Seminary Hosts BookTalk Series

The Seminary's BookTalk Series is hosted by the Center for Writing and Learning Support and Barbour Library.

Upcoming BookTalk Events

Book Launch with Gareth Higgins, Author of How Not To Be Afraid: Seven Ways to Live When Everything Seems Terrifying

Gareth Higgins
June 23, 2022, 7:00 p.m. ET
Online and In Person 

Join Pittsburgh Theological Seminary's Center for Writing and Learning Support, Barbour Library, and the Doctor of Ministry Program for a special BookTalk/BookLaunch with author, storyteller, and activist Gareth Higgins! This BookTalk will include a book signing and reception at the end for those who attend in person.

In an epigraph at the beginning of his new book, How Not To Be Afraid: Seven Ways to Live When Everything Seems Terrifying (Broadleaf Books, 2021), Higgins quotes Rosa Parks, who said, "I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear." Given the overlapping crises of our current context, when fear and anxiety are at a high water mark, Parks's wisdom provides a helpful launching point for Higgins's project to transform his own fear and to help others transform theirs as well. 

Gareth Higgins was born in Belfast during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. He holds a PhD in sociology and lectures widely about storytelling, violence reduction, the power of dreams, and connection with the earth. A frequent collaborator with Kathleen Norris and Brian McLaren, Higgins led a peacebuilding community in Northern Ireland and is a co-founder of the Wild Goose Festival, the New Story Festival, and the Movies & Meaning Festival. He is the editor of The Porch Magazine and is currently teaching in the Doctor of Ministry Program in Creative Writing and Public Theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.  

To register to attend the book launch event in person or virtually contact Holly McKelvey at

A Practical Vision for Congregational Mission with Hunter Farrell and Bala Khyllep

The Rev. Dr. B. Hunter Farrell and the Rev. S. Balajiedlang Khyllep, World Mission Initiative, PTS
May 13, 2022, 4:00 p.m. ET

Join Pittsburgh Theological Seminary's Center for Writing and Learning Support and Barbour Library for our next BookTalk webinar! 

We will be joined by the leaders of the Seminary's World Mission Initiative, B. Hunter Farrell and S. Balajiedlang Khyllep, to discuss their new book Freeing Congregational Mission: A Practical Vision for Companionship, Cultural Humility, and Co-development (IVP Academic, 2022). Written in response to the deepening crisis in mission as practiced by North American congregations, Farrell and Khyllep critique the current consumer-oriented, colonial-minded approach to congregational mission, and they propose ways that church leaders can ground more faithful and effective missions through Christ-centered companionship, cultural humility, and co-development. Pastor David Shields writes in a review that "This book is prophetic. It ruthlessly confronts our current cultural baggage around missions all the while calling us back to Jesus and showing better ways to engage." Our conversation, which will include audience in a Q&A, will engage Farrell and Khyllep's prophetic call for congregations to direct their resources in life-giving ways as they seek the mission of God. 

To register for the webinar or with questions, contact Holly McKelvey at

Previous BookTalk Events

Witches and Mystics in Reformation Scotland

The Rev. Dr. Nancy Hayes Kilgore '83
April 20, 2022

PTS alumna Nancy Hayes Kilgore, an ordained minister, psychotherapist, writing coach, and novelist, discussed her most recent novel, Bitter Magic​ (Milford House, 2021), which is inspired by the true story of the witchcraft trial of Isobel Gowdie, a woman caught up in the height of the witch craze in 17th century Scotland. This BookTalk included a presentation by the author, a reading from the book, and an interview with the author.

The Musical Legacy of Mary Lou Williams: A BookTalk with Deanna Witkowski, Author, Jazz Pianist, and Composer

Deanna Witkowski, Author, Jazz Pianist, and Composer
Friday, March 18, 2022

During this BookTalk event, pianist, composer, and biographer Deanna Witkowski discusses her new book, Mary Lou Williams: Music for the Soul, which offers a fresh and welcome perspective on the life and music of the legendary jazz pianist, composer, and liturgist, Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981). Witkowski also recently released a Williams tribute recording, entitled Force of Nature, on MCG Jazz, the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild label. In telling Williams' fascinating life story in the biography, Witkowski illumines Williams' mantra that "jazz is healing to the soul." This conversation focuses on the ways that Williams' life and faith intertwined in and through her music.

