Personal Flourishing


Personal Flourishing also includes participating in our robust and joyous community worship opportunities that the Center for Faith and Culture will sponsor throughout the year. These worship experiences include a service of remembrance at Second Baptist Church and our highly popular The City Come Again service at Holy Trinity Cathedral in December. All our worship services will feature the outstanding and award-winning William Jewell College Choir and Performing Arts students and faculty.


Personal Flourishing classes focus on faith as it relates to literature, science, politics, the arts, music, health, finance, biblical studies and more. Courses are taught by Jewell faculty and local pastors on campus and at local partner congregations, with a few virtual offerings.

Classes offered in 2023-24

  • An Empathic Faith: Loving Others as Themselves

    Rev. Christy S. Edwards, Board Certified Pediatric Hospital Chaplain

    Most of us believe God is love and God wants us to love others, but often we find ourselves in situations where we don't know how to do this. How do we connect with and care for people in the way God hopes for us? Developing empathy is a way toward healthier relationships. This class will explore the role of empathy in the biblical narrative and will equip you with practical skills you can put into practice to help you love others as they are.

    Christy Edwards portraitChristy Edwards is a board-certified pediatric hospital chaplain who lives in Liberty with her husband, Jason, and their three children. In her spare time, Edwards enjoys reading, drinking hot tea, and teaching about empathy and listening skills. Learn more about her and her workshops at her website:



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  • White Christian Nationalism in America

    Dr. Bryan Le Beau, Adjunct Instructor, Georgetown University

    For the past several years, there has been a movement to have white Christians in the United States recognize their complicity in the construction of a culture that seeks to protect national white supremacy. By looking at its past and current situation, this course seeks to show that this proposition is more complex than many would allow. It begins by discussing the meaning of the phrase white supremacy. It will then explore what many consider to be the history of Christianity’s role in the supposed national white supremacy. Suggested reading: Robert P. Jones - "White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity" (Simon and Schuster, 2020).

    Bryan LeBeau portraitBryan Le Beau holds a Ph.D. in American studies from New York University. He has authored several books on American cultural history and is currently an adjunct instructor at Georgetown University.




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  • What Is So Special About Earth?

    Dr. Maggie Sherer, Professor of Physics and Chair, William Jewell College

    Over the past two decades, thousands of planets outside our Solar System have been discovered, many of which could have the right ingredients for life. With these discoveries, the question arises, “Is the Earth special?” We will look at some of these newly discovered planets, how we determine if they are habitable, and how they compare to our own Earth. We will discuss what makes our own planet habitable and the unique features that allow life to flourish, as well as our responsibility to this life-filled planet.

    Maggie Sherer photo Maggie Sherer has been a physics and astronomy professor at William Jewell College since 2004. Her favorite courses to teach are those for non-science majors, including courses in astrobiology, astronomy, and energy and society. She received her B.S. from Emory & Henry College in Virginia and her Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Her research areas include variable stars, extra-solar planets and astronomy education. A life-long Methodist, including many summers working in the camping ministry, she has always been inspired by nature and creation and fascinated by the intersection between faith and science.

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  • Speaking the Truth in Love: Understanding and Acceptance of Transgender Children

    The Very Rev. Dr. Andrew C. Keyse, Dean, Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, and Beth Keyse

    We will look at how the love of Christ and his command to “love our neighbors as ourselves” can lead the way to understanding and acceptance of those facing gender issues and complexities. Beth and Andy Keyse will share their ongoing journey of walking with their transgender child and what they learned along the way. We’ll discuss learning a new vocabulary, challenging our own mindsets, finding the truth, and responding in a Christ-like way. All are welcome.

    Andrew Keyse portrait Andy Keyse is the 9th dean of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral and began his ministry there on Dec. 1, 2019. Prior to coming to Kansas City, he served as the Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Florence, Alabama (2007-2019), and as the Associate Rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Hinsdale, Illinois (2002-2007). He received his Master of Divinity in 2002 and a Doctor of Ministry (Liturgy) in 2018, both from the School of Theology, The University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee. Keyse was ordained both Deacon and Priest in the Diocese of Chicago in 2002. 

    Beth Keyse portraitBeth Keyse is originally from Augusta, Georgia, and holds a B.A. in Psychology from Sewanee: The University of the South. Currently in high-ticket level sales for both a marketing company and a tiny homes broker, she has held several roles in her career, including Director of Training and Operations for a computer software training company (Chicago); Assistant Director of Development at Sewanee: The University of the South; Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Elgin Academy (Chicago); Director of Development at Riverhill School and Director of Development for Safeplace (both in Alabama); as well as various various independent consulting roles. She also has her own network marketing business in the wellness arena.

