Meet the presenters

Series moderator

Thomas G. Long is Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. His introductory homiletics textbook, The Witness of Preaching, has been translated into a number of languages and is widely used in theological schools around the world. In 2010, Preaching magazine named it one of the 25 most influential books in preaching for the last 25 years. Dr. Long gave the distinguished Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale, which were published in his 2009 book Preaching from Memory to Hope. Dr. Long is also deeply interested in biblical studies, practical theology, and liturgy. His books on the Christian funeral, Accompany Them with Singing and The Good Funeral (co-authored with noted poet and funeral director Thomas Lynch), have generated interest both in the academy and the media. Another book, What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith, addresses the issue of innocent suffering and the goodness of God, and was selected as Book of the Year for 2011 by the Academy of Parish Clergy. An ordained minister int he Presbyterian Church (USA), Dr. Long served as the senior homiletics editor of The New Interpreter’s Bible, and he is associate editor of Journal for Preachers and editor-at-large for the Christian Century. Emory University awarded him the Emory Williams Award for teaching excellence in 2011.


James Abbington is Associate Professor of Church Music and Worship at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, GA. His research interests include music and worship in the Christian church, African American sacred folk music, organ, choral music, and ethnomusicology. He serves as executive editor of the African American Church Music Series for GIA Publications (Chicago) and has produced numerous recordings for the publisher as well. One of the nation’s most respected choir directors, musicians and authors, Dr. Abbington is a popular speaker, performer and conductor at universities, conferences, symposiums and churches around the world. From 2000 to 2010, he served as co-director of music for the Hampton University Ministers’ and Musicians’ Conference, and as the national director of music for both the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the NAACP. In 2010, Hampton’s Choir Directors and Organists Guild honored Abbington by naming their Church Music Academy after him, and in 2015, he became the second African American to be named a Fellow of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.

Remi Chiu, associate professor and music program director at Loyola University, is a musicologist specializing in Renaissance music and the history of medicine. He is the author of Plague and Music in the Renaissance (Cambridge University Press, 2017)—which examines the role of music and music-making in the medical, spiritual, and civic strategies for combating pestilence—and the editor of a companion volume of Renaissance polyphony, Songs in Times of Plague (A-R Editions, 2020). His research into the music of past epidemics has yielded some unexpected insights into music-making under COVID-19, some of which have been featured in the press (The Guardian, NPR, among others). An article on the topic, “Functions of Music Making Under Lockdown: A Trans-Historical Perspective Across Two Pandemics,” was published in Frontiers of Psychology in 2020. Dr. Chiu’s latest research focuses on the role of music in popular (quasi-) scientific entertainments at the turn of the twentieth century, such as the medicine show and the freakshow.

Dawn DeVries is J.N. Thomas Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA. Dr. DeVries holds a master of arts in religious studies and a Ph.D. in historical theology from the University of Chicago Divinity School.  She has taught historical and systematic theology at Union Presbyterian Seminary for twenty-six years, and prior to that served on the faculties of San Francisco Theological Seminary and McCormick Theological Seminary.  Her scholarship focuses on theology in the Reformed tradition.  She is the author of Jesus Christ in the Preaching of Calvin and Schleiermacher, and the editor and translator of Servant of the Word:  Selected Sermons of Friedrich Scheiermacher.  She was a delegate for the World Reformed Communion (previously the World Alliance of Reformed Churches) to the international bi-lateral dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox church.  She also represented the Presbyterian Church (USA) at the Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order, and at the Eighth Assembly of the World Conference of Churches.  In recent years, her work as a caregiver for an ailing spouse has led her to reflect more deeply about human finitude and the challenges of aging with grace and faith.  She is delighted to be part of this webinar.

Vanessa Harding is Professor of London History, Birkbeck University of London, where her research and writing focus on the social history of early modern London, c. 1500-1700, and especially on family and household, the environment, health and disease, and death and burial. Her interest in the latter was sparked by a visit to an archaeological excavation of a crowded and disorderly early-modern burial ground, leading to a comparative investigation of the impact of high mortality rates on urban culture, civic government, and the material environment, within the context of changing beliefs about the afterlife as a result of the Reformation. Her book, The dead and the living in Paris and London, 1500-1670, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2002. She has published articles on fear of death, deathbeds, and burial practices in the medieval and early modern periods. Recent events have sharpened an interest in plague, which ravaged Europe between the mid-fourteenth and the late seventeenth centuries. Plague epidemics are the most dramatic and best-studied aspect of this phenomenon, and much attention has been paid to the last major outbreak of c. 1664-7, but the disease also lurked in endemic form for much of the period, especially in cities. Plague shaped people’s perspectives on death and their beliefs about providence and judgment, as well as their ideas about the role of government in environmental regulation, quarantine, and welfare. Professor Harding’s articles on “Plague in early modern London: chronologies, localities, environments” (2018) and “Reading plague in early modern London” (2019) contribute to this theme.

Jennifer L. Hollis is a writer, music-thanatologist and the project director of Harps of Comfort, an organization that began in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Harps of Comfort provides live, remote music to isolated patients; those with COVID-19 and other serious illness; patients nearing the end of life; and their loved ones and caregivers. Hollis is the author of Music at the End of Life: Easing the Pain and Preparing the Passage (Praeger) and a contributor to Religion and Healing in America (University of Oxford Press). She researched and prepared an issue brief for The Pew Charitable Trusts and her essays have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Harvard Review, and other publications. For more than twenty years, she has been a certified music-thanatologist, offering harp music and singing to accompany dying patients in Montana, Oregon, Chicago, and Boston and she is the former president of the Music-Thanatology Association International. She has a degree in child development from Connecticut College and a master of divinity from Harvard Divinity School, where, once upon a time, she was the assistant director of admissions. She lives outside Boston with her family.

