Thorne Sparkman School of Religion

The 46th Annual Thorne Sparkman
School of Religion

Wednesdays in Lent | 2019

The Thorne Sparkman School offers a dynamic opportunity each Lent to gather in community each Wednesday evening with others from across our city for a rich time of learning, fellowship, worship, and faith exploration, with first-class scholars and teachers.

Established in 1973 through the leadership of the Rev. John Bonner, Jr., who was then rector of St. Paul’s Church, Chattanooga, the Thorne Sparkman School’s purpose is to offer other Episcopal parishes — and the extended community —  the best in Christian education in crucial areas including worship, ethics, liturgy, history, literature, music, and critical thinking.

Named in honor of the Rev. Thorne Sparkman, who served as Rector of St. Paul’s from 1938 to 1949, the School has become an important Lenten offering to the Chattanooga area. Fr. Sparkman’s ministry to the parish and the extended community during the particularly momentous years of World War II was exemplified by his personal care, inspired teaching and preaching, and outreach to the families of those in service.

The Thorne Sparkman School of Religion is hosted at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church with support from other local churches (see brochure). Organ Meditations, Holy Eucharist and Dinner in Key-Andrews Hall precede the speakers in the Nave. Visit for more information!

March 13 | Jon Meacham

Jon Meacham is a presidential historian and biographer. A former Executive Editor and Executive Vice President at Random House, he is a contributing writer to The New York Times Book Review, a contributing editor to Time magazine, and a former Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek. He is the author of several books. He won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. He is currently the Rogers Chair for the Study of the Presidency and a distinguished visiting professor in the Department of Political Science at Vanderbilt University. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and of the Society of American Historians.

Born in Chattanooga in 1969, Meacham was educated at St. Nicholas School, The McCallie School, and The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. He has served on the vestries of St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and of Trinity Church Wall Street as well as the Board of Regents of The University of the South. Meacham has received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University in 2005 and holds several other honorary doctorates.
Meacham’s lecture will focus on the future of democracy, particularly considered from the perspective of a person of faith.

March 20 | Eka Tupamahu

Eka Tupamahu is a Ph.D. candidate in New Testament and Early Christianity at Vanderbilt University, where his dissertation research examines the intersectionality of the politics of language, racial-ethnic identity construction, the subjective performativity, and the colonial relations of power in the early Christian movement. A native Indonesian, Tupamahu holds the MA and M.Div. from Asia Pacific Theological Seminary, and MAs from the Claremont School of Theology and Vanderbilt University. Before moving to Nashville, TN, he was a pastor of an Indonesian congregation in Southern California. His writings have appeared in, among others, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Pneuma: the Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Indonesian Journal of Theology, Encyclopedia of Christianity in the Global South, and Global Renewal Christianity. His recent essay on biblical interpretation in light of the linguistic experience of Asian Americans will appear this year in the T&T Clark Handbook to Asian American Biblical Hermeneutics.

Tupamahu’s lecture will focus on the topic of language and immigrant experience in the New Testament. As biblical scholars continue to move further in their interrogation of the socio-political dynamic of the early Christian world in the first century, this lecture will particularly highlight language as a site of struggle for the early followers of Jesus.

March 27 | The Rev. Dr. Kara Slade

The Rev. Dr. Kara Slade serves as Associate Chaplain at the Episcopal Chaplaincy at Princeton and Associate Rector at Trinity Church, Princeton. In that joint appointment, she serves in the historic Princeton parish and chaplaincy community encompassing students, faculty, and staff at Princeton University, Westminster Choir College, and Princeton Theological Seminary. She is a Fellow of Rockefeller College at Princeton, and also serves as chair of the Society of Scholar-Priests. A lifelong Southerner, Kara received her PhD in Christian theology and ethics at Duke University in 2018, with research interests that include Karl Barth, Søren Kierkegaard, and the ethics of science, technology, and medicine. A former specialist in the dynamics of nonlinear and complex systems, she earned the BSE, MS, and PhD in mechanical engineering and materials science at the Duke Pratt School of Engineering (and served on the faculty there) before joining NASA as a research engineer. After leaving government service, she returned to Duke in 2009 as a student in the Divinity School, and stayed on for her second doctorate.

Slade’s lecture, titled Technology and the Human Future, will address issues at the intersection of technology, culture, and human experience, drawing on her scientific and theological backgrounds.

April 3 | The Rt. Rev. Brian L. Cole

The Rt. Rev. Brian Lee Cole was ordained and consecrated fifth bishop of the Diocese of East Tennessee on December 2, 2017. Bishop Cole has under his pastoral and administrative care 51 parishes and worshiping communities in East Tennessee and Northern Georgia. In 1992, he earned a Master of Divinity at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with additional studies in Anglican Church History at The University of the South School of Theology, Sewanee, in 2001. Ordained a priest in 2002, Cole served as vicar at Church of the Advocate, a worshiping community for homeless in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. From 2005 to 2012, Cole was sub-dean at The Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville. He served as rector at The Church of the Good Shepherd in Lexington, Kentucky, from 2012 until his election as bishop, in addition to serving the Church as a deputy to General Convention and a member of the Executive Council. He is an associate of the Order of the Holy Cross.

Bishop Cole’s lecture will focus on the future of the church, giving attention not just to the challenges the church faces in the 21st century, but also to the opportunities for growth, change, and health that the present and the future provide.

April 10 | Dr. Catherine Meeks

Dr. Catherine Meeks is Executive Director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing. A sought-after teacher and workshop leader, Catherine brings four decades of experience to the work of transforming the dismantling racism work in Atlanta. The core of her work has been with people who have been marginalized because of economic status, race, gender or physical ability as they pursue liberation, justice and access to resources that can help lead them to health, wellness and a more abundant life. This work grows out of her understanding of her call to the vocation of teacher as well as her realization that all of humanity is one family which God desires to unite.

Dr. Meeks is the retired Clara Carter Acree Distinguished Professor of Socio Cultural Studies from Wesleyan College and Founding Executive Director of the Lane Center for Community Engagement and Service. She writes for Huffington Post, and is frequently asked to present commentaries on Georgia Public Radio and other radio and television programs. She is the author of six books and one inspirational CD, and holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Clark Atlanta University and Ph.D from Emory University. Meeks’ lecture on the future of racial healing will draw on her decades of experience, and particularly on her work at the Absalom Jones Center.