Rodney and Lorna Sawatsky Visiting Scholar

About the Sawatsky Lectures

The Rodney and Lorna Sawatsky Visiting Scholar Lecture was established in 2004 to honour Rodney’s tenure and Lorna’s involvement at Conrad Grebel University College.

Dr. Rodney Sawatsky joined the faculty of Conrad Grebel in 1974, teaching in the areas of History, Religious Studies, Mennonite Studies, and Peace and Conflict Studies. He served the college as Academic Dean from 1974-89 and as President from 1989-94.

Sawatsky provided inspiration and impetus for the development of the College’s graduate program in Theological Studies. As Dean and then President he significantly shaped the strong faculty that defined Grebel’s distinctive academic profile for more than three decades.

Rodney and his wife Lorna were key figures at Conrad Grebel, the University of Waterloo, and in the local community. Since Rodney’s death in 2004, Lorna has continued to support and advocate for causes that were important to them both.

In keeping with Rodney Sawatsky’s own academic interests, the Sawatsky Visiting Scholar is awarded to renowned scholars, practitioners and performers — representing a wide range of academic and creative disciplines — who bring their expertise to the Grebel community.

Contributions to the endowment fund that supports the Sawatsky Visiting Scholar are welcome. See Director of Advancement, Fred W. Martin.

Thursday, February 29, 2024 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm EST (GMT -05:00)

Sawatsky Lecture - Rev. Dr. Ray Aldred

Is Reconciliation Possible?

The 2024 Rodney and Lorna Sawatsky Visiting Scholar is Rev. Dr. Ray Aldred, director of the Indigenous Studies program at the Vancouver School of Theology.

Past lectures

Rev. Dr. Ray Aldred (2024)

Remote video URL

Sawatsky Lecture - Rev. Dr. Ray Aldred

Is Reconciliation Possible?

How do you find reconciliation when justice is so far away? For individuals who have experienced oppression and marginalization, the church’s advocacy of reconciliation can seem artificial or contrived. How do you continue to advocate for reconciliation if it means that you will never see justice for the ones you have lost? Perhaps the only way forward is to listen to our elders, to the call from those who have suffered and are surviving, to seek reconciliation. Perhaps we need to seek the truth, but in the end, embrace reconciliation and try to live together as neighbours. Reconciliation is not cheap grace, it cost something.

Reverend Doctor Ray Aldred is Director of the Indigenous Studies Program at the Vancouver School of Theology, whose mission is to partner with the Indigenous Church around theological education. He was first ordained with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada and is now ordained with the Anglican Church of Canada. A husband, father, and grandfather, Ray is Cree from Treaty 8, born in Northern Alberta, and now lives in Richmond, BC.

Read more about Dr. Aldred (Vancouver School of Theology).

Dr. Darla Schumm (2023)

Lecture recording

2023 Sawatsky Lecture

The 2023 Rodney and Lorna Sawatsky Visiting Lecturer was Darla Schumm, associate provost and Professor of religious studies at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

The Power of Misfitting: Disrupting Sinner, Saint, and Super Crip Controlling Images

Using Patricia Hill Collins’ delineation of “controlling images,” Darla Schumm identifies three of the most prevalent controlling images religious communities ascribe to people with disabilities. She argues that the sinner, saint, and super-crip controlling images produce, reinforce, and perpetuate the ideological justification-whether intentionally or unintentionally- for designating people with disabilities as the inferior other within their religious communities. Schumm ultimately offers Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s conception of misfitting as a deliciously disruptive controlling image as well as an avenue for reorienting our thinking about disability more generally, and for complicating the sinner, saint, and super-crip controlling images in particular.


Darla Schumm is the associate provost and professor of religious studies at Hollins University—a small liberal arts college for female-identified students located in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Roanoke, Virginia. Darla received her B.A. in interdisciplinary studies with concentrations in history, psychology, and women’s studies from Goshen College, her M.A. in social ethics from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA, and her Ph.D. in religion, ethics, and society from Vanderbilt University. Schumm’s current research focuses on intersections between religious studies and disability studies. She is the coeditor of four books, most recently Disability and World Religions: An Introduction (Baylor University Press, 2016), as well as the author of numerous articles and opinion pieces. Darla is working on a monograph tentatively titled: Accessible Love: The Work of Transformational Disability Justice.

