I approach the preaching task, and the teaching of preaching, with an unapologetic biblical bias. There are other starting points – theology, rhetoric, and communications theory come to mind – but I am a New Testament scholar by training, and so start my preaching and teaching with focus on the biblical text. This is a predisposition inherited from my mentors, and one I share with my students, both in the Master of Divinity courses and in the Doctor of Ministry in Preaching program. An exciting part of my work has been the development of the D.Min. in Preaching, and the opportunity to integrate what we do here at Sewanee with my work at the diocesan and national level as Executive Director of the Episcopal Preaching Foundation. It is an exciting time to work on preaching in Sewanee, to say the least.
I have always enjoyed seeking out the deeper patterns in life. These include the meaning of life and how we live in tune with God the all-powerful creator, the one who reverses sin and death, and the one whose spirit enlivens all we do. It also includes digging in the dirt and making things bloom! I see the task of theology as a kind of gardening – digging and thinking hard about the big God questions while also connecting the dots amongst ideas in a way that will spark the imagination of the ordinary person – and create beauty. I love teaching seminarians because they come with so many different life experiences and gifts. I enjoy making them think hard, use their imaginations, and connect the dots. Currently, I am just thrilled to be learning about the wonders of the emergence of life in my study of evolution, and making sense of it in light of a robust theology of God.
Bringing people together with the resources they need to do their work is my greatest reward as a librarian. As lecturer in New Testament as well as theological librarian, I am able to teach in my academic specialty as well as help students, faculty, and others with their needs and interests. To do so in this university environment is a particular pleasure in that enquiry and discussion here are so varied and stimulating.
Through my teaching of pastoral theology and courses in Christian spirituality, I hope to prepare future priests to exercise their distinct vocation in the church as prayerful, discerning, and able pastors. I believe that the classical tradition of the “cure of souls” offers deep roots to support a pastoral ministry exercised with theological integrity and practical wisdom. After 25 years in parish ministry, I am convinced that the grace of Christ surrounds all sorts of pastoral situations and serves as an ever-fresh source of strength, insight, and joy. I have explored these themes in my recent book, The Nearness of God: Parish Ministry as Spiritual Practice, and I have recently published a new book for clergy, in collaboration with Martin Smith, Go in Peace: The Art of Hearing Confessions, that was published in October 2012.
I suppose that I am first and foremost a historian of Christian beginnings, which necessarily means that I am also a close reader of ancient Christian (and Jewish and pagan) texts, focusing in particular on the New Testament. I am increasingly fascinated by the various ways the earliest Christians deployed religious ideas to address the plethora of social and cultural challenges that faced them as they moved out into the broader Roman world. My most recent research has looked at ancient religious prejudice and its formative and continuing effects.
I am first of all a lover of history, but also a lover of Christian theology, and the areas where both come into conjunction are those to which I am drawn. Early Christianity is one passion; another is the reception of the theology of that early period by later generations, especially by nineteenth and twentieth-century English church historians, above all John Henry Newman. I am currently working on a book exploring one of Newman's topics, Consulting the (Lay) Faithful in Matters of Doctrine.
At Sewanee, I regularly teach the two core courses in Christian doctrine, and electives in theology and ethics. I am excited by the current ferment in theology, in which various disciplinary boundaries are dissolving and we are trying to figure out what it means to do theology in the 21st century. I am particularly interested in exploring the nature of Anglican doctrine and identity. Although he died in 1968, the Anglican priest, philosopher, theologian, preacher, and New Testament scholar Austin Farrer still has much to teach us on these matters, and my current research is focused on writing an intellectual biography of Farrer against the backdrop of 20th century theology.
I am passionate about the study of religious practices in the past and about preparing clergy to lead effective worship in the present and future. The historical perspective helps us to understand what we are doing and to resist the merely trendy, instead pointing us towards the things that endure, translated for an evolving culture. I am both a historian and a priest, and both of these vocations inform my work as a scholar and teacher. My interest in dead Britons of the Tudor and Stuart era coexists with my enthusiasm for good liturgy done well in the present, in the service of God and God’s people.
Dr. Wright is the C. K. Benedict Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Hebrew. She is an ordained United Methodist minister who loves to teach. Her teaching style not only helps students understand the Old Testament in its historical context, but also how it is relevant to the church today.
It is great, after 20 years of loving life with congregations in parish ministry, to have to this experience with others preparing to serve as priests. Jesus’ way of abundant life and love has been the inspiration of my passion for recovering the interrelatedness of spirituality and justice, stewardship and mission. It is a true joy to connect with brilliant students in partnership with excellent faculty and outstanding area clergy mentors to create environments in which leaders for the church’s mission can develop. My goal is to prepare the way for The School of Theology’s contextual education program to take next steps in addressing the most urgent and important task facing the world in our day – that of shaping leaders for transformational Christian ministry.