AS A LEADER IN PREACHING EDUCATION
W hen churches consider hiring seminary graduates, Perkins faculty member Wes Allen says, there’s one requirement that’s always at the top of their lists: “We need someone who’s good at preaching.” Graduates of Perkins School of Theology are prepared for that challenge. Perkins offers innovative teaching, a catalog of lifelong learning opportunities through the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence and top faculty involved in innovative interdisciplinary collaborations. Allen sums it up this way: “If a student sees preaching as the key to their future ministry, Perkins is the place to be.” Here’s an overview of preaching programs underway at Perkins. For more information, visit pcpe.smu.edu PREPARING PREACHERS: PREACHING EDUCATION AT PERKINS While a student at Perkins, the Rev. Jennifer Kilpatrick (M.Div. ’21) excelled in preaching, winning the William K. McElvaney Preaching Award in her second year. But she didn’t realize how well Perkins had prepared her until she faced a common real-life challenge as the sole preaching pastor in her congregation. Kilpatrick was fresh out of seminary and just a few months into her appointment as senior pastor at Northgate United Methodist Church in Irving, Texas, when the congregation lost a beloved member to COVID-19. Being new to the congregation, Kilpatrick didn’t know the woman well. She had to quickly meet with family and prepare a sermon for the woman’s funeral on Saturday. She also needed to preach the next day on Sunday, as usual.
interpretation and exegesis as well as practical tools to meet the demands on pastors who preach every week. Preaching classes have traditionally been small, Allen notes. While introductory preaching classes at other seminaries might have as many as 60 students, “Perkins has a long history of limiting preaching classes to 12 people,” Allen said. He and his colleague Alyce McKenzie teach multiple sections every semester, to ensure that each student gets individual attention. Students also preach in front of a congregation, at least four times, as part of their internships, with guidance from a mentor pastor and a lay committee. Students also benefit from the strong biblical emphases of Allen and McKenzie. McKenzie has written extensively on the biblical wisdom literature, especially Proverbs. Allen’s focus is New Testament, in particular the synoptic gospels. “Most important, we share a biblical approach, and we have a common purpose in teaching people how to be better preachers,” Allen said. Rounding out Perkins students’ preaching education is a strong program in worship, led by Mark W. Stamm, professor of Christian worship; a robust Chapel Worship program, with twice-a-week services on campus; and outstanding musical resources from the Master of Sacred Music (MSM) program led by Marcell Silva Steuernagel and Christopher Anderson. Before taking the required introductory preaching course, M.Div. students must complete the Church in Social Context course. They are also required to take Introduction to Christian Worship. Stamm, whose areas of expertise include Rites of Christian initiation, the practice of “open communion” in Methodism and theology and practice of congregational intercessions, also teaches introductory preaching classes and has team-taught electives in preaching from time to time. “Dr. Allen has been a pastor himself. He knows the very real daily demands that pastors face.” – REV. JENNIFER KILPATRICK
Kilpatrick called on skills she’s learned in her introductory preaching class at Perkins with Wes Allen.
“When you don’t have as much time as you would like, those sermon forms and exegetical principles that Dr. Allen taught us are very valuable,” she said. “They guide me through that weekly process in a way that is faithful to the text and that is faithful to my congregation. Dr. Allen has been a pastor himself. He knows the very real daily demands that pastors face.” As Kilpatrick’s experience shows, Perkins prepares students to preach, with rigorous education in biblical
The Rev. Jennifer Kilpatrick is pastor of Northgate United Methodist Church in Irving, Texas.
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call themselves “nones” – those who don’t identify with any particular religious tradition. “I believe there is still a craving for compelling, creative preaching that challenges as well as offers hope,” McKenzie said. “But we can’t assume basic knowledge of religious traditions or biblical events. Preaching to distractable, biblically untutored people needs to be both creative and rooted in careful study of the connections between biblical texts and contemporary contexts.” Perkins’ emphasis on preaching in the context of creative worship, she adds, “is testimony to our confidence in the ongoing relevance and impact of preaching in this place and this time.”
