48th Annual Thorne Sparkman School of Religion

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This year's theme is adaptation, viewed from a variety of perspectives such as congregational life, biblical scholarship, and vocation.

About this Event

In 2021, each lecture will be online, available to be viewed each evening via a link provided to registrants through email.


Thorne Sparkman is headquartered at the beautiful and historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Chattanooga. Lectures will be online this year, viewed via a link provided to registrants each week.


Lectures will go live at 6:45 each Wednesday evening of the School.


Online registration opens January 4, 2021. For this year only, due to the pandemic, the Thorne Sparkman School is available to all digital attendees free of charge. If you’d like to make a donation to offset the cost of the School, it would be very welcome. Click here ( AND SELECT “Thorne Sparkman Fund” in the pulldown box.


February 24 – The Rev. Dr. Lauren Winner

The Rev. Dr. Lauren Winner writes and lectures widely on Christian practice, the history of Christianity in America, and Jewish-Christian relations. Former book editor for Beliefnet, she has appeared on PBS's Religion & Ethics Newsweekly and has served as a commentator on NPR's All Things Considered. She has written for The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post Book World, Publishers Weekly, and Christianity Today. Her books include Girl Meets God; Mudhouse Sabbath; A Cheerful and Comfortable Faith; Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis; and Wearing God, a book on overlooked biblical tropes for God.

Winner earned the B.A. from Columbia University, M. Phil. from Clare College, Cambridge, M. Div. from Duke Divinity School, and Ph. D. from Columbia University. Her research has been supported by numerous institutions, including Monticello, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University, and the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University. She was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Dioceses of Virginia in December 2011, and serves as vicar of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Louisburg, NC.

March 3 – The Rev. Kevin Strickland

Prior to being elected Bishop of the Southeastern Synod on June 2, 2019, Bishop Kevin L. Strickland served as the Assistant to the Presiding Bishop, Executive for Worship of the ELCA. He had served in the churchwide office since August of 2014. Born and raised in Lexington, SC, Bishop Strickland is an honors graduate of Newberry College (Newberry, SC) with a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Philosophy and a minor in History. He also obtained a Masters of Divinity from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (Columbia, SC). In December of 2019, Newberry College awarded him a doctorate of divinity.

Bishop Strickland served as pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran, Nashville, TN and St. Paul Lutheran, Maryville, TN prior and has served at Incarnation Lutheran (Columbia, SC), St. Philip’s Lutheran (Newberry, SC), Lutheran Church of Redeemer (Newberry, SC), and Mt. Tabor Lutheran (West Columbia, SC) in the area of youth and family ministry. Bishop Strickland has served on various local and national non-profit boards and has a heart for justice and advocacy ministry. He has also been published in a number of worship and preaching journals and books.

March 10 - Dr. Paul Holloway

Paul Holloway is University Professor of Classics and Ancient Christianity. He teaches courses in both the School of Theology and the College of Arts and Sciences. He has taught at Sewanee since 2009.Prior to coming to Sewanee, he was Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Christian Origins in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies in the University of Glasgow, Scotland. A cultural historian trained in the study of ancient religion, he is especially interested in Jewish and Christian beginnings. His courses include such topics as Jews and Christians in the Greco-Roman world, the origins of anti-Semitism, the letters of the Apostle Paul, religious persecution and martyrdom, the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as readings in the Greek New Testament and other early Jewish and Christian texts.

He is a member of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas and publishes widely on ancient Judaism and Christianity in such journals as Harvard Theological Review, Novum Testamentum, New Testament Studies (Cambridge), Byzantinische Zeitschrift, Early Christianity (Tübingen), and Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft. He has recently published Philippians: A Critical and Historical Commentary for the Hermeneia series. He is currently preparing a commentary on 1 Corinthians for the International Critical Commentary (ICC; Edinburgh).

March 17 - The Rev. Peter Pearson

Peter Pearson, M. Div., Th. D. has studied under nearly a dozen master iconographers and has been painting icons for over fifty years. He has been teaching iconography for more than half that time and has authored three books on the subject. Icons by his hand grace the walls of churches, monasteries, and retreat houses around the world. Peter is an organized and accessible teacher and guide in the history, technique, and theology/spirituality behind these ancient images of faith. He is a published author, having produced three books on the subject of a contemporary approach to traditional Byzantine iconography, and a sought after speaker, instructor, and mentor.

March 24 - The Rev. Jennifer Bailey

Named one of 15 Faith Leaders to Watch by the Center for American Progress, Rev. Jen Bailey (she/her) is an ordained minister, public theologian, and national leader in the multi-faith movement for justice. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Faith Matters Network, a Womanist-led organization equipping community organizers, faith leaders, and activists with resources for connection, spiritual sustainability, and accompaniment. Jen comes to this work with nearly a decade of experience at nonprofits combating intergenerational poverty. Rev. Bailey is an ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and serves locally on the staff of Greater Bethel A.ME. Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

An Ashoka Fellow, Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow, Aspen Ideas Scholar, On Being Fellow and Truman Scholar, Jennifer earned degrees from Tufts University and Vanderbilt University Divinity School where she was awarded the Wilbur F. Tillett Prize for accomplishments in the study of theology. She has written for a number of publications including On Being, Sojourners, Salon, Huffington Post, The Christian Century, and the Lily- a publication of the Washington Post. Rev. Bailey serves on the boards of World Faith, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, and the Healing Trust. She enjoys good food, dancing like no one is watching, and road trip adventures.

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