Disciples Divinity House

of the University of Chicago
August 10, 2016 —  

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.

August 08, 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.

August 01, 2016 —  

April 16, 2016, would have been Ellen Marie Christine Gormsen Smith’s eighty-fifth birthday. On that day, friends, colleagues, and family— husband Clyde Curry Smith, children Harald and Karen and their spouses, seven grandchildren, and extended family—gathered from far and near to celebrate her birthday and her life. There was an abundance to celebrate: friendships and family, to be sure, and also gifts of teaching and service, faithfulness, Danish heritage, and generosity to the Disciples Divinity House.

Ellen Marie Christine Gormsen was born on April 16, 1931, in Lakewood, Ohio, to a Danish immigrant family within a Danish Brotherhood Community primarily established by her great-uncle, Jens (James) Gormsen. Her father, Henry Emil Gormsen, had joined his uncle’s world in 1922; her mother, Louise Marie Jensen, came from Denmark to be his wife in 1929. More than did her younger sister, Anna Margaret, she experienced the ambivalence of being the “immigrants’ daughter.”

Ellen was educated at Bowling Green State University, Ohio, receiving the Bachelor of Science in Education degree in 1953. On June 13 that same year, she married Clyde Curry Smith of Hamilton, Ohio, then a Disciples Divinity House Scholar who would receive the BD (1954), AM (1961), and PhD (1968) degrees from the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. After their Chicago years, they moved to Winnipeg, Canada, where their two children were born. In 1965, they moved to River Falls, Wisconsin, where Mr. Smith joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin—River Falls, and Mrs. Smith’s career eventually led to extensive public service.

William E. Crowl, alumnus and former Associate Dean, gave the eulogy at the April 16 service. “Ellen’s whole adult life was marked by her work for the common good,” he observed.“Her family—parents, husband, and children—were central in her labors. But so, too, were the unnamed and unknown she encountered wherever she lived and worked.”

The Smiths had met at a church conference for college students in Ohio and served together as staff at Camp Christian. They were married in her home congregation, the Lakewood Christian Church. Those connections in the Disciples of Christ grew deeper over the years.

In 2002, the Smiths called Bill Crowl to inquire about making a gift to the Divinity House. Mrs. Smith had received one-half of her parents’ estate. While profoundly appreciative for that, the Smiths said they “did not need the money.” Instead, they decided to create a charitable gift annuity with the Christian Church Foundation that could provide income in retirement for Ellen with the residual ultimately benefiting the Disciples Divinity House. Bill Crowl, together with Gary Kidwell of the Foundation, worked with them to make that possible.

Ellen Smith’s family legacy, combined with the Smiths’ shared commitment to the Disciples of Christ and the Disciples Divinity House, provided for a significant gift to the Divinity House. They shepherded and shielded that gift, including reducing the payout of the annuity in 2009 after the economic decline.

The Disciples Divinity House received a check earlier this year from the Christian Church Foundation for the magnificent sum of $329,380.37. After Ellen’s death, Clyde decided to terminate the gift annuity so that the residual could be distributed during his lifetime, and the check represented that distribution.

This astonishing gift, provided by “the immigrants’ daughter,” is among the very largest that the Divinity House has ever received. The gift was fashioned from the fullness and faithfulness of the lives of Ellen Marie Gormsen Smith and Clyde Curry Smith. It was made all the more remarkable in that Clyde Smith made it possible for the Disciples Divinity House to receive the full fruition of their plans during his own lifetime. We are deeply grateful for Ellen Smith, for Clyde Curry Smith, and for this astonishing gift—indeed, for the many remarkable gifts of the Smiths’ lives and work.

June 13, 2016 —  

Thomas Virgil Stockdale, alumnus and Minister Emeritus of Union Avenue Christian Church in Saint Louis, died June 9 in St. Louis. He was 82.

An eloquent and poetic thinker as well as a beloved and insightful leader, he served the historic Union Avenue Christian Church for fifteen years as its Senior Minister. In his work and life, the arts of ministry spanned preaching, worship, social change, education, administration, community outreach, and also the arts of poetry, music, visual arts, and film.

