April 12, 2017

Dear APT Membership,

Spring greetings to you all! Where I am, in Connecticut, we are just beginning to enjoy an inkling of spring, so I title this the “spring letter” in optimism and hope. I hope this letter finds you well wherever you may be. The main purpose of my writing to you is to keep you informed about what is going on in our association, particularly concerning upcoming events and other current APT business. To get that started, let me shout out two “save the date” notices:

  • APT at AAR: November 18-21, 2017, Boston, MA. Theme: “Practical Theology, Bodily (Im)proprieties, Mobilizing Resistance.”


  • APT Biennial Meeting, April 13-15, 2018, Yale University Divinity School, New Haven, CT. Theme: “Making Justice: Practical Theology, the Arts, and Transformation.” Information about paper proposals, conference registration, and housing will be available in the fall.

More detailed descriptions of the themes can be found at the end of this letter.

Looking back: As you know, 2016 was a terrific year for the APT. Tom Beaudoin, who remains on our Executive Committee as past-president, led us in a fabulous biennial conference at Fordham University in New York City, on the theme of practical theology and migration. We enjoyed a special tour of the United Nations and a visit to a tattoo and graffiti parlor, along with our own rich paper sessions, plenary sessions, and panels. And our November 2016 session at the American Academy of Religion meeting in San Antonio was one of our most well-attended ever, featuring a panel discussion among authors of Conundrums in Practical Theology, a new volume in Brill’s series on “Theology in Practice.” (Thanks again to Brill for hosting coffee and treats for our session to celebrate the series!)

Looking ahead: Since our last meeting, members of your executive committee have been engaged in a variety of efforts for the association. In particular, I draw your attention to our Facebook page where communications chairperson Marc Lavallee has created a series of “spotlights” on particular APT members. It’s a fun way to get to know more about our membership and one another’s work, so if you haven’t been visiting the page regularly, I encourage you to do so!  Our web site currently includes postings of a variety of job openings.  John Falcone, our secretary-treasurer, has been actively managing matters of membership and funds. Program chair Mai-Anh Tran, president-elect Evelyn Parker, and past-president Tom Beaudoin, along with our two at-large members Mary McClintock Fulkerson and Phillis Sheppard all have been assisting me in developing themes and beginning to plan our upcoming meetings. We all value your input, so please feel free to contact anyone on the Executive Committee.

I close out this letter with full descriptions, below, of our 2017 APT session at the AAR, and the 2018 Biennial. I hope you have these meetings in your calendar and can plan to join us there!


Warm regards,

Joyce Ann Mercer, President

The Association of Practical Theology


Theme Descriptions:

  1. APT at AAR 2017:

The 2017 meeting of the APT at AAR will take place during the American Academy of Religion meeting which is Nov. 18-21, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts. (The specific day and time of our meeting will be posted on our website and Facebook page as soon as we get that information from the AAR staff.) This year’s session will feature a panel conversation on the topic of

Theme: “Practical Theology, Bodily (Im)proprieties, Mobilizing Resistance.”

Session Description:

Practical theology’s expansive body of knowledge presents opportunities for proprietary inquiry:

  • Who owns, controls, manages, regulates, or dictates bodies and knowledge?
  • What is the interplay between body and knowledge, and how does one animate the other?
  • What is the place of body, bodily knowing, and bodily knowledge in practical theological research?
  • How does practical theology investigate the regulations of propriety in the realms of theory and practice—the regimentation of embodied scholarship and the habituation of bodily practices according to dominant templates and choreographies of “norm” and “other”?
  • How does the above investigation attend to the complicatedness of “the body” and of embodiment, taking seriously complex bodily expressions—children as more than non-adult bodies; lesbian bodies; transitioning bodies; disabling bodies (bodies who challenge and dismantle normative assumptions about bodies and abilities); the presence/action/protesting of ill and dying bodies (e.g., ACT UP during early AIDS activism); racial and sexual bi-bodies….
  • How have bodies and knowledge been engaged as mobilizing sources and mediums for resistance—from resistant knowing to resistant action?

This session presents panelists who will help to catalyze collective musings on the above question. The panelists are:

Nancy Lynne Westfield, Drew Theological School

Lakisha Lockhart, STREAM Youth Theology Institute, Virginia Union University

Faustino Cruz, School of Theology and Ministry, Seattle University

Cláudio Carvalhaes, Union Theological Seminary

Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Duke Divinity School, will preside over the session, and John Falcone will serve as discussion facilitator.


  1. The 2018 APT Biennial Meeting:


The 2018 Biennial Meeting of APT will be held April 13-15, 2018 at Yale University Divinity School, New Haven, CT.

Theme: “Making Justice: Practical Theology, the Arts, and Transformation.”

Session Description:

The arts have the power to change the way we view reality. The noted philosopher of education, Maxine Greene, considered art an act of “social imagination” that awakens social consciousness by allowing people to “see things as if they could be otherwise.” How are practical theologians engaging the arts, particularly in relation to the work of challenging injustice and envisioning personal and social transformation? What other kinds of change can practical theological engagement with arts generate? The 2018 theme for the Association of Practical Theology’s Biennial Meeting, Making Justice: Practical Theology, the Arts, and Transformation, invites explorations of practical theological aesthetics and the work of performing justice through practical theology’s engagement with the arts, including explorations of the role that justice invites and demands in such engagements.

Recent scenes of public protest in the US, from Ferguson to Standing Rock, have reawakened the performance of protest art and the use of the arts to challenge oppressive systems. For instance, the events of Ferguson gave rise to powerful creative responses from such groups as Artivists STL, Painting for Peace, and the documentary film Whose Streets? which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Scholars of music, long recognizing music’s crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century, lift up contemporary rappers and spoken word artists as similarly giving voice to 21st century movements toward racial justice. Drama and dance based groups create opportunities for personal transformation as well as working for social justice, in forms such as Theatre of the Oppressed and InterPlay. Music, performance arts, poetics, and material art forms all can give expression to what is otherwise ineffable, offering alternative languages for meanings that refuse more typical forms of narrativity. The intersections between art and practical theology show up in spaces such as the relatively new discourse on “theopoetics,” and in academic spaces such as religion and literature programs.

Recent practical theological writings also give renewed attention to the arts in intersection with practical theology. Illman and Smith (2013) speak of the arts as having a particular kind of wisdom, offering examples of communities’ arts-based practices of as key sites where practical theology is enacted. Graham and Poling (2000) name art as “resistance to evil.” In this conference, we invite exploration of the intersections between practical theological reflection and art in its varied forms—music, film, poetics, performance arts such as dance and theater, material art forms such as painting, murals, sculpture, and art installations. In what sense might practical theology itself be art that includes performance, rhetoric, and aesthetics? Topics might include practical theological engagement with the following: the arts and anti-racism; populist art forms (graffiti, “street theater,” spoken word) as practical theology; contemporary sound tracks of justice movements; art, worship, and justice; the poetics of protest; the politics of art in urban public spaces; practical theology at the cinema; music in contemporary “worship wars”; photographing/ sculpting/ painting transformation; religious art in new faith communities; practical theology as art;  the arts transforming practical theology.