RICHMOND, Va. ― The challenges facing today’s church are many. Union Presbyterian Seminary is committed to uncovering the answers to those challenges and on Sept. 26-27 will host the Vision for the Future Conference where church leaders from across the country will share their  experience-based expertise on the knowledge and skill sets necessary for ministry in the church of the 21st Century.

 “Our academic excellence has been effective in equipping church leaders for the past 200 years but as the church continues to evolve, the seminary must adopt new thinking in responding to the needs of the church,” said Richard Wong, the seminary’s vice president for advancement.  “To be relevant to the once and future body of Christ, we encourage an open dialogue between church leaders, the seminary, and our partners in theological education.” 

In addition, Union Presbyterian Seminary will share its strategic vision in shaping the next generation of church leaders. The seminary’s efforts are designed to train students for modern ministry in the areas of preaching and worship, community building, congregation revitalizating, mission efforts, and engaging a church that is becoming increasingly diverse.

The conference is designed for pastors, educators, and lay leaders from all fields of ministry.  The conference and meals are free. To register for the conference go to: www.regonline.com/churchsummit.

DECATUR, Ga. — The Center for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary has announced several new courses in the area of children, youth and young adult ministry for the coming year. 

The Center will partner with the Godly Play Foundation (GP) and offer core training taught by certified GP trainers Christen Erskine and Sharon Greeley in a fully-equipped Godly Play classroom at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta on three Saturdays this fall:

  • September 22 (Spirituality of Childhood and Sacred Stories)
  • October 20 (Managing the Circle and Parables)
  • November 10 (Environment and Liturgical Actions)

A follow-up event for experienced GP leaders ― “Godly Play: Extending the Core” ― will be held on the seminary campus March 15-17. This second event will allow leaders to go more deeply into storytelling, in a retreat-like setting with time for worship and workshops.

 “Parents: Christian Educators on the Frontlines” will be held Oct. 26-27 and led by certified Christian Educator Anna Brown, a Christian educator at Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth Ga. and adjunct professor of Christian Education at McAfee School of Theology. Designed for parents, church staff and volunteers, the course will examine the applicable biblical, theological, developmental and cultural foundations of this conversation, as well as engage in practical ways to equip parents to embrace their task as primary Christian educators of their children. 

“Baptism and Beyond: Scaffolding a Life of Discipleship” will take place April 11-13, 2013. Led by experienced teacher, workshop and  youth leader Anne Apple, interim associate pastor at Idlewild Presbyterian in Memphis, TN and Kathy Dawson, associate professor of Christian Education at the seminary, this event looks at ways Christian educators and youth leaders can construct age-appropriate engagement with mission in the church and world.

SAN ANSELMO, Calif. ― San Francisco Theological Seminary hosted the third annual “Unconference” (UNCO). More than 30 people, many SFTS alums, attend the July 30-Aug. 1 event.

UNCO is unique because it has no set theme. Conference participants decide what they would like to discuss and then break out into small groups, which are led by participants, to delve into topics they feel are most important to them.

"The conversation at UNCO created space for the Spirit to nudge us in the direction of the church that is yearning to be born,” said the Rev. Jim Kitchens, interim pastor at nearby Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. “As one of the older participants in the conversation, I was struck by the deep faithfulness of the ‘Millennials’ who were at the heart of the gathering. If we can create worshiping communities and ministries that embody some of the ideas we talked about at UNCO, then I’m very hopeful about the future of the church in general, and the PC(USA) in particular.”

Topics that surfaced were:

  • Bi-vocational ministry
  • How to do membership/church differently
  • Minister and artist: outside the walls
  • Church as incubator
  • Cooperation among churches
  • Progressive theology and the church
  • Alternative Christianity & interfaith dialogue

Sarah Chancellor, an incoming junior at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, said that she left UNCO “with a stronger sense of my own call and a wider view of the church. I know that the church must change and grow but I’ve had a hard time visioning that change. UNCO helped bring some of that into a little bit more focus for me.”  ― by Tad Hopp

LOUISVILLE ― Susan R. Garrett, professor of New Testament, addressed “How Much Change is Really Possible” when she was installed as dean of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary at the seminary’s 160th opening convocation Sept. 6.  

“Promises of transformation are at the heart of the Gospel. Jesus promised his disciples that they would find life, and as risen Christ he proclaims, ‘See, I am making all things new,’” said Garrett. “I wanted to explore what such promises mean for us both as individual Christians and as leaders striving to ensure that our institutions ― including this seminary ― reflect the mind of Christ and serve as his faithful agents of transformation in the world.”

Garrett succeeds David C. Hester, who now serves as director of graduate studies and continuing and lay education. She came to Louisville Seminary as Professor of New Testament Studies in 1995 after teaching previously at Yale Divinity School and Emory University. 

Garrett, a Fulbright Scholar and a Henry Luce III Fellow in Theology, is also the author of a number of scholarly articles and several books, including a children’s devotional book co-authored with Professor Amy Plantinga Pauw. Dr. Garrett’s book No Ordinary Angel: Celestial Spirits and Christian Claims about Jesus (Yale University Press, 2008) was first-place winner of the 2009 Independent Publisher Book Award in the religion category. 

PITTSBURGH ― Pittsburgh Theological Seminary will offer the spiritual formation certificate elective “Mystical Spirituality” Sept. 16-21. The Rev. N. Graham Standish, pastor of Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelienople, Pa., will lead the course.