    Her favorite role, however, has been as wife and partner to her husband, Andy, and mother to two fabulous children, Siras and Mary-Mullis Keyse. Siras is a student at the University of Kansas, and Mary-Mullis will be a freshman at Columbia College in Chicago this fall.

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  • Divine in the Details: Poetry as Contemplation

    Dr. Ruth Williams, Associate Professor of English, William Jewell College

    Through language and line, poets call our attention to the forgettable details of the everyday, revealing to us how these moments contain not only beauty, but traces of the divine. Given this revelatory power, it is unsurprising that poetry has long been used in a variety of faith traditions to foster contemplation. In this course, we’ll examine how poetry can serve as a vehicle that puts us in touch with the wonder of our daily lives, focusing specifically on how poets writing now, in an era defined by distraction, create space for readers’ reflection and renewal. Across our sessions, we’ll read a diverse selection of contemporary poems clustered around four themes: nature, faith/doubt, love, and loss, exploring how poets use their craft to illuminate the meaningfulness of human experience.

    Ruth Williams portraitRuth Williams is the author of a poetry collection, Flatlands (Black Lawrence Press, 2018), and two chapbooks, Nursewifery (Jacar Press, 2019) and Conveyance (Dancing Girl Press, 2012). Currently, she is an Associate Professor of English at William Jewell College.



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  • The Parables of Jesus and the Economy of God

    Rev. Dr. Mike Graves, Scholar in Residence, Country Club Christian Church

    Someone once defined parables as “simple earthly stories with a heavenly meaning,” which turns out to be wrong on several counts. The parables are complicated riddles Jesus told that had everything to do with life in the first century Mediterranean world, and especially the economy. Under the Roman Empire, these riddles poked fun at the powers that be, while advocating that the poor be cared for, not just elites. In this interactive course, we’ll wrestle with several of Jesus’ best-known parables as well as the economic challenges they issue in our day. 

    Mike Graves portraitMike Graves is Scholar in Residence at Country Club Christian Church. He joined the staff after retiring from teaching on the faculty at Saint Paul School of Theology, a United Methodist seminary in Kansas City. He has preached and lectured across the country as well as internationally. He is ordained in the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ tradition. His most recent book is "Table Talk: Rethinking Communion and Community."



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  • Acts of the Apostles: Growing the Early Church

    Rev. Dr. Rodger Nishioka, Co-Pastor, Village Presbyterian Church

    At the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, we meet Peter in Jerusalem preaching his first sermon at the Jewish festival of Pentecost. In the last chapter, we hear from the Apostle Paul under house arrest in Rome still preaching and teaching in what many believe were his final days. In between, we follow the journey of a fledgling group of women and men doing their best to follow the example and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Acts is the story of the early church with all of its challenges and successes. Together, participants in this class will study the significant events in Acts that continue to shape the church today.

    Rodger Nishioka portraitRodger Nishioka serves as the senior associate pastor and director of adult faith formation at Village Presbyterian Church. Prior to his coming to Village Church, he served for 15 years on the faculty of Columbia Theological Seminary as the Benton Family Professor of Christian Education. He received his undergraduate degree from Seattle Pacific University, a master’s degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and a Ph.D. in social and cultural foundations of education from Georgia State University. He is the son of a retired Presbyterian pastor and is evidence that you can be a pastor’s kid and still love Jesus.

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  • From Holidays to Holy Days

    Rev. Shanna Steitz, Senior Minister, Community Christian Church

    The iconic holiday lights of the Country Club Plaza are illuminated in elaborate fashion beginning Thanksgiving night in a beloved tradition of our city. It kicks off a season that can be complicated for people of faith. It's easy to get consumed by the holiday to-dos of decorating, parties, shopping, and busyness while knowing that our faith is pointing us toward something more meaningful and holy. Based on the book, "From Holidays to Holy Days: A Benedictine Walk Through Advent" by Albert Holtz, O.S.B., join us as we gather amidst the lights of the Country Club Plaza to re-imagine how we balance these often competing interests and reclaim the holiday traditions in holy and meaningful ways.

