PC(USA) elder helps reinvent series at New York City’s Union Theological Seminary
by Emily Enders Odom | Special to the Presbyterian News Service
NEW YORK, N.Y. – In her lifetime, Dr. Su Yon Pak has occupied many chairs.
A native of South Korea—and a cradle Presbyterian—Pak immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 10. After graduating with a degree in organic chemistry, she earned her master’s degree in Christian education at Princeton Theological Seminary. Pak has since lived in Scotland, where she worked at Shakti Women’s Aid in Edinburgh, a women’s shelter and center for women of color.
In 1993, Pak made her home in New York City, where she received her doctorate from the joint Teachers College–Union Theological Seminary program in religion and education. She has since worked at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York in various capacities, currently as its senior director and associate professor for integrative and field-based education.
Pak also chairs the Professional Conduct Task Force of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and has served as the chair of the Status of Women in the Profession Committee, co-chair of the Asian North American Religion, Culture and Society program unit, and as a steering committee member of the Women and Religion Section of the AAR.
But of all of the chairs she has occupied, by far her favorite place to sit is in a pew at her home congregation, The First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York, which celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2016. Pak chaired the church’s 300th Anniversary Committee and serves as an elder for the congregation.
Inspired by the church’s history of outstanding preaching, Pak found herself considering the preacher’s often daunting task of revisiting lectionary passages for a fresh word, and was determined to offer practical assistance. “Returning year after year to familiar texts and searching for new inspiration can at times be an exciting challenge,” says Pak, “but it also can be frustrating or exhausting.”
In order to best meet the continuing education needs and busy schedules of Union’s own alumni/ae and the seminary’s neighbors who are serving—and regularly preaching in—congregational settings, Pak has collaborated with Union’s Alumni/ae Relations Office to reintroduce and sponsor the popular Got Sermon? lectionary study series as a twice yearly, day-long conference corresponding to the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent.
Launched in 2008, Got Sermon? was designed to bring the gifts of Union’s faculty to primarily parish-based preachers seeking inspiration for the homiletical task during the most demanding times of the year.
To make both the format and the schedule more convenient and time-efficient for potential participants, Got Sermon? will be scheduled from 9:30 a.m.– 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 27, for Advent/Christmas preparation, and Friday, Feb. 9, for the study of Lenten/Easter texts.
In addition to giving participants the opportunity to explore the exegetical intricacies of the texts for these liturgical seasons, each of the two day-long conferences will offer the option of doing textual studies on a particular theme, such as interreligious engagement. New to the series will be sessions dedicated to homiletical methods and practice, coaching, and peer coaching. As always, there will be the added benefit of building community and sharing a meal with friends and preaching colleagues.
“Many who have attended this series in past years have said that because they often felt isolated pastoring their own churches, they welcomed this community of learners who engaged these familiar texts in order to bring fresh words to their congregants,” says Pak.
The lead instructor for Got Sermon? on October 27 will be the Rev. Dr. Lisa Thompson, assistant professor of homiletics, with the Rev. Dr. Cláudio Carvalhaes, associate professor of worship, preaching and leading opening worship.
Participants will have the option of attending a workshop on the Old Testament lectionary texts led by Dr. David M. Carr, professor of Old Testament; the New Testament lectionary texts led by Dr. Brigitte Kahl, professor of New Testament; or developing rituals of lament during Advent-Christmas, led by Carvalhaes.
“For such a time as this, we have also been thinking that it would be really important to have a workshop on liturgy/ritual of lament,” Pak says. “We are thinking on a societal level, liturgy to acknowledge our common pain given the recent—and not too recent—incidents around white supremacy, racism and inequality and how Advent/Christmas can give us opportunities to ritualize that in our worship would be especially timely and helpful.”
The cost of each day-long conference is $50, which includes lunch. Preregistration is required. Visit the website for complete information and registration instructions.
The Rev. Emily Enders Odom is Director of Alumni/ae Relations, Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York.
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