Dr. Regina Shands Stoltzfus (2022)

2022 Sawatsky Visiting Scholar: Dr. Regina Shands Stoltzfus

Resistance Strategies: Equipping Ourselves and Our Communities for Long Term Justice Work

"The work of building a more just world includes acknowledging the world that is, and that was. This knowledge can be overwhelming, especially for people with marginalized identities. This talk will reflect on strategies from past and current movements, as well as how my own teaching has changed."

About Dr. Regina Shands Stoltzfus


Dr. Regina Shands Stoltzfus began teaching at Goshen College in 2002 and teaches courses in race, class and ethnic relations; personal violence and healing; peacemaking; women and gender studies; biblical studies; and transforming conflict and violence. She attended Goshen College and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Cleveland State University in 1988. In 2001, she earned a master’s degree in biblical studies from Ashland Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in theology, ethics and contemporary culture from Chicago Theological Seminary.

Shands Stoltzfus previously served as an associate pastor at Lee Heights Community Church in Cleveland, Ohio, as campus pastor at Goshen College, as minister of urban ministries with Mennonite Mission Network, as staff associate for urban peacemaking with Mennonite Conciliation Service and as director of admissions at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. She is a co-founder of the Damascus Road anti-racism education program, now called Roots of Justice Anti-Oppression program, and regularly leads anti-racism workshops. She serves on the steering committee for the Women in Leadership Project and on the Panel on Sexual Abuse Prevention with Mennonite Church USA. She co-authored the book “Set Free: A Journey Toward Solidarity Against Racism” (Herald Press, 2001). She is an active writer for The Mennonite, Sojourners and other print and online publications.

In 2016, Shands Stoltzfus was awarded the State of Indiana Civil Rights Commission’s (ICRC) Spirit of Justice Award, the commission’s highest honor.


Public lecture: "Resistance Strategies: Equipping Ourselves and Our Communities for Long Term Justice Work"

Date: Thursday, March 24, 2022

Remote video URL

Dr. Ysaÿe M. Barnwell (2019)

Dr. Ysaÿe Barnwell

Ysaÿe M. Barnwell, PhD, MSPH, is a commissioned composer, arranger, author, actress and former member of the African American female a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey In The Rock. She is a vocalist with a range of over three octaves and appears on more than twenty-five recordings with Sweet Honey as well as other artists. Trained as a violinist for 15 years beginning at the age of 2 1/2, she holds degrees in speech pathology (BS, MSEd), cranio-facial studies (PhD), and public health (MSPH). She was a professor at Howard University College of Dentistry for over a decade, and over the following 8 years developed training programs in Child Protection at Children’s Hospital National Medical Center, and administered community-based health programs at Gallaudet University, all in Washington DC. For almost thirty years, and on three continents, Barnwell has led the workshop Building a Vocal Community - Singing In the African American Tradition, which utilizes oral tradition, an African world view and African American history, values, cultural and vocal traditions to build communities of song among singers and non-singers alike. Her pedagogy is highly respected among musicians, educators, health workers, activists, organizers, and members of the corporate and non-profit sectors.


Public Lecture
The Power of Music to Create Inclusive Communities 
Date: Friday, March 8, 2019

Community Workshop
Building a Vocal Community: The Power of Song in Community
Date: Saturday, March, 9, 2019

Don E. Saliers (2018)

About Don E. Saliers

Don Saliers

Dr. Don E. Saliers is a Theologian-in-Residence at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia. For many years he directed the Master of Sacred Music program at Emory, and was an organist and choirmaster at Cannon Chapel for 35 years. Before joining the Candler faculty in 1974, Saliers taught at Yale Divinity School, and has taught in summer programs at Notre Dame, Boston College, Vancouver School of Theology, St. John’s University, and Boston University School of Theology.

An accomplished musician, theologian and scholar of liturgics, Saliers is the author of 15 books on the relationship between theology and worship practices, as well as more than 150 articles, essays, chapters in books and book reviews. He co-authored A Song to Sing, a Life to Live with his daughter Emily Saliers, a member of the Indigo Girls.

