Second Alumni Resources Information Session

Posted on August 17, 2022

On August 16, 2022, UPSem Library offered a second information session via Zoom for alumni who are interested in learning more about the resources and services available through the Richmond and Charlotte campus libraries. It was hosted by Director of Public and Electronic Services Ryan Douthat and Reference Librarian Robin McCall.

The Alumni Research Portal is a one-stop location from which alumni can access electronic databases, ebooks, contact information, and information about borrowing books and other print materials from the two campus UPSem libraries. In this session, Ryan and Robin show viewers around the Alumni Research Portal, introducing the wide variety of resources available there and how to access all of it.

For anyone who was not able to join us for the session but would like access to the recording, you can find the first part here, and the second part here. Thanks to everyone who attended!

Alumni Services Information Session (Recording)

Posted on July 14, 2022

On July 14, 2022, UPSem Library offered an information session via Zoom for alumni who are interested in learning more about the resources and services available through the Richmond and Charlotte campus libraries. It was hosted by Director of Public and Electronic Services Ryan Douthat and Reference Librarian Robin McCall.

The Alumni Research Portal is a one-stop location from which alumni can access electronic databases, ebooks, contact information, and information about borrowing books and other print materials from the two campus UPSem libraries. In this session, Ryan and Robin show viewers around the Alumni Research Portal, introducing the wide variety of resources available there and how to access all of it.

This free information session will be offered again on Tuesday, August 16, 2022, from 8:00 to 9:00 pm. If you would like to join, just click (meeting ID: 841 979 4964; pass code: 2022Alum). If you’re not able to join us for that session but would like to watch a recording of the July session, please click here to view the video on Vimeo.

Researching the Black Church

Posted on February 11, 2021

The church has long stood at the heart of Black culture in America. As a result, the study of the Black church experience(s), Black Christianity, and Black theologies is a critical aspect of the study, not only of religion in America, but of American history, politics, and sociology. In celebration of Black History Month, UPSem Libraries would like to highlight some of the most recent resources we have to offer on this important topic — most of the resources in this post were published within the last five years. In the coming weeks, we will also be building a much more extensive guide to resources for studying Black church history and sociology; we’ll link that on the Library website and post it on our Facebook page when it goes live. Meanwhile, if you are interested in learning more about the role of the Black church in American history and culture, why not start your exploration by checking out some of the resources below?

Databases and Research Guides:

Katie Geneva Cannon Research Collection: This research guide is a central source for information relating to the extraordinary life and work of Professor Katie Geneva Cannon, an esteemed and beloved leader of the Union Presbyterian Seminary community and a major scholar and authority in the field of Womanist theology and ethics. The guide is maintained by our Instructional Resources Librarian, Dora Rowe, and developed in conversation with the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership at UPSem.

Encyclopedia of Religion in America: This database examines how religious history and practices are woven into the political, social, cultural, and historical landscape of North America. Articles on “Abolitionism and Antislavery,” numerous African-American church denominations, “African American Religion” in several historical eras, and “Race and Racism” are just some of the topics you’ll find covered here.

African-American Historical Serials Collection: This database is a centralized and accessible resource of formerly fragmentary, widely-dispersed and endangered primary source materials related to African-American life and culture, collected from 75 institutions. It includes extensive coverage of Black churches and religious organizations.


Books in the Reference Room:

Books in the stacks:

Streaming Video Resources:

The Black Church and Black Struggle (SNCC 50th anniversary conference, 2011)
SNCC 50th Anniversary Conference Volume 23 – FEATURED SPEAKERS: Rev. Bernard Lafayette (SNCC Field Secretary), Rev. Nelson Johnson (Student Organization for Black Unity), Rev. David Forbes (Raleigh Student Movement). The Black church was born in struggle in the midst of slavery, and despite laws and vigilante actions targeting it for destruction the church has not only survived, but has played a sustained and central role over more than 300 years of Black struggle in America. This panel of Black churchmen, with very active audience participation, reflects and examines the historical role of the church, its specific role in the Movement of the 1960s, and the lessons of that struggle for today.

