Contributors to our blogs are faculty, alumni, and students of Seminary of the Southwest sharing their reflections from the context of a community of faith. We hope you enjoy reading, and we invite your comments.

April Fools

Austin Rios is an alumnus of Seminary of the Southwest currently serving as the rector for St. Paul's Within-the-Walls, Rome, Italy.  Austin was born in Texas and grew up in Texas, Louisiana, and Wisconsin.  Austin describes his life's journey as a journey in "adapting to new cultures and growing in faith through the Episcopal Church in all its wonderful manifestations."

Over the last few weeks, Italy and the world have been abuzz about Suor Cristina Scuccia, a 25 year old Sicilian nun, whose YouTube clip is the new world record holder for “fastest to 10,000,000 views.” Her rendition of Alicia Keys’ No One on the Italian version of The Voice passed that mark in a mere 3 days, and has risen to over 38 million views since March 19. It’s hard to tell if viewers are drawn to the clip because of its popularity, are impressed by the performance itself, or simply intrigued by the format of the show. In this first, “blind,” stage of competition, judges were positioned with their backs to the habit-clad nun about to erupt on stage, unaware of her true identity. Once the judges decided that they liked Suor Cristina’s voice, they turned their chairs around and came face to face with the diminutive, R & B belting sister. They stared. Their mouths hung open. And when they interviewed her, asking why a real nun would choose to sing on The Voice, she responded by saying that Pope Francis “says we should go out and evangelize, proclaiming that God doesn’t want to rob us of things, but to give us more.” In short, Suor Cristina felt bold enough to risk making a fool of herself because she was convinced that spreading the Gospel widely was worth that risk.

Unraveling Lent

Jane Patterson is the Assistant Professor of New Testament at Seminary of the Southwest.  In addition to teaching Bible courses at the seminary, Jane serves as co-director of The Workshop, a ministry that guides laity in using the Bible to discern how to live faithfully.

Lately I’ve noticed that what I thought was an elite club of which I was the only member turns out to be a very popular club, with each member assuming he or she is the only one. This is the club of people for whom Lent is their favorite liturgical season. In whispers and asides, we are beginning to locate one another and to proclaim our allegiance: “I don’t mean to sound weird or anything, but really, Lent is my favorite season.”

Show Your Imago Dei!

Dr. Claire Colombo has served on the seminary's adjunct faculty since 2012.  As a freelance educational consultant, she develops religion curriculum for Loyola Press of Chicago and is a regular contributor to their Find God magazines and newsletters.

Writer Dorothy Sayers takes the Genesis story at face value, but not in the usual way. She notes that before human beings are made in God’s image in 1:26, little is revealed about the mysterious maker—only that “God created.” Therefore, she concludes, being made imago Dei must mean having “the ability to make things.”1

Poets and Prophets Come to Austin

Dr. Steve Bishop is the Associate Professor of Old Testament at Seminary of the Southwest.  Steve served as an ordained minister in the Church of Christ prior to undertaking graduate studies.  Steve's academic interests include the poetry of the Hebrew Bible and literary translations of it into English.  

The week of Spring Break in Austin is one that brings visitors from all over the world. They don’t come for our beaches because we have none. They come for the South by Southwest technology, film, and music event known everywhere as SXSW. The cost of the event and the press of crowds however prevent many from attending ‘showcase’ events. Happily there is a group of Austin residents whose love of music and creativity combined with a disdain for the corporate opportunism that funds the event offer a free alternative. As you might guess it is dubbed Not-SXSW!

Snapshots of Ash Wednesday

The Rev. David Peters is currently studying in the Master of the Arts of Religion program at Seminary of the Southwest.  David comes to Seminary of the Southwest from the Armed Forces and Federal Ministries of The Episcopal Church.  