“Preaching isn’t done in isolation; it’s always done in a context,” said Stamm. In preparing a sermon, he said, pastors must consider the worship service, the needs of the congregation and factors like the season of the Christian calendar. “The question of ‘Why?’ must always be there,” said Stamm. “That’s what separates a good public speaker from someone who can preach the gospel with compassion and insight.” Renewed Emphasis Preachers today face challenges that are stiffer than ever. Social media and entertainment have shortened the attention spans of people in the pews. Interest in organized religion is waning. More people than ever
Methodist elder in the North Texas Conference. She joined the faculty at Perkins in 2000. In 2011 she was named an Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor, SMU’s highest teaching honor. In 2015 she was the Lyman Beecher Lecturer at Yale Divinity School. These prestigious lectures are the longest running homiletical lectures in the United States, first begun in 1871. McKenzie received her B.A. in the History of Religions from Bryn Mawr College and an M.Div. from the Divinity School of Duke University. With encouragement from her husband, Murry, she also earned a Ph.D. in Theology and Communication in Preaching from Princeton Theological Seminary. Before and during her work on her doctoral degree, she served several churches in Central Pennsylvania. From 2012 to 2019 McKenzie was Preacher-in-Residence at Christ United Methodist Church in Plano, where she preached regularly and coached members of the clergy staff. McKenzie is the author of 10 books and numerous articles, both for scholarly and popular audiences. Her research has focused in the past on preaching the wisdom
literature of the Bible: Preaching Proverbs: Wisdom for the Pulpit (1996), The Gospel of Matthew (1998), Preaching Biblical Wisdom in a Self-Help Society (2002), Hear and Be Wise: Becoming a Teacher and Preacher of Wisdom (2004) and The Parables for Today (2010). Her more recent focus is on the role of the imagination in preaching and on what preachers can learn from novelists and screenwriters ( Novel Preaching: Tips from Top Writers on Crafting Creative Sermons , 2010). In 2011 McKenzie co-authored a textbook on preaching with John C. Holbert titled What Not to Say: Avoiding the Common Mistakes that Can Sink Your Sermon . McKenzie’s Wise Up! Four Biblical Virtues for Navigating Life was published in May of 2018 and is being used in small groups and sermon series around the country. Her most recent book, Making a Scene in the Pulpit: Vivid Preaching for Visual Listeners , was published in October of 2018. She is currently at work on a project with humor scholar Owen Lynch, titled A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Pulpit: Preaching and Humor .
FACULTY PROFILE: THE REV. DR. ALYCE M. MCKENZIE Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship Director of the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence Altshuler Distinguished Professor At her first pastoral appointment, Alyce McKenzie vividly remembers the moment when she stepped into the pulpit to preach and saw the look in the eyes of the people in the pews. “They had this look of hunger,” she recalled. “No matter how many sermons people have heard, they always seem hopeful for a new word. That’s when I realized that preaching is a lifelong learning endeavor.” That moment foreshadowed McKenzie’s life work. Today, she is a sought-after preacher, professor, author and an ordained United
“If a student sees preaching as the key to their future ministry, Perkins is the place to be.” – REV. DR. O. WESLEY ALLEN, JR.
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Top left: The Rev. Dr. Alyce M. McKenzie. Top right: Dr. Marcell Silva Steuernagel. Bottom: The Rev. Dr. O. Wesley Allen, Jr.
The Rev. Dr. Mark W. Stamm leading worship in Perkins Chapel
EXPLORE YOUR Calling
Bussert also remembers Allen’s critique of the first sermon he delivered in his introductory class: “You read that academic paper real nicely,” Allen said. That spurred Bussert to improve. After the intro class, he went on to take two preaching electives, and later received the W. B. DeJernett Award in Homiletics. Today, Bussert uses what he learned at Perkins in his position as associate pastor of Bixby First United Methodist Church in Oklahoma. He particularly appreciates Allen’s tips for “meatball exegesis,” an efficient prescription for busy pastors in preparing a sermon, and often rereads his books and notes from class as he prepares his sermons. “People don’t always read your newsletters or come out for every Bible study,” he said. “But they hear your sermon. As a pastor, you reach the biggest number of people through preaching. You need to take your preaching education seriously.”
Courses in preaching have always been part of the Perkins curriculum, but recent decades have brought renewed attention to the content and craft of preaching. In the 1960s and 1970s, preaching was downplayed in favor of social action in seminaries, McKenzie noted. The rise of narrative approaches to preaching in the 1980s and 1990s brought renewed energy to many pulpits. That narrative approach was a key part of the classroom of experience of Paul Bussert (M.Div. ’21). He felt a little intimidated when he took his first introductory preaching course with Wes Allen. And a little puzzled. Allen’s first assignment was to have students write a series of short 100-word fictional stories. “It felt like being taught by Mr. Miyagi,” Bussert joked (referring to the iconic “Wax on, wax off” scene in the film “The Karate Kid”). “Dr. Allen kept pushing us, saying, ‘You’ve got to make me feel something from your story.’” It wasn’t until about halfway through
For more information about preaching at Perkins, scan the QR code or visit pcpe.smu.edu
the class, when the students began writing and preparing sermons, that Bussert understood what Allen had been up to. “Dr. Allen had ‘secretly’ taught us that way so that story would be a central part of our sermons, to make them more relatable to the hearer,” he said.