Born to Catherine and Virgil Stockdale on July 27, 1933, in Peoria, Illinois, Tom Stockdale became class president of his high school and received his B.S. from Bradley University in Peoria in 1955. That same year he married Patricia Gibson. They would raise four children and share 61 years of marriage, a marriage that their children describe as "one of those rare friendships and loves that lasted a lifetime."

In 1956, Mr. Stockdale entered the University of Chicago as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar, from which his older brother Jim was a recent graduate. Tom Stockdale earned his B.D. degree from the Divinity School in 1960 and was ordained. He served congregations in Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, and Nebraska before becoming Senior Minister of Bethany Christian Church in the Capital Area Region, where his significant ministry included a new building and the establishment of the Stevens Ministerial Fund, which has now supported Disciples seminarians at DDH and elsewhere for decades.

In 1986, he was called to Union Avenue, where he was devoted to congregational life and worship and to community outreach initiatives including opening the doors of the church to Food Outreach, which fed men living with HIV/AIDS. He was instrumental in welcoming youth groups from all over the country to stay in the Urban Mission Inn and serve in various ministries in St. Louis. A lover of the arts, he encouraged and supported the congregation's stellar choir and for the music director to begin the Union Avenue Opera Theater. He was a founding creator of the Interfaith Sidebar (Film and Faith) of the St. Louis Film Festival. He was an avid photographer, golfer, and a lover of Labrador retrievers. He was a patron of the arts in many forms including photography, painting, sculpture, music, cinematic arts, theater and poetry.

Mr. Stockdale served more than once on the DDH Alumni Council. In 2006, he helped to assemble and edited a collection of prayers by alumni/ae, Winged Words: Prayers for Common Worship and Common Life, with Sandhya Jha, Phil Points, and Dean Kris Culp. His own keen words and observations were prized by fellow alumni/ae. For example, in his 2004 memorial of Wayne Selsor, published in the DDH Bulletin, he wrote: Selsor knew how to coax a Holy Spirit out of sacred earthy stuff, which is to say - he knew we are never fully spirit or body, until we are a joyous, playful, bright, intelligent, and redeemed unity of both. ... Selsor was a unique spokesman for the life of faith: Godly, human, and winsome. We might substitute "Tom Stockdale" for "Selsor."

In addition to his wife Pat and his brother Jim, he is survived by four children, Pam Milley (Roy Krieger), Peggy Stockdale (Michael Heck), Tim Stockdale (Liz), and Katie Horner; nine grandchildren; and his trusted Labrador, Harry Truman.

May 20, 2016 —  

The Disciples Divinity House will mark the close of the 121st academic year and celebrate its graduates on Friday, June 10. Angela A. Kaufman, Minister to the University and the Church Relations Officer at Texas Christian University since 2004 and a DDH Trustee, will speak at the convocation in the Chapel of the Holy Grail. Her remarks are entitled, "Journeys of Grit and Grail."

At TCU, she provides moral and ethical leadership for the campus, and works with student religious organizations and campus ministries in addition to leading the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Robert Carr Chapel, and the Office of Church Relations. She previously served in campus ministry at DePaul University in Chicago. She earned her MDiv degree from the Divinity School as a Disciples Divinity House Scholar.

March 28, 2016 —  

Four House Scholars will preach in four Illinois Valley Cluster (IVC) Disciples congregations on April 3; their honorarium will be a commercial-grade coffee maker and warmer that will be an enduring gift to House students. House Scholars Hannah Fitch and Colton Lott "brewed" the idea in collaboration with the Illinois Valley Cluster of the Christian Church in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Preaching for coffee are: Colton Lott (first year MDiv) at First Christian Church, Pekin, IL; Danielle Cox (graduating MDiv) at First Christian Church, Creve Coeur, IL; Van VanBebber (second year MA; not pictured here) at First Christian Church, Peoria, IL; and Hannah Fitch (first year MDiv) at Sunnyland Christian Church, Washington, IL.

