News and Events
Ned R Lavengood Sr, a former trustee, died December 29, 2016, in Wilmington, NC. He was 87. Born in Wabash, Indiana, he attended Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, where he studied trumpet and conducting. He graduated from International Business College in accounting, earned his BS from Indiana University and an MBA at New York University. He was a veteran of the Korean War (101st Airborne). He served as a trustee of the Disciples Divinity House for 28 years until he stepped down in 2006. He said that he came to each meeting looking to bring or make one significant contribution. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was always an important part of his life. He served as Elder and sang in the choir at Park Avenue Christian Church in New York City, and later at the First Christian Churches in Downers Grove, Illinois, and in Wilson, North Carolina. He was an elder emeritus at the First Christian Church in Wilmington.
He considered himself to be an entrepreneur, and was involved in many types of business ventures in New York, Chicago, and North Carolina. He was a member of the Million Dollar Roundtable at Metropolitan Life NYC, and served with Keyes Fiber as Midwest Regional Sales Manager. More recently, he and his wife, Sibyl, were co-owner of Sibyl’s Antiques and Collectables. An avid Heisey Glass collector, he served as President of the NC Heisey Glass Collectors and on the board of the National Heisey Collectors of America.
He was a Mason for over 60 years, and played trumpet in a Shrine band, and he was a bugler for the American Legion. A great believer in volunteer work, he felt you should leave a community better off than when you arrived: “Put more in than you take out!” In New York, he was Secretary of the Tri Faith Housing Authority, President of the Gramercy Town and Village Lions Club, and night mayor every Wednesday night for Mayor Lindsay. In Chicago, he was President of Toastmasters International, and started the first group home for boys in DuPage County. He played French Horn in the Wilson Brass Band, and started a program to feed the homeless in Wilson. In Wilmington, he was involved with the Salvation Army Band, volunteered at Rachel Freeman Elementary School, was a Guardian Ad Litem, and a tutor at the Cape Fear Literacy Council. He and Sibyl were founding members of the Parents Council at UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Wilmington, where they served as Co-Presidents.
He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Sibyl McCulloch Lavengood, daughter Traci Lavengood Gemmell (Nole Gemmell), son Ned Jr (Melissa), and four grandchildren. A memorial service will be held January 6 at First Christian Church, Wilmington, NC.
Douglas Collins has been called to be the new associate minister of Allisonville Christian Church in Indianapolis. He will serve with Senior Minister Diane Spleth. He begins ministry at ACC in January.
A Disciples Divinity House Scholar and a BA graduate of Eureka College, Mr. Collins received the MDiv degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School on December 9, and was ordained on December 17 at his home congregation, First Christian Church, Albany, Oregon. Cynthia Linder preached at his ordination service. She was his minister in Albany before becoming the Director of Ministry Studies at the Divinity School. Presiding were FCC Pastor Douglass Anne Cartwright and Oregon Regional Ministers Doug and Cathy Myers Wirt. Dean Kris Culp and fellow House Scholars and Eureka alums Judith Guy and Colton Lott participated in the service; Kiva Nice-Webb was the soloist.
The Constructive Theologies Project (CTP) convened its fall conference, “Justice: Applied Theology and Transformation,” on November 10-12. Dietra Wise-Baker, Minister of Liberation Christian Church in St. Louis, conversed with the group about theological resources for defining and locating justice in congregational leadership and community organizing. They watched the documentary, “Injustice Anywhere,” and a short film by Tosin Morohunfola, “On Sight,” and discussed the role of film and media in contemporary theological formation. Throughout the conference, CTP members employed a dialogical approach to community reflection, “witness and response.” The next conference will take place at Claremont School of Theology in late February 2017. The project is made possible in part by a generous grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation. Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore is the project director; Allie Lundblad coordinates the CTP.
