Union Matters!
What Does the Lord Require?

What Does the Lord Require?

August 5, 2019

What has the Lord demanded of us and how are we living in that call as a seminary? Are we responding adequately to God’s call for justice in our teaching, witness, and service as an organ of the Reign of God? Associate Professor of Bible Rodney Sadler, will explore this topic at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond during “Seminary For a Day.” He previewed his keynote address with Tinsley Jones, director of Union’s Leadership Institute, which is sponsoring the event on September 28, 2019.

Strengthening Faith Formation Among Children

Strengthening Faith Formation Among Children

July 15, 2019

Union Presbyterian Seminary has been awarded a grant to develop a map to help churches find new ways to communicate the value of religious practices for children and families in a diverse and complicated world.

Children, are confronting a world rife with new and terrifying realities. Active shooter drills in schools is just one of those realities. Millennial generation parents are drifting away from mainline churches and, with that exodus, losing the opportunity for the church to help them and their children develop the faith necessary to confront the new realities. And budget cuts throughout traditional Christian denominations are hamstringing church educators’ and pastors’ ability to reach the upcoming generation.

The Lily Endowment grant will fund research to help congregations retool their approaches to faith formation in ways that address the challenges of contemporary family life and also offer ideas about how Christian spirituality can be more effectively presented in the public realm as a positive contribution to children’s well-being, potentially attracting non-affiliated families to participation in communities of faith.

Joe Slay talks with project director Karen-Marie Yust, Josiah P. and Anne Wilson Rowe Professor of Christian Education.

What are Biblical Values?

What are Biblical Values?

April 26, 2019

In 2015, Yale Divinity School Professor John Collins heard a presidential election ad urging listeners to vote according to “biblical values.” In the ad, the Reverend Franklin Graham announced he would be traveling to all 50 states to hold prayer rallies and call the nation to God. Collins was so troubled by it that he launched a course that year titled “What are Biblical Values?” It's also the theme of the Sprunt Lectures he will deliver at Union Presbyterian Seminary.

The easy and unfounded application of scripture to political viewpoints is as prevalent today as at any time in history. It’s not uncommon to see election ads touch on right to life issues and the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Collins says the problem is when it comes to a host of social and political issues, the Bible has much less to say than is generally supposed.

How to revitalize a church through music and drama

How to revitalize a church through music and drama

January 16, 2019

Are worship and the arts viable methods for building community? How can music and drama support the efforts of community engagement? You’re about to learn the story of a small Massachusetts congregation that used community organizing, theater programs, and relationship building to revitalize a diminished ministry and enliven an urban neighborhood.

Fourth Presbyterian Church of Boston was near closing when it embraced a commitment to serve its surrounding neighborhood with community organizing and a variety of ministries, including a community music and art program. One piece of that program grew into a popular children’s musical theater program for the neighborhood, which then fed the congregation’s growing use of music, drama and even musical theater in its worship and congregational life.

The Reverend Burns Stanfield has served as the church's pastor for the last 27 years and led its afterschool offerings in music, art and children’s theater. he’s also a musician and an instructor at Harvard Divinity School and Andover Newton Seminary. And he’s president of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, which develops local leadership and organized power to fight for social justice.

During a visit to Union Presbyterian Seminary, he sat down with leadership institute director Tinsley Jones to discuss the power of community organizing through music and drama.

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Pictured from left, Leadership Institute Director Tinsley Jones and Rev. Burns Stanfield on the Richmond campus of Union Presbyterian Seminary.

Perils of Peacemaking in Syria and Lebanon

Perils of Peacemaking in Syria and Lebanon

November 21, 2018

More than 350-thousand people have died and 11 million have been forced to leave their homes since the Syrian conflict began in 2011. Since the outbreak of civil war, Dr. Mary Mikhael has been interpreting the consequences of this global tragedy for the Syrian and Lebanese people, particularly the Christian communities. In 2018, the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program sent 10 international peace activists to several U.S. cities to speak to churches and seminaries. Dr. Mikhael was one of them. She’s a native of Syria, resident of Lebanon, and alumna of Union Presbyterian Seminary. During a visit to Richmond, Virginia, she sat down with Union Professor of Christian Missions Stan Skreslet to discuss the challenges religious groups face as they seek to bring hope, peace, and reconciliation to this war-torn region.

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Photo caption: Union professor Stan Skreslet, and international peacemaker and alumna Dr. Mary Mikhael

Mikhael recently served as president of the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, the first woman to serve in this capacity in any seminary in the Middle East. A Presbyterian, born to Greek Orthodox parents in Syria, she is a 1982 graduate of the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond (now Union Presbyterian Seminary). She earned her doctorate in education at Columbia University in New York.  Returning to Syria she became the director of the women’s program for the Middle East Council of Churches. She is active in ecumenical and interfaith activities and is a noted authority on the church in the Middle East and the role of women.

