The Rev. John Pitzer is a native of Texas and currently lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he serves at Trinity Episcopal Church as associate rector of outreach/mission and pastoral care. For twenty years, Pitzer was a friar with the Order of Preachers, commonly known as the Dominicans. He served at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Memphis which has been a neighbor to Calvary for over a century. Pitzer believes that preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ--an all-inclusive Good News that is intended for everyone no matter our circumstances in life--is needed in this world like never before.
Dr. Catherine Meeks is a storyteller with a purpose. Born in 1946 in segregated Arkansas, Meeks has spent a lifetime working on issues of racial healing and the promotion of life. The daughter of a sharecropper and a teacher, she grew up hearing her father talk about a 12-year-old brother who died from a burst appendix before she was born—refused service at a white hospital. “I grew up in that kind of atmosphere of The world is really hostile toward us because we’re black and poor.” For over 30 years, Meeks has advocated wellness and social justice, giving voice to those living on the margins of society and promoting a healthy racial dialogue worldwide. Meeks has a master’s degree in social work from Clark Atlanta University and a Ph.D. from Emory University focusing on Jungian Psychology and African American Women’s Literature.
Pádraig Ó Tuama’s interests lie in language, violence and religion. Having grown up in a place that has a long history of all three (Ireland, yes, but also Europe) he finds that language might be the most redeeming of all three of these. In language there is the possibility of vulnerability, of surprise, of the creative movement towards something as yet unseen. He is inspired by any artist of words: from Krista Tippett to Lucille Clifton; from Patrick Kavanagh to Emily Dickinson; from Lorna Goodison to Arundhati Roy. Ó Tuama loves words — words that open up the mind, the heart, the life. For instance — poem: a created thing.
We are disappointed to announce that an unexpected health issue is keeping Barbara Brown Taylor from traveling to Memphis this week for Calvary’s Lenten Preaching Series. Barbara sends her love to Calvary, her “home away from home,” and she’s written a sermon to be delivered in her absence titled “Blessed are the Spiritually Bankrupt.” Surely the next best thing to hearing Barbara in person is to hear her words among a roomful of people giving thanks to God for the gift of her preaching and praying that she receive an extra measure of the healing power of God’s love. Come join us this Thursday at 12:05 p.m.
The Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor is a New York Times best-selling author, teacher, and Episcopal priest. After serving three congregations—two in downtown Atlanta and one in rural Clarkesville, Georgia—she became the first Butman Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Piedmont College, where she taught until 2017. Since then she has spoken at events with wonderful names like Wild Goose, Evolving Faith, Awakening Soul, and Gladdening Light, but her favorite gig is being full-time caretaker of a farm in the foothills of the Appalachians with her husband Ed and very many animals.
Dr. Scott Morris describes himself as “a one-note guy” who focuses on the link between faith and health. He believes that to follow Jesus, Christians must have a healing ministry. The people, patients, staff, and volunteers he has worked with since founding Church Health in 1987 inspire Morris to explore the scope of God’s imagination and encourage him in his journey of love and following Jesus. Morris holds that if we care for our bodies as well as our spirits, we will become closer to God.
Rabbi Micah Greenstein is senior rabbi of Temple Israel, Memphis’ historic 170-year-old synagogue and the last remaining large congregation in a four-state region. His leadership roles include the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, the National Civil Rights Museum, and creating a network of the next generation of women leaders in Cambodia and Southeast Asia through the Harpswell Foundation. With antisemitism and demonstrations of Jew-hatred becoming commonplace and met mainly by silence, Greenstein is passionate about building bridges across faith communities. He cares deeply about the future of Jewish life in North America and the dramatic action necessary to preserve, build, and grow vibrant, diverse Jewish communities.
After reading Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be in his final year of college, Mark Muesse gave up his ambition to be a physician and decided to become a philosopher. His parents were not pleased. He began traveling the world to study its significant spiritual pathways and spent thirty years at Rhodes College sharing what he learned. Along with Tillich, his way has been illuminated by figures like Meister Eckhart, William James, Ibn ʿArabī, Confucius, and Willie Nelson. Now retired from academics, he tries to live a quiet life of reflection, still pondering the mysteries that prompted his turn to philosophy.
Joe Birch marks forty-six years of service to viewers of WMC-TV in 2024. His journey in journalism has opened pathways of community service. For example, Birch organizes the Mobile Food Pantries that provide a week’s worth of groceries to five hundred families monthly through the generosity of St. Patrick Community Outreach, Inc., and Memphis Rotary Club. He worships at St. Patrick Catholic Church and has an active and robust prayer life.
The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis uses her gifts as an author, activist, preacher, and public theologian to create an antiracist, just, gun violence-free, fully welcoming, gender-affirming society in which everyone has enough. Lewis has preached in pulpits and on stages in the U.S., South Africa, and France. She’s been serving as senior minister and public theologian at Middle Church for 20 years. The author of several books and articles, Lewis’s most recent book, Fierce Love, was published in 2021. Her Just Love Story Bible will be released in 2025. Lewis produces an annual justice conference with Middle Church—Freedom Rising: You. Move. The World is scheduled for April 2024.
