From Brazil to McCormick

claudio with shoe shine

By: Lowell Young

To say that Dr. Claudio Carvalhaes is a very interesting individual with a rich and varied past is a major understatement. As a young boy, he earned money shining shoes in his native Brazil. Today he’s McCormick’s Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship He experienced a very unique journey from Brazil to Chicago and the current position he holds here at McCormick. The following interview details the highlights of that journey.  

Lowell Young (LY): Where did you grow up?

Claudio Carvalhaes (CC): I was born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Along with my family, I attended a small Presbyterian church. So I guess it’s accurate to say I was raised in that small Presbyterian church.

LY: While you were growing up in Brazil, what did you do as a young boy and a young adult, besides spending considerable time in church?

CC: Starting at the age of eight, I was a shoe shine boy for three or four years to help earn much needed money for my family. I started working full-time during the day as an office assistant at the age of 13. While I was working full-time during the day, I was studying at a public high school in the evening. After graduating from high school, I started studying theology in the evening at a Presbyterian school, which is something I did for five years.

LY: What were the circumstances that brought you to the United States?

CC: I was invited to come to the U.S. by the Presbytery of Southern New England in 1997. From then until 2001, I was assigned to work among the predominantly Portuguese immigrant community in Fall River, MA, which is located about half way between Providence and Boston. I’m sure that being raised in a Portuguese-speaking country and speaking fluent Portuguese had a lot to do with me being assigned to that particular location.

LY: What did you do while you were in Fall River?

CC: I planted a church called Christ Is Life Presbyterian Church, which was made up of immigrants from many different countries, and from all walks of life, and from numerous denominations. We started the church from scratch in 1997 and, when I left Fall River in 2001, there were about 100 members—70 adults and 30 children.   

LY: Where did you go next?

CC: I went to Union Theological Seminary in New York City to obtain a Ph. D. in Theology and Liturgy. My first day of class at Union was supposed to be on September 11, 2001. But the attacks at the World Trade Center in New York, along with the other attacks at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and the vacant farm field in Pennsylvania, resulted in Union and all other schools around the country postponing classes. At Union, what we did as an incoming freshman class, and as an entire seminary, was talk about what happened on 9/11 and why.

LY: That must have been quite a conversation.

CC: It was indeed! And it’s a conversation I’ll never forget. We not only discussed the reasons the attacks on 9/11 happened, but also how the attacks changed the world from that day forward. Obviously, it took a while for some sort of normalcy to return in New York and around the country. But once a semblance of normalcy returned, Union was able to resume classes. When that happened, I began my six years of study at Union, ultimately resulting in me receiving my Ph. D. in 2007.

LY: What was the subject of your Ph. D. Thesis?

CC: My Ph. D. Thesis and Dissertation was entitled “Eucharist and Globalization”.  Five years after I completed it, that is in 2012, my thesis was published by Pickwick Publications, a publishing company located in Eugene, Oregon.

LY: Where did you go after Union?

CC: During the five years I spent trying to get my thesis published, I worked at the Louisville (KY) Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  In 2012, the same year my thesis was published, I moved on to The Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia. Then, in 2014, the door of opportunity opened up for me to come here to McCormick.  Thanks be to God!

LY: What brought you to McCormick and what do you hope to accomplish while you are here?

CC: The diversity of the seminary, the commitment to social justice, the possibility of further developing my work, the city of Chicago—all these factors drew me to McCormick. My deepest commitment is with the poor in everything I do and to shed light into the shadows of our society where the poor are, and help us thank God from that place of pain, hurt, wisdom and poverty.

Rev. Dr. David Esterline of McCormick Theological Seminary Accepts Position of President of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

David Esterline, Director of the Institute for Cross-Cultural Theological Education and Associate Professor of Cross-Cultural Education and Ministry at McCormick, has accepted the position of President of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. He will begin his Presidency at Pittsburgh in June.

David has led and shaped McCormick and the wider church in distinctive and crucial ways. He is one of the premier researchers in the world on the globalization of theological education. The Handbook on Theological Education in World Christianity, which David co-edited, is the definitive and most comprehensive study of global theological education available today. Currently, David is organizing with others a new global forum of theological educators, which includes an international fellowship of leaders in theological education from every Christian tradition.

At McCormick and in the PC(USA) more widely, David has become a leader in raising awareness of white privilege and racism and in providing guidance and instruction in what it means to live faithfully in a multi-cultural church and society.

