SAN ANSELMO, Calif. ― San Francisco Theological Seminary has appointed the Rev. Sherri A. Hausser, an experienced pastor and interfaith leader, to spearhead the Seminary’s new Center for Innovation in Ministry. Hausser will help establish the Center, which will be a hub for the generation of ideas and encouragement for those who are engaged in developing new forms of ministry.

Hausser has served as associate pastor of Bryn Mawr (Pa.) Presbyterian Church for 13 years. In that position she helped develop both local and international partnerships with alternative church communities, including Broad Street Ministries, and has made multiple appearances on the “Today Show” with Matt Lauer and Rabbi Irwin Kula. She is a founding and current board member of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, which develops leaders for the interfaith movement, creates accessible models for interfaith work, and educates and inspires people of different faiths to create cohesive communities.

 “Sherri’s combination of impressive experience and education, and her deep commitment and passion for innovation in ministry provides a huge boost for the launch of this exciting new enterprise,” said the Rev. James McDonald, president and professor of faith & public life at SFTS. “Sherri will help connect SFTS to a broad network of innovators in the church, in the nonprofit world, in business and government, and in education.”

The Rev. Jana Childers, dean of the seminary and professor of homiletics and speech communication, added: “Sherri’s pastoral and international experience, energy, and passion make her an excellent partner for the faculty at San Francisco Theological Seminary, and will greatly further our preparation of students for today’s Church.”

The Center for Innovation in Ministry will launch its first public event in April 2014.

PRINCETON, N.J. ― Gary S. Selby, professor of communication and director of the Center for Faith and Learning at Pepperdine University, will give three lectures on preaching Oct. 28 and 29 at Princeton Theological Seminary.

The lectures are free and open to the public and will be held in the Daniel J. Theron Room of the Princeton Theological Seminary Library. The schedule and topics for the lectures is as follows:

Monday, Oct. 28, 7:00 p.m.: “Performing Theology: Mimesis as Persuasion in Early Christian Discourse”

Tuesday, Oct. 29, 3:00 p.m.: “Experiencing Faith: Contemporary Perspectives on Attitude Change”

Tuesday, Oct. 29, 7:00 p.m.: “Capturing Souls: Preaching from a Poetic Consciousness”

Selby’s research focuses on early Christian discourse, contemporary homiletics, religion in the public square and discourse related to racial conflict in American history

He is the author of Martin Luther King and the Rhetoric of Freedom: The Exodus in America’s Struggle for Civil Rights, and has written numerous articles and essays. Selby received a B.A. from Harding University, a Th.M. from Harding University’s Graduate School of Religion, and a Ph.D. in public communications from the University of Maryland.

The lectureship ― the Donald Macleod/Short Hills Community Congregational Church Preaching Lectures ― was established by The Community Congregational Church of Short Hills, N.J., in honor of Donald Macleod, Princeton Seminary’s Francis Landey Patton Professor of Preaching and Worship from 1947 to 1988. Inaugurated in October 1992, the series features, on a biennial basis, two or three lectures by an outstanding preacher or teacher of preachers.

PITTSBURGH ― Christians regularly use the word “God,” but what do we mean by “God”?

Pittsburgh Theological Seminary professor of systematic theology John P. Burgess will explore that question during a four-part course entitled “Who is God for Us Today?”

 Insights from Paul, Anselm, Bonhoeffer, and Alexander Schmemann will be examined in the classes, which will meet Mondays Oct. 21- Nov. 11 from 10:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. 

The question of who God is has become even more urgent in a time in which many people seem to have forgotten God, yet are perhaps seeking God more than ever. The courses will examine several major theological approaches to the question of God. In each case, participants will ask: What are God’s attributes? How do we come to know God? Can a person experience God? The class will pay particular attention to implications for prayer, proclamation, and Christian witness today.

Registration fee is $95 and CEUs are available. Contact the Office of Continuing Education at 412-924-1345 or ConEd@pts.edu with questions. Additional information is available online.

RICHMOND, Va. ―My work has been about giving dead Christians, namely saints, a say in how we read scripture,” says the Rev. Jason Byassee, pastor of Boone (N.C.) United Methodist Church. “This is very hard to do, as we're all conditioned to read the scriptures with modern eyes, and often our ancient forebears' ways of reading look very strange to us.”  

Byassee is the keynote speaker for the 2013 Faith Seeking Understanding event presented by Union Presbyterian Seminary at its Charlotte, N.C., campus. His presentation on Sunday Oct. 20 at 4:00 p.m. is entitled “Reading the Bible with the Whole Church.”  It’s inspired by the Christian apologist Gilbert K. Chesterton’s assertion that “tradition is the democracy of the dead.” Twenty-first century Christians are inclined to see tradition and democracy as opposed to one another, but Chesterton argued that tradition is the most democratic thing there is, Byassee says.