Snapshot #1

The teenaged boy dove into the ditch as the bombers came into sight and started releasing their payload on the German town next to the concentration camp. He crouched there with the other prisoners and pressed his body against the side of the ditch closest to the sound of the bombs. Sometimes, in the ditch, he imagined they were riding the subway in New York City, like he had done with his parents and sister four years before the war. Just like the subway riders, the prisoners didn’t look at each other in the ditch.

The boy dug the ditch with the other prisoners during their first weeks in the camp. It used to be deeper, but in the last weeks they had been filling it in with wheelbarrows full of ashes.

A BBQ Even a Vegetarian Can Love

Lucy Strandlund is a Middler in the Master of Spiritual Formation program at Seminary of the Southwest.  Lucy and her husband Daniel come to the seminary from the Diocese of Alabama.

The Seminary of the Southwest’s BBQ Showdown benefitting Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) this past Saturday was a complete success. My first impression was amazement at how many new faces I saw. While it was a seminary event, it was truly a community affair. Professors, priests and seminarians mingled with neighbors and friends, some of whom traveled across the state of Texas to attend the BBQ. People biking or walking by had to stop and check it out. Kids jumped in the bounce house, ran around barefoot and greeted the farm animals in the petting zoo. Dogs sniffed hopefully at the air, and even the vegetarians found cornbread, several varieties of excellent coleslaw, and some delicious local brew. The live music was reason enough to have a good time; Tessy Lou and the Shotgun Stars make it hard not to kick up your boots and dance, whether or not you have BBQ sauce dripping from your chin.

Fifty Years….What’s Next?

The Rev. Glenice Robinson-Como currently serves Christ Church Cathedral in Houston, TX as the Canon Pastor.  Ms. Robinson-Como received an MDiv from Southern Methodist University and a Diploma of Theological Studies from Seminary of the Southwest in 2010.  

Fifty years ago, the civil rights act was enacted as a means of ending discrimination. Today we stand at its anniversary perhaps pondering the question how much has really changed? As I reflect upon those she-roes and heroes who lived and died for the sake of freedom, I tremble at the same time about events in Florida and throughout the world. These are reminders that we must continue to move forward until the bells of liberty clang loudly and until truth and mercy pours out into all people in all places.

The Harvest is Plentiful, But the Laborers are Few

Alex Easley is a Middler in the Master of Divinity program.  Alex comes to Seminary of the Southwest from the Diocese of Texas and currently serves as the Middler Seminarian Intern at St. Julian's of Norwich Episcopal Church.

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’ (Matthew 9:35-38 NRSV)


Last Thursday, February 6th, the Rev. Jimmy Bartz gave a lecture at Seminary of the Southwest entitled “Fear, Risk, Courage, Failure, Intimacy, Change, Mission, and the Kingdom.” Throughout his lecture, Jimmy urged his hearers to live courageously, taking risks and following Christ into uncharted territory.

The Other Voice at the Top of the Slope

The Rev. Miles R. Brandon, II is the vicar of St. Julian of Norwich Episcopal Church, a four and a half year old church plant of the Diocese of Texas located in far Northwest Austin.  Miles is married to Ashley Brandon, chaplain at St. Andrew's Episcopal School and graduate of Seminary of the Southwest.  They have two children Amelia (4) and Mary Ellen (1).

As I reflected on the Rev. Jimmy Bartz’s thoughtful and engaging Payne lecture, I was left wondering what is the actual tiny push…the soul bracing moment…that empowers our courage and quickens our resolve just enough to step over the edge into the unknown…the undiscovered future…the potential life-giving relationships we are yet to form.

Reflections: 50 years later

Mrs. Ora Houston is a member of St. James Episcopal Church, Austin, serves on the Black History Month planning committee at Seminary of the Southwest, and is president of the Myra McDaniel Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians.

WOW!  Can you really believe that 50 years ago the federal government had to enact laws to give equal rights to people who were born in the United States of America? These are the same rights that another group of Americans have had since the signing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Sadly, others were denied those basic rights because of their ancestry - until 50 years ago.

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