The theme for the 36th annual Lessons & Carols service Dec. 3-4 at San Francisco Theological Seminary is "Rest, and Hear the Angels."

The beloved carol, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, contains the text from which this year's theme originates:
            Look now! For glad and golden hours
            Come swiftly on the wing;
            O rest beside the weary road,
            And hear the angels sing.

Held in the seminary's Stewart Memorial Chapel at 7 p.m. both nights, the service traditionally attracts people from a broad spectrum of religious persuasions in addition to SFTS family and friends, making it one of the most popular campus events all year.

Started in 1975 by SFTS professors David Esler and Wil Russell, "Lessons & Carols" follows the pattern and liturgy of the Advent festival as presented in King’s College Chapel at Cambridge University in England. Over the years, the liturgy has been modified to include some contemporary musical compositions. However, the basic format of the service has remained unchanged from its rich original mix of selected scripture lessons, Advent hymns and Christmas carols.

PRINCETON, N.J. — Seminarians for Peace and Justice, a student-led organization at Princeton Theological Seminary, will sponsor an alternative fair trade Christmas market Dec. 6-10 in the lobby of the Mackay Campus Center on the seminary’s campus.

The market will offer creative alternative gift options for the holiday season. Products include fair trade jewelry and purses, recycled greeting cards, Christmas ornaments, napkin rings, pottery, and kitchen and beauty accessories. Proceeds from the market will go directly back to the original vendors and artisans from countries around the world.

The market is free and open to the public.

RICHMOND, Va. — Union Presbyterian Seminary (UPSem) has launched Union Live, the seminary’s new communication channel which utilizes webcast technology to provide interactive learning opportunities. Online audiences now have the ability to participate in book lectures, guest speaker presentations and training classes no matter where they are physically located and at no charge.

The first presentation of Union Live was the Dean’s Forum on Faculty Research, which featured the recently published book by Professor Mark Valeri, Heavenly Merchandize: How Religion Shaped Commerce in Puritan America. When Pulitzer Prize winning author Taylor Branch visited Union’s Richmond campus on Oct. 26, the program was webcast live to online audiences in Charlotte, NC.

"The creation of Union Live is one of many ways we plan to use the technologies and tools of the 21st Century in the training of pastors, educators, and church layworkers, as we realize our vision of forming leaders and transforming the church," says UPSem President Brian K. Blount.

AUSTIN, Texas — At its meeting on Nov. 9, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary's Board of Trustees named the Rev. Jennifer L. Lord to the Dorothy B. Vickery Chair of Homiletics, effective July 1, 2011. The Chair was established in 2007 through a gift from Edward D. Vickery Sr., Edward D. Vickery Jr., and Anne Vickery Stevenson; Lord will be the first holder of the chair.

Lord joined the seminary faculty in 2005 after serving congregations in New York State. She holds a BA from Albion College, an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA in co-operation with the University of California, Berkeley.

Lord has written extensively and is currently working on a new book, Introduction to Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Texts to Sermon, for Westminster John Knox. She serves on the boards of the North American Academy of Liturgy and the Academy of Homiletics and is a member of The Presbytery of Arkansas.

DECATUR, Ga. — The Board of Trustees of Columbia Theological Seminary has approved the appointment of the Rev. John Alembillah Azumah as associate professor of world Christianity, with tenure. Currently director for the Center of Islamic Studies and lecturer at the London School of Theology, he will join the Columbia faculty in the summer of 2011.

Born in Bawku, Ghana, Azumah is an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. After serving as an evangelist in northern Ghana, he completed his theological studies at Trinity Theological Seminary in Accra. One of two ministers who pioneered the work of the Northern Outreach Program of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, he established 18 churches in three years in what is known as the Asante Presbytery. 

After completing M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Islamics and Christian-Muslim relations at the University of Birmingham, UK, Azumah served as a senior research fellow at the Henry Martyn Institute and a lecturer at the Union Biblical Seminary, both in India, as a CMS-Australia missionary. He later served as a research fellow with the Akrofi-Christaller Institute in Ghana and as the founding director of the Interfaith Research and Resource Centre of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana.

He is the author of two books: The Legacy of Arab-Islam in Islam: A Quest for inter-Religious Dialogue (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2001) and My Neighbour's Faith: Islam Explained for Christians (Nairobi: Hippo Books/Zondervan, 2008).

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Patricia K. Tull has been named A.B. Rhodes Professor of Old Testament Emerita by the Board of Trustees of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Tull concluded her full-time teaching on Sept. 1 after 16 years on the LPTS faculty.

In her teaching career she has shared her expertise in scriptural interpretation and its history, as well as in interfaith relations, through her numerous published articles, lectures and presentations, and books. In addition to teaching required courses in Hebrew, Hebrew exegesis, and the introduction to the Hebrew Bible for M.Div. and M.A. students, Tull has offered elective courses related to the Holocaust, Wisdom Literature, and Psalms, among others. She will again lead, with LPTS Professor Brad Wigger, the very popular Middle East travel seminar, entitled "History, Religion, and Culture in the Land of the Bible," Jan. 8-25, 2011.

In announcing her retirement, Tull stated that her immediate focus would be given to completing writing commitments and then "developing ideas that have been on the back burner for years," including biblical studies and areas of interfaith and environmental concerns.

She is the first female professor at LPTS to receive the emerita honor. Since 1969, twelve women have served as full-time professors on the seminary's faculty. Today, nine of these women professors continue to teach as part of a faculty comprised of 21 full-time and visiting professors.

CHICAGO — At McCormick Theological Seminary's  recent "McCormick Days 2010," Bread for the World President David Beckmann insisted that in spite of overwhelming statistics on domestic and worldwide hunger and poverty, there is both reason for hope in the battle to end hunger and for communities of faith a significant role to play in it. He  noted that the last few decades have seen hundreds of millions of people escape from extreme poverty.

"I think if you believe in the God of the Bible, these changes suggest a loving God moving through our history and answering the prayers of moms and dads, whose kids are now able to go to school, when 15-20 years ago they probably would have died," Beckmann said. "This is the great Exodus of our time — and as people of faith, God is calling us to get with the program."

Beckmann was quick to point out that those most responsible for improving the lives of poor and hungry people have been poor and hungry people themselves. Seventeen countries in Africa, for instance, have increased their per capita income by 50 percent and reduced poverty collectively by one-third and it is because, Beckmann said, "Poor people get that they can change their lives. They get that they can organize themselves in such a way that it becomes possible for millions of people to go to school or get healthcare."

But politics around these issues is critical today, Beckmann said, noting that after three decades of sustained, gradual progress in the plight of poor and hungry people, the last three years of global economic crisis have plummeted nearly 200 million more people into poverty and hunger. 

In the United States, Beckmann reminded attendees, a very critical moment for poor and hungry people comes in December, when Congress decides whether to extend the earned tax income credit, the child tax credit, and other provisions for the working poor that were part of the economic stimulus package.

The theme for the 36th annual Lessons & Carols service Dec. 3-4 at San Francisco Theological Seminary is “Rest, and Hear the Angels.”