The Faith Seeking Understanding event will continue on Monday, Oct. 21, at 10 a.m. when Byassee will meet with local pastors and Christian educators to engage in theological discussion on the art of ministry. 

Both events are free and the public is warmly invited to attend. However, reservations are strongly encouraged. Please email Nadine Moran, development associate for Charlotte, at nadine.moran@upsem.edu or call 980-636-1661.

AUSTIN, Texas ― Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary will present its annual Ellipsis Conference Nov. 1-3

“Being in ministry today is often more than taking on the role of a church pastor,” promotional material for the conference states. “Come and build a community with people who want to do pastoral ministry ...and something else. Learn how to tell your vocational story to inspire others. Decode the structures that impact non-traditional ways of being in ministry and meet people who are making it happen.”

The conference is designed for long-time tentmakers, bi-vocational pastors, commissioned ruling elders, seminary students “and all those who want to help create new stories of serving God in ministry.”

Presenters include:

  • Ken Murdock, founder of Murdock & Associates Recruiters and Austin Career Services, will show how to mine life experience, training, and education for clues about work to pair with pastoral ministry. 
  • The Rev. David F. White will talk about telling lifestories in authentic ways that spark energy and provoke curiosity about different ways of living ministry.
  • The Revs. Ross Blount and Sarah Chancellor report on experiments in discerning a call to bi-vocational ministry.
  • The Rev. Jackie Saxon will introduce bi-vocational seminary students who weave together church ministry, family, school and work to live out their callings.
  • The Revs. SanDawna Ashley and Paul Hooker will lay out PC(USA) “nuts and bolts” for those seeking to engage in all kinds of ministry in the denomination.
  • Kevin S. Keaton, regional representative for the PC(USA)’s Board of Pensions will present a synopsis of forthcoming Medical Plan changes as well as introduce the new initiative “Call to Health.”

LOUISVILLE ― A crowd of 60 gathered Sept. 30 in Schlegel Hall at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary for a conversation about “good guesting.”

Led by Gerald Liu, visiting professor of worship, a panel of faculty and staff shared their thoughts about how becoming a hospitable guest is a key to establishing and celebrating diversity in worship. The lunch was first in a year-long series of community conversations presented by the seminary’s Doors to Dialogue program. 

Liu said, “Good guests always seek to show appreciation and display kindness. As a Christian, to me that means trying to bring the peace of God with me, every time. Hospitable guests make it a point to show the mercy of God. They ask: what is God doing here, and how?”

Debra Mumford, professor of homiletics and associate dean for student academic affairs, said , “It’s okay to have expectations as to how you can plan to be treated during a worship service. You should feel free to leave if you’re uncomfortable. You can make the choice to worship somewhere else.” 

Liu continued: “Being a hospitable guest should not be framed as having to accept what makes you uncomfortable. It’s more about coming to a place where you’re creating mercy in those situations. When things are insulting, offensive, evil, ignorant… they’re typically unintentional. Being a hospitable guest doesn't mean becoming a doormat. And it’s not refraining from saying no, but it’s learning how to say no.” 

Lauren Mayfield, chapel coordinator and director of the seminary’s Women’s Center, shared thoughts on what it means to be comfortable in worship. “When we go to church where we've always gone to church, there’s spiritual, emotional, relational and geographical familiarity. When we branch out and go somewhere new, we get uncomfortable, we analyze things, we wonder if we’re even worshiping the same God. It’s hard to engage in the service and in worship when you’re uncomfortable. Giving yourself permission to be uncomfortable and keeping an open mind will help you leave those new spaces realizing that maybe you did, in fact, encounter God there.” 

Professor of Theology, Shannon Craigo-Snell, and Associate Professor of New Testament and Director of Black Church Studies, Lewis Brogdon, shared stories about the evolution of their personal worship. 

Professor Lewis Brogdon said growing up he was shaped by the Pentecostal Holiness tradition. Throughout his adult life he’s participated in, and led congregations from, the Church of Christ, United Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian traditions. He has seen first-hand how narrow-minded people can be when it comes to experiencing difference in worship.

“We have discredited God by the ways in which we allow the process of socialization to determine where we worship, who we worship with and how we worship,” he said. “What it means to be a hospitable guest is to be a student of history. Understand that every time you step into a worship space, you’re stepping into history. Have some context on who you’re worshiping with, their approach to the sacred and the holy… authentically engage.”