His writings include The Homiletic of All Believers: A Conversational Approach, Matthew (Fortress Biblical Preaching Commentaries) and Preaching and the Human Condition . He is currently working on a preaching commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Allen earned a Ph.D. from Emory University in 1996, an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School in 1990 and a B.A. from Birmingham-Southern College in 1987. Before coming to Perkins in 2015, he served as professor of homiletics and worship at Lexington Theological Seminary, and before that, he taught homiletics at Drew Theological School and Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, Drew University. An ordained elder in the Indiana Annual Conference, Allen also served previously as a campus minister at the Georgia Tech Wesley Foundation and as Dean of the Chapel at DePauw University.
and that’s still part of how I define myself,” he said. As an undergraduate, Allen took his first New Testament class and fell in love with the academic study of the Bible. While still a student, at the age of 20, he served his first church, in Mulga, Alabama. “Years later, I looked back at those sermons, handwritten on notebook paper, and some are just so, so bad,” he said. “Yet the people in that congregation somehow found nourishment in them, and they loved me into the ministry. I think that is why I really want to help ministers in that situation today.” Today, Allen is a gifted preacher and teacher, and the author and editor of some two dozen books on homiletics and interpretation of the New Testament, as well as many scholarly articles and published sermons. Allen’s work focuses on interpreting Scripture for postmodern life to produce sermons that offer both hope and challenge.
FACULTY PROFILE: THE REV. DR. O. WESLEY ALLEN, JR. Lois Craddock Professor of Homiletics STARTING AT A YOUNG AGE, Wes Allen felt torn between two loves. He had a strong interest in the academic study of Scripture, but also felt a call to ministry. Today, he’s an outstanding professor with empathy for the realities of those who preach week in and week out. His interest in ministry was sparked when he was a teen, as he listened to his pastor, Howard Collins, at First United Methodist Church in Sylacauga, Alabama. “Back then, we talked about being called to preach,
SMU in student development and leadership for higher ed. Hulem enjoys the work and believes in the PCPE’s mission. “I really enjoy working behind the scenes and helping with whatever needs to be done,” Hulem said. “It’s so rewarding to see our programs succeed and to receive testimonials from the people that we serve. It’s great to see that they’ve grown from our programs and created bonds with us and each other.”
Sabina Hulem handles administrative tasks for the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence (PCPE), including day-to-day communications, event planning, social media, graphic design and video editing. A native of Poland, she taught English and worked as an interpreter for a U.S.-based Christian mission before coming to the U.S. 13 years ago. She and her husband have twin teen daughters, Iliana and Christie. While working at the PCPE, Hulem also completed an M.Ed. at
STAFF PROFILE: SABINA HULEM, M.ED. Sabina Hulem, M.Ed. Assistant to the Director Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence
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PERKINS CENTER FOR PREACHING EXCELLENCE
PCPEis facilitating a peer group for pastors serving in bilingual congregations, plus two groups of African American pastors, one for those serving in cross- cultural appointments, and another for pastors in predominantly African American congregations. The Rev. Dr. Zan Holmes and the Rev. Edlen Cowley are consultants for those peer groups. Horan still remembers many of the insights she learned while a student of Alyce McKenzie at Perkins: Keep the main thing the main thing. Don’t pack everything into one sermon; know what to leave on the cutting room floor. Don’t feel the need to tie up every sermon with a bow. It’s okay to occasionally leave the congregation with a bit of uneasiness. She thinks it’s important for pastors in Rio Texas to learn those lessons and to refresh them periodically. “The art of preaching is something that needs to be continually worked on,” Horan said. “The Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence has so many great resources to offer; I think more churches and conferences could take advantage of them.” To those that may be considering adding a program, she advises,“Just say yes!”