John Horan is a life-long resident of Denver.  He is a graduate of the University of Colorado with a B.S. in business and received an A.S. from the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science. He is a Certified Funeral Service Practitioner from the Academy of Professional Funeral Practice and a Certified Mortuary Science Professional from the Colorado Funeral Service Board.  John formed Horan & McConaty in 1986, adding numerous other affiliates in the years that followed. The company grew to become the largest independent in the Rocky Mountain Region and one of Colorado’s Top 50 family-owned companies, as designated by ColoradoBiz Magazine. In 2011, John was named CEO of the Year in Colorado. Together with Jennifer McBride, John founded The HeartLight Center, providing support to grieving people throughout Colorado, and now expanding to other cities in the U.S. Now semi-retired, John served in numerous leadership capacities for national associations in his field and retired as chairman of The Denver Hospice after sixteen years.  He continues to be involved in leadership and philanthropy for Selian Hospice in Arusha, Tanzania and serves as chair of the National Lao-Hmong Memorial Foundation.

Michael L. Lewis is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso and is currently parochial vicar of Saint Mark’s Catholic Church in his hometown of El Paso, Texas. Over the last year, as part of the diocese’s COVID-19 ministry team, he has ministered to hundreds of patients and their families directly impacted by the pandemic, as well as to thousands more in the Borderland region, one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus. Previously a journalist for newspapers in Texas and Florida, and later for the U.S. Army, Fr. Mike received a licentiate in sacred theology degree and a master’s in divinity degree from The Liturgical Institute at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois; studied theology at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana; and received a bachelor’s degree in theology and philosophy from Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida. He is a board member of the Southwest Liturgical Conference, and active in the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions.

Jennifer McBride, M.A., F.T., D.M., served at Horan & McConaty Funeral Service as director of grief support and community education from 1996 until her recent semi-retirement. She is a deacon of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America serving the Rocky Mountain Synod in her call at Horan & McConaty. She holds a naster’s in pastoral ministry from St. Thomas Theological Seminary and is a Fellow in Thanatology of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Working together with John Horan and his mother, Valerie Horan, a vision was followed in 1998 and in 2003 Heartlight Center, a not-for-profit organization offering grief support groups and programs in Denver Colorado, began its work caring for grieving people. HeartLight Center now offers twelve different groups every month and is beginning to grow to other cities .  Heartlight also offers a four-week grief education and support program called “Facing the Mourning” and is designed to be facilitated locally within congregations and communities. Participants are supported in building memorials, writing letters, journaling and setting goals with milestones.

Kevin Park immigrated to Toronto, Canada, from Seoul, Korea just before turning ten years old. After graduating from the University of Toronto he earned his M.Div. from Knox College. He completed his Ph.D. in systematic theology at Princeton Theological Seminary in 2002. Kevin served in various church youth, college, and young adult groups in Canada and the U.S. He was an adjunct professor of theology at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Jersey, and he was the assistant director of the Asian American Program at Princeton Theological Seminary. For five years he was the pastor of Bethany Presbyterian Church, a multicultural community in Bloomfield, New Jersey. He also served as an associate for theology at the Office of Theology and Worship at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, KY. He was the associate dean for advanced professional studies and assistant professor of theology at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. Presently, Kevin serves as the English ministry pastor and Christian educator at the Atlanta Korean Central Presbyterian Church. Kevin is married to Irene Yang and they have three daughters: Jubilee, Emily, and Natalie.

Markus Rathey is professor in the practice of music history at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and School of Music, where he teaches courses on various historical periods as well as interdisciplinary courses on music and theology at Yale Divinity School. He is a specialist in the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, 17th and 18th century music, and the relationship between music, religion, and politics during the Enlightenment. Professor Rathey studied musicology, Protestant theology, and German in Bethel and Münster. He taught at the University of Mainz and the University of Leipzig and was a research fellow at the Bach-Archiv, Leipzig, before joining the Yale faculty in 2003. He published two books on Bach in 2016 that explore some of the composer’s most important works: Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio: Music, Theology, Culture (Oxford University Press); and Bach’s Major Vocal Works (Yale University Press).

James M. Starke, Ph.D., currently serves as the director of the Office of Divine Worship for the Diocese of Arlington (VA) and lecturer at The Catholic University of America (D.C.). In July 2021 he will begin as assistant professor of systematics and director of liturgy at St. Mary’s Seminary and University (MD). After receiving a bachelor of science in physics from Saint Louis University (MO) in 2011, he moved to Washington, D.C. for graduate studies and received a doctorate of philosophy in liturgical studies and sacramental theology from The Catholic University of America in 2018. His recent contributions to scholarship include studies on liturgical tradition and the dedication of a church, as well as work on the pontificate of Pope Francis, ecology and the environment, and the coronavirus pandemic as these relate to the contemporary celebration of liturgy and theological reflection on it. His ministry to the Church includes serving as a censor deputatus, chair of the diocesan liturgical commission, member of the diocesan building commission and golden jubilee commission, and member of the national board of directors of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions.

Khalia J. Williams serves as associate dean of worship and music and as associate professor in the practice of worship at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. As an ordained minister and liturgical artist, Rev. Williams is sought after for her worship leadership, her vision for integrating worship and the arts, and her expertise in the areas of justice, worship and diversity. She is a co-author of A Worship Workbook: A Practical Guide for Extraordinary Liturgy (Abingdon Press, 2021), as well as a number of articles. Rev. Wiliams is married to Rev. Dr. Damon P. Williams, senior pastor of the historic Providence Missionary Baptist Church, and the proud mother of two sons. She mentors young women across the country and is driven by her passion to empower God’s people to reach their full potential in Christ.