Taking on challenges of a lived faith

Divinity - Spire E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

September 2017

Dear alumni/ae and friends,

Each new day is a thanksgiving psalm … or at least I hope that it can be. I am also very aware that there are folks whose new day means struggle, frustration and hopelessness. We human folk sit in the midst of joys and sorrows and we get into trouble when we fail to see both realities rest firmly with us. I am heartened by the incredible acts of kindness and care—to the point of sacrifice—that we can extend to each other in times of tragedy and disaster. These events can bring out the best of who we are and help us put legs and actions to our beliefs and faith.

I also have seen far too many of us turn our backs on others and even creation itself by hoarding our blessings as possessions rather than as gifts we then extend to others. Seeing need only when we are the ones in need fails our humanity, but this doesn’t have to be our final life move. I continue to believe that we can live into our better and best selves as we navigate the life’s ebb and flow. And this is the belief that leads to a kind of relentless hope that I see in each new entering class that helps us form the Divinity School anew each year.

This year’s class is no exception, which is made up of 37 MDiv and 20 MTS students as well as one non-degree student. The domestic students represent 20 states, and we have five international students. We continue to admit a diverse racial ethnic class, with 32 percent of the class being people of color and 30 percent of the class being members of underrepresented racial minorities. The entering students’ denominational identities remain robust with at least 16 different denominations/traditions, the largest denominational representation being United Methodists (19 percent) followed by students in the Baptist traditions.

As this class takes its place in the VDS community, it does so in a world that desperately needs expressions of faith that combine deep religious curiosity with vibrant lived witness. Rather than issue statements that cherry pick our humanity and the grace of God or shut down the hope of Dreamers, we choose to be about providing an educational experience that encourages all of us to take on the challenges of a lived faith. As always, we have much work to do!


Emilie M. Townes

E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Chair
Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society


A rabbi devoted to promoting racial and religious respect and a national leader in the environmental communities are the 2017 Divinity School and GDR Distinguished Alumni/ae.




You’re invited: Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative launch with Teresa Smallwood.






Sign up now for fall Relevant Religion lecture series with Jay Geller on the Holocaust.









Read Emilie Townes’ Convocation message.
Watch video.

The Tennessean reported on the death of the Rev. Bill Barnes, BA’56, a relentless advocate for affordable housing and previous lecturer in church and ministries at the Divinity School.

Anthea Butler, GDR’01, writes about Donald Trump and Joel Osteen in The New York Times.

Divinity School MOOC addresses ethical challenge of mass incarceration.

Visit our job listings for alumni/ae and current students.

September’s “Read This Book” is a review and recommendation by Fernando Segovia.

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