Performance artist Dr. Al Staggs will provide a unique view of various aspects of theology during the 2010 Theologian-in-Residence lecture series in February at Tusculum College.
Dr. Staggs will explore a range of topics from the legacy of Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer to the role of laughter in life as part of the annual lecture series, co-sponsored by the Holston Presbytery and Tusculum College. The lecture series includes sessions on each Tuesday in February – Feb. 2, Feb. 9, Feb. 16 and Feb. 23. Sessions will be in the Chalmers Conference Center inside the Niswonger Commons on the Tusculum campus.
This year’s series will be led by Dr. Staggs, who brings notable theologians and theological ideas to life as a performance artist. He served for 24 years as a Baptist minister before turning his energies full-time to performance as his ministry.
Dr. Staggs discovered his performing abilities in high school when he began to impersonate famous comedians for his classmates and teachers. After serving in the U.S. Army, he turned his attention to obtaining the necessary education to serve others as a minister.
During his post-graduate studies, Dr. Staggs was increasingly drawn to individuals in recent history who had devoted their lives to justice and peace concerns. After two decades of serving as a parish minister, he came to terms with the fact that his real passions related to performing and to working for peace and justice.
Twenty years ago, Dr. Staggs combined his two passions by writing and performing a one-person play that takes his audience into the prison cell of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer after he was imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II.
A few years later after he made the decision to begin his performance ministry, Dr. Staggs added characterizations of Clarence Jordan, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Thomas Merton and Walter Rauschenbusch to his repertoire of programs. He finds great satisfaction in bringing these notable figures to life and sharing their relevant messages with audiences throughout the world.
Dr. Staggs also enjoys bringing joy through laughter to people’s lives in a program designed for business, civic and medical organizations and church groups.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Hardin-Simmons University, a master’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a master of theology degree from Harvard Divinity School and a doctor of ministry degree from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Dr. Staggs was honored as a Charles E. Merrill Fellow at Harvard in 1983 with major emphasis in applied theology. He also completed a year internship in clinical pastoral education at Baylor University Medical Center.
On Feb. 2, Dr. Staggs’ program will be “A View from the Underside: The Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” It will feature his one-person play that brings the life of one of the great heroes of the 20th century to the stage. The audience is brought into the prison cell where Bonhoeffer awaits execution and listens to his struggles with evil, injustice and God.
The program for Feb. 9 will be “Clarence Jordan and the God Movement.” Jordan was a farmer, Baptist minister and Biblical scholar who, in 1942, founded the interracial community of Koinonia in southern Georgia. The concept that grew into Habitat for Humanity International was born at Koinonia. Jordan and Habitat’s co-founder Millard Fuller developed a concept of “partnership housing,” in which those in need of adequate housing worked side by side with volunteers to build simple, decent houses. Jordan’s life and theology were a radical embodiment of the teachings of Jesus, especially those from the Sermon on the Mount.
Feb. 16’s program will be “Laughter for Life,” in which audiences will discover that Staggs is a character. In fact, he is 30 or more characters in this program. Through the medium of his many zany comedic impressions, Staggs will demonstrate the importance of humor in aiding spiritual, emotional and physical health.
The series will conclude on Feb. 23 with “William Sloane Coffin: a Priestly Prophet.” Coffin, an American Protestant social activist who was greatly influenced by the social philosophy of Reinhold Nebuhr, became a leader in the Civil Rights and peace movements of the 1960s and 1970s when he was chaplain at Yale University. He continued his involvement in social concerns such as nuclear disarmament and the plight of war refugees in the following decades.
Each session will begin at 10 a.m. and conclude at about 1:30 p.m. Lunch is included. There is no admission fee to the sessions but reservations are required.
To make reservations or for more information about the series, please contact Angie Dean in the Office of Church Relations at 423-636-7319 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This event is approved for Arts and Lecture credit for students.