    Shanna Steitz portraitShanna Steitz has been the Senior Minister at Community Christian Church since 2015. She and her husband, Ryan, make their home in Parkville with their rescue dog, Otis, as well their two children. Jacob is in his second year at Mizzou and Audrey is a junior at Park Hill South High School. The Steitzes love cheering on all the Kansas City sports teams (especially the KC Current), spending time exploring the National Parks, and eating whatever fabulous food Mr. Steitz is cooking!


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  • MASTER CLASS: The Birth of the Messiah

    Dr. J. Bradley Chance, Professor Emeritus of Religion, William Jewell College

    Christians have been formally celebrating the birth of Jesus on Dec. 25 since the early 5th century. Countless traditions have become a part of this celebration all around the world; lights, trees, the giving of gifts, carols, and even St. Nicholas (3rd century), a historical figure who evolved into Santa Claus. But long before any of these developments, Christians of the 1st century told stories about this significant event. In the New Testament two gospels offer such narratives, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. We will explore these two narratives, giving focused attention 1) to how the original readers would likely have understood the meaning of the stories of the miraculous conception, angelic visitations, angelic hosts directing lowly shepherds to Jesus' manger, celestial signs leading eastern astrologers to Jesus' house, and a paranoid King Herod, to mention only a sampling of details and 2) the continued relevance of these narratives to shape the lives of Jesus' followers centuries later.

    Brad Chance portrait Brad Chance graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in religion. From there he graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, then went on to receive his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Duke University. Chance taught at William Jewell from 1982-2021. He was an active member of Second Baptist Church and Grace Episcopal Church, both in Liberty, MO for almost four decades. He and his wife, Holly, recently moved to Independence and now worship at Peace Church, UCC, Kansas City, MO.

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  • MASTER CLASS: In Pursuit of Biblical Wisdom

    Dr. Brendon Benz, Associate Professor of History & Religion, and Theologian-in-Residence with the Center for Faith and Culture, William Jewell College

    The acquisition of wisdom has played a leading role in humanity’s search for the good life since antiquity. Indeed, the Bible itself incorporates several books dedicated to this endeavor. And yet, precise definitions of what wisdom is are difficult to find.  In this class, we will look at the one instance in which the Bible comes close to defining wisdom. Buried in a well-known narrative, this definition is often overlooked. Unpacking it will unlock the code, enabling us to recognized instances in which God and other characters in select biblical narratives put wisdom into practice. In the end, this process will provide a paradigm for understanding the nature of biblical wisdom and implementing it in our daily lives.

    Brendon Benz portraitBrendon Benz is an Associate Professor of History and Religion and Theologian-in-Residence the Center for Faith and Culture at William Jewell College. He is from Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he was raised in the Lutheran Church, and attended Lutheran school from kindergarten through 12th grade. After receiving his B.A. in Sociology from Taylor University, Benz traveled to Queens, New York, to teach history at Martin Luther High School. After several years in the classroom, he went on to receive an M.Div. at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he received the Goethe Institute Fellowship and the Henry Snyder Gehman Award in Old Testament. In 2013, Benz was awarded his Ph.D. in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies from the Department of Hebrew & Judaic Studies at New York University. Above all of these things, Benz is most passionate about teaching the message, history, and context of the Bible in ways that contribute to the growth and flourishing of individuals and communities of faith.

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  • Shakespeare, Religious Identity, and Human Flourishing: The Merchant of Venice

    Dr. Sara Morrison, Professor of English, William Jewell College

    In the early modern period, drama, travel literature, and international commerce introduced England to the Mediterranean world not only through firsthand contact with but also more broadly through representations of different cultures and religions. Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, which is set in a major European port city, features a cosmopolitan cast of characters whose personal, religious, and mercantile interests overlap. In this course, we will read Shakespeare’s play and watch clips from film adaptations to investigate the ways in which they characterize Christians, Jews, and Moors, taking into consideration historical context and the cultural significance of theater on ideas about religious identity and human flourishing. Reading the play will enrich participants’ experience in the course.

    Sara Morrison portraitSara Morrison is Professor of English and Associate Dean for the Core Curriculum at William Jewell College. She received her B.A. from Swarthmore College and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Colorado-Boulder. Raised in Kansas City, Morrison attended All Saints Episcopal Church; returning to Kansas City in 2005 to begin her career at William Jewell, she became a member of Grace Episcopal Church in Liberty. Her teaching and research interests include adaptations of Shakespeare, film, and intersectional methodologies for teaching early modern literature.

