The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Reverend Andy Stoker inspires youth at annual Spring Forum

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The Spring Forum group following Rev. Stoker’s keynote presentation Photo credit: Savannah James
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The Spring Forum group following Rev. Stoker's keynote presentation Photo credit: Savannah James

The annual Spring Forum took place in Prothro Hall today starting at 9 a.m. The forum is an all-day event for young people aged 15 – 18 who want to learn more about their faith and explore their Christianity. This year’s keynote speaker was a graduate of the Perkins School of Theology, Rev. Andy Stoker PhD.

The associate dean for academic affairs and a professor of practical theology, Dr. Evelyn Parker, introduced Stoker, whom she has known’ since he was a student at Perkins in 1998.

“There was never a dull moment when I was in his presence,” Parker said of Stoker, speaking of his charismatic personality and tendency to crack jokes throughout his presentations and sermons.

Stoker, a native of El Paso, is the associate minister of the First United Methodist Church – Dallas. As he began speaking a crowd of about 50 people, mostly teenagers, Stoker introduced the topic of this year’s forum: active faith.

“One of my passions in life is to engage in anti-racist movements and anti-reconciliation as a church,” said Stoker, encouraging the young people he was conversing with to embrace all people at all times.

After telling a couple of lighter stories about active faith, Stoker really got into the meat of what it means to be actively faithful; he spoke in hushed tones to a silent, captivated audience as he told the story of how he first understood his call to ministry.

When Stoker was in his early twenties he took a job as a nighttime custodian at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Lubbock. As he worked there he grew close with the senior minister who found yet another job for Stoker as a bus driver for Lubbock AIDS Services.

“This was in 1994, which was the last century. There was still significant prejudice for persons living with AIDS and HIV,” said Stoker, “When I was asked to take the job, I said, ‘you know what, I need to really think about that.’ I lived with that kind of prejudice and I needed to be healed from it.”

While he was driving the bus, he had one rider who would sit with him in the front every day. Stoker and the man, Scott, had an ongoing conversation every day for three months. One day, Scott did not show up and Stoker heard the worst two weeks later: Scott had passed away.

Stoker attended the funeral just to hear about the man he had spent so much time telling his life story to. That evening, Scott’s mother came by the church where Stoker worked and dropped off a wardrobe box for Stoker.

Inside the box was a 4 page letter from Scott on top of a ministerial robe. Unbeknownst to Stoker, Scott had been a Christian minister whose church turned its back on him when he was diagnosed with AIDS.

“It was that day that I knew that my passion for connecting people with life and love was going to take a very different turn,” said Stoker.

The final message that Stoker had for his young audience was that finding meaning is the most important tool they had. He encouraged the students to explore their faith and figure out what it means to be actively faithful.

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