When the Rev. Karen Horan (M.Div. ’04) needed help providing continuing education to pastors in the Rio Texas conference, she turned to the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence (PCPE). Launched in 2013 with a grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc., the PCPE’s motto is “Share the Story, Shape the World.” Its mission is “to enhance transformative preaching in local congregations ... through innovative seminary courses and pedagogical innovations, preaching peer groups, continuing education events and online resources for weekly preachers.” Over the past four years, the Center has led five daylong workshops and facilitated several peer groups for preachers in the Rio Texas conference, where Horan serves as Director of Creating/Vitalizing Congregations and Developing Leaders. Horan was especially pleased with the willingness of PCPE leaders to tailor programs to the specific needs of the conference. For example, this year the
The Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence hosted a training for pastors preparing to serve as conveners or homiletical consultants for upcoming peer group cohorts.
Over the years, these PCPE-sponsored peer groups have impacted nearly 200 pastors.
Participants gathered for a preaching workshop on storytelling hosted by the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence.
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A sampling of programs offered by the PCPE in recent years PEER GROUPS: Over the past 10 years, the PCPE has sponsored more than 60 peer groups for pastors in the Southwest and beyond, including the North Texas, Texas, Northwest Texas, Tennessee, Mountain, Sky, Great Plains, Louisiana, Rio Texas and North Georgia conferences of The United Methodist Church. Each group consists of eight to 12 pastors who meet regularly for six to nine months to discuss readings in the field of preaching and to review one another’s sermons. Each group has a local convener and a homiletical consultant, a professor of preaching with a strong record of teaching and publication in the field of homiletics. Over the years, these PCPE-sponsored peer groups have impacted nearly 200 pastors. A recent addition is “Short Story Sandbox,” a peer group in which participants read short stories and discuss theme, tone,
form, point of view, scene and characters in the short stories.
ministry, theology and especially preaching, with answers written by Alyce McKenzie, Wes Allen or a guest writer from the Perkins faculty or staff. Lively Lectionary offers weekly posts by homiletician and Hebrew Bible scholar John Holbert on the Old Testament and on the gospel text for the day by Alyce McKenzie. Passion for Preaching covers a range of topics related to preaching. Many of the writers are participants in the Peer Groups or the Coaching Program. VIDEO SERIES: In 2020, the PCPE launched “What’s a Preacher to Do?” in response to COVID-19. In each video, Allen or McKenzie interview artists, scholars and community leaders. In 2020, the series produced “Preaching During a Pandemic of Racism” amid the protests at violence against African Americans, featuring brief interviews with church and community leaders, scholars and artists seeking their wisdom for preaching during that difficult time.
THE STORY: The PCPE distributes The Story, an online newsletter, periodically to some 1,500 pastors. CONTINUING EDUCATION EVENTS: The PCPE offers a wide array of workshops and programs, including “The Preacher’s Toolbox,” daylong workshops for licensed local pastors who are not seminary trained. Providing a set of exegetical and homiletical skills, along with theological reflection on the purpose of preaching. Topics include interpreting Scripture for preaching; choosing a theme for each sermon; using imagery, story and scene; developing effective sermon delivery techniques. BLOGS: The PCPE hosts a number of blogs, including Must Reads, featuring reviews of books of interest to preachers; Ask a Professor, which tackles questions submitted by readers about
“The art of preaching is something that needs to be continually worked on. The Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence has so many great resources to offer; I think more churches and conferences could take advantage of them.” – REV. KAREN HORAN
Perkins faculty team up with experts in other fields A comedian and a homiletician walk into a seminary.... It’s not the opening line of a joke. It’s an innovative collaboration between Alyce McKenzie and humor scholar Owen Hanley Lynch, an associate professor at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts. The collaboration draws on key principles of the comic frame for insights for better preaching, and culminated in a workshop at Perkins, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Pulpit,” and a forthcoming book by the same name. Lynch isn’t really a comedian – he’s a social scientist who studies the way people use humor in organizations to share common experiences and to make sense of perplexing situations. When someone tells a joke, and the other person laughs, he says, it’s a signal that the two people share the same understanding of the situation. Lynch and McKenzie’s joint workshop explored how preachers can use humor, not just to lighten up sermons, but also to engage congregations more deeply. “The collaboration with Alyce is a really nice example of one area, with its own strong body of work, utilizing the resources at the university to expand its role,” Lynch said. “It’s something we don’t do enough of in academia.” Lynch is one of several experts from other disciplines who have collaborated with the PCPE in projects designed to broaden preachers’ understanding of how to get their messages across as effectively as possible. The project is part of a series called “Preaching and ...” that pairs an expert in the field of preaching with a scholar from another field to lead a collaborative workshop at Perkins and to write a preaching textbook,
published by Westminster John Knox Press. Other projects include collaborations with novelists and filmmakers. For the first book in the series, Wes Allen collaborated with Carrie La Ferle, a Meadows professor at the Temerlin Advertising Institute at SMU. The result was a workshop and a book, both titled “ Preaching and the Thirty Second Commercial: Lessons from Advertising for the Pulpit.” Some pastors were skeptical about the collaboration, La Ferle noted, because they associate advertising with materialism and consumer overspending. “In fact, pastors and advertisers share some techniques that can be similar and useful to each other,” she said. “In the past, advertisers could simply share information about their products; now, it’s much more about having the audience invite you in. You have to show them what you’ve got is worthy. Today, more than ever, it’s about grabbing attention and then engaging people. Preachers share similar challenges in their efforts to invite people into churches.” The “Preaching and...” books are extending Perkins’ reach, garnering attention not only among United Methodists but also pastors in other mainline Protestant and evangelical churches. “I don’t know of anyone else who is doing this in such an intentional and systematic way,” said Robert A. Ratcliff, Editor-in-Chief at Westminster John Knox Press “This is one of the few places where experts in homiletics are talking to experts in completely different fields and exchanging knowledge.”