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  • Good Country People: The Importance of Religion in Southern Gothic Literature

    Rev. Charles Smith, Associate Pastor of Student Ministries, Second Baptist Church, Liberty

    Religion played a key role in the culture of the American South in the early to mid-part of the 20th Century. It is a central theme of Southern Gothic fiction of that period. This course will examine the ways Southern Gothic writers employ facets of religion as principal motifs in their narratives.

    We will study a diverse selection of writings from critically acclaimed authors in this genre, exploring the ways in which religious and spiritual experiences in the text influence character development, drive the narrative of the story, and expand the reader’s view of cultural settings.

    Charles Smith portrait Charles Smith is associate pastor of student ministries at Second Baptist Church in Liberty. He is a graduate of William Jewell College with a B.A. in Literature and Wake Forest University with a Master of Divinity. His primary research interest is the intersection of religion and literature, focusing his master’s thesis on the function of the imagination, developed by reading works of fiction, especially fantasy literature, in experiencing key aspects of the Christian faith such as baptism, communion and the formation of sacred space. 

    Smith enjoys all disc-related sports, game nights with friends, “relaxing” with his 10-year-old son, Finn, and 5-year-old twins, Asher and Eleanor, and finding academic excuses to read Harry Potter.

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  • Bridge Building Toward a Flourishing Life for All: Deepening Solidarity in the Quest for Social & Racial Justice

    Rev. Dr. Vernon Percy Howard, Jr., Pastor, St. Mark’s Church

    Does our faith in Jesus Christ have a role in the quest for social and racial justice? Can the church build bridges and deepen solidarity around crises such as poverty, violence, and equal rights for all? And if so, how do we do it? These questions are explored while examining the theological lenses and Biblical interpretive conclusions which shape our Christian witness and guide us in attempting to partner with God in creating a flourishing life for all.


    Vernon Howard portrait Vernon Howard, Jr., is a Civil Rights leader, activist, lecturer and pastor ordained within the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., (1992) and has served within the pastoral ministry for thirty 30 years in various church settings throughout Christendom.


    A Kansas City native, Howard is a product of the Kansas City, Missouri, public schools, a graduate of William Jewell College, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and earned the Doctor of Ministry degree from Virginia Union University within the Samuel D. Proctor School of Theology. He has taught as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Arizona and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, currently serving as adjunct instructor and Fellow within the Center for Faith and Culture at William Jewell College. 

    He is president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City (SCLC-GKC), a legacy Civil Rights organization started by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the mid-20th century civil rights era. He also serves as the senior pastor of the Historic St. Mark Church in Kansas City.

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  • Accounting, Personal Finance, and the Good Life

    Dr. Chris McCullick, CPA, Associate Professor of Accounting, William Jewell College

    What is accounting and how might it relate to the concept of a good life? This class will explore, in a Christian context, topics such as accounting, personal finance, budgeting, and a life of flourishing. Within that exploration, participants will consider how the application of accounting and personal finance can not only deepen one’s faith but also tell us about our faith.

    Chris McCullick portraitChris McCullick joined the William Jewell College faculty in January 2013. During his tenure, McCullick has been featured in various professional publications for innovation in teaching, received the Bea Sanders AICPA Innovation in Teaching Award (honorable mention), and was named the Jewell Faculty Advisor of the Year. Prior to William Jewell, McCullick held auditing positions with Deloitte and Touché, LLP, and Novak Birks, P.C. In 2012, he was awarded the HERO award for his audit services at Euronet Worldwide, Inc. Throughout his work experience, McCullick has spent a significant amount of time performing accounting and auditing functions abroad including serving as an Instructor of Accounting at the Missouri State University China branch campus located in Dalian, China. He is also active in several professional accounting organizations. He holds an active CPA license in the state of Missouri, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from Missouri State University, and a doctor in business administration with an emphasis in accounting from Anderson University (Indiana). Although McCullick considers himself to be a non-denominational Christian, he grew up attending both Nazarene and Baptist churches. While completing his undergraduate and graduate accounting degrees, during his spare time, McCullick worked in the children’s ministry for Second Baptist Church in Springfield. He currently attends Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty. His primary areas of teaching and research interest include financial accounting and auditing. He also has research interests in the areas of accounting fraud, CSR, international business, and personal finance.