Saliers sits on the editorial board of Worship, Weavings, and Spiritus journals, and is involved in the development of United Methodist worship resources. He has served as president of the North American Academy of Liturgy and the Society for the Study of Christian Religion, and helped found the Academy for Spiritual Formation.


Public lecture: "Psalms in a Difficult Time: the Rhythms of Doxology and Lament"

Date: Thursday, February 15, 2018

Remote video URL

Mary Jo Leddy (2017)

About Mary Jo Leddy

Dr. Mary Jo Leddy.

Dr. Mary Jo Leddy is a writer, theologian, and social activist well known for her work with refugees, including as founder and director of Romero House in Toronto. She is author of The Other Face of God: When the Stranger Calls Us Home (2011) and Our Friendly Local Terrorist (2010), among many other publications. Leddy is an adjunct professor at Regis College, and an Honorary Fellow at the University of St. Michael’s College, both at University of Toronto.


Public lecture: "Room Enough for Hope: Canada’s Response to the Refugee Crisis "

Date: Friday, March 3, 2017

Remote video URL

Sir James MacMillan (2016)

About Sir James MacMillan

Scotland's most celebrated composer, Sir James MacMillan was the 2016 Rodney and Lorna Sawatsky Visiting Scholar. His musical language is flooded with influences from his Scottish heritage, Catholic faith, social conscience and close connection with Celtic folk music, blended with influences from Far Eastern, Scandinavian and Eastern European music.


Public Lecture:"The Spiritual in Music"

Date: Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Remote video URL

Robert Johnston (2015)

About Robert Johnston


Dr. Robert Johnston is Professor of Theology and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.

Robert Johnston is professor of theology and culture at Fuller Seminary. He is a pioneer in theology and film and the church and the entertainment industry. The author or editor of 15 books, Johnston has published in a variety of fields, including theology, selected Old Testament topics, evangelical theology, theology and film, and theology and culture. His recent books include Useless Beauty (2004), Finding God in the Movies (co-written with Catherine Barsotti, 2004), Life Is Not Work/Work Is Not Life (co-written with J. Walker Smith, 2001), and Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue (2000, 2nd ed. 2006). He is editor of Reframing Theology and Film: New Focus for an Emerging Discipline (Baker Academic, 2007), the co-editor of Don’t Stop Believin’, an Old Testament general editor of the Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Baker), and co-editor of both the Engaging Culture and the Exegeting Culture series for Baker Academic, as well as the Religion and Film series for Routledge. A past president of the American Theological Society and the recipient of two major research grants from the Luce Foundation, Johnston is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church. He is married to Catherine Barsotti, has two grown daughters, and likes the beach. 


Public Lecture: "If you have Eyes to See": God's "Presence" at the Movies

Date: Thursday, February 5, 2015

Remote video URL

Carol Muller (2014)

About Carol Muller

Carol Muller is a Professor of Music (ethnomusicology) at the University of Pennsylvania, who has published widely on South African music, both at home and in exile. Her intellectual interests include the relationship between music, gender and religious studies, migration and Diaspora studies, and critical ethnography. Musical Echoes: South African Women Thinking in Jazz (Duke Fall 2011) with Sathima Bea Benjamin; Shembe Hymns (Univ. of KwaZulu Natal 2010); Focus: South African Music (Routledge 2008); Rituals of Fertility and the Sacrifice of Desire: Nazarite Women’s Performance in South Africa (Chicago 1999) are some of the books she has authored and edited.  Muller has published on South African jazz, religious performance, traditional and popular musics in a variety of journals that represent her interdisciplinary interests.


Public Lecture: A Voice in Exile: Sathima Bea Benjamin

Overview: A Voice in Exile: a portrait of the South African born jazz singer Sathima Bea Benjamin.  She recorded with Duke Ellington in 1963, came to live in New York City after the Soweto Uprising, returned to South Africa about three years ago and died in August 2013.  She has a powerful story and exquisitely rich and emotionally evocative voice.  

Muller worked with Benjamin for two decades, and co-authored a book, Musical Echoes: South African Women Thinking in Jazz. 

This presentations involves listening to Benjamin's voice, seeing pieces of a documentary about her made by St-Helenian Canadian scholar,  Dan Yon, and a discussion about issues of gender, politics, Diaspora, voice, global citizenship etc.

Remote video URL