Above: Jo Kretzler converses with classmates. 
Below: Jo Kretzler, all smiles after receiving her Master of Divinity degree.

First Presbyterian Church, Malvern, Arkansas, Chidester Preaching Award honors Austin Seminary Graduate Jo Kretzler

Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary’s graduating senior Jo Kretzler was named the 2014 Chidester Preaching Award recipient, a prize made possible through a gift from First Presbyterian Church in Malvern, Arkansas. Kretzler, a native of Manchester, England, was recommended for the award by the Seminary’s homiletics (preaching) faculty. The Chidester Award is given annually to recognize a graduating student who shows greatest potential in the area of preaching. The award includes a $5000 prize and an invitation to preach and worship with the Malvern congregation. 

First Presbyterian Church, Malvern, funded The Chidester Award through an endowment gift in 2010 to support Austin Seminary’s mission to prepare new pastoral leaders.

We talked with Kretzler, who explained why she applied for the Chidester Award and what winning it means to her. She also shared an account of how Austin Seminary has helped challenge her as a leader in pastoral care. 

The Reed: What does winning the Chidester Award mean to you?

Jo Kretzler: I am deeply humbled and honored to have won the Chidester Preaching award. It has been quite a surprise as many other extremely gifted classmates also applied.

Many of the previous recipients of this award have also been women, yet despite this, there are many churches where we would not be allowed to preach simply because of our gender.

There are also many places in the world where women do not have access to education. Yet all of society benefits from hearing a diverse variety of voices. It is a privilege to be recognized in this way when many gifted people are being silenced due to oppression and prejudice. I hope to help to give them a voice.

TR: What inspired you to apply for the award?

JK: The homiletic classes I have taken in seminary, particularly Women, Voice and Preaching, under Professor Lord, and the Senior Capstone class on preaching forgiveness texts, under professor Saldine and Professor Rigby, helped to refine and develop my preaching voice. I was also fortunate enough to study under K.C. Ptomey whose wisdom and encouragement will always be with me in every pulpit.

I have also been inspired as a preacher by the writings of Barbara Brown Taylor, Linda L. Clader, and Catherine Keller.

TR: How has Austin Seminary prepared you as you go into the world of pastoral care?

JK: Austin Seminary has prepared me for ministry by challenging me to think in very different ways. All the classes have introduced me to extremely inspiring thinkers and have helped me to develop my own theology and learn how to articulate this well. Not only do we learn in the classroom but also in the community of Austin Seminary. We engage in conversations with one another, which enriches our learning experience. I have a deep sense of gratitude for the ability to study in this institution and learn from a variety of excellent professors.