Facebook pixel GSEP Dean Williams to Speak at USC Sacred Space, Sacred Thread Conference | Newsroom | Graduate School of Education and Psychology Newsroom Skip to main content
Pepperdine | Graduate School of Education and Psychology

GSEP Dean Williams to Speak at USC Sacred Space, Sacred Thread Conference

USC global conference on “Sacred Space, Sacred Thread” explores how sacred spaces shape individuals and communities in today’s secular world; Does sacred clothing evoke derision and misunderstanding or tolerance?

LOS ANGELES Oct. 17, 2016 From Gothic cathedrals to the temples, synagogues, chapels and mosques of modern times, do the sacred spaces of the world’s faith traditions still hold meaning in an ever increasing secular world? Is there tolerance for religious clothing or does it too often evoke derision and misunderstanding? Scholars and theologians from around the country and overseas -- including Dr. Helen Williams, Dean of the Graduate School of Education and Psychology at Pepperdine University -- will discuss these topics at a two-day conference Nov. 3 and 4 at USC.

The “Sacred Space, Sacred Thread” conference is hosted by the John A. Widtsoe Foundation and USC’s Office of Religious Life (Full list of sponsors below). Attendance is free but conference-goers are encouraged to register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sacred-space-sacred-thread-tickets-27032978366 . For conference information and updates go to www.widtsoefoundation.org/sacred-space-sacred-thread.

During the first day’s proceedings, the keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Margaret Barker, a prolific author and British theologian, who has spoken and written widely about the connection between early Jewish temples and modern Christianity as well as Hellenistic and synagogue cultures. Dr. Williams will play a pivotal role in the conference as a respondent to a panel of religious scholars discussing the “Conceptual Creation of Sacred Space in the Bible.” These panelists represent a broad spectrum of faith traditions. Her session will be held Friday, Nov. 4 from 9-10:30 a.m. at the Catholic Caruso Center on the USC campus. Dean Williams is a member of the prestigious American Council on Education Fellows Program Class of 2004-2005 and has held senior academic leadership positions at several universities for more than two decades.

Throughout the two-day colloquium, presenters from more than a dozen faith traditions will share their perspectives about the physical and conceptual aspects of sacred spaces and sacred clothing, concluding with a final session about the “constructive tensions” that occur in sacred spaces and sacred clothing.

To maximize audience participation and presenter involvement, the colloquium is designed to elicit dialogue between panels of speakers as well as conference-goers. Proceedings will be carried real-time to points around the globe through live streaming capabilities.

The historic threads of many faith traditions will be brought together to help the scholars and audience understand the mosaic that religious life creates in the community,” said Dr. Larry Eastland, Chairman & President of the John A. Widtsoe Foundation. “Taken together, they are a force for good, compassion and support not just to their members, but to the community as a whole. We invite people from all religious traditions and academic perspectives to join us.”

Dr. Varun Soni, Dean of Religious Life at USC, said, “It's a great honor to host this conference on sacred space and sacred clothing at the University of Southern California. There's no better place to  bring together scholars and religious leaders to discuss our shared and aspirational beliefs and practices than the city of Los Angeles, the most religiously diverse city in the world."

In conjunction with Dr. Barker’s visit, she will share a 13-panel exhibit on the history of sacred clothing and its relationship to Biblical references, colors, customs, and temple worship. The exhibit will be displayed Oct. 8-22 at the Los Angeles Temple Visitors’ Center, 10777 Santa Monica Blvd. and the Fishbowl on the USC campus at 835 W. 34 th St. Oct. 24-Nov. 1.

Other conference sponsors include the Academy for Temple Studies, Our Savior Parish USC Caruso Catholic Center, California Missionary Baptist State Convention, Los Angeles Greek Orthodox Community and the Los Angeles Institutes of Religion.

The Widtsoe Foundation

The Widtsoe Foundation is a 501(c)(3) devoted to expanding the global reach of LDS scholarship in association with the Office of Religious Life at USC and becoming a world-class scholarly center for LDS research and publication.

USC’s Office of Religious Life

The mission of the Office of Religious Life at USC is to foster a vibrant university community that encourages the pursuit of meaning through spiritual reflection and free inquiry, provides fair opportunities to participate in religious life, advances mutual understanding and respect among differing traditions – and in all these ways, strengthens students to actively engage in building a just and peaceful world.

# # #


Jan Hemming

Widtsoe Foundation

801-557-2463 |  jan.hemming@widtsoefoundation.org

Timothy Conley

USC Office of Religious Life

310-901-8524 |  tconley@usc.edu