Four persons are new Disciples Divinity House Scholars for the 2016-17 academic year: Burton Guion (MA), Shelly Tilton (MA), Jack Veatch (MDiv), and Stefan Aderhold (AMRS). In addition, Judith Guy returns to her final year of the MDiv program after a year-long internship in Greensboro, North Carolina last year. DDH is also pleased to welcome seven additional persons as new residential members of the community: Marshall Hatch, Matthew Johnson, Ellie Leech, Yanjie Niu, Sarath Pillai (returning after a year), Braxton Shelley, and Luke Soderstrom.
Burton Guion (MA) is a 2015 magna cum laude graduate of Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, where he majored in Philosophy/Religion and English. He was a Missouri Bright Flight Scholar and, at Drury, a Trustee Scholar and a recipient of the CW Titus Study Abroad Language Scholarship. He helped to create the Drury Humanities Society and served as its president. From 2012-15 he was an intern at National Avenue Christian Church in Springfield, which is his home congregation. This past year he was a Community Development intern at Grace Settlement House in St. Louis, where he helped to manage Neighborhood College, an adult education program.
Shelly Tilton (MA) is a 2013 MDiv graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School, where she received the William A. Newcomb Prize and was awarded honors for her senior thesis. An ordained Disciples minister, she served as the Associate Minister of Saguaro Christian Church in Tucson, Arizona, for two years under the Congregational Immersion Project of DDH at Vanderbilt. She will enter the MA program to pursue questions about sacredness, aesthetics, philosophy, and religion and possible doctoral work. She was raised in the Church of Christ and was a summa cum laude graduate of Freed-Hardeman University, where she majored in philosophy.
Jack Veatch (MDiv) is a 2015 graduate of Kent State University, where he majored in Business Management. At Kent State, he interned at United Christian Ministries (UCM) and gave leadership to initiatives with the Muslim Student Association and with TransFusion. He seeks to combine ministry and advocacy for social justice. He was raised in the First Christian Church, Stow, Ohio, and was nourished by the region’s Camp Christian as an attendee and as a counselor; he was a member of the Ohio region's Youth Council. He was an NBA Xplor resident this past year; he worked with the North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry and was based at North Hollywood Christian Church.
Stefan Aderhold (AMRS) is an alumnus of the Theologisches Studienhaus (TSH) at Heidelberg University. He was part of the DDH-TSH exchange/conference in 2015 and again this September. He is also pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Heidelberg and working with Prof. Christoph Strohm on Martin Bucer’s writings and on how religious identity is shaped in the reinterpretation that occurs between and among confessional traditions. He has been active in the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), with Christian Endeavor, and especially with scouting (VCP), to which he has given outstanding leadership on a regional level (Baden-Wurttemberg). He notes, “Globalization makes us question our cultural identities, beliefs, emotions, and responsibilities. How do we confront different beliefs? How can we connect with others without giving up our religious identity?”
The Disciples Divinity House and the Divinity School co-sponsored a retreat for younger MDiv alumni/ae on September 16-17. Twenty-eight alums gathered from across the continent, Canada to Florida, and from a wide range of ministerial careers to converse about “Integrity, Multiple-Mindedness, and Innovation” with professors Kris Culp, Cynthia Lindner, and Dwight Hopkins, and to share the gifts of collegiality and reflection. Aaron Smith and Paul Ford are pictured here.
Kris Culp explored “integrity” through the autobiographies of Dorothy Day and Malcolm X. Cynthia Lindner talked about “multiplicity,” the subject of her recent book, Varieties of Gifts. Dwight Hopkins shared his approach to “innovation” and his plans for future research. These seminars, together with the play Ultra American, provided rich fodder for understanding and complicating narratives about ministry and the well-lived ministerial life.
A $15,000 grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation provides significant support for both the alumni/ae retreat and the Constructive Theologies Project. Both events resource the development of peer leadership projects and of new models of alumni/ae learning. An intergenerational retreat is being planned in consultation with the DDH Alumni/ae Council for fall 2017. Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore is the project director.
