Educating imaginative, resilient leaders for God's changing world.

Kathleen A. Cahalan to Present 2014 Smyth Lectures


Distinguished scholar Dr. Kathleen A. Cahalan of Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary and Director of the Collegeville Institute Seminars will present the Smyth Lectures at Columbia Theological Seminary on October 28-30, 2014. The series of three lectures will be offered free to the public each day in the Harrington Center Chapel on the seminary campus located at 701 S. Columbia Drive, Decatur, GA.  

Dr. Cahalan has contributed to several books and numerous articles. Recently, she co-edited Opening the Field of Practical Theology with Gordon Mikoski. In 2005 she was recognized with a second place book award from the Catholic Press Association for her work Formed in the Image of Christ: The Sacramental-Moral Theology of Bernard Haring.

During 2006-2008, Dr. Cahalan was the President of the Association of Practical Theology. She currently serves on advisory boards for the Candler School of Theology and the Wabash Center for the Teaching and Learning of Theology and Religion.  

Details of the lectures are as follows:

Tuesday, 7pm: Called to Profess: Why Vocation Matters in the Work We Do

Why is it crucial for churches to emphasize a sense of calling as it relates to a “professional spirit” in the workplace? Over the past four years pastors and scholars in the Collegeville Institute Seminar on Vocation and Faith in the Professions have been engaging people in congregations about the meaning of vocation and how it relates to their life and work. Most people, we have found, lack an understanding of calling in their lives, they have a limited notion of professions as work that serves the common good, and they rarely connect the two. But for those who do, their work is alive with meaning and purpose. Yet vocation remains largely unexamined in congregational life. How can we reframe vocation theologically and why does it matter that we link our callings to the promise to work for the good of our communities?

Wednesday, 12 noon: Toward Practical Wisdom: Integrative Teaching and Learning in Theological Education

Learning ministry requires an integrative trajectory over time, beginning as a novice and becoming a competent, possibly, an expert practitioner. How can theological educators design learning experiences that better facilitate the integration of knowledge, skill, moral integrity, and vocation in order that students become competent and wise practitioners? How can theological education foster embodied, contextual, conceptual, emotional, critical and creative knowing that eventuates in practical wisdom—knowing what to do, how to do it, and why in the concrete particular situations of ministry?

Thursday, 12 noon: Spiritual Practice for the Sake of Practical Wisdom: On Discernment, Humility, and Unknowing

For Aristotle, practical wisdom is the chief virtue because it guides our decision-making in the concrete particularities of everyday life. Today this understanding of practical wisdom is gaining much attention in professional education, including theological education. From a Christian perspective, however, there is more to practical wisdom. This lecture will explore how early Christians, those who moved into the desert, developed spiritual practices that combined Aristotle’s phronesis with two central Christian virtues—discernment and humility. In addition, they experienced the transformative power of “unknowing,” a kind of knowledge of God and self that emerged through spiritual practice over time. How can we develop spiritual practices that embrace phronesis and nurtures discernment, humility, and unknowing that lead to practical wisdom in the Christian life?  

The Smyth Lectures were established at Columbia Seminary in 1911 by the bequest of the Rev. Thomas Smyth, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The aim was to establish “a course of lectures on the fundamental principles of the Christian faith.”  The Smyth Lectures are presented to the seminary community each year and are open to all ministers, lay people and members of the community who wish to attend.

Columbia Theological Seminary is committed to "educating imaginative, resilient leaders for God's changing world." As an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Columbia is a community of theological inquiry and formation for ministry in the service of the Church of Jesus Christ. Columbia offers seven graduate degree programs and dozens courses and events as a resource for church professionals and lay people through the Center for Lifelong Learning courses and events. For more information, please visit

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