“This is one of the few places where experts in homiletics are talking to experts in completely different fields and exchanging knowledge.” ROBERT A. RATCLIFF
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Discerning a Calling SHANDON KLEIN’S INTERNSHIP HELPED CONFIRM HER CALLING AS A PREACHER.
S handon Klein’s comfort level at First UMC Richardson has never been questioned. So when it came time for Klein to find an internship experience, she didn’t hesitate when selecting FUMCR – the church where she had been, at the time, a member for seven years and a staff member for four years. The familiarity with the surroundings and congregation, however, did little to tamp down the anxiety Klein felt when preaching for the first time. “I never had a problem with public speaking, but there was something different about preaching,” said Klein, who graduated with a Master of Divinity degree from Perkins in 2021. “There was a larger weight on my shoulders, and I really cared that the message that God gave me came across, especially to my home audience. “I quite literally was trembling in my seat as I waited to go up on stage. I remember quite clearly praying fervently to God to help me because I truly felt like I could not do this alone.” What followed was something entirely unexpected, Klein said. Though she had written out her sermon and put it between pages in her Bible – just in case she needed assistance getting back on track – Klein never referenced her notes. Instead, the words she wrote out came directly from her heart, no notes needed. “As I left the stage, I just remember praying that the congregation would receive the message, almost to the point of tears,” Klein said. “After the service, I received overwhelming affirmation from the congregation that not only was the message received, but that they felt they just had witnessed my calling before their eyes. It was a scary experience but a life-changing one!” These are the life-changing experiences for which
the Perkins Intern Program was designed. A student’s internship is further preparation for faithful leadership in Christian ministry. Students integrate the knowledge and theological reflection disciplines learned in the classroom with the practical demands of providing faithful leadership within a congregation or agency. The Rev. Dr. Chuck Aaron, Director of the Intern Program and Associate Professor of Supervised Ministry at Perkins, calls the nine-month internship both formational and foundational. It creates, he said, a dialogue between the personal interactions of ministry and the insights of scholarship. No matter the setting, an emphasis on preaching during a student’s internship provides exposure to what pastoral ministry is all about. “For both interns and pastors, preaching is the most public form of ministry,” Dr. Aaron said. “Every other aspect of ministry – visitation, pastoral care, reading, teaching, administration – can be filtered through preaching.” At the time, Klein didn’t know what direction she wanted to take in vocational ministry. She credits her internship experience – and that first time preaching – as an impactful step toward full-time elder status in The United Methodist Church. All of that is to come, following the completion of her doctoral studies in religious ethics in SMU’s Graduate Program in Religious Studies. “An internship is really a great opportunity to test out whether those nudges you have been feeling toward a specific ministry area are valid or whether you may be called to something else,” Klein said. “Such affirmation, and sometimes disconfirmation, is so helpful in the discernment process on how we are called to do ministry.
“Seminary cannot give you every single scenario that you may encounter in the ministry field, wherever it may be, but an internship can give you practical experience in those scenarios with loving support from your mentors and peers. That makes all the difference.” – SHANDON KLEIN
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PREACHING IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD:
A Panel Discussion with Four Perkins Alumni/ae
Perkins graduates share their biggest challenges — and how their Perkins education guides them.