Interview with Albert Raboteau, Professor of Religion, Princeton U. (2017)
Albert Raboteau is interviewed about 1793 and the hope brought by the American Revolution, Richard Allen’s conversion experience, Christianity and self-worth, founding of the Free African Society, founding of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia, Richard Allen’s reaction to the American Colonization Society, white Christianity vs. black Christianity, Nat Turner’s Rebellion, Denmark Vesey’s Conspiracy, Gabriel’s Rebellion, Jarena Lee’s conversion, separation of families, slave preachers, free black preachers and abolition.

Thank God: An Aframerican Docu-Drama (1985, Tony Brown Productions)
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
‘The music of the black religious experience,” contends Tony Brown, host of the televised “Journal” that bears his name, “is the primary root of all music born in the United States.” This performance/documentary is about the history of the black church in the United States.

Between the World and Me (2020, HBO)
First published in 2015, Between The World And Me was written as a letter to Coates’ teenage son, and recounts the author’s experiences growing up in Baltimore’s inner city and his growing fear of daily violence against the Black community. The narrative explores Coates’ bold notion that American society structurally supports white supremacy. Based on the 2018 adaptation and staging of the book at the Apollo Theater, this HBO Special combines elements of the Apollo’s production, including powerful readings from Coates’ book, and incorporates documentary footage from the actors’ home life, archival footage, and animation. An HBO Production.

This recent film is not specifically about the Black church, it’s true. However, in his original letter, Ta-Nehisi Coates does frequently address the role of the church in individual lives and in Black culture. He is candid about his own departure from Christianity, and strives “to articulate a black politics without churchiness,” as Tressie McMillan Cottom writes for The Atlantic (“Between the World and Me Book Club: Not Trying to Get Into Heaven,” Aug 3, 2015).  Studying the history of the Black church also requires an openness to the voices of those who criticize or even leave it.


The Katie G. Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership invites you to sign up for its 2021 Spring Virtual Conference, “The Hinges Upon Which the Future Swings: Womanism as a Gateway to Our Future(s).” Apr 8-10, 2021.

From the conference description: “Through panels, presentations, interviews, lectures, and multifaceted, transgenerational, innovative conversations across disciplines, this conference is the culmination of the work of KGCCWL integrating its six-core tenets – womanist wellness, witness, wisdom, worship, wares, and works – which represent the holistic interconnections that make womanist leadership flourish.”

Learn more and register here.

Katie G. Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership releases new Lenten guide by Rev. Lisa Janes

Posted on January 6, 2021

Happy New Year! Now that 2021 is upon us, it will be time soon to begin your planning for the spiritual journey through Lent. The staff of Morton Library proudly recommends a new adult curriculum by our own Circulation Supervisor, Rev. Lisa R. Janes, released in December by the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership, entitled “It’s A New Day”: A Lenten Journey with Sonia Sanchez.

From the Cannon Center’s own press release:

The Lenten guide is available now at the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership website. Simply scroll down to the bottom of the page to download the guide for free.

Congratulations, Lisa, and thank you for sharing this resource with the UPSem community!

New Online Databases Page

Posted on December 11, 2020

We’ve just launched a new page on the Library website to make locating our online databases even easier! You’ll still find the link to the Online Databases in the same place, under the “Library Resources” menu heading on the homepage. The page will open in a new tab.

The new page is an A-Z list of all the databases to which the Library has access. If you know the name of the database you want to use, you can either click on the first letter of its name at the top of the page or just scroll down the alphabetical list to find it. Each database includes a short description of what you’ll find inside it. Clicking on the blue title of the database will cause the database to open in a new link. Remember that, if you’re off campus, you’ll need your bar code number and password in order to use the databases.

You can also use the menu bar at the top of the new page to search the databases by subject heading and by keyword. (Heads up: the keyword search at the top right of the page searches the database names and descriptions, not the databases themselves. In order to search the databases’ contents, you have to click on the database and search inside it.) The dropdown subject menu offers a list of topics to choose from; it’s a good way to narrow down the list of databases to ones that are most likely to be relevant to your research. You’ll find some specificity in the more classically seminary-focused options: New Testament, Hebrew Bible, Christian education, church history, theology, preaching and worship, and many other areas of theological study have their own headings. You’ll also find lots of topics that are not typical “seminary” subjects. Did you know we have databases for everything from the visual arts, economics, and law to psychology, environmental science, and education? If you’re working on an interdisciplinary paper or project — something that combines theology or biblical studies or Christian education with a non-theological field — chances are we have full-text database resources you can use. We’d also like to highlight the fact that one of the subject headings is Spanish-Language Resources — these are databases that are intentional about including research materials in Spanish, and will continue to update their Spanish-language offerings.