On September 1-9, DDH hosted “Reformation and Improvisation – Then and Now,” the second conference/exchange with the Theologisches Studienhaus (TSH) at Morata-Haus at the University of Heidelberg. A group of 22 students and trustees from the two institutions met for a week of seminars, immersions, and shared reflections in Chicago. Virginia White and Stefan Aderhold offered reflections at the end of the conference.
“The idea of travel reminds me of movement—movement across distances, across time, across cultures. It seems to me that movement is at the heart of reformation and of improvisation,” explains House Scholar Virginia White, who was one of the participants. “To reform we have to move our attention between the present and the past. We have to know where we have been, and begin to separate what worked from what didn’t. To reform we must be bold enough to move things around, to change traditions, to discard old ways. To improvise, we take this consideration of the past, and turn toward the future, ready to make meaningful changes.”
“This necessity to let go of the old, to let some things die in order to make space for something new, is certainly a part of our Disciples of Christ heritage. We heard it loud and clear in the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery—a document which calls for the immediate end of a local and entrenched church structure—which we read with Professors Gilpin and Schweiker. And, I would say, it is right at the heart of our shared Christian identity—in the very story of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. In this sense, reform is that which helps us to clear space for that which is to come.”
The 500th anniversary of the Reformation will be celebrated in 2017, counting from 1517, when Dr. Martin Luther posted 95 theses for debate in Wittenberg, Germany. Last year, a delegation from DDH traveled to Heidelberg for the first conference/exchange, and both DDH and TSH delegations traveled together to some places in Germany that were formative for Luther’s thought. This year’s DDH-TSH conference paired the theme of reformation with that of improvisation, finding both themes highly germane to the realities of the city of Chicago and of American Protestantism.
One of the TSH participants, Stefan Aderhold, remained in Chicago after the exchange. He had been admitted to the Divinity School’s Master of Arts in Religious Studies program, and is now studying and living at the Disciples Divinity House. He will return to Germany for doctoral studies on Melanchthon next year.
“Reformation was not finished in the 16th century and will hopefully never be completed,” Mr. Aderhold noted. “Melanchthon was seen as the Reformation's mastermind. He was a thinker, a thoughtful theologian. His best abilities have been his biggest weakness though. He was gripped by self-doubt, he agonized about nearly any decision and became sick. His good friend Luther sent him a letter giving him comfort by finding the right words. He wrote: ‘Be a sinner, and sin bravely, but believe more bravely still.’ We cannot live without making mistakes. We are sometimes weak; or broken. Wrong decisions are part of our everyday life. Doing nothing can be even more wrong. But what Luther tells Melanchthon can teach us at least two things: First, it’s okay to do mistakes. We cannot be perfect. Having faith in God while we are acting is the best we can do. And second, others are struggling with the exact same thing.”
“To be a Christian means to be on the road,” he said, sounding a related theme to Ms. White’s reflections about movement. “If we understand ourselves as students instead of holding the truth in our hands, we are making space for the other and for improvisation, as Erin Brown told us yesterday. This activates some kind of fertile creativity. At the same time, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel but ground ourselves on our community’s history of more than 2000 years. We are on the road, reflecting constantly, trying out new ways, and driving still.”
“Let us keep driving, let us exchange and learn from each other, let us be disciples more than teachers, let us not overlook cultural, social, ethnic, religious and racial issues, but let us shape all these challenges in a creative way. On the whole, let us be at the wheel together,” he concluded, speaking of TSH and DDH together.
“Improvisation requires a lot from us,” Virginia White observed. “It requires that we be humble enough to encounter difference and be changed by it. Ultimately, I think improvisation is about letting ourselves be moved. Whether it is moved to laughter, or moved to wonder, or even moved to tears, our best improvisations come from being moved. That’s what we have done this week.”
The second Disciples Divinity House -Theologisches Studienhaus (TSH) at Heidelberg University exchange met September 1-9 in Chicago around the theme, "Reformation and Improvisation - then and now." The first exchange/conference was held last summer in Heidelberg. Dean Culp, Trustees Paul Steinbrecher, Mareta Smith, and Michael Karunas, along with House Scholars Joel Brown, Jonathan Cahill, Douglas Collins, Judith Guy, Mark Lambert, and Virginia White hosted a group of students and association members from a sister institution at the University of Heidelberg, where Heike Springhart is the Director.