THE REV. DR. EDGAR BAZAN (M.Div. ’14) Senior pastor of New World United Methodist Church in Garland, Texas
THE REV. EDLEN COWLEY (M.Div. ’99) Metro District Superintendent in The North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church
THE REV. DR. JAN DAVIS (M.Div. ’00, D.Min. ’15) Associate pastor at First Methodist Church in Mansfield, Texas
THE REV. DR. BRAD MORGAN (M.Div. ’09, D.Min. ’16) Senior pastor at Memorial Drive United Methodist Church in Houston and a member of Perkins’ Executive Board
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN YOUR CAREER AS A PREACHER? BRAD MORGAN: Most recently, the biggest challenge is preaching in a time where things have become overly politicized. I’ve always pointed out our need to care for the widow, the orphan and the alien resident, as it says in the Old Testament. Now I might be accused of being political for saying that. I can’t help but think that the reason those teachings are in the Bible in the first place is that, even back then, people struggled to live into those godly values. Preaching in a pandemic was an intense technical
challenge. We prerecorded our services on Thursdays. The team would mic me up, test the lights and put a white piece of paper in front of my face to adjust the cameras. Then they’d say, “Take one!” and suddenly I was supposed to preach as if I were in the middle of the service and just heard “Amazing Grace.” The pandemic also created a lot of frustration in people over the issues of the day, which heightened the politicization. I think the pandemic was isolating, and that caused us to forget that we should be coming together for the cause of Jesus in the world. We’re doing a sermon series now called “Why are we so angry?” Believe it or not, a church member yelled at one of my colleagues about that.
EDLEN COWLEY: The biggest challenge I always face is balance. How do you balance the core scriptural message of your sermon, and make that relatable to what’s happening today? How do you talk about what’s happening within the church and balance that with what’s happening in the mission field, outside the church and in the greater community? EDGAR BAZAN: My challenge is being an effective communicator. You don’t just show up and preach something because you like it. Preaching should mobilize people into intentional discipleship and engagement with the community. You need to speak in terms that inspire and encourage people. Often, people go to church and the sermon goes over their heads. You want to be practical and inspiring. Over the years, you learn how to do that. It starts with listening to the people, listening to their stories and learning where they’re coming from. JAN DAVIS: My lack of self-confidence and the lack of women preachers as role models have been a struggle for most of my career. When I started my doctoral project, Alyce McKenzie guided me in a project to find women’s voices as preachers in history. It was life changing. My project explored how God uses the voices of women throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. Then I studied women preachers in Christian history, up to the present day. I spent two years just reading the stories of these amazing women, most of whom I had never heard of before. I have these little challenges, but they endured insurmountable challenges. I connected deeply with them. I read about women like Anne Hutchinson, the 17th-century religious reformer; Jarena Lee, the first female preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal Church; Sarah Crosby and Mary Bosanquet Fletcher, who were lay preachers for John Wesley; Phoebe Palmer from the holiness movement; and Aimee Semple McPherson, the Pentecostal evangelist. I studied them and read their sermons and notes. They suffered ridicule, persecution and hardship, but their call to preach was so great that they just
kept preaching. That really inspired me. While working on this project, I also met weekly with a small group of women pastors in the Dallas area. We helped one another find our voices. From one another, we learned that our body language in the pulpit could present a lack of confidence, and that prevented us from communicating the word effectively. The more I learned, the more confident I became. HOW DID YOUR PERKINS EXPERIENCE INFLUENCE YOUR PREACHING STYLE? ARE THERE WORDS OF WISDOM FROM YOUR PROFESSORS THAT STILL COME TO MIND? MORGAN: I took two courses with Alyce McKenzie. After I delivered one of my first sermons in class, she asked me, “Brad, who is that who’s preaching? Because that doesn’t sound like you.” She helped me find my own voice. That is one of my most cherished gifts from my education. She taught us to be attentive: to pay attention to the Scripture, pay attention to your people, pay attention to the world and what is going on in it. Pay attention to where there’s crossover between them. Then bring those things together on Sunday morning in a way that helps those listening realize who God is and what God is up to, in a way they can understand. If there’s anything good about how I preach today, it’s because of Alyce. And if there’s anything bad, it’s because I didn’t listen to her! BAZAN: I remember John Holbert, my professor in my introductory preaching course, saying, “Tell the story.” The Bible is a story that communicates a message. Make sure you tell the story and bring in stories from the church and the world to help bring that biblical narrative alive. You work on understanding the context of the text that you’re preaching and making sure that you tell it in the broader context of a story. That’s pretty basic, but sometimes preachers forget that. I forget sometimes!
“We’re doing a sermon series now called ‘Why are we so angry?’ Believe it or not, a church member yelled at one of my colleagues about that.”