Mystical spirituality is designed for those who want to go beyond simply understanding what spirituality is, and delve into how to experience what the mystics have experienced throughout the ages. The course will look at the perspectives and practices of some of Christianity’s most influential mystics, such as Dorotheos of Gaza, Catherine of Genoa, Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, Thomas à Kempis, Thomas Kelly, Hannah Whitall Smith, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, and others who have been at the heart of Christianity, but are often ignored by modern theologians.

The course will engage the writings, perspectives, and experiences of these mystics in order for students to discover ways to open themselves to a more mystical way of experiencing life and God. The course will integrate knowledge about the mystics with opportunities to engage in mystical practices.

AUSTIN, Texas ― Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the construction of Shelton Chapel with a 90-minute guided tour of the history, artistry and architecture of the seminary’s chapel on Sept. 12. The tour will be led by local artist J.U. Salvant.

She is known for her watercolors and paintings of landscapes and historic buildings. She began her career in architectural drawing and commercial art. Salvant has illustrated a number of historical books and been featured several times in Texas Highways magazine. Her artwork can be found in the collections of two U.S. presidents, U.S. members of congress, governors and several museums. She is the wife of the Rev. Edwin Salvant Jr., a 1964 graduate of the seminary.

PRINCETON, N.J.Princeton Theological Seminary has announced the election of six new trustees. They are:

  • The Rev. Don Lincoln, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in West Chester, Pa. He earned his M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary (Class of 1980), and his B.M.E. from Miami University.  
  • James Neal, vice-president for information services and university librarian at Columbia University in New York City. He earned his M.A., M.S., and a Certificate in Advanced Librarianship from Columbia, and his B.A. from Rutgers University.  
  • The Rev. Jeffrey V. O’Grady, pastor of San Marino (Calif.) Community Church. He is currently a D.Min. candidate at San Francisco Theological Seminary, and earned his M.A. from Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary, his M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary (Class of 1988), and his B.S. from the University of Minnesota.   
  • The Rev. Mark P. Thomas, pastor of Ladue Chapel Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Mo. He earned his M.Div. (1980) and D.Min. (1997) from Princeton Theological Seminary, and his B.A. from Duke University.  
  • James A. Unruh, founding/managing principal of Alerion Capital Group, LLC, a private equity and management advisory firm headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz. He earned his M.B.A. from the University of Denver in Colorado, and a B.S. from Jamestown College. He is an ordained ruling elder and a member of Valley Presbyterian Church in Paradise Valley, Ariz. 
  • The Rev. Renée Lawler Sundberg, associate pastor of University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Wash. She was elected by her fellow alumni/ae as an alumni/ae trustee in the Board’s Class of 2015. She earned her M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary (Class of 1998), and her B.A. from the University of Washington. 

ATLANTA ― Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary ― part of the Interdenominational Theological Center here ― will sponsor an HIV/AIDS conference Nov. 29-Dec. 1 entitled

 “Creating AIDS Competent Churches and Church Leaders.”

The World Council of Churches defines an HIV-AIDS competent church as a church that has first developed an inner competence through internalization of the risks, impacts and consequences and has accepted the responsibility and imperative to respond appropriately and compassionately. In order to progress to outer competence, there is need for leadership, knowledge and resources. Outer competence involves building theological and institutional capacity in a socially relevant, inclusive, sustainable and collaborative way that reduces the spread of HIV, improves the lives of the infected and affected, mitigates the impact of HIV and ultimately restores hope and dignity.

Upon the successful completion of the annual conference and courses, participants will be able to articulate a theologically, biblically, homiletically and clinically sound understanding of, and response to, HIV/AIDS, particularly within the participants’ ecclesial contexts; promote the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing of persons, families, and communities impacted by HIV/AIDS; identify and mobilize resources within their congregations and communities to facilitate social change and positive community responses to HIV/AIDS; and define and demonstrate a prophetic witness and compassionate action in the face of the HIV/AIDS pandemic both for and within their ecclesial contexts.

Presenters and worship leaders include Margaret Aymer Oget, Randall Bailey, Mark Lomax, Guy Pujol, Beverly Wallace, J. Herbert Nelson II, Teresa Fry-Brown, Leslie Woods, Laurie Robins, and Troy Sanders.

CHICAGO ― The Rev. David D. Daniels III was installed as the second Henry Winters Luce Professor of World Christianity during the 183rd Opening Convocation of McCormick Theological Seminary on Sept. 5. 

The chair was created by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation and is named in honor of Luce, a Presbyterian missionary in China in the early 1900s. His son, Henry R. Luce, co-founder and former editor-in-chief of Time magazine, was born in China during his parent’s service there. 

Daniels came to McCormick in 1987, after completing his Ph.D. work in church history at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Prior to serving at McCormick, he was an instructor of religion at the Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H. He is an ordained minister in the Church of God in Christ, where he serves as chair of the denomination’s Board of Education.

Ecumenically, Daniels is past co-chair of the Reformed and Pentecostal International Dialogue, has served on the board of The Christian Century and the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving. He has also served on the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches Consultation on Pentecostalism, and the General Assembly Council (now the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board) as an ecumenical delegate.  

In addition to McCormick, Daniels has taught at Asia Pacific Theological Seminary, Sanguio City, Philippines and Regent University College, Accra, Ghana. He is the author of more than 20 book chapters and journal articles.