David joined the faculty at McCormick in 1997 as Director of Doctoral Programs and Continuing Education. He subsequently served for ten years as Dean of the Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs. Currently, he directs the Institute for Cross-Cultural Theological Education. This fall David was reviewed for promotion to full professor. A recommendation that David be appointed Professor of Cross-Cultural Theological Education and Ministry will be presented to the Board of Trustees at its February meeting.

Frank Yamada, President of McCormick, made these observations about David’s service to McCormick: “David Esterline is the kind of theological educator that most of us aspire to be. Few people know more about the growth of Christianity in the Global South and theological education’s impact on the global Church than him. His service to the Association of Theological Schools, his work with cross-cultural issues in theological education, and his service here at McCormick distinguish him as a leader in North American theological education. We are proud to see him serve a fine institution such as Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.”

“David is someone whom we all consider indispensible to our community life and to our educational mission at McCormick,” said Ted Hiebert, Dean of the Faculty. “We can’t believe he’s leaving. But he has helped build such a strong tradition at McCormick in theological education with a global perspective and with a cross-cultural approach that we are committed more strongly than ever to continuing this legacy. We all have the greatest confidence in him and wish him the best as he moves into a new position of leadership in the church.”

(from the McCormick news release)

“Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus” an Instant Success

Dr. Reggie Williams recently published his first book, Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance. The publisher, Baylor Press, has already sold out all of the hardcover books from the first printing and caused Baylor Press to re-print as a paperback in only the third week after the initial release. Continue Reading →

McCormick featured on Different Drummers


Check out Dr. Reggie Williams and Dr. Kimberley Lymore (D.Min. ’09) as they talk about McCormick’s new Community Initiative on Different Drummers. The Greater Chicago Broadcast Ministries is the leader in ecumenical Emmy Award winning television on Chicago’s commercial stations.  They produce Different Drummers at CBS Channel 2 and Sanctuary on ABC Channel 7.​

Dr. Williams’ Book Signing Event

By: Lowell Young

The evening of Friday, October 10th was a very special time at McCormick Theological Seminary. Before family, friends and professional colleagues, McCormick Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics Reggie L. Williams, Ph.D. officially launched his much anticipated book, Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus—Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance.

Dr. Reggie Williams with his son, Darion

Dr. Reggie Williams with his son, Darion

The evening’s formal program was relatively brief (lasting only slightly more than half an hour), so as to allow nearly an hour for Dr. Williams to sign books for the many who wanted him to do so. While Dr. Williams was signing books, the invited guests mingled at a reception featuring light food and refreshments and background music provided by a live jazz trio.

Rev. Nannette Banks, Director of Alumni/ae and Church Relations, opened with a dramatic reading of a short poem by Joseph S. Cotter, The Babe Is A Babe. McCormick President Rev. Dr. Frank Yamada, welcomed everyone and led us in prayer.

Dr. Ted Hiebert, Dean of Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs, formally introduced Dr. Williams. Dr. Hiebert began his introduction by humorously describing his and Dr. Williams’ parallel basketball careers—Dr. Williams was a collegiate and professional player, while Ted once practiced with his college team. Turning serious, Ted described how he learned a great deal about diversity and the history of race from Dr. Williams.

Before he began talking, Dr. Williams’ teenage daughter Simone movingly read a brief poem entitled “Dreamer”. It took a moment or two for Dr. Williams to compose himself after his daughter’s moving presentation—a very public moment of understandable parental pride.

Dr. Williams began his remarks by thanking his late mentor, Dr. Glen H. Stassen, for making him aware of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, his wife Stacy and their children Darion and Simone for inspiring him, and his mother and his entire family for believing in him before he believed in himself. Professional mentorship and family support are vital in achieving success regardless of one’s chosen endeavor—and Professor Reggie Williams is living proof of that reality.

Wisely, in his prepared remarks, Dr. Williams revealed just enough about his book to peak the audience’s interest, but not enough to prevent anyone from wanting to buy and read the book.

In Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus, Dr. Williams traces the growth and development of Bonhoeffer while he studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York, during which time he lived in Harlem, worshipped in Black churches, and became immersed in Harlem Renaissance Theology. In a very real sense, Bonhoeffer learned more in the streets and churches of Harlem than he did in the classrooms of Union—at least in terms of the plight of the oppressed and what should be the Christian response to that oppression.

Dr. Williams concluded his remarks with some very wise counsel for all in attendance: “Jesus took the suffering of people on earth very seriously—so should we. Dietrich Bonhoeffer certainly did!” Senior Director of Admissions and Enrollment, Rev. Veronica Johnson, closed out the formal program by saying: “I’m so fired up to read this book!”   She wasn’t the only one!