Hickory – Lenoir-Rhyne University’s Institute for Faith and Learning (IFL) will continue its 2017-18 Speaker Series with a presentation by the Reverend Jason Coker, Ph.D., on Thursday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. in Grace Chapel.

The topic of Coker’s presentation is “Reframing Poverty: The Work of Together for Hope.” He asks, “How can ‘the greatest country in the world’ have such a high poverty rate? What factors create our high poverty society and what factors alleviate it?” Drawing on his experience in poverty intervention, Coker’s presentation will highlight the work and impact of Together for Hope, a rural development coalition that seeks to transform the landscape of rural America by intervening in the system–and changing it.

Rev. Jason Coker, Ph.D., speaks Thurs., Feb. 1

Together for Hope grew from a rural poverty initiative of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). With a focus on the poorest rural counties in America, Together for Hope is committed to alleviating poverty by partnering with the people living in the afflicted counties and leveraging the assets and leadership that already exists within these rural communities. These initiatives are grounded in the areas of education, health and nutrition, housing and environment, and social enterprise.

Coker, a native of Shaw, Miss., is also the founder of Delta Hands for Hope. Not long after moving to Connecticut for graduate school, he felt compelled to connect the resources in the New York metropolitan area with the needs in his home region. After more than 15 years of groundwork, Coker founded Delta Hands for Hope in 2013. Since its incorporation, it has become an award-winning nonprofit and has secured grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provided over 10,000 meals to children across Mississippi during the summer of 2015. Much of the philosophy undergirding Delta Hands for Hope comes from Coker’s previous work along the Uganda and Kenya border where he was in charge of coordinating a child development center for AIDS/HIV orphans.

Coker’s latest book, James in Postcolonial Perspective: The Letter as Nativist Discourse, was published in 2015. With nearly 20 years of ministerial experience, serving churches in Mississippi, Texas, and Connecticut, since July 2016, Coker has also served as the field coordinator for CBF of Mississippi. A graduate of William Carey University with a Bachelor of Arts in religion, Coker holds a Master of Arts in biblical studies from Yale University Divinity School and a doctorate in New Testament and Early Christianity from Drew University.

The event is free and open to public. For more information, visit www.lr.edu/publicevents or contact Jonathan Schwiebert, LRU professor of religious studies, at [email protected] or by calling 828.328.7184.

LRU’s IFL Speaker Series will conclude with the following presenter:

· Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, Thursday, March 1, 2018 – 7 p.m., Grace Chapel, Hickory, N.C.

The IFL Speaker Series invites prominent religious figures and authors to share their work and beliefs with audiences at LRU and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (LTSS). The IFL at LRU, in conjunction with the Academy for Faith and Leadership (AFL) at LTSS, endeavors to provide programming that contributes to and enriches a culture of the intellect that is theologically based. Its programs are directed to Christians of all traditions.

The website is www.lr.edu.