Rice Family Chair in Spirituality Embraces Dr. Wendy Farley
Rice’s granddaughter, Rev. Hannah Dreitcer, offers a prayer during the installation service on Monday.
As many as 100 people filled Stewart Chapel and Scott Hall at SFTS for a series of October events celebrating the installation of Dr. Wendy Farley as the first occupant of the Rice Family Chair in Spirituality.
“It would be hard to overstate our excitement about Wendy Farley’s joining the SFTS faculty,” says Rev. Dr. Jana Childers, Dean of SFTS. “For years we have been assigning Wendy’s books to our students. Of the many blessings the last couple of years have brought to the seminary, the arrival of Wendy Farley is one of the happiest!”
Farley helped plan the program for her installation, which included an opening concert of Appalachian folk music, a powerful installation service and address, and a panel of scholars with diverse perspectives on spirituality and social justice.
Among those attending was Farley’s predecessor, Dr. Elizabeth Liebert, SNJM, who taught at the seminary for 20 years and laid the foundation of the Program in Christian Spirituality. Also attending were members of the family of the late Howard Rice, in whose honor the chair was created. Rice, who taught at SFTS from 1968 to 1997, was a pioneer in introducing Protestants to spiritual formation practices.
Rev. Scott Clark, Chaplain and Associate Dean of Student Life at SFTS, says the prayer offered by Rice’s granddaughter, Rev. Hannah Dreitcer, a pastor in the St. Louis area, was a highlight of Farley’s installation. Howard Rice’s daughter, Rev. Wendy Rice Dreitcer (now deceased), and her husband Rev. Andrew Dreitcer had made their home at SFTS, making this a heartwarming reunion with Andy and their daughter Hannah once again on campus. “I also was amazed at the beauty of Dr. Farley’s installation address,” Clark says, describing it as “both academically rigorous and poetic.”
The panel discussion on the topic “Spiritual Practices for the Mending of the World” was very timely, Clark adds. “It offered perspectives on what we can do in a world that is torn and hurting.” Farley says the panelists’ diverse backgrounds and interests—from cross-cultural and African American studies to Buddhism, social justice, and other fields—showcased “the richness of spirituality.”
The panelists included Dr. Rachel Harding, Assistant Professor of Indigenous Spiritual Traditions at the University of Colorado; Dr. Brooke Lavelle, co-founder and President of the Courage of Care Coalition; Dr. Sophia Park, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Philosophy at Holy Names University; and Dr. Luther Smith Jr., Professor Emeritus of Church and Community at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.
Farley sums up the celebration experience with her signature modesty and wisdom: “I don’t really think it was about me. It was about the history of the spirituality program at SFTS and the people who supported and developed it. I’m deeply grateful to inherit a program that is so loved and strong and has had such good leadership.”
A leading theologian, Wendy Farley has written extensively on women theologians and mystics, religious dialogue, classical texts, contemporary ethical issues, and contemplative practices.
Her latest work, The Thirst of God: Contemplating God’s Love with Three Women Mystics, is available from Westminster John Knox Press.