Cole Arthur Riley is a writer and poet. She is the author of the NYT bestseller This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories that Make Us. Her writing has been featured in The Atlantic, Guernica, and The Washington Post. Cole is also the creator and writer of Black Liturgies, a project that integrates spiritual practice with Black emotion, Black literature, and the Black body. Her spirituality in this season is comprised of more questions than answers and grounded in myth, storytelling, interior examen, and embodiment. She is currently interested in questions concerning collective and inherited memory and has been formed by thinkers such as Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Thomas Merton, Octavia Butler, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
The Rev. Dr. Peggy Jean Craig is a Cumberland Presbyterian minister, community development nerd, wannabe poet, and personal photographer for her two-year-old identical twin girls. Growing up in rural Alabama as the only Asian kid other than her brother shaped her curiosity about marginalized places, community, and belonging. She’s most at home in borderland spaces, whether that be leading an arts and literacy youth organization in North Philadelphia, participating in university civic engagement in Camden, New Jersey, or pastoring a Germantown church dedicated to serving their immigrant and Latinx neighbors. With the help of her church, she’s practicing deep loving with folks in the midst of violence, homelessness, and hunger.
Anwar Arafat is an Imam for the Islamic Association of Greater Memphis. In Memphis since 2014, he moved here from Salt Lake City, UT, where he was born and raised, and served as an imam for several years. Arafat has traveled and lived overseas, completing his religious education locally and abroad, earning a bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies, and most recently finishing a master’s degree in Islamic Leadership at the Islamic Seminary of America (TISA) in Dallas, Texas. He’s the U.S. Outreach Specialist for iERA, an international Dawah organization.
Elizabeth L. Jemison is a professor, writer, and teacher who loves questions of how we encounter the past and why it matters for our present. She teaches American religious history as an associate professor of religion at Clemson University. Beyond academic settings, Jemison regularly speaks to congregations and community groups about how religion and history shape our worlds and why studying them can deepen our faith. She is the author of Christian Citizens: Reading the Bible in Black and White in the Postemancipation South (UNC Press) and has published in Religion News Service and Religion & Politics, among other venues. Jemison is a proud native Memphian, who now lives in Greenville, South Carolina, with her spouse and young children, who daily invite her to deepen her sense of wonder.
Tom Shadyac is one of Hollywood’s all-time leading writer/directors with his films, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Nutty Professor, Liar, Liar, Patch Adams, Bruce Almighty, and Evan Almighty, grossing nearly 2 billion dollars at the box office. Tom also produced the documentary Happy, and wrote and directed the documentary, I AM, which explores two fundamental questions – What’s wrong with our world, and what can we do about it? I AM has won numerous national and international awards and was one of the highest grossing documentaries of 2011. Tom is also a New York Time’s best-selling author, with the 2012 publication of his first book, Life’s Operating Manual. Of Lebanese descent, Tom comes from a unique and diverse background; he’s been an actor, screenwriter, and standup comic, while studying in depth the monastic traditions, ancient philosophy, mystic poetry, myth, and storytelling. What sets Tom apart is his rare ability to blend humor and heart. In 2013, after teaching at Pepperdine for 8 years, Tom became filmmaker in residence at the University of Memphis and taught at LeMoyne-Owen college where his students introduced him to the pulsing promise of the Soulsville neighborhood. Soon after he purchased two bankrupt buildings that became the Memphis Rox Campus, housing the world’s largest non-profit climbing gym, as well as numerous multi-faceted programs that serve the local community.
The Rev. George Robertson began serving as senior pastor at Second Presbyterian Church in September 2017. He served as senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia, senior pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, and as lecturer/adjunct professor at Covenant Theological Seminary. Currently, Robertson is a professor and academic dean of Memphis City Seminary, part of the executive team for the Memphis Christian Pastor’s Network, and a board member for The Gospel Coalition. He has authored Soul Anatomy, What is Evangelism, Am I Called? (Basics of the Faith Series), and several bible studies. Robertson is passionate about preaching the gospel of grace found in God’s word and working with others to promote the peace and welfare of the Memphis community.
The Rev. Sarah Condon is an Episcopal priest in Nashville. She makes a home there with her husband Josh (also a priest) and their two children. Condon is the co-host of the Mockingcast and a speaker/writer for Mockingbird Ministries. She also writes an advice column called “Dear Gracie” for Mockingbird magazine. Condon lost her parents in December 2020 in a car accident. It changed everything about her. Her ambitious nature fell apart, and she found something gentler in its place. Frequently she is thinking and writing about forgiveness and the unexpectedness of God’s grace in a world that demands brutality.
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!