THE REV. DR. BRAD MORGAN
SPRING 2022 17
“There’s a lot of pressure on preachers to be entertaining, or even sensational, to get people to come back next week.”
THE REV. DR. JAN DAVIS
DAVIS: Alyce McKenzie always talked about “strengths” and “strengtheners.” There was never a weakness. I still use that language when I work with colleagues to evaluate their sermons. The other thing I learned from Alyce: Add a little “granola.” Think of leaving for the day when all you had for breakfast was a sugary muffin. You really need to give your people a hearty bowl of granola – something substantial. From my other professor, David Mosser, I learned the importance of resources. I spent several years buying exegetical commentaries and resources at Half Price Books. Because of him, I probably doubled the amount of time I was spending on researching and studying to write a sermon. But it made a difference. TELL US ABOUT YOUR COMMUNITY’S UNIQUE IDENTITY AND HOW THAT INFORMS YOUR PREACHING. BAZAN: I’m from Mexico. One of the things that I learned quite quickly when I came to the U.S. is that here we have people from many different places. They might be from Ireland, or Germany. Even in a Spanish-speaking church, you may have people from Colombia, Peru, Spain, all around the world. They all bring their culture, their context, their own values into the church. COWLEY: I’ve served in cross-racial appointments for the past 20 years. I’m culturally aware with my experience that I bring as an African American male in communities where I’m in a statistical minority. The biggest challenge is balance. If you don’t do balance well, you lose people. The Christian witness speaks to social justice, but at the same time, the church is a big tent. You need to have a broad enough theological understanding so that everyone can be welcome. Jesus asked Zacchaeus to come down from the tree even though he was the tax collector, a rich and wealthy person. I think we’re called to have that balance. For a minority pastor male serving in an Anglo- dominant congregation, communication is so important. Some people might tell me, “Edlen, you talk too much about politics in all your sermons.” Then another will say, “You don’t talk enough about politics in your sermons.” I have to be mindful of what I say.
I also try not to put people in file folders based on their political beliefs. They might change. I might change. The world might change. You always want to prayerfully lead people toward their full God-given potential. Who knows what that looks like? TALK ABOUT YOUR PROCESS FOR CHOOSING A SERMON TOPIC AND PREPARING YOUR SERMONS. BAZAN: First, you do an exegesis of the church. You try to understand what church members are going through. You listen during pastoral visits, or Bible studies, or when they stop by the office. You pay attention to their struggles. I may get a sermon idea from something someone says in a trustee meeting or from watching a movie. Sometimes I get inspired in the weirdest places, like watching cartoons with my kids! I write my sermon on Wednesday, and on Thursday I share it with a handful of church members as a Bible study. I always get new perspectives and great contextual feedback on how my sermon will speak to our people. I do a final revision, and my sermon is completed by Thursday afternoon. Currently, I’m preaching a series from the book of Nehemiah. That has been fascinating. Church members know when the preacher is passionate about what he or she is saying. That is inspiring to people. MORGAN: We’re a large congregation, with lots of people preaching in lots of places. We have a well- developed team approach. It starts with a Bible and a two-page lectionary sheet. We plan about a year out. It’s kind of a long process, but we make sure the whole team has had input. DAVIS: In the last two churches I served, we followed the Lectionary. But this church is in a completely different place now, coming out of the pandemic. We are stopping the series model. I’ve preached four- to six-week series almost my entire career, and we just think that is not working anymore. It’s not bringing people back. Instead, we’re going to try preaching in long seasons. We’re using John Wesley’s 44 sermons as the framework. It’s an opportunity to revisit all the Christian doctrines.
“The Christian witness speaks to social justice, but at the same time, the church is a big tent. You need to have a broad enough theological understanding so that everyone can be welcome.”
THE REV. EDLEN COWLEY
COWLEY: I like to tell stories that pair up well with the point that I’m trying to make from Scripture. I think of it this way: You may not remember the words to a song, but you remember the way the song makes you feel when you hear the music. With a sermon, you may not remember everything I said, but if you can remember the story, that attaches you back to the Scripture. In Africa, the griot is the person who has the stories of the community. In the same way, the Bible started as an oral tradition that was handed down from generation to generation. Stories are part of this tradition that’s handed down to us. Preachers are telling these stories, again and again. I try to find a balance between wanting to present an academic sermon, and a sermon that’s more of a story, an allegory. THERE’S THE SERMON YOUR CONGREGATION NEEDS TO HEAR, AND THE SERMON THEY’D LIKE TO HEAR. HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR FOCUS ON THE FORMER? MORGAN: I want to push back on the question a little. We should start with the assumption that people who are showing up on Sunday morning are people of faith who want to be moved by God in a way that is faithful and true. They aren’t showing up to be false Christians, or to just be told what they want to hear. I’m always going to resist putting people in that category. The people in the pew are not the enemy; they’re our allies to help change the world.