On the right side of the page you’ll find a list of the most popular databases, so if you can’t remember which database you want, look there — it’s probably one of the big ones like Academic Search Complete, ATLAS Plus, or JSTOR. A little further down the page on the right side, you’ll also find a list of our newest databases, or databases to which we have a trial membership for a limited time. Right now we’re using that section to highlight all the databases we have that you might not expect to find in a theological library.

Two brand-new databases, APA PsycBooks and APA PsycTests, are listed on the page but do not yet have live links. We’ll have access to those in just a few days, and we’ll let you know on the Library’s Facebook page when they’re available.

Concordances: Options for Distance Learning

Posted on December 4, 2020

Concordances are alphabetical collections of words that occur in a given text (such as the Bible), each entry of which includes a list of citations of all the passages in which that word occurs. There are biblical concordances in almost every language. The most famous English-language concordance is probably James Strong’s New Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, which the Library has in print. Indeed, we have shelves of concordances in the Reference room, in many languages! That doesn’t do you much good, though, if you can’t easily get to the Library. (Remember, if you’re in the Richmond area, you can always make an appointment to come in and research for up to two hours every weekday!) What options do you have for doing concordance work from home? Fortunately, there are plenty of other English-language concordances besides Strong’s, including John Kohlenberger’s excellent Concise Concordance to the New Revised Standard Version and Concise Concordance to the New American Bible. The Library has both of these available in digital format.

For your biblical studies courses, you’ll also need to use Hebrew and Greek concordances. While we have many of these in print form (in addition to bible-study software on the computers in the Reference room), they are much harder to find in digital format. If you’ve kept your Hebrew-class copy of the Brown-Driver Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, you’ll find that it can function to some extent as a Hebrew concordance: the dagger symbol (†) that you’ll see in front of many (but not all) word entries means that the entry lists every occurrence of that word in the Hebrew Bible. BDB is also linked to Strong’s Concordance — it provides the Strong’s number for each Hebrew word. As for Greek concordances, the Library does have Moulton’s A Concordance to the Greek Testament available as an e-book. The e-book’s search function will allow limited searching if you have a Greek keyboard or font installed on your computer (note that entry headings are printed, and thus must be searched, in upper-case Greek letters). However, it is unfortunately quite a slow process to flip through the pages of the e-book to find what you’re looking for.

Are there any better options for doing Hebrew and Greek concordance work from your home? Fortunately there is indeed a very good, totally free option: offers concordance options in English, Hebrew, and Greek! Let’s say you want to research the word in Exodus 3:7 that is translated “their cry” (NRSV). Go to BibleHub and use the dropdown menus at the top of the page to select Exodus 3:7. Then click “Interlin” (that is, “Interlinear”) in the menu bar that begins with the word “Parallel.”


You’ll see the verse in Hebrew and English, with a Strong’s Concordance number over each English transliteration of the Hebrew word. We’re interested in ṣaʿăqātām:


Click on the transliterated word. In the left column you have the Englishman’s Concordance, which tells you that this exact word — the suffixed form “their cry” — occurs in Genesis 19:13 and Exodus 3:7. In the right column you’ll find the Strong’s number for this word, 6818. The Strong’s number is associated with the unsuffixed form of the word (ṣaʿăqāh) rather than the exact word in this verse, so the list under the Strong’s number includes occurrences of the unsuffixed noun as well as instances where it occurs with the definite article or other prefixes, with different suffixes, in plural form, in construct, etc. The “Additional Entries” list includes other word forms that are based on this word’s Hebrew root, ʿq, so you can research verbal forms as well.


