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Don Saliers ’62 B.D., ’67 Ph.D. and daughter Emily of Indigo Girls at Convocation

The father-daughter duo of church musician Don Saliers ’62 B.D., ’67 Ph.D. and Emily Saliers, one half of the popular group Indigo Girls, are among the headliners for Convocation and Reunions 2009, to be held Oct. 12-15. They will host an evening of music and conversation, under sponsorship of the Institute of Sacred Music, exploring crossovers between the musical languages of Saturday night and Sunday morning.

SaliersIn 2004, Saliers and his daughter published a book together, A Song to Sing, A Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice, part of publisher Jossey-Bass’s The Practice of Faith SeriesPublishers Weekly said of the book, “Musicians, music-lovers and indeed all those devoted to the ‘spirituality of daily life’ will be inspired.” And Booklist called the volume “a lovely meditation on the power of music.”  Don Saliers is retired from the Candler School of Theology, where he taught theology and worship, and prior to that he taught at YDS in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Featured lecturers for Convocation include distinguished homiletics professor Eugene Lowry, German theologian Michael Welker, language and liturgical expert Gabriele Winkler, and the Rt. Rev. Trevor Mwamba, Anglican bishop of Botswana.

Classes celebrating major reunions in 2009 are the Class of ’59 (50th) and Class of  ’84 (25th).  Cluster reunions will be held for the Classes of ’73, ’74, and ’75 and for the Classes of ’93, ’94, and ’95.

Another highlight of Convocation and Reunions 2009 will be a 30th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Bisexual and Tansgendered Coalition, to be held outdoors on the Quad.

Talitha Arnold ’80 M.Div., one of the Coalition celebration organizers, said, “The YDS Gay/Straight Coalition started in 1979 when it was unsafe for many gay and lesbian students to be out at the Divinity School, much less in their denominations and local churches.

“Building on the foundation of advocacy that Professor Letty Russell and others had laid, the Coalition had two goals. One was to provide a safe place for gay and lesbian students to support one another and share with straight students the challenges they faced. The second was to engage straight students in advocacy, both at YDS and in denominations.”

Arnold said that, over the years, the Coalition has expanded its vision and name “as understandings of sexual orientation have evolved and as the need for advocacy and support has continued.”

Several other special events promise to be of great interest to alumni, including:

  • A breakfast conversation about the impact of the economy on churches, schools, social service organizations, families, and alumni.
  • The alumni awards luncheon honoring four graduates: Bonita Grubbs ’84 M.A.R., executive director of Christian Community Action in New Haven (Lux et Veritas Award); Peter Laarman ’93 M.Div., executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting in Los Angeles (William Sloane Coffin ’56 Award for Peace and Justice); Don Saliers ’62 B.D., ’67 Ph.D., the William R. Canon Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Theology and Worship at the Candler School of Theology in Atlanta (Distinction in Theological Education Award); and Nancy Taylor ’81 M.Div., senior minister of Old South Church (UCC) in Boston (Distinction in Congregational Ministry Award).  A special treat will be that the awards luncheon will be held in the refurbished Old Refectory space, which has been mothballed for most of the past decade.
  • Sermons by four well-known religious leaders: Ellen F. Davis ’84 M.A., ’87 Ph.D., professor of Bible and practical theology, Duke Divinity School; Otis Moss III ’95 M.Div., pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago; Sharon E. Watkins ’84 M.Div., general minister and president, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); and Robert Willis, dean of Canterbury Cathedral, UK.

Eugene Lowry will deliver the Lyman Beecher Lectures on the subject Keeping Time with the Word: The Sound of the Sermon: Part I, Time After Time: The Three Levels of Narrativity; Part II, Encountering the Aristotle Blues: A Jazz Homiletic of Narrative Address and Piano Improvisation; Part III, Recovering the Voices(s) of Orality.  Lowry was featured in the Hallmark television series Great Preachers in 2000.  In the spring of 2008, he was honored with a festschrift volume, What’s the Shape of Narrative Preaching? 

Michael Welker’s Nathaniel Taylor Lectures are on the topic The Theology and Science Discourse on Anthropology: Part I, What Can Theology Contribute to the Theology and Science Discourse?; Part II, Flesh-Body-Heart-Soul-Spirit; Exploring the Depth of the Human Person; Part III, The Human Being in His/Her Relation to the Sustaining, Saving, and Ennobling God: Spiritual Realism in the Theology and Science Discourse.  Over the years, Welker has been instrumental in organizing many projects of international and interdisciplinary cooperation.  Since 2006, he has been building the Global Network of Research Centers for Theology, Religious and Christian Studies.

Gabriele Winkler’s Aidan J. Kavanagh Lecture, sponsored by the Institute of Sacred Music, will be on the subject Some New Considerations Concerning the Relationship between the liturgies of St. Basil and St. James. Winkler has published widely in several languages in a variety of scholarly periodicals and series on the subjects of liturgy, patristic, church history, and the development of the creeds.  Currently, she is preparing a book-length study of another Eastern Anaphora, including a detailed investigation of the “Sancta sanctis” cycles in the various redactions of the Liturgy of Basil and of James. 

Musonda Trevor Selwyn Mwamba’s Louis Wetherbee Pitt Lecture, sponsored by Berkeley Divinity School, is entitled God of Wonder, Grace and Surprises.  In addition to his duties as bishop of Botswana, Mwamba sits on numerous boards and commissions, including the All Africa Conference of Churches General Committee, Transparency International in Botswana, and the U.N. Civil Society Advisory Committee. 

For the first time, full online registration and payment for Convocation and Reunions is available on the YDS web site.  Another innovation this year is a pilot program that will offer activities for children, part of an effort to encourage attendance by alumni with children.


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