Mercer’s 15th Annual Building the Beloved Community Symposium to Feature Keynote Speaker Dr. Claudia May

Dr. Claudia May

MACON – Mercer University’s 15th annual Building the Beloved Community Symposium will welcome keynote speaker Dr. Claudia May, associate professor and director of reconciliation studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, Feb. 26-27 on the Macon campus.

The symposium begins with a banquet on Feb. 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Presidents Dining Room inside the University Center, featuring Dr. May’s first keynote address, titled “From Whom Can We Learn?”

The Rev. James Goolsby, pastor of First Baptist Church in Macon, and the Rev. Scott Dickinson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, will be the featured speakers for breakfast on Feb. 27 at 8:30 a.m. in the fellowship hall of Centenary United Methodist Church.

Dr. May will deliver her second keynote address, titled “Can a Reconciled Relationship Exist Without Conflict?,” on Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Penfield Hall, followed by roundtable discussions and a light lunch. Later that evening, at 7 p.m., a special unity service will be held at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, 2789 Millerfield Road.

Admission to all sessions is free and open to the public. Reservations are required for meals and must be made by contacting Trish Dunaway at (478) 475-9506 or

“We’re excited to welcome Dr. Claudia May as our keynote speaker,” said Dr. Matt Harper, assistant professor of history and co-convener of the symposium. “She’s warm, funny and gifted. And she’s particularly good at explaining the spiritual work needed for racial reconciliation: listening, empathy, conflict and honesty. I expect her talks to be both enjoyable and hard-hitting.”

Dr. May has more than two decades of experience working alongside, teaching and learning from global and national practitioners and leaders in the practices, principles and the theology of reconciliation.

She earned her B.A. from the University of York in the United Kingdom, both her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and her M.T.S from Pacific School of Religion’s Graduate Theological Union.

In 2015, Dr. May joined the faculty at Bethel University, where she teaches courses on topics such as reconciliation studies, intercultural leadership, “Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Our Multicultural World,” and “Hip-Hop, Spoken Word and Reconciliation.”

She has written articles or chapters in two books, two encyclopedias and a number of literary, online and artistic publications. Her research and work examines how Jesus and those he encountered live out reconciliation, with particular attention to the agency of those dismissed as irrelevant.

Dr. John Marson Dunaway, professor emeritus of French and interdisciplinary studies, founded the Building the Beloved Community Symposium in 2005 as a way to help the church demonstrate unity through collaboration across denominational and racial boundaries based on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s concept of the “beloved community.”