Clicking on the Strong’s number will take you to lots more information, including the BDB entry for the noun and the Englishman’s Concordance listings for the biblical verses that use this noun in different affixed forms.


You can do the same kind of thing with Greek words, by clicking on their transliteration.

Performing word studies in this way is, admittedly, not as easy as simply opening a book and looking up the information you need. However, it’s good to know we have some effective options until we can get back to the normal ways of using the library!

Advent Planning Resources at the Library

Posted on November 13, 2020

It’s hard to believe, but it’s already time to think about Advent preparations! November 28, 2020, is the first Sunday in Advent (Year C). The library has lots of resources to help you plan meaningful services for your worshiping congregation.

Library digital resources

Library print resources

If you’re in the Richmond area, why not make an appointment today to come in? We would love to help you find just what you need for your Advent preparations!

Online resources

New Festschrift Honoring Dr. Samuel E. Balentine: Review

Posted on October 30, 2020

Huff, Barry R., and Patricia Vesely, eds. Seeking Wisdom’s Depths and Torah’s Heights: Essays in Honor of Samuel E. Balentine. Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 2020. Catalog link here.

Dr. Samuel E. Balentine is Union Presbyterian Seminary’s Professor of Old Testament and Director of Graduate Studies Emeritus. In honor of his 70th birthday and his retirement in June 2020, two of Dr. Balentine’s former UPSem students, Barry R. Huff (Ph.D. ‘17) and Patricia Vesely (Ph.D. ‘17), have edited this Festschrift. Contributors include a range of voices, from eminent senior scholars in Hebrew Bible studies, to respected mid-career scholars, to up-and-coming new voices. The volume’s interdisciplinary content and its collegial tone make it a joy to read. Throughout, the contributors follow the model set by Dr. Balentine, applying both academic rigor and pragmatic theological interpretation to biblical texts.

Of particular interest for those of us here at UPSem, Seeking Wisdom’s Depths and Torah’s Heights showcases the academic talents of many of our own faculty and alumni, whose various relationships to Dr. Balentine began or were nurtured here. In addition to the editors, Phillip Michael Lasater (M.Div. ‘11) and Heather Woodworth Brannon (M.Div. ‘19) also studied here under Dr. Balentine’s tutelage. Current faculty members E. Carson Brisson (Associate Professor of Bible and Biblical Languages) and Samuel L. Adams (Mary Jane and John F. McNair Chair of Biblical Studies and Professor of Old Testament) are also contributors, as are former faculty members Andreas Schuele (Professor of Old Testament and Dean of the School of Theology at University of Leipzig) and William P. Brown (William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary), while Mark E. Biddle (Acting Dean at Sophia Theological Seminary) is formerly of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. Especially noteworthy is the fact that the volume contains the last published article that S. Dean McBride, Jr. (Cyrus H. McCormick Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Interpretation at UPSem, 1984-2007) wrote before his death in May 2020. McBride presents a study of the reception history of the book of Exodus specifically within the 1560 Geneva Bible, an annotated translation from the Reformation era that was influential on later biblical translations including the King James Version, and has had enormous significance for biblical scholarship in the Reformed tradition in particular.

Seeking Wisdom’s Depths and Torah’s Heights opens with a biographical sketch of Dr. Balentine by his friend and colleague, E. Carson Brisson. Dr. Brisson’s biography, which includes anecdotes and messages to Dr. Balentine from his wife and children and from Dr. Brisson himself, is deeply personal, nearly poetic, and it sets the tone for the whole volume. This is not merely an assemblage of new research; rather, it is a celebration of Dr. Balentine’s work by his peers, colleagues, friends, and students, and their affection for the man himself is as readily apparent as their respect for his work. The book then takes as its structural elements two areas of the Hebrew Bible that have predominated in Dr. Balentine’s own research: the Torah and the Wisdom literature, especially the book of Job. There are five essays related to Torah and six on Wisdom material, and a third short section of three articles that deal with the interface of the two: “Torah in Wisdom and Wisdom as Torah.” The presence of this third section does much to integrate the volume’s two foci and unify the collection into a coherent whole. Dr. Samuel Adams’ article is a highlight here: he explores the way the author of Sirach receives and adapts written material about Israel’s priestly figures in the Second Temple period, in order to locate Wisdom within Torah.

