Meet Truett's Newest Faculty: Rebecca Poe Hays, PhD
Assistant Professor of Christian Scriptures
Rebecca Poe Hays joined Truett as full-time faculty in August 2019. Her commitment to challenging, equipping, and caring for students is better preparing them for ministry.
Q: What was your experience like as an adjunct faculty for Truett, and how did that influence your decision to join the full-time faculty?
Poe Hays: I really enjoyed teaching as an adjunct for Truett. Much of this good experience comes down to the students and the other faculty and staff, all of whom welcomed me as a full member of the Truett community. My students were very engaged and had such good attitudes — even about learning Hebrew! They worked hard and kept the class fun for everyone, and we had some really good conversations — both in class and outside of it — about reading Scripture, and the Old Testament in particular. My first groups of students have set the bar high, but I am excited to continue getting to know current and future Truett students.
Q: What is your typical leadership style in the classroom with students?
Poe Hays: I see myself, and try to present myself, as a fellow student of Scripture. I do not have all the answers, and many of the issues and questions my students wrestle with are issues and questions with which I am still wrestling myself. The great stereotype of seminary students is that they think they know everything: they have mastered divinity, after all! But if we send our graduates out to churches thinking this way, they are going to do a lot of damage. I think one of the best ways to lead students into better patterns of leadership themselves is by modeling a posture of ongoing learning and openness to be taught. I may be a few “grades” ahead of my students, but I am still a student now, and they should still think of themselves as students when they leave Truett.
Q: How do you allow your academic study to influence or impact your personal faith and walk with the Lord?
Poe Hays: I believe that in order to love and serve God, we have to know who God is — at least as much as is possible for humans “through a glass darkly”! I have always seen my academic study of Scripture as me getting to know God better. What is God like? What kinds of things does God do and say? How does God tend to relate to us? In my experience, this process of getting to know God has been like getting to know anyone else — not every conversation seems to be a life-changing revelatory experience, but sometimes you realize that lots of little pieces you’ve picked up over multiple conversations suddenly drop into place in a way that helps you understand the other person more clearly.
Something that has helped keep me really grounded in Scripture as God’s Word and not just another really interesting ancient text is that I have always tried to keep my academic study as directly tied to my personal study and ministry as possible. When I was working on Isaiah for an article, for example, I was also teaching through Isaiah at church. As I do my research on the Psalms, I am reading them devotionally as well. For me it all feeds together — the academic and the spiritual animate one another as I try to love the Lord my God with all my heart and all my mind.
Q: How do you incorporate pastoral care into your classes that are heavy in theology and/or Scripture?
Poe Hays: As someone teaching Scriptures classes at a seminary, there are at least two levels of pastoral care with which I’m concerned. First, there is pastoral care for my students. Studying the Old Testament can be a very unsettling thing for a Christian! There is so much there that jars our picture of God and the world and complicates our spirituality. Sometimes biblical scholars can come at these things with a sledgehammer and really damage students’ faith. While I do want to challenge my students, I hope never to damage them, and so approaching my students with pastoral sensitivity is critically important to me.
I also want my students to recognize how rich the Old Testament can be as a resource for pastoral care, especially in contexts of doubt and deep pain. It teaches us how to wait and to listen, with God and each other, and it teaches us that it is okay to have serious doubts and to be angry at God. The Old Testament teaches us humility and patience and the need for a community of faith. The trick is getting past the chronological and cultural distance to see how these deeply important pastoral lessons emerge from books like Deuteronomy and Ezekiel.