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  • Requiem Aeternam: A Journey to the Afterlife from Three Centuries

    Dr. Ian Coleman, Professor of Music, William Jewell College

    The Requiem Mass is the traditional text used in the Roman Catholic church for the burial of the dead. The text in its full form swings from a plea for mercy to depictions of fire and damnation to final resignation and peace. There are hundreds of settings of this text from simple plainchant to full orchestrations and massed choirs. In this class the first session will be an overview of the mass comprising a brief history and a look at the text in its full and truncated forms. The next three class sessions will each focus on one significant requiem setting. First, the famous (perhaps infamous) Mozart setting, then the serine and reflective Faure setting, and finally the innovative if slightly controversial Britten ‘War Requiem’. Each of these has something unique to say about how we understand death and the afterlife certainly, but also are deeply reflective of the human experience. 

    Ian Coleman portrait Ian Coleman grew up in Bristol, England, and attended Counterslip Baptist Church until he left Bristol for college at the age of 18. The Baptist tradition in England in the 1980s was evangelical in nature and influenced by the house church movement that was prevalent in California at that time. Coleman remained active in the Baptist church in England until he left for graduate study in the United States. Most recently, Coleman found his way to the Episcopal church. His background and training in music has meant that he has worked as a church musician since his teenage years and has acquired an eclectic appreciation for many forms of worship music, from the ancient to the contemporary. His interest in music has led to a broader interest in the arts and, as a professor of music theory and composition at William Jewell College, he has taught courses in music and culture as well as music theory and music composition.

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  • Ordinary Sabbath

    Rev. Shanna Steitz, Senior Minister, Community Christian Church

    Our culture encourages and even celebrates the busyness of our lives with a reverence to the Protestant work ethic. This conviction often stands in the way of our invitation to Sabbath, which we sometimes forget is a commandment, not just a suggestion. The poetry of writer and environmentalist Wendell Berry "celebrates the holiness of life and everyday miracles often taken for granted."  Together we will explore the teachings of this American living legend and how we can use his poetry as a devotional tool for Sabbath.

    Shanna Steitz portraitShanna Steitz has been the Senior Minister at Community Christian Church since 2015. She and her husband, Ryan, make their home in Parkville with their rescue dog, Otis, as well their two children. Jacob is in his second year at Mizzou and Audrey is a junior at Park Hill South High School. The Steitzes love cheering on all the Kansas City sports teams (especially the KC Current), spending time exploring the National Parks, and eating whatever fabulous food Mr. Steitz is cooking!

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  • Spiritual Intelligence 

    Rev. Carla Aday, Senior Minister at Country Club Christian Church

    In an age of artificial intelligence and Wikipedia, we seek wisdom and truth through facts and information. Simultaneously we notice the frailty of emotional health in the American landscape.  Our culture teaches us to bridle anger and apologize for tears.  And faith gets reduced to a set of beliefs.  But what if the spiritual journey awakens the soul so that we are empowered to deepen and express emotions, passions, and feelings?  We will reflect on scriptural stories, theological texts, literature, artistic expressions, and spiritual practices that can lead us to a more holistic faith.  This course will invite us to reclaim the mystical aspect of the Christian tradition that is often lost among mainline Protestants.  

    Carla Aday portraitCarla Aday has served Country Club Christian Church since 1988 in various capacities, most recently as the Executive Minister in charge of administration, finance and stewardship in addition to preaching, teaching and planning. As the Senior Associate Minister from 2004-2014, her responsibilities included developing mission partnerships, adult spiritual formation, leadership development, ministry planning and staff supervision. When she was hired in 1988, she was the church’s first female minister.

    Aday holds a Master of Divinity degree from Yale University where she was honored with the Mersick Prize for effective public address and preaching. She is an experienced teacher and trainer, holding licensing and certification with various curricula.

    She has led 20 mission trips both internationally and domestically, including trips to Nicaragua and India. She is a member of the Association of Disciples Pastors in Theological Dialogue, past member of Clergy Spiritual Direction, and has previously served on the Administrative Committee and General Board for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), as Moderator of Greater Kansas City Region of the Christian Church, on the Homeland Ministries Board, as a board member of the Girl Scouts – Mid America Chapter, and as a member of the MORE2 Clergy Caucus.

    Aday has served as a volunteer at Della Lamb Community Services, Argentine Middle School, Notre Dame de Sion School, Habitat for Humanity, and Marillac Center for Children. In 2017 she spent one month as a volunteer at Mediterranean Hope, a project working to address the dramatic refugee migration by sea from North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East towards Italy.

    She and her husband, Dr. Dave Ehman, have three adult children, Connor Ehman, Kyle Ehman, Karmen Ehman Major, and five grandchildren.

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