Out with the Old, In with the New: Negotiating Identity, Race, and Place

Dr. Jennifer Kaalund, Associate Professor of New Testament, PTS
Feb. 11, 2022

In the February 2022 BookTALK, Dr. Jennifer Kaalund, associate professor of New Testament at PTS, discussed the African American Great Migration in the early 20th century and the formation of the New Negro, an identity that was associated with the Harlem Renaissance but also part of a larger cultural moment. In addition, Dr. Kaalund placed what we learn from this historical moment into conversation with the book of Hebrews, a text in which a new identity is being negotiated for the people of God. For bibliographic resources on Dr. Kaalund's scholarship and other related materials, please visit Barbour Library's PTS F​aculty BookTalk Series Libguide.

An Interdisciplinary Conversation with Drs. Jerome Creach and Edwin van Driel

The Rev. Dr. Jerome Creach, Robert C. Holland Professor Old Testament, PTS
The Rev. Dr. Ediwn van Driel, Directors' Bicentennial Professor of Theology, PTS
Dec. 10, 2021
The December 2021 BookTalk featured faculty members the Rev. Drs. Jerome Creach and Edwin van Driel, who have recently published books that cross disciplinary lines within the theological fields. Their work offers us the opportunity to have a robust conversation with two well-respected scholars about the fruitful interdisciplinary work that is possible in theology and biblical studies. Watch as Drs. Creach and van Driel talk about their books, Discovering Psalms: Content, Interpretation, Reception and Rethinking Paul: Protestant Theology and Pauline Exegesis, respectively. The LibGuide for this BookTalk may be found at

Beyond the White Fence

Dr. Edith Humphrey, William F. Orr Professor Emerita of New Testament, PTS
Nov. 5, 2021 

Dr. Edith Humphrey, William F. Orr Professor Emerita of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, discusses her recently published first major work of fiction, the children’s book, Beyond the White Fence. Hear about her creative process, the connections between her children’s novel and the Narnia series of C. S. Lewis, and her plans for her course on Lewis in the Doctor of Ministry program in Creative Writing and Public Theology.


Joe Biden and Catholicism in the United States

Massimo Faggioli
March 12, 2021

The United States' election in November 2020 was notable in a variety of ways, not the least of which was the election of a Catholic to serve as president—only the second in our nation's history. Joseph R. Biden's presidency has a striking relevance in this moment of our unfolding national story as we question the nature and meaning of the American project. Who are we as a nation? How do we wrestle with the tensions between our societal diversity and our seeking of the common good? What is the proper relationship between church and state? What's our understanding of the presidency itself?  And what does it mean to be Catholic in a society that launched with a Protestant vision?

Historian and theologian Massimo Faggioli, whose new book Joe Biden and Catholicism in the United States (Bayard, 2021), addressed these questions through the double lens of Joe Biden's place in United States history and the triangular relationship between the U.S. Catholic Church, Vatican, and presidency.

Faggioli's perspective as an interpreter of American Catholicism is unique due to his roots in Italy and is deeply informed by an intense study of the context of Catholicism within the U.S. His book has been called, "a timely, thoughtful, provocative, and necessary book for our moment" by journalist and commentator E. J. Dionne. And Julian Coman, associate editor of The Guardian notes that it is "a must-read for anyone who truly wants to understand Joe Biden." 

Trauma-Informed Yoga: A Toolbox for Therapists

Joanne Spence '18, Spiritual Director, Social Worker, and Yoga Teacher
March 26, 2021

In this time of upheaval and grief, many of us are experiencing emotional, physical, and even spiritual stresses and strains that may surprise us. Some observers have labeled this as a time of trauma for people in American society, noting that many are in looking for ways to heal due to their experiences during the pandemic. Into this space comes the helpful and insightful voice of PTS alumna and Board member Joanne Spence, a spiritual director, social worker, and yoga teacher whose work in addressing trauma and stress through breath and movement has been groundbreaking. Spence's wisdom, conveyed in Trauma-Informed Yoga: A Toolbox for Therapists (PESI, 2021), developed over the last 21 years through her teaching in schools, veteran's groups, churches, hospitals, prisons, the seminary, and even in her own backyard!  Along the way, we discuss the ways in which Spence's theological studies at PTS have informed her approaches to both writing and teaching yoga.