A persistent, passionate question in the Rev. Buddy Stallings’ preaching and ministry has been how is it that modern people can and, in fact, do remain faithful to an ancient practice of the faith. Admitting that the church drives him nuts, particularly when it is especially certain, he also acknowledges that he can’t do without it. In the mystery of those two truths, which somehow live side by side, he finds enough, actually more than enough, to keep him on the search. After retiring as rector from St. Bartholomew’s, one of Manhattan’s most storied parishes, Stallings now spends about half the year in Memphis.
A prophetic voice to local parishioners and online listeners, the Rev. Dr. Stacy Spencer believes in the power of biblical teaching to transform lives. His multi-campus church ministers to spiritual needs, while his non-profit foundation provides scholarships to high school seniors. Spencer considers himself a change agent. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a figure both prophetic and pastoral, is his role model. Spencer’s favorite scripture is “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” Luke 4:18-19
The Rev. Dan Matthews is a consistent favorite at Calvary’s Lenten Preaching Series. His preaching is inspired by powerful and meaningful stories, like the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son. In light of these stories, Matthews pushes us to recognize when genuine blessings come our way. He believes that these moments of being “kissed by God” are more than being in the right place at the right time. His spiritual discipline of holy love is modeled after his mother’s ability to love with abandon. Each time he receives communion he is reminded of the transformative power of that love.
Dr. Omid Safi is a leading Muslim public intellectual whose most recent book is Radical Love. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Washington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC and CNN. He leads an adult educational program focused on diverse spiritual traditions in Turkey and Morocco. Safi is devoted to the intersection of spirituality and social justice, and frequently writes on liberationist traditions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Rabbi Abraham Heschel. A devoted Muslim who seeks the path of Radical Love, Safi is committed to liberation for everyone, with love for all and harm for none.
Brian McLaren passionately advocates for a “new kind of Christianity” --just, generous, and working with people of all faiths for the common good. In 1982, he helped form Cedar Ridge Community Church, an innovative, nondenominational church, well-known in the emerging church movement. His public speaking covers a broad range of topics including postmodern thought and culture, biblical studies, church leadership and formation, pastoral survival and burnout, inter-religious dialogue and global crises. McLaren is the author of A New Kind of Christianity, Naked Spirituality, and his most recent book, The Great Spiritual Migration.
The Rev. Dr. John Kilzer believes that we all have a God-sized hole in our heart. When we attempt to fill it with anything other than God, we are left lacking. Kilzer finds God’s presence through music, nature, poetry, and scripture. An accomplished musician, his songs have been recorded by Roseanne Cash, Trace Adkins, Jimmy Davis, and Dobie Gray, among others. When he is not creating and performing music, Kilzer serves on the faculty of Memphis Theological Seminary and at St. John’s United Methodist Church.
Kirk Whalum’s saxophone playing has been described as “soulful, passionate, and stirring.” His Memphis roots blend with the sounds of the Houston nightclub scene to create his unique take on the tenor sax. Whalum is also an ordained minister who produces a daily podcast, Bible in Your Ear. When not on tour, he serves on the faculty of the Visible Music College in Memphis.
The Torah begins with two very different accounts of creation. The first is a story of order, abundance, positivity, and equality. The second is a story of repair, lack, the intrusion of negative elements, and hierarchy. Dr. Marjorie Hass draws on both Rabbinic and philosophical sources to interpret these two stories and their lessons about the nature of the creative act. These lessons form the basis for a revitalized understanding of our responsibility for the creative acts we perform—not only as artists and leaders, but in our daily actions within our families, our workplaces, and our communities.
The Rev. John Pitzer has always believed the Church should have an open door policy. In order to build a more inclusive church, he strives to make his preaching practical, engaging, welcoming, and passionate. For twenty years as a Dominican friar, Pitzer ministered here in Memphis and throughout the south. His passion for preaching and inclusivity now continues in the Episcopal Church, where he is an associate rector at Trinity Episcopal in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The many faithful who raised the Rev. Hester Mathes at Calvary, combined with years spent soaking in the wisdom of the Lenten Preaching Series, have provided an amazing springboard for an adventurous spiritual journey. Together, they challenge Mathes to break the Good News of God’s love out of the constraints of Sunday mornings. She hopes to continue to proclaim and explore the Gospel message in ways that launch it from the comfort of worship and study into an all-encompassing way of life.
