My Name is Dennis Spence, a retired United Methodist minister since 2018. Before retiring I was an ordained full elder for 43 years in the Arkansas Conference(s). After graduating from Hendrix College in 1974, I prepared academically for the ministry at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia, receiving a Master of Divinity degree in 1977. I also attended post graduate studies at St. Paul School of Theology in the early 80s to study Apocalyptic Literature under Professor Lindsay Pherigo. My clerical appointment to a distant part of the state interfered with my academic endeavors, but not my love of learning.
In retirement, when Covid caused us to isolate ourselves from our normal interactions, I used that time to refresh my bible knowledge once again. I enrolled on the internet with the Israel Bible Center where I took over 44 “online mini courses” from professors who identify themselves as Jewish followers of Jesus. Each course averaged five hours of video training divided into short clips for easy digesting. I was able to dialogue with the professors via emails. They also provided Roundtable Talks with other Jewish, Christian, and academic scholars from Asbury, Berkely, Duke, Vanderbilt, and many others around the world. I have listened to over 25 of those two-hour discussions.
During Covid I also undertook Dr. Robert Alter’s 3,000-page translation with commentary of the Hebrew Bible that was published in 2018. His commentary is academic-based, not faith-based. I still learned from and appreciated his wealth of information.
Retirement has also allowed me to read commentary from the renowned Jewish Scholar, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. He was Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth from 1991-2013. He died in 2020. His five-volume work, Covenant and Conversation, is a 2,000-page commentary that offers many wonderful modern Jewish insights into the Torah.