Since the outbreak of civil war in Syria, Mikhael has been interpreting the consequences of this global tragedy for the Syrian and Lebanese people, particularly the Christian communities, as she serves with the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon.

She is the author of the Presbyterian Women 2010 Horizons Bible Study “Joshua: A Journey of Faith” for the Presbyterian Church (USA) and was co-author of “She Shall Be Called Woman,” a meditation on biblical women.

God & the Sanctuary Movement

God & the Sanctuary Movement

September 14, 2018

History is filled with notable moments when people of faith around the world have stood in collective resistance to inhumane laws. Slavery, genocide in Nazi Germany, death squads in El Salvador, Jim Crow, and marriage inequality to name a few. They are resisting the law once again by giving sanctuary to a Honduran asylum-seeker after the government stopped granting asylum to people fleeing domestic abuse

In 2013, Abbie Arevalo-Herrera said she took an opportunity from God to come to the U.S. to escape her ex-husband who beat her numerous times and threatened to kill her. She left an infant daughter behind with her mother, believing she was too young to survive the trip.

Since June 2018, she has been living in sanctuary with her two other young children in the basement of a church in Richmond, Virginia. She can’t step outside without risk of being arrested and deported. As she fights her deportation order and for a more compassionate immigration policy, she and Lana Heath de Martinez -- a Union alumna and faith-based activist -- met with Joe Slay to discuss how God affirms their faith in the sanctuary movement and when Christian values are above the law.

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Pictured from right, Union matters! interviewer Joe Slay, Abbie Arevalo-Herrera, interpreter Leonina Arismendi, Union alumna Lana Heath de Martinez, and Union matters! producer Mike Frontiero in the church where Arevalo-Herrera lives in sanctuary.

Understanding Muslims

Understanding Muslims

April 4, 2018

Muslims are the fastest-growing religious group in the world. Their growth and regional migration, combined with the ongoing impact of extremist groups that commit violence in their name, have brought Muslims and their faith to the forefront of the political debate in many countries, including the United States.

Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2017 asked Americans to rate members of nine religious groups on a “feeling thermometer” from 0 to 100, where 0 reflects the most negative rating. Overall, Americans gave Muslims an average rating of 48, lower than atheists. Half of Muslim Americans say it’s hard to be Muslim in the U.S. due to discrimination against their religion, President Donald Trump, and Americans who don’t see Islam as part of mainstream U.S. society. But an almost equal and growing number said Americans are generally friendly to them. And nearly all are proud to be American.

Dr. Zeyneb Sayilgan teaches Islamic theology and religious pluralism at Virginia Theological Seminary. She spoke with Union Presbyterian Seminary Professor of Christian Missions Stan Skreslet about being Muslim and her passion to help people understand different faith traditions.

She also presented a lecture on The First Muslim Refugees in the Christian Kingdom of Abyssinia: Implications for Christian-Muslim Relations Today” at Union's 2018 Dawe Lecture.

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Photo: Dr. Zeyneb Sayilgan and Dr. Stan Skreslet

The rise of Womanism: Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon

The rise of Womanism: Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon

March 13, 2018

Fourteen African-American women scholars were invited to Richmond, Virginia, to participate in a womanist conference that critiqued the complex cultural histories and international globalization in today’s political domain. “Womanism,” as it’s called, has been a social movement of liberation ever since Alice Walker coined the term in 1983. Walker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, activist, and author of “The Color Purple.” She accepted an invitation to keynote the April 2018 conference -- "Bearing Witness to Womanism: What Was, What Is, What Will Be" -- and help launch the Center for Womanist Leadership. This center is the first of its kind, a place where women of African ancestry wrestle with actualizing the deepest possibilities of human existence. Co-organizer and Union Presbyterian Seminary Professor of Christian Ethics Katie Geneva Cannon spoke with her student Ayo Morton about why the conference matters, and her own challenges growing up black in the USA.

 

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Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon and Ayo Morton

Memory sanctions & Confederate statues

Memory sanctions & Confederate statues

February 20, 2018

In the aftermath of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Americans remain divided over what to do with Confederate monuments that have sparked violent protests. Can ancient history help us find an answer? Dr. Christine Luckritz Marquis, assistant professor of church history at Union Presbyterian Seminary, is writing a book about violence among Egyptian ascetics in the desert and the desecration of a monument in Alexandria -- a practice that is known as “memory sanctions.” She spoke with Joe Slay about how her research helps us understand the power of statues, and what we should do with those of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and other controversial heroes.

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Christine Luckritz Marquis

Marking milestones at The Presbyterian Outlook

Marking milestones at The Presbyterian Outlook

February 20, 2018

Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Jill Duffield is the editor and publisher of The Presbyterian Outlook, an independent publication of the PC(USA). in 2015, she broke ground to accept a call as the Outlook’s first female editor. As the magazine prepares to celebrate its 200th anniversary this year, she spoke with Jeff Stapleton about the big stories affecting the church, being present at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, her persistent path through seminary, and the future of ministry.

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Jill Duffield and Jeff Stapleton.