Completing a doctorate in liturgical studies in 2010, Drew graduate Neal Presa has wasted no time finding ample outlets for the passions fueled by such rigorous study. In July of 2012 he was elected Moderator of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), making him the highest elected office in the 1.9-million member church.
The profoundly interdisciplinary character of study at Drew no doubt played a role in his formation as a unifying leader of strength and wisdom. According to Neal, “My approach to addressing ecclesial and ecclesiological realities at the congregational and national levels is to bring to bear interdisciplinary perspectives to view challenges and potential solutions through various angles and lenses.” He goes on to say that the PhD program at Drew trained him “to work with multiple sources simultaneously…Analyzing those multiple sources, finding connections between some, or holding those which weren’t readily connected in a tension…have proven to be very helpful skills in ministry and in my current role as General Assembly Moderator.”
Neal credits his studies at Drew for shaping him not only into an interdisciplinary thinker at the national level of his faith community, but also into an interdisciplinary academician. Since graduating, Neal was appointed Affiliate Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at New Brunswick Theological Seminary. This unique position, neither adjunct nor tenure-track, allows him to vote in departmental and faculty meetings and focus his energies primarily upon teaching. He teaches introductory courses in preaching and worship, an advanced preaching course, a Presbyterian studies sequence (history, theology and worship, polity), and also a new elective on missional preaching and worship. He reports that “at New Brunswick Theological Seminary we are working towards a curricular pedagogy that emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to theological education.”
Dr. Presa’s passion for justice merges with his interdisciplinarity in his congregational role as well. Dr. Presa states that “Drew University’s commitment to justice in the church and world have enabled me to articulate and embody a vision for liturgical practice and a common ecclesiology that sees the role of the Church as not being insular, or celebrating the Lord’s Supper for parochial concerns of grace mediated to individuals for salvation; rather whenever we eat the bread and drink the cup we are sent by God to be restless until all are fed, when the naked are clothed, when the orphans and widows are cared for, when war will be no more.”
Dr. Presa counts the five years of doctoral studies at Drew as one of the best times of his life. He has not only carried the Drew legacy out into the world but has also stayed in touch with the Drew community since graduation. Presa notes that “maintaining close connections has been key to my personal, spiritual, and professional/vocational growth and maturity.” Like many of us, he has found Facebook an invaluable tool for sustaining ties with both professors and former student colleagues! He also regularly attends the annual meetings of the North American Academy of Liturgy. There and elsewhere, Drew is acknowledged for its “long-time, pioneering program in liturgical studies” and many of its graduates harbor hopes “for the re-starting of the program in new and fresh ways,” Presa confesses.
We are grateful that Dr. Presa took the time to keep us aware of his activities and hope to hear from others of you, too!—Shelley L. Dennis, GDR Graduate Student Intern.
For more information on Dr. Presa.