One striking feature of this volume is the range of interdisciplinary research that is represented. Dr. Balentine’s own work has long displayed his interest in cross-pollinating the study of the Bible with insights from other fields of study. Several of the contributors (Biddle, Schuele, and Brown, as well as Walter Brueggemann and John Barton) engage the field of ethics; this echoes Dr. Balentine’s own regular application of ethical interpretation to the Bible. Other fields of study that here become conversation partners for biblical interpretation include quantum physics (Biddle), art history (Heidi J. Hornik and Mikeal Joseph Parsons, Huff), epistemology (Brannon), psychology (Brown), and dance (Vesely). Thanks in no small part to Dr. Balentine’s work, biblical scholars recognize more and more the necessity of looking beyond the written word alone in order to explore how people have interpreted the Bible in nonverbal ways. The prominent inclusion in this volume of the arts as media for theological interpretation reflects Dr. Balentine’s long advocacy for including the study of popular modes of cultural expression as an important part of a biblical text’s reception history.

Another noteworthy quality of this book is the way it models constructive, collegial scholarship. John Barton’s article is a standout here. Barton, a distinguished senior scholar of the Hebrew Bible, revisits an argument he published in 1999 about whether virtue ethics are native to the Bible, in light of the work of two younger scholars, Anne W. Stewart and Patricia Vesely. Stewart has argued in direct opposition to Barton’s position, and Barton thoughtfully considers her argument, finds it compelling, and modulates his own position in response. Barton then draws on Vesely’s work to further reinforce his points of agreement with Stewart. The article beautifully models a scholarly conversation in which new contributions are met with open-minded willingness to listen and seek common ground. Another example of constructive intergenerational scholarship in the book is the contribution co-authored by Heidi J. Hornik (Professor of Italian Renaissance and Baroque Art History at Baylor University) and her son Mikeal Joseph Parsons. The article examines how the 17th-century painting Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife by Paolo Finoglio, which Parsons studied as part of his college minor studies, interprets the biblical text in its use, for instance, of light and of painting techniques for cloth.

New academic insights, well argued and gleaned from intellectual rigor, are always welcome, and Seeking Wisdom’s Depths and Torah’s Heights provides them. But the book’s greatest virtue is the success with which it reflects Sam Balentine’s own career-spanning model for how to engage in constructive scholarship: cross-disciplinary pollination of ideas, fruitful collaboration, and a willingness to approach ideas (both old and new) with an open mind, in order to that the scholarly conversation might move towards points of shared consensus. In this way especially, this book honors Balentine’s exceptional teaching as much as it does his excellent scholarship.

Using the SBL Handbook of Style

Posted on October 16, 2020

Have you ever read a scholarly article and wondered how the author knew how to transliterate a verse from the Hebrew Bible, or how to cite a quotation from Josephus? Citing the sources you’ve used for your research can be a big challenge! One great resource that can really help when citing sources for biblical studies research is the SBL Handbook of Style for Biblical Studies and Related Disciplines (2nd ed., ed. Billie Jean Collins, Atlanta: SBL Press, 2014). The library has this resource in electronic format, so you can access it whenever you need it with your bar code and PIN number. The SBL Handbook is published by the Society of Biblical Literature and thus all its information is specifically tailored to the stylistic norms of the field of biblical studies.

The section you will probably find yourself referencing again and again is chapter 6, “Notes and Bibliographies.” This chapter contains instructions for and examples of how to cite a wide variety of resources in proper SBL style: books with single or multiple authors, journal articles, books in series (like biblical commentaries!), unpublished dissertations, online databases, and websites or blogs are just some of the most common kinds of works you might need to cite. But this chapter also gives information on how to properly cite ancient sources, patristic writings, unpublished papers presented at academic conferences, and volumes from the Loeb Classical Library, as well as other kinds of highly discipline-specific resources that are not likely to be addressed in general-use style guides such as the Chicago Manual of Style. The chapter provides examples of how properly to cite these sources in a footnote as well as in a bibliography.

