October 2023 – Drew Theological School hosted the 2023 Tipple Celebration, an annual event honoring the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Ezra Squire Tipple, the fifth president of Drew University.
The event celebrated the scholarship and service of esteemed professor Dr. Danna Nolan Fewell, John Fletcher Hurst Professor of Hebrew Bible Emerita.
Remarks, words, and scripture readings were shared by Theological School Dean Edwin David Aponte, Associate Dean for Vocation and Formation Tanya Linn Bennett, and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Robert Seesengood.
Fewell arrived at Drew in the fall of 2000. Together with Stephen Moore, she “redefined biblical studies at Drew,” said Seesengood. “They [Fewell and Moore] were a time of innovation, provocation, and reconfiguration of the standards of what biblical studies could … and should be.”
“Dr. Fewell modeled grace and professionalism, even as she pursued an insistent path toward new foundations, assumptions, and a relentless attention to both scholarly rigor and the ethical impact of what that reading would produce,” continued Seesengood.
The event featured a Service of the Word and Table with Gladson Jathanna, Assistant Professor of the History of Christianities, preaching, and Bennett celebrating communion.
Jathanna spoke to the parable of the last becoming the first from Matthew 20:1-16. Jathanna also paid tribute to Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar T’84,’87, noting “he was an example of the last becoming the first. He was one of the first Indians to earn a PhD from Drew and become a bishop in the U.S. He was also the first Indian American bishop of the United Methodist Church in the U.S.”
“I witnessed his commitment, for the last and the least, moving beyond borders and boundaries.”
Following the service, in-person attendees were invited to an open exhibit, “UM Missions in ‘The Islands,’” at the United Methodist Archives and History Center, located on Drew’s campus.
A luncheon celebrating Fewell took place in Mead Hall.
The event concluded with a featured Tipple keynote lecture from Dr. Jione Havea, Native Pastor, Methodist Church, Tonga; Senior Research Fellow, Trinity Theological College, New Zealand; and Centre for Religion, Ethics, and Society, Charles Sturt University, Australia.
Havea was one of Fewell’s PhD students when she was faculty at Southern Methodist University. His talk was titled “Oceans, Orpah, and emOceans.”
“We rejoice in the difference Dana has made in and to biblical studies,” said Havea as he offered his presentation in her honor. “Your radical reweaving of literary narrative and feminist criticisms with the passion of a very proud mother who has the courage to upset the circle of sovereignty in the academy,”
Havea presented a talanoa, meaning story, telling, and conversation in Tongan, interweaving Orpah’s journey from the Book of Ruth to modern day issues, including climate change and racism, from a Moana lens.
“I am more interested in reading and playing with text than explaining theories and views of mainline readers,” he said. “The gaps and fractures in the story are not problems to be resolved, but opportunities to read with the text.”