come back next week. And if one of your biggest givers doesn’t like your sermon … it’s not easy. Preachers should not give in to those types of pressures, but be true to God’s message for your people. BAZAN: I try to keep a balance between the two. I’m not a prophet. I’m not an activist preacher. I want people to be encouraged and inspired. You listen to the people’s stories, and once you know their pains, their sufferings, even the shortcomings, you work with that and you preach to that. I don’t mean, “I’m going to tell you what you need to hear, because you’re bad.” It’s more like encouragement and discipline. We walk together. I always tell people, “I’m learning a lot for this sermon series, too.” I’m learning as I am preaching. COWLEY: Zan Holmes, one of my great mentors, told me, “You never use the authority you have as a pastor before it’s granted to you.” If people know that you care about them and love them, they can hear what you have to say, even if they don’t understand or agree. The love you extend comes back, as you hear people’s unique voices and they hear your unique voice. It’s not just the skill and the way you deliver the message. You have to build that relational capital. Also, you don’t preach for amens. You preach for substance. I’m not saying I don’t need the amens, but I’m not preaching for that. I’m preaching because I’m trying to do honor to the Scripture and to do honor to God and the message that I’m delivering. The goal of preaching is to make a connection with somebody’s heart and spirit so that they might decide to make a change.
DAVIS: There’s a lot of pressure on preachers to be entertaining, or even sensational, to get people to
“I always tell people, “I’m learning a lot for this sermon series, too.” I’m learning as I am preaching.”
THE REV. DR. EDGAR BAZAN
SPRING 2022 19
AND THE FUTURE OF Preaching Technology
New course prepares Perkins students for ministry in the digital age
F or many churches, the churches scrambled to shift worship services and sermons to online platforms like Facebook Live, YouTube and Zoom. Today, most churches are returning to in-person gatherings, but don’t expect things to go back to normal, according to Perkins faculty members Robert A. Hunt and Marcell Silva Steuernagel. “COVID-19 catalyzed changes that were already ongoing – it just made them happen more quickly,” said Silva Steuernagel, Assistant future came early, in 2020. As the pandemic shut down in-person worship, Professor of Church Music and Director of the Master of Sacred Music program. “Online is here to stay,” said Hunt, who is Director of Global Theological Education. NEW COURSE, NEW LAB To equip students to work with digital platforms, Hunt and Silva Steuernagel launched a course in the fall of 2020 that focused on Digitally Mediated Ministry. The new course ramped up quickly, after a faculty meeting via Zoom in the spring of 2020. Many Perkins students were already being asked to launch online platforms at churches where they served or were interning. Hunt and Silva Steuernagel alerted Dean Craig C. Hill to the need to offer students guidance in digital ministry. “Dean Hill looked at us and said, ‘Well, then, design a course,’” said Silva Steuernagel.
A green screen and podcasting studio are part of Perkins’ new Digitally Mediated Ministries Lab.
The course was offered again in the fall of 2021, and now it has become a popular elective class, likely to be offered every academic year. Students learn more than the craft and technique of providing worship via online platforms. Hunt and Silva Steuernagel engage students in questions about how digital technology will shape churches and human interactions and connections in general. “Technology always draws certain practices into itself and resists others,” said Silva Steuernagel. “I think the line between digital practices that become established in person, and in-person practices that are adopted digitally, will continually be negotiated. I think we can expect a lot more video sermons, and a different mixture
of digital music and live music. Much of what’s done musically these days is recorded anyway, so why shouldn’t we play it in our live services as well?” In early 2022, Perkins added a new Digitally Mediated Ministries Lab, with a podcasting studio and a video recording studio, along with virtual reality (VR) tools and a green screen. Equipment will be added as new projects unfold. The lab will be primarily available to faculty but will also eventually become a center where students and local church staff can try new forms of digital ministry. Hunt and Silva Steuernagel think online worship and virtual offerings will continue because, as many churches discovered, they reach people who might
“Preaching in online settings is almost like having to relearn how to preach, but in doing so, you really are becoming a better preacher.” DR. ROBERT A. HUNT
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