Additionally, the SBL Handbook offers a chapter on proper abbreviations for ancient texts, books of the Bible, Pseudepigraphic texts, the Dead Sea scrolls, modern versions of the Bible, modern journals, and many other resources. Another chapter addresses standards for transliterating Hebrew, Greek, and other ancient languages — something you will likely need to do for any upper-level biblical studies course. The chapter even explains how to transcribe ancient texts so that your reader understands where damage to a manuscript has left part of the text illegible or uncertain.

The Handbook also contains general style information that every writer in the field of biblical studies needs to keep ready to hand. There is some information on how to use commas and other punctuation marks properly, how to form possessives correctly, and when to spell out numbers. There is also discipline-specific information such as how to use punctuation to separate citations of ancient and biblical texts, when to italicize foreign words and phrases versus when to leave unitalicized words that have come into English from other languages. The Handbook also includes an important section on how to ensure that the language you use is as bias-free as possible.

If you are planning to submit your work to a journal for publication, the SBL Handbook contains a chapter detailing the responsibilities of an author. These are things you need to do before you submit your article. If the work you submit to a journal is already properly stylistically formatted, you have headed off one potential round of “revise and resubmit,” and you will also have ensured that the editors of the journal to which you’re submitting your work are not distracted from the important content of your argument by style errors.

The SBL Handbook of Style is a trove of good information for seminarians and professional writers in biblical studies alike. Before you go ask your professor how to format all the citations for your research paper this semester, take a moment to consult at the SBL Handbook — it will probably have the information you need, and your professor will thank you!

Searching in the ATLA Religion and ATLAS Plus Databases

Posted on October 9, 2020

The ATLA Religion and ATLAS Plus databases are some of the Library’s richest resources for finding research materials in the fields of biblical studies, theology, church history, pastoral care, and other areas related to religion. A basic keyword search from the library’s catalog page, if you select the “Database Results” tab at the top of the left column, will yield results from these and other databases. However, ATLA’s own interface provides some powerful search tools that the catalog page does not. You can access these databases from the Library’s homepage by going to the “Library Resources” tab at the top of the page, selecting “Online Databases,” and clicking on “ATLA-RDB and ATLAS Plus index & e-journals.”

You can, of course, search the database by keyword, simply by putting your search terms into the search bar. You can also use the drop-down menu next to the search bar to specify whether you want to search for your term in the titles of articles, the abstract, the author’s name, or several other categories. The drop-down menu also lets you search by the year in which a particular church document was published, or search by scripture citation. The ability to search by scripture citation is perhaps the best reason to search from within the database itself rather than from the library’s catalog page. Sometimes simply searching scripture citations from the drop-down menu doesn’t bring up the information you need, though. The database doesn’t always recognize what you’re asking it for. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to search by scripture reference in ATLA!

If you’d like to search by a specific verse, you can click on the word “Scriptures” at the very top left side of the page. Scroll down or page over until you find the book of the Bible you need, then click “Expand” next to the book name. Do the same for the chapter of the book, and then the verse. If I search for Leviticus⇒Chapter 10⇒Verse 10, the search will retrieve articles tagged with that specific verse, but also articles tagged with scripture references within which that verse occurs (ex., Lev 10 or Lev 1-16).

If you’d like to search scripture references a little more broadly than by specific verse, you can also use the Indexes search feature. Let’s say you’d like to find articles on the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. In the same menu bar with the “Scriptures” option, highlight “More” at the right-side end of the list, and select “Indexes.” The “Browse an Index” drop-down menu will allow you to search by “Bible Citation.” (You can also search in this way for references from the Babylonian Talmud, the Mishnah, the Quran, and the Book of Mormon.) Browsing for “Matthew 6” will bring up a list of scripture citations that exist within the database, and you can tick each box that is relevant to your needs. (It’s not a bad idea to move backward as well as forward — for instance, the page before the one for Matthew 6 includes a listing for “Matthew 5:43-6:18,” which would also include the Lord’s Prayer.) In this way, you can ensure that you’re finding as much material on your scripture reference as possible.

You can learn even more about how to use the ATLA Religion and ATLAS Plus databases effectively by visiting our LibGuide: Using ATLA Religion Database & ATLA Plus