Being Church: Staying Relevant in a Changing World

The '61 & '62 class gift displays Robert Bull's teaching collection
The ’61 & ’62 class gift displays the Robert Bull Teaching Collection

“Being in conversation with scholars, clergy, and fellow alumni at this year’s Tipple-Vosburgh where we examined how to connect with young adults and youth, and then being in worship with an exciting model of what worship can be, was enormously helpful and motivating. Thank you for effectively illustrating how to be church today, and for providing a topic so relevant to us as ministers.”

These reflections echo the sentiments of many participants who attended the 2013 Tipple-Vosburgh Lectures, held October 15 – 17, as we explored the topic, “Being Church: Staying Relevant in a Changing World.” We dared to glance into the inquisitive minds of youth and young adults where we found and addressed questions about inter-ethnicity, sexuality, Wesleyan missional ecclesiology, trauma and youthful resilience, interfaith, spirituality, and then explored ministry in ways that can reignite, re-invite, and reinvent our faith communities across generations for the future of the church. Over the three days, 250 people, including alumni, students, faculty, staff, and the general public joined in conversation, study, and worship.

Five plenary sessions, led by Dr. Leonard Sweet, Rev. Dr. Drew Dyson, Dr. Korie Edwards, Rev. Tanya Bennett, Ph.D. and Mark Miller, were offered, culminating with a panel discussion with these speakers, where participants posed questions and delved deeper into the challenges facing churches today. Rev. Dr. Virginia Samuel, Interim Dean of Drew Theological School states, “The complexities of life today as it relates to youth and young adults, society’s increased dependence on technology and its impact on the development and maintenance of relational skills, and the recent research on increased rates of depression among youth all warrant the Church’s attention and response.” To help facilitate and ignite the many conversations needed in order to propel the church to a place of increased understanding, effective action, and sustainable relevancy, six timely workshops and Bible Study were offered, along with two dynamic worship services. Rev. Joe Monahan, Theological Alumni Association President reflects, “I was excited about the topic of this year’s lectures. We had the opportunity to hear from a wide range of speakers on an important challenge facing the church – connecting with young people. I really value this time to return to campus, to meet up with classmates, and learn from some outstanding scholars and pastors. Year after year, I have learned that Tipple does not disappoint.”

Dean Ginny Samuel dedicates the Class of '62 gift honoring Dr. Robert Jehu Bull
Dean Ginny Samuel dedicates the Dr. Robert Jehu Bull Collection

This year’s three-day event was dotted with tributes and services to remember and honor those individuals whom we had lost this past year – people who had significantly impacted the lives of the Theological School, the university, and the world community. On Tuesday, October 15, many gathered in the second floor connector lounge of Seminary Hall to remember and honor Dr. Robert Jehu Bull, renowned archaeologist, admired faculty member, and invaluable mentor. Paul Carr T’61 and Martin Deppe T’62 presented the gift from their respective graduation classes: a pair of display cases to house artifacts from Dr. Bull’s teaching collection – a collection that Bob assembled over many years living in the Middle East and that he used for students who worked in the Drew Institute of Archaeological Research and in his classes. Before his passing, Dr. Bull selected the lounge area in Seminary Hall for the display cases, since it lent itself to serving as an active classroom space where the artifacts would continue to serve as “live” educational tools. The words of Dean Virginia Samuel, dean of Drew Theological School, echo the sentiments of many, “History was so much more than dates and events to Dr. Bull…He had the singular ability to connect his students to the men and women who preceded them in the church centuries earlier. He taught the required church history classes and began every class in the Life and Thought of the Church with prayer. That act taught me that we were on Holy ground as we talked about those who had come before us in the Christian faith. Bob’s faith, his love of life, his deep love of the discipline of history and his determination to unlock the patterns of life, thought and faith of those who preceded us was inspiring to generations of students at Drew Theological School.”

Remembrance Ceremony for Otto Maduro at Tipple-Vosburgh

October 16 was marked by another large group who gathered by a dogwood tree planted along the back walkway to Seminary Hall to remember Dr. Otto Maduro. Dr. Laurel Kearns was the first to offer profound words to honor her dear friend, after which each person in attendance shared reflections and favorite stories, while symbolically (I think this implies they didn’t actually water it) pouring water for the tree. The group included faculty, current students and alumni from his 21 years of teaching at Drew. Some came who hadn’t taken a class, but remembered his warm greetings, his presence in chapel, his concern for students, his prophetic presence. The event ended with words from his wife, Dr. Nancy Noguera, a prayer from Dean Samuel, and a call from Dr. Kearns to donate to the Drew Fund for Hispanic/Latina/o Scholars to honor Dr. Maduro and Dr. Ada Maria Asasi-Diaz’s work to help Drew play a central role in educating Latino/a students.

Somos Tribute to Otto Maduro
Somos Tribute to Otto Maduro

A tribute service was then held in the evening to provide the opportunity for the community to remember fellow alumni, board members, and friends who had also passed away in the past year. In these times of fellowship, remembrance, and prayer, the Theological School was “being church” at its very best, and helped the community to heal a little bit more.

We invite you to mark your calendar for Tipple 2014, “Faith, Science and the Church’s Voice”, to be held October 14-15 in a new, two-day format consisting of eight forums and topics, each being led by a pair of speakers who will actively engage participants in a series of conversations. We will look forward to welcoming you, as we gather as community to explore the intersections between faith and science and how the church speaks to these intersects.

Nancy VanderVeen, Director of Theological Lifelong Learning and Theological Alumni Relations