Pre-reunion Workshop: Entering the Waters

Featuring Religion and Culture Remix | July 12, 10 am-2 pm 


Christians pass through the waters of baptism once.  We live immersed in the waters of popular culture.  If ministers want to form young people, they can’t simply embrace popular culture or reject it — they have to help teens think with it, through it, and sometimes against it.

YTI has been wrestling with these issues for 20 years.  Come see what we’ve learned on Friday, July 12.

The workshop begins fast: Religion and Culture Remix is a quick-hitting series of “TED-talk” presentations from some of YTI’s best teachers, including professors at Yale Divinity School and Emory’s Candler School of Theology.   In 12-13 minutes each, they’ll cover teen fiction (like Twilight), reality TV, short-term missions, hip hop culture, communications technology, and the role of popular culture in caring for African American young men.

After breaking to grab box lunches, we’ll reconvene for a question and answer session with the panelists.  After the Q&A session, audience members will divide into smaller break-out groups to discuss how to apply (or adapt) the program’s insights within their own ministries and lives.  We’ll reconvene for a group discussion just before dismissing for the day.

Entering the Waters (Featuring Religion & Culture Remix) should appeal to pastors, youth workers, theologians, educators, and anyone interested in the intersection of religion and culture.  We also encourage youth ministers to bring interested members of their youth groups.

Entering the Waters is not included in the YTI 20th anniversary weekend, which begins at 6:30 pm the same day.  However, we enthusiastically invite alumni to come early and attend the workshop!

The workshop costs $10 per person, which covers lunch.  Please be aware that it will cost $12 to park – it may be worthwhile to carpool.  A map showing  the Peavine parking lot and the Candler School of Theology is available here.  Driving directions are available at the Emory University visitor’s website.

  • Are you an alum who wants to register for BOTH “Entering the Waters: and the YTI 20th anniversary reunion? Click here.
  • Are you a minister, educator, theologian, or other interested person interested in registering ONLY for “Entering the Waters?   Click here.

Want more information?  Read on.


10:00        Religion and Culture Remix TED talks

11:45:        Break for lunch

12:10         Q&A with panelists

12:30:        Break out groups

1:00:          Reconvene in full group

1:30:          Wrap-up Activities


Religion and Culture Remix:  The Line-Up

faculty_ellisonDr. Gregory Ellison: “Cut Dead but Still Alive:  Popular Culture and the Care of Invisible Youth”

Dr. Ellison is assistant professor of pastoral care and counseling at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.  His talk will draw from his new book, Cut Dead but Still Alive: Caring for African American Young Men (Abingdon) and the five-city empowerment tour that has grown from it.  The book is based on his years of counseling youth and his work with young men transitioning out of correctional facilities. He is an ordained Baptist minister and has served on the ministerial staffs at United Methodist and Presbyterian churches.

Jessica M. Smith: “Popular Young Adult Fiction: The Stories They Tell About Us”

jessie2A constructive theologian with a passion for literature, film, and media, Jessica Smith has spent two summers teaching YTI scholars how young adult fiction – from Twilight  to The Hunger Games – can serve as raw material for thinking about theological questions, as well as reveal the distinctiveness of the Christian story.  Her dissertation considers the varied and complex relations between the angel and the marginalized human life as a lens through which to develop a theology of freedom.

wright-almedaDr. Almeda Wright:  “Reality TV, Religion, and Performances of Gender”

This fall, Dr. Almeda Wright will join the faculty of Yale Divinity School, where she will serve as assistant professor of religious education.  An ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches, Wright is also co-editor of the book Children, Youth, and Spirituality in a Troubling World.   While earning her Ph.D. at Emory, Wright served as YTI’s assistant director from 2007-2009, and in other staff positions from 2005-2006.  Her research focuses on African American religion, adolescent spiritual development and the intersections of religion and public life.  Read more about Almeda here.

Liza VertinskyEmory University School of LawLetitia Campbell:  “Travel, Short Term Missions and Youth Ministry”

A former journalist and Rhodes Scholar, Letitia Campbell spent three summers coordinating YTI’s “Faith, Ethics, and the City” program.   This innovative program mixed classroom instruction with hands-on excursions to sites throughout Atlanta, using both activities to spark theological reflection.  Campbell’s dissertation focuses on Christian short-term missions to developing countries.

JeffersonSmallMark Jefferson:  “Christian Faith and Hip Hop Culture”

Mark Jefferson is an ordained Baptist minister, a former college football player, and a Ph.D. candidate in Emory University’s Graduate Division of Religion.  His research focuses on the intersection of contemporary preaching and hip hop culture.  He has taught on theology and hip hop at YTI and coached young preachers at the Academy of Preachers summer camp.

Brian Campbell:  “Justice and Mindfulness in a High-Tech World”

CampbellBrianheadshotBrian Campbell teaches and researches at the intersection of religion and environmentalism. A Ph.D. candidate in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion, his dissertation is titled “Alone in America: Solitude, Nature, and the Sacred from Walden to the World Wide Web.”  His presentation will explore environmental justice issues built into the technologies young people use everyday, as well as how youth — like adults — are spiritually formed by popular technologies.

Want to register for the 20th anniversary reunion AND the “Entering the Waters” workshop?  Click here.

Want to register you, your friends, or your youth group members for ONLY “Entering the Waters”  Click here.

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