PITTSBURGH ― Pittsburgh Theological Seminary has named the Rev. Johannes G.J. Swart as associate professor of world mission and evangelism. He will begin his service June 1, 2013.

“Jannie Swart provides a remarkable combination of international mission experience, new church development, pastoral leadership in both large and small churches, a Ph.D. at Luther Theological Seminary, and a unique ability to help students and congregations think theologically about ministry in the 21st century,” said the Rev. William J. Carl III, president and professor of homiletics at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Swart currently serves as pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Oil City, Pa. He is a graduate of Luther Seminary (Ph.D. in Congregational Mission and Leadership) and University of Stellenbosch (B.Th., B.A. Philosophy, B.A.).

He previously served as pastor of Fontainebleau Community Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. There he led a Dutch Reformed mega-church during their post-apartheid attempt to become more multi-cultural, multi-racial, and multi-lingual. Before that, Swart led a new church development among college students in Cape Town while serving at Tafelberg Dutch Reformed Church there. Additionally, Swart worked as the national director of training and development for the Democratic Party in South Africa, a new, emerging political party (merger of three different political parties) in opposition of the apartheid policies of the National Party (prior to the release of Nelson Mandela, the unbanning of the African National Congress, and democracy).

In the U.S. Swart worked with St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minn., as director of intergenerational faith formation; the Church Innovations Institute in St. Paul, as the director of partnership for missional church; and the Allelon Foundation in Boise, Idaho, as the research assistant for Allelon’s Mission in Western Culture Project.

PRINCETON, N.J. ― Princeton Theological Seminary will hold an Easter Octave Choral Service on Sunday, April 7 at 7:00 p.m. in Miller Chapel.

The service of worship will explore Easter through psalms, the Song of Solomon, the epistles, and the gospels with readings, anthems, and congregational singing led by the Princeton Seminary Choirs and a brass quartet. It will also feature an original composition by choral assistant Michael Gittens.

The Octave of Easter signifies the eighth day of Easter, the culmination of the High Holy Days. This is an opportunity for the public to join the Seminary community in celebrating the Festival of Easter. The service is free. 

SAN ANSELMO, Calif. ― For the third consecutive year, 18 San Francisco Theological Seminary women, students, staff, faculty, and community members performed The Vagina Monologues last month. Based upon Eve Ensler’s original production, The Vagina Monologues is a performance of different monologues delivered by a diverse group of women, with the goal to help women feel empowered and appreciative of their own bodies and to bring a public voice to women who are being abused and oppressed.

“Nearly one out of three women experiences some sort of violence in her lifetime. Pretty much every person on the globe knows someone who has been or is being abused,” says Melody Stanford, a first-year M.Div and MA student at SFTS. “It’s personal for all of us.”

This year’s performances took place in two locations: on the SFTS campus here  and at the Pacific School of Religion located on the Graduate Theological Union campus, in Berkeley, Calif.

New to The Vagina Monologues this year was the addition of a worship service held in Stewart Chapel on the SFTS campus, prior to the opening performance.

Proceeds from both performances of The Vagina Monologues benefited the Freedom House in San Francisco, a non-profit entity that seeks to bring hope, restoration, and a new life to survivors of human trafficking by providing a safe home and long-term aftercare.

RICHMOND, Va. ― Union Presbyterian Seminary has been awarded a $250,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. in support of the seminary’s new Church-Serve Initiative. The program is designed to address the economic challenges facing ministers who accept first calls in small churches with limited budgets.

When seminary graduates are called to serve a small church, they are sometimes offered salaries that are insufficient to cover living expenses, pension plan contributions, and student loan debts. As a result, some graduates take a detour from their ministry call in order to secure jobs that offer pay sufficient for meeting past and present financial needs.

The Church-Serve Initiative was developed to help relieve some of the financial burdens seminary graduates face and to provide additional training through the seminary’s Leadership Institute ― without additional costs to them ― so they are better prepared to accept calls to small churches. As the Church-Serve Initiative helps address the economic challenges facing future ministers, it also will enable more small churches to call pastors who are being equipped to revitalize those churches.

While students are enrolled in degree programs, Union Presbyterian’s Leadership Institute offers extracurricular sessions that will increase their financial literacy related to individuals, families, and congregations. Once a Union graduate accepts a call to a small church, the seminary will partner with the church for financial resources to help pay off existing student loans and to fund continuing leadership training.

The Endowment’s multi-year grant will generate start-up funding and provide an opportunity for the seminary to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of this initiative.

CHICAGO ― McCormick Theological Seminary has announced that its annual “McCormick Days” event will be Oct. 17-18 this year.

Based on feedback from previous attendees, some changes have been made. The event will fall on a Thursday and Friday instead of the previous Monday-Tuesday schedule.

Keynote speaker is the Rev. Reggie Williams, the seminary’s new ethics professor. The program will also include worship, panel discussions, workshops and affinity groups. It will conclude with a reunion banquet, with special recognition of milestone classes.

AUSTIN, Texas ― Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary second year students Annanda Barclay and Amy Wilson-Stayton were among a group of about 70 Presbyterians who took part in the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held in New York City March 4-15. The group played a vital role as the United Nations outlines its international approach to women’s issues ― specifically in efforts to eliminate and prevent all forms of violence against women and girls.

During this yearly meeting, representatives from member countries gather at U.N. headquarters to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide. Through this dialog with Presbyterians and other attendees, the commission sets its global policy in regards to women’s issues under the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

“This commission is extremely important for the status of women everywhere. The Church has been silent in regards to violence against women for far too long. I look forward to applying the information I have learned about slavery, domestic violence, and systemic sexism in the practice of ministry in the Presbyterian Church USA,” said Barclay.

The majority of the Presbyterian delegation is made up of members of Presbyterian Women (PW), who have long been present at these meeting to share the concerns of women from around the world. This year, 13 young women participating in or leading Young Women’s Leadership Development programs within Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministries/PW joined them.

Young Women’s Leadership Development is a national ministry of the Presbyterian Mission Agency within Women’s Ministries. The office of Young Women’s Leadership Development provides resources and programs for young adult women ages 18 – 35 who are considering leadership opportunities in the church.