Together they read Martin Luther and James Baldwin on freedom and love, talked with Professor Curtis Evans about religion and race in South Chicago, toured Chicago neighborhoods, and attended the Jazz Festival. They shared meals and worship, examined immigration and migration, crossed lines drawn by race and wealth, explored changing forms of hospitality and ministry.
The conference was generously resourced by additional guests, including Divinity School professors Clark Gilpin and William Schweiker, who reflected on reformation and improvisation in relation to the Disciples of Christ and other US churches as "communities of persuasion." The delegations also met with four editors at the offices of The Christian Century magazine—Debra Bendis, Amy Frykholm, David Heim, and Elizabeth Palmer—and with young Chicago clergy innovators Erin Brown, Kathryn Ray, and Andrew Packman. They surveyed the landscape of Chicago via a Chicago Architectural Foundation tour on the Chicago River.
Speakers for the 2017 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have been announced. Alumna Sandhya Jha of the Oakland Peace Center and Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore will keynote the "Justice" and "Transformative Leadership" learning tracks. The General Assembly will convene in Indianapolis, July 8-12, 2017. The DDH luncheon and a StoryHour event are in the works. Make plans to attend now.
Clyde Curry Smith, alumnus, died August 5 in River Falls, Wisconsin, of congestive heart failure. He was 87. An expert in ancient history, the Old and New Testaments, and ancient Greek and Semitics, he taught at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls from 1965 until his retirement in 1990. The author of numerous scholarly monographs and articles, his numerous awards and recognitions included an honorary doctorate from Fairfax University.
Clyde Curry Smith was born in Hamilton, Ohio, the only child of Mabel Ethel Ola (Curry) and Clyde Charles Smith. Mr. Smith earned his AB in Physics from Miami University of Ohio, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and with honors in 1951 and, in August of that same year, his MS in Mathematical Physics. He entered the Divinity School of the University of Chicago in the fall of 1951; he earned BD, MA, and PhD degrees as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar. He was ordained in 1954.
In 1951 while attending a church conference for college students in Ohio, he met Ellen Marie Christine Gormsen of Lakewood, Ohio, a student at Bowling Green State University, Ohio. On June 13, 1953, they married at her home congregation, the Lakewood Christian Church. In 1958, they moved from Chicago to Winnipeg, Canada, where Clyde began his academic career at St. John's College, University of Manitoba. Ellen began her career as a teacher and eventually gave extensive public service; she died in July 2015.
Clyde and Ellen Smith were well known for their civic work in River Falls, including Mr. Smith's notable service for the River Falls (Public) Library Foundation. They volunteered readily and gave generously throughout their lives.
Their legacy includes an extraordinary gift of $329,000 to the Disciples Divinity House to support women and men preparing for leadership in the church and the academy. Clyde considered the gift to have come through Ellen's inheritance, but the gift expressed the shared roots and commitments of their lives. They jointly supported and tended the gift. The gift was only part of his contributions to the Disciples Divinity House. He served as a special assistant to Dean Blakemore, he sent at least one student to the University as a House Scholar, and he served on the Alumni/ae Council. In addition, his scholarship, academic service, and teaching distinguished the House and the Divinity School.
Clyde Curry Smith is survived by his son Harald and daughter Karen, their spouses, and seven grandchildren. A memorial service will be held November 12, 2016.
The biennial North American Pacific Asian Disciples (NAPAD) Convocation met August 3-6 in Sunnyvale, California. John Roh was the Moderator, and Timothy Lee is the Moderator-Elect. April Lewton preached for the closing service; Chris Dorsey also preached. Sandhya Jha led anti-racism training. JoAnne Kagiwada, one of NAPAD's founding figures, provided leadership in worship.