General is thrilled to welcome the Rev. Dr. Julie Faith Parker to our faculty as Associate Professor of Biblical Studies. She comes most recently from teaching the Old Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. However, her extensive education has spanned a considerable range of places, from upstate New York (B.A., Hamilton College) to Paris (studying art history) to Manhattan (M.Div., Union Theological Seminary) to Central America (studying liberation theology) to Connecticut (S.T.M., Ph.D., Yale University), and now to Chelsea Square. “She is a uniquely gifted scholar,” said Michael DeLashmutt, Academic Dean, “who brings with her a well-established track record in teaching, research and service in the field of Biblical Studies, plus a deep commitment to the spiritual and vocational formation of students.” The General Seminary Quarterly (GSQ) had the opportunity to catch up with Parker recently and ask a few questions:
GSQ: I imagine you will be teaching several different courses–do you have a personal favorite?
JFP: I love teaching the Intro class because I am so excited about the Old Testament texts myself and want to share this passion with the students.
I also enjoy teaching biblical Hebrew. The course is hard but deeply rewarding because students quickly realize how much closer they get to understanding the Bible when they can read the text in its original languages. I tell them that knowing Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic is their ticket into the minds of the great heroes of the Bible. I understand learning biblical languages as intellectual communion.
At Yale Divinity School, I have taught a class on the Bible in the arts (called the Bible through Art and Artifact) for the past ten summers. At General, I hope to develop a New York City iteration of this course that explores the Bible through art.
GSQ: What do you bring to Biblical Studies that you consider unique?
JFP: I am ordained in the United Methodist Church and worked full-time as a parish pastor, and then worked as a university chaplain (at Hofstra University on Long Island) before undertaking doctoral studies. Since a Ph.D. in Bible requires a lot of language training, most Bible faculty do their doctoral studies very soon after college. I feel that my pastoral experience helps me to teach future church leaders.
My research on children in the Hebrew Bible began carving out a new field within the biblical guild called childist biblical interpretation. I am now co-editing a book on children in the biblical world that will be out later this year and the field is rapidly expanding, which is exciting.
I also have a strong commitment to teaching people who are incarcerated. In 2013-14, I taught at Sing Sing Maximum Security Prison through program of New York Theological Seminary. When I was a professor at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, I founded the Trinity Prison Project and would take student volunteers to a nearby prison each week. I would teach a Bible class and the students would then lead small group discussions with the men who are incarcerated. The experience was very meaningful for everyone involved. The Trinity Prison Project is still ongoing and I look forward to seeing how I might foster my commitment to prison ministry while at General.
GSQ: How is spiritual formation an aspect of your teaching experience?
JFP: To come to seminary is to embark on a sacred journey, not only of education but also of formation. I think that our role as theological faculty is not only to teach students our subjects but also to accompany and support them as they bravely follow their call. I enjoy getting to know my students as precious individuals created in the image of God.
I have been a church person throughout my life. In addition to my own pastoral experience, my father was a church pastor for over fifty years and my husband is senior pastor of a large church. I am glad to share what I have learned about this rewarding and demanding vocation of church leadership with my students, both inside and outside of the classroom.
GSQ: Is there anything particular about General that has attracted or interested you?
JFP: For me, a place comes down to the people. Everyone—without exception—whom I have encountered at General has been warm, gracious, genuine, and kind. General is not only deeply committed to rigorous academics, but is equally intentional about worship and communal life together. These priorities for theological education are also mine.
I feel like I am coming home – and for that blessing, I give great thanks to God.