March 10, 2016 —  

A task force, convened by trustee Chad Martin, invites your ideas, suggestions, and hopes for observing DDH's 125th anniversary. A brief survey makes it easy. Please reply by March 31.

March 01, 2016 —  

Andrew Packman asks "What is race and how is it theological?" in his introductory post on the Constructive Theologies Project blog. "Talk about race is ubiquitous. It’s front-page news.  Whether the topic is police brutality, the distribution of wealth, U.S. history curriculum, identity formation, or religious practice, race is a central factor. If we didn’t acknowledge that race and the disparities associated with race are crucially at work, we simply would not understand what’s going on in any of the major political, social, and moral challenges we face. That much is clear." 

The blog also features a sermon entitled "Not on My Watch!" from Rev. Rae Karim where she explores 2 Samuel 21:1-14. "Details are the most important part of a story. They keep us interested. They keep us in anticipation for the next word, the next page, the next chapter. There is one such story where every detail matters." Read more here.

The Constructive Theologies Project is a group of young adult theological thought leaders within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) seeking to cultivate ideas that move across racial, vocational, intellectual and economic lines to address the possibilities that face the Disciples of Christ today. At present, the group is focused on issues of racial injustice and theologies that might found the church’s work of reconciliation. Each participant will contribute to the blog throughout the year. The peer driven project is funded by a grant from the Oreon E. Scott Foundation and is directed by Associate Dean Yvonne Gilmore.

February 19, 2016 —  

Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis, a synagogue affiliated with both the Conservative and Reconstructionist movements in Judaism, has been led since 1977 by Senior Rabbi Dennis Sasso and Senior Rabbi (now Emerita) Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. They are perhaps the first rabbinical couple in Jewish history and each have been the recipient of numerous honorary doctorates and awards. Last year, the rabbis and the congregation welcomed Disciples House Scholar and MDiv student Rachel Abdoler into their midst as an intern. She participated in a wide variety of events from early childhood and adult classes, social events, Purim parties, Bar and Bat Mitzvah rehearsals, to speaking in the congregation. On February 22, Rabbi Dennis Sasso will join Rachel Abdoler at the Disciples Divinity House to discuss the internship experience, and to reflect together on how preparation for Christian ministry can be formed by deep engagement with other religious communities.

Rabbi Dennis Sasso is a member of various scholarly and academic societies, and he has served on numerous interfaith, civic and community boards and agencies. He writes a monthly column entitled “Focus on Faith” in the Op-Ed page of the Sunday edition of The Indianapolis Star. He was decorated as a “Sagamore of the Wabash”, a distinguished citizen award presented by the Governor of the State of Indiana. Rabbi Sasso is the recipient of the “Community Service Award” from the NAACP and the “Fostering Life” Award of the Indianapolis Chapter of Links in recognition of his leadership in Interfaith and Interracial relations. He has lectured nationally and abroad and has published scholarly and popular articles on Caribbean Jewry, Reconstructionist Judaism, the Jewish family, the life cycle, spirituality and liturgy. He regularly teaches at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, and has co-taught with DDH alumnus and trustee Clark Williamson. Mr. Williamson, who helped to arrange the internship and was an invaluable interlocutor during its course, is a pioneering figure in addressing Christian anti-Jewishness in theology.

February 03, 2016 —  

Yvonne Gilmore hosted a riveting forum on poetry on February 1, featuring guest artists and her own spoken word poetry. Among the highlights of the evening was a collaboration between Dean Gilmore and pianist Braxton Shelley. Mr. Shelley is an MDiv student in the Divinity School and a PhD student in the Department of Music. In addition to being Associate Dean, Ms. Gilmore is also a member of the Cornel West Theory band. The evening began with a service in the Chapel of the Holy Grail, at which House Scholar Danielle Cox preached, and included a festive meal prepared by Chef Luke Joyner featuring empanadas, roasted plantains, and Mexican hot chocolate.