Community Connections

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.

A Central Texas Gardener

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.

I had already drafted a whole ‘nother blog post. It was about radical hospitality as the making of a poem out of whatever surprising thing comes our way. (See for the general idea.)

But on Sunday morning, as I was driving to church, I stopped for a red light at an intersection. There, I saw a neighbor of mine. He’s a neighbor because he’s always at this particular intersection near my home. If you define neighbor as one who occupies a nearby residence, however, he wouldn’t qualify, because he’s homeless.

Walking with the Risen Christ

Cynthia Briggs Kittredge (@cbkittredge) is the 8th Dean and President of Seminary of the Southwest and professor of New Testament.  Dean Kittredge holds degrees from Williams College and Harvard Divinity School.  

I was ordained on the Wednesday of Easter Week in 1985. The deacon, my friend Louise, processed down the aisle of St. John’s Church in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts and read Luke 24:13-35, the story of how the risen Jesus appeared to two of his former students when they were walking and talking along the road. The man looked like a curious stranger until he began to speak about scripture. He began at the beginning, and he wove the strands together, and he displayed how what they thought was a failed mission was the way it was meant to be. I love imagining Jesus, with all the scripture in his mind and his mouth, juxtaposing the images, sketching the patterns, chanting the prayers, and giving the seminar that elucidated his words about the words on the scroll in the synagogue at Nazareth, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Triduum: Celebrating the Mystery of Easter

Nathan Jennings came to Seminary of the Southwest in 2005, returning to his hometown.  Currently, Nathan serves as the J. Milton Richardson Associate Professor of Liturgics and Anglican Studies.  Nathan's academic interests include liturgical theology, dogmatic theology, ascetical theology, and theological hermeneutics.

This year will be the third year that we, as a community, will be celebrating the “Triduum” together. In the past, we have expected students to attend their field parishes for formation in the Triduum. We decided to give it a go for a few years here at Seminary of the Southwest, to see if the Triduum might not become for us an important part of our own formative traditions.

But what is the “Triduum,” anyway? It is not a word found in our Prayer Book. It is Latin for “The Three Days.” These “Three Days” refer to the three focal days of Holy Week surrounding Christ’s Last Supper, betrayal, death, burial and resurrection. It comprises four services over three days. The four services are: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and the Great Vigil of Easter. These take place from Thursday evening before Easter Sunday through Saturday night (or, in some places the Great Vigil occurs just before sunrise on Easter Sunday itself).

Leaving Lent

Greg Garret (@Greg1Garrett) currently serves as the Writer-in-Residence at Seminary of the Southwest.  As a member of the adjunct faculty of the seminary, Greg helps future leaders of the Church to write, interpret, and communicate effectively. 

I had such big plans for this Lent. After past seasons where I temporarily renounced things (Diet Coke, meat, dessert) or took on things (like the Lent when Cathy Boyd, Billy Tweedie, and I decided to take on bluegrass as a spiritual discipline), I had isolated a practice I thought would be a good fit for this stage of my life, one full of joy and difficulty: I was going to read and re-read the Psalms, and simultaneously to read N. T. Wright’s book The Case for the Psalms, a book on praying and living the Psalms back into the center of our spiritual lives.

That, at least, was my plan.

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.

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