Faculty Focus: Dr. Sammy Alfaro
Title: Professor of Theology
Years at GCU: 10 years full time with 5 years of adjunct teaching at GCU before joining full-time faculty
- B.A. in Pre-Seminary Studies, Patten University (Oakland, Calif.)
- M.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, Calif.)
- Ph.D. in Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, Calif.)
What is your most notable accomplishment in your field, and why was it important?
In October 2016, I was invited to give a lecture focused on the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. For me, this meant coming full circle because in 2003 I received a full doctoral grant from the Hispanic Theological Initiative, a program based at PTS. I had gone to Princeton for the first time as a wide-eyed doctoral student interviewing for a grant, but I returned as a lecturer to participate in the prestigious Justo Gonzales Lectures. Looking back, it was the first time I truly felt I was making a contribution to the field of theology. Sometimes we focus on raises or titles, but this was special to me because I was finally at a place in my life where I was being sought out to speak by the scholarly community that formed me.
What are you most passionate about in your field and why?
As a doctoral learner, I became passionate about theology when I discovered the global contributions coming from the two-thirds world. Often in the U.S. context we think we are God’s gift to the world, but the reality is that the church is a global community and we have much to learn. The church became a global force from day one when the Spirit of God was poured out on Pentecost in Acts 2. Given the diverse demographics of America, the church is stronger when we embrace our multicultural identity. As a professor of theology, I pray our students will become church leaders who embrace diversity and unify the church to take it to the next level.
What is a memorable moment you had in class, and what does that reveal about your teaching style?
As a bi-vocational leader, I love it when my two worlds come together. As a scholar, I am passionate about the academic study of the Bible. I want students to learn to interpret God’s Word and develop their theological understanding. However, as a minister I know we also need to be relevant and practical. Recently, a class discussion on the nature of the church led to questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging our approach to ministry. At that moment, I realized we needed to talk more about nuts-and-bolts issues, such as how God’s presence is experienced in community through a Zoom meeting or FB Live. These are the moments I enjoy the most in class when students are engaged and conversing about practical theology.
What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?
Other than the usual academic vices like reading and research, I enjoy playing soccer. Recently, because of social distancing as a church, we have not been able to play scrimmages between the men and the youth. So in order to stay fit for soccer, I’ve been running on my own. Over the last three years, this has become my favorite solo activity. Running helps me clear my mind and focus on the tasks for the day. I also enjoy listening to books on Audible while I run. So far this year I’ve run 400 miles while listening to 15 books.
What is something interesting about you that most people don’t know?
Aside from teaching full time, I continue to pastor a church. We began to plant Iglesia Nuevo Dia (New Day Church) in our living room in 2009. For the first 10 years, we saw our faith family grow as we met in school cafeterias. Two years ago, we bought and remodeled an old hardware store in Goodyear, where we have enjoyed the adventure of seeing families connect to God. Though the past eight months have been the most challenging, they have also been the most rewarding seeing our church come together in surprising and innovative ways.