Dr. Diana Butler Bass writes and speaks widely on issues of spirituality, religion, culture and politics. Her work has appeared on NPR, PBS, Time and The New York Times. Her most recent book is Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks in which she offers suggestions for reclaiming gratitude that can lead to greater connection with God, our loved ones, our world, and even our souls. Butler Bass balances her professional work with an avid interest in Virginia politics, environmental issues, and Duke basketball.
Born in Memphis and a Roman Catholic priest for the Diocese of Memphis for 44 years, Msgr. Val Handwerker is presently pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church, located in the southern end of downtown. He is committed to urban ministry, and St. Patrick’s offers that vision, building upon its more than 150-year legacy at the same location. His preaching focuses on Jesus’ response to his first sermon in his hometown synagogue: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” The challenge is to show how Jesus’ scripture is fulfilled now in the life of the church assembly and the people of God—right here in Memphis.
While in medical school, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Robinson felt unequivocally called by the Lord to a bi-vocational synthesis of medicine and ministry: healing individuals, families and communities while joining God’s work to holistically “heal the land.” He is a systems-directed change agent: transforming urban churches into multi-faceted social, economic, and community development engines; delivering a more diversified physician workforce; catalyzing public health policies and practices; and, most recently, implementing a human services ecosystem that drives the dreams of persons in generational poverty and advances them toward economic prosperity. Robinson seeks to “walk worthy of the vocation to which he’s been called.”
In In the Midst of the City: The Gospel and God’s Politics, the Very Rev. Barkley Thompson argues that Christian faith and politics are inseparable. Politics is, in Thompson’s words, “commentary and action that affect the polis…and the citizens for whom the polis is home.” To embody God’s politics we must first steep ourselves in God’s vision embodied in the Gospels, and only then can we act politically in the world. Thompson addresses hot-button social issues by putting this principle into practice, challenging the reader to live God’s politics and, as Thompson says, “to be the vanguard of God’s kingdom in the world.”
Rabbi Micah Greenstein loves Torah no matter where it comes from. "Torah" in a broad Jewish sense refers to the teachings and wisdom of Judaism, but he treasures insights on goodness, love, justice, shalom, and compassion from every faith tradition and every reflection of God's unity. What inspires him most about the Jewish legacy he lives and teaches is that it is not simply a tale of enduring persecution and surviving hate, but rather a 4,000 year-old joyful embrace of faith, family, and the blessing that comes with being God's partner in healing a broken world.
The Rev. Sam Teitel is a minister, poet and storyteller with an irreverent wit and a deep, abiding love of scripture, especially the weird parts of scripture that people don't usually like to talk about. His sermons are candid, accessible, and often funnier than he means them to be. A lifelong Unitarian Universalist, he won the grand prize at the 2018 Preachers Fight Club storytelling event. Teitel has served as the minister of The Church Of The River in Memphis since 2017. Before he became a minister, he toured and performed as a slam poet. He is beyond thrilled to be returning to Calvary’s Lenten Preaching Series!
The Rev. Phoebe Roaf was elected as the fourth bishop for the Diocese of West Tennessee and their annual convention in November 2018. She will be ordained bishop on May 4, 2019. Two passages of scripture summarize what the Gospel means to Bishop-Elect Roaf: Paul’s reassurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Romans 8, and the vision of every nation, tribe, people and language worshipping the lamb of God from the Revelation to John. Thus, the central message of the Gospel is fellowship with all of humanity in the name of Jesus Christ. The kingdom of God is near when people of all backgrounds and walks of life focus on what unites them instead of what divides them.
From humankind’s earliest time on earth, prayer has been uttered as poetry. Through chants and spells, psalms of praise, beseeching and complaint, humans have cried out to the unseen in faith and in doubt, in loneliness and joy, in bewilderment and confidence. Through poetry, we shape our cry into something essential and we sing it into space. The author of four published volumes of poetry, Marie Howe illuminates ways to pay attention to our own intimate discourse with the divine–and how writing can become a gateway to faith.
The Rev. Dorothy Wells’s hope and prayer for ministry is to communicate the message of God’s love for all of God’s people–truly, the overarching message of the whole of our scriptures. Christians affirm the belief that all humankind are made in the image and likeness of God and commanded to love our God and our neighbors. Putting those foundational beliefs into practice within relationships transforms our world and opens a way into the Kingdom that God intends for us. Wells loves to serve in ministry in Memphis, helping to bring about reconciliation for God’s people here.