125th Anniversary

Celebration Weekend | May 24-26, 2019

Over 250 alumni/ae, friends, and current students gathered May 24-26 to celebrate DDH’s 125th anniversary. Alums spanning six decades and friends from near and far traveled to Chicago for the celebration.

The theme for the weekend, “Grateful for what is to come,” was enunciated by Larry Bouchard in a keynote address. “We should be grateful for the Disciples House’s inspiring history; but let our focus be the future,” he explained. “Yet what is coming is unknown…. Especially in days of such local and global crisis, anxiety, and suffering, how do we discern the future, not only with hope, but indeed with gratitude? How can we now be grateful for what is to come?”


Highlights of the weekend included a gala dinner at the Quadrangle Club, with Masters of Ceremony Gaylord Yu and Drew Powell, film and television actor (GothamPonderosa, and Malcolm in the Middle). Chad Martin, Trustee Chair of the 125th Anniversary, Board of Trustees President April Lewton, and Dean Kris Culp spoke. Bringing greetings were Divinity Dean David Nirenberg, Disciples General Minister and President Teresa Hord Owens, Bill Blakemore and Jory B. Johnson, and Heike Springhart for the Theologisches Studienhaus at the University of Heidelberg, Germany.

Other highlights included worship in the Chapel of the Holy Grail, beautiful weather, a taco truck, Grail-themed temporary tattoos for kids, time to meet old and new friends, and much, much more.

> Go to the full schedule

Honorary Co-Chairs

JoAnne Kagiwada and Clark Williamson were the event’s honorary co-chairs. Ms. Kagiwada, an attorney by training, advocate for civil liberties and justice, and nonprofit leader, and Mr. Williamson, an alumnus, pioneering post-Holocaust Christian theologian, and influential Disciples educator, have given exemplary service to the Disciples Divinity House as trustees.

Friday Open House and Chapel Service

The celebration began with an open house. Afternoon tea was sponsored by Ann W. Burns with fond remembrance of past anniversaries and anticipation of anniversaries to come. Current students led worship in the Chapel of the Holy Grail with reflections on gratitude. The service ended with communion and a joyful call to the courtyard where DDH’s anniversary taco truck was ready for service.

Story Hour

Rebecca Anderson and Yvonne Gilmore co-hosted a StoryHour in which “Quest: stories of what we’re after” were told by Erica Brown, Kristin Dow, Marshall Dunn, Judith Guy, Dennis Landon, and Colton Lott. Hannah Fitch and Michael Crusen provided soulful music.

William Henry Hoover Lectures

Saturday featured lectures and discussion under the auspices of DDH’s William Henry Hoover Lectures. Board Vice President Pamela James Jones opened the day’s sessions and introduced Mr. Bouchard. A panel of scholars responded to Mr. Bouchard’s remarks by exploring “gratefulness and timefulness.” Citing Teresa of Avila’s exhortation, “Come, let us press together through the needle’s eye,” biblical scholar Patricia Duncan explored the resources of the hortatory mode of discourse for this moment on history’s precipice. W. Clark Gilpin discussed the historical and theological task of identifying decisive “pleroma” moments of change and action. Invoking Unamuno’s “angel of nothingness,” TCU professor Santiago Piñón considered the importance of memory and change when confronting the abyss of history. 

Two additional panels considered what is to come, with the first focusing on teaching and learning. Vanderbilt practical theologian Bonnie Miller-McLemore spoke about “epistemological insurgency” and “ecological unrest” in narratives as ways of unsettling boundaries in the face of peril. Harvard professor Stephanie Paulsell asked, “How are we going to remain human while these changes overtake us?”; taking a cue from Virginia Woolf, she invited us to consider DDH as an experimental space in teaching and learning and to invite others from beyond the boundaries of denomination, religion, and university to join in that space. Emory professor and Morehouse College President Emeritus Robert Franklin warned of modernity’s impatience with history and with ambiguity: “We must ensure that teachers and learners reckon with the full past.”

The second panel featured innovative practitioners Sandhya Jha of the Oakland Peace Center, Ayanna Johnson Watkins of MICAH, a religious-based community coalition in Memphis, and Holly McKissick, founding pastor of Peace Church in Kansas City. They envisioned ministry and transformative engagement from the grass roots, calling for creative coalitions of action and reflection.

Focused conversations were offered by Lee Hull Moses, Chief of Staff for the Office of General Minister and President of the Christian Church; Vy Nguyen, Executive Director of the Week of Compassion; Garry Sparks, professor at George Mason University; Heike Springhart and Dagmar Zobel from TSH; Harvard musicologist Braxton Shelley; and preservation architect Paul Steinbrecher.

Alumni/ae Council president Thandiwe Dale-Ferguson led morning prayer in the Chapel of the Holy Grail. Third-year MDiv Ellie Leech led activities for older children, including a field trip to the DuSable Museum, origami, temporary tatoos, and more.

Sunday Worship with Teresa Hord Owens

The 125th celebration concluded on Sunday morning with worship at University Church. With Senior Minister Julian DeShazier presiding, Teresa Hord Owens preached a compelling message titled, “God Is Not Finished.” Braxton Shelley, Walter Owens, and Ragina Bunton offered special music.

Alumni/ae Pre-Event

The celebration was immediately preceded by a Divinity School and DDH Ministry Alumni/ae gathering, featuring reflections by Cynthia Lindner, Director of the Divinity School’s Ministry Program, on “Multireligious formation as a perspective on ‘public ministry” with responses by emerging leaders from diverse religious traditions.

Amy A. Northcutt Lecture

On Sunday evening, the Second Annual Amy A. Northcutt Lecture was hosted by Craig Middlebrook and given by the Honorable Betty Sutton, the former Congresswoman and gubernatorial candidate from Ohio. A panel, “Vision and Grace: Perspectives on Leadership,” was moderated by Verity Jones, and featured distinguished professionals Constance Battle, Ronne Hartfield, and JoAnne Kagiwada.

Special anniversary events will continue throughout the coming year.  


> Registration opens as plans for the 125th Anniversary Celebration are announced and elaborated.

> Chad H. Martin, member and former president of the Board of Trustees is Chair of the 125th Anniversary Committee.

> JoAnne H. Kagiwada and Clark M. Williamson have been named Honorary Co-Chairs for DDH’s 125th Anniversary Celebration.