Daniel Flores, Co-pastor of La Trinidad UMC-Fort Worth (Ph.D. 2004)
In 1999, I received the MPhil in Theological and Religious Studies from Drew’s Graduate School. Since I was writing my dissertation on early American Methodism, I needed to travel to repositories in distant places. The Edwards-Mercer Prize enabled me to visit the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England. While searching for correspondence from English Methodist Jabez Bunting, I discovered original documents written by John Wesley, apparently torn from his journal. These holographic entries were misfiled in a box of letters for almost one hundred years. Curiously, they were not included in the Jackson and Bicentennial editions of Wesley’s Works. My wife Thelma, also a Drew alumnus, helped me transcribe the journal entries, which were published in Methodist History July 2000. I later received my PhD in 2004.
Subsequently, I was invited to apply for the position of director of studies at the Charles Wesley Heritage Centre (CWHC) in Bristol, England. Scott Kisker, another Drew alumnus, and his wife were leaving the post to have their second baby. During my eighteen- month tenure at the CWHC, Thelma provided hospitality at Charles Wesley’s house while I guided several ex-patriot researchers through the terrain of Wesleys’ Bristol. I convened two major international consultations, the Orthodox-Methodist dialogue and En Su Propria Lengua: Wesley’s Works in Spanish. The latter conference raised many issues, one of which was the near absence of a current body of Wesley studies by Spanish-speaking scholars. Living in the historic home of Charles and Sarah Wesley, Thelma and I were concerned with telling their story. We wrote the drama, “Love Divine: The Story of Charles and Sarah Wesley,” which involves audience participation in the hymn singing. We have performed the drama/hymn-sing dozens of times in character. We presented it entirely in Spanish at PROBITEM seminary extension in Huancayo, Peru, and Colegio Maria Alvarado Prep School in Lima.
At the John Wesley Tercentenary celebration at SMU-Perkins School of Theology, I presented a paper on the impoverished state of Wesley scholarship in Spanish. As a result, we established the Hispanic Wesleyan Society (Sociedad Wesleyana) to promote Wesley studies in the Spanish-speaking world. I have served in the office of president since 2003. Our virtual membership uses social media to link constituents across the USA, in the Caribbean, and South America.
The Hispanic Wesley Society has opened many unexpected doors to ministry. I have been the conference Wesley teacher for the Wisconsin Annual Conference, a contributor to the Wesley Study Bible, and commissioner of the General Commission on Archives & History. On occasion, I also teach historical theology or Christian social ethics for Perkins School of Theology. Thelma also briefly returned to England to do advanced graduate studies in Wesley spirituality at Nazarene Theological College-University of Manchester. We are both ordained United Methodist clergy appointed to a small Hispanic congregation in the Rio Grande Conference.
This year, we both traveled to Durban, South Africa, where I officially joined the World Methodist Council. None of this exposure to the World parish would have been possible without the generous gift of that first Edwards-Mercer Prize, for which I will always be grateful.
Mayra Rivera, Assistant Professor of Theology and Latina/o Studies, Harvard Divinity School (Ph.D. 2005)
I remember it vividly. It was a Sunday morning, fall 2001. Excitement had been building up as Drew prepared to host the first Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium—“Interstitial Initiation/Counterdiscourses of Creation.” Invited scholars gathered around the table and other guests and students chatting and sharing highlighted and scribbled papers, waiting for the discussion to begin. At the center was nothing less than the creation of the universe, and scholars approached it with tools brought in from their respective disciplines, carefully, with humor at other times (for it was a big topic!)—but always with a sense of wonder. As the conversation unfolded, I realized I was witnessing a unique approach to the scholarly task.
Thankfully, the Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium became a yearly ritual and thus a regular part of my learning experience at Drew. It shaped my work and what I consider as an ideal learning environment, particularly for a PhD program. I gave me the opportunity not only to learn about interdisciplinary work, but most importantly to see it in practice, both as a trait of a text and as a process through which particular themes become sites around which disciplinary perspectives gather, to exchange insights and transform one another. As a PhD student I participated in these events as co-organizer, student-presenter, and co-editor of one of the volumes that emerged from it. It was a significant complement to an already lively academic environment there, where conversations with faculty, outside scholars, and alumnae were frequent and substantial. All of these opportunities taught me crucial skills for being a scholar and a teacher. What I cherish the most is, however, much more elusive: it entails commitment, discipline, and attentiveness; it fosters a sense of wonder. I was just starting to recognize it that Sunday morning in 2001.