Substance Abuse and Fake Joy

Dr. Joyce Mercer Joyce Mercer

Dr. Joyce Mercer is Professor of Pastoral Care and Practical Theology, Horace Bushnell Professor of Christian Nurture at Yale Divinity School.  Formerly a scholar-researcher, teacher, writer, retreat leader, and professor of practical theology at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, Dr. Mercer is also an ordained minister (teaching elder) in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Her passions include:

  • Advocacy and welcome of children in the church and beyond
  • Exploring women’s religious experience
  • The spirituality of adolescent girls
  • Conflict transformation and reconciliation
  • Facilitating conversations about difficult subjects
  • Studying congregations
  • Global connections, especially in the Philippines and southeast Asia
  • Contemplative spiritual practices and their relationship with activism
  • Older adult ministries

Joyce teaches courses in pastoral care, conflict transformation, theologies of childhood, feminist theology, youth ministry, and practical theology. Before joining the faculty at VTS, she served on faculties at San Francisco Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union, and at Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines.

She is the author of Welcoming Children: A Practical Theology of Childhood (Chalice Press, 2005), Lives to Offer: Accompanying Youth on Their Vocational Quests (co-authored with Dori Grinenko Baker, Pilgrim Press, 2007), and most recently, Girl Talk, God Talk: Why Faith Matters to Teenage Girls—and Their Parents (Jossey Bass, 2008).

Joyce is a licensed clinical social worker with experience in community-based health care and addictions. She is married with three teenaged children.

Charles Atkins Charles Edward Atkins, Jr.

Charles Edward Atkins, Jr.’s work focuses on religious practice in incarcerated communities. Charles is an ordained minister who currently works as a full-time Chaplain with the N.J. Department of Corrections at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility, where, over the last 20 years, he has developed and maintained programs that teach incarcerated youth and young adults methods of overcoming inner and outer violence through the practical application of spiritual principles. His work in prison was featured by the World Vision Report in November 2007 and in the nationally distributed Haverford College Alumni magazine (Fall 2009).In 2015, with a working group on Religious Education in Prisons, Charles was able to organize an international conference on religious education in prisons at the University of Montreal that invited educators from the United States and Canada. As he drew toward the completion of his dissertation, Charles also received funding in 2016 from the Louisville Institute in order to research the genesis and best practices of religious education programs in prisons around the United States. Since Charles is trilingual—speaking English, French (fluently) and Spanish (proficiently)—he has worked for the spiritual empowerment and the socio-economic development of people in Central America, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean (Jamaica, Cuba, and Haiti). He is also very interested in the challenges to religious practice of immigrants in their adopted countries. Atkins currently serves as a part-time preacher and worship leader for the French Evangelical Church of NY (PCUSA) where he helps this fellowship in Manhattan to strengthen their French worship service and their outreach to French-speaking people. Charles also serves as a motivational speaker, seminar leader, poet and program host for various projects. He created and implemented New Jersey, a curriculum called the New Name Project that helps disadvantaged teens to find life purpose and live with self-esteem. Charles was nominated for a 2008 Emmy Award by the Heartland Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his work as the host and narrator of the nationally distributed American Public Television series called “Beyond Theology”—an investigation of interfaith dialogue and the intersection of faith and public life. Having once been an artist in the hip-hop music industry (Blacksound Productions, Paris, France), Charles continues to enjoy producing music. He has produced music to support a campaign to raise awareness of child endangerment. In this effort, his 2012 CD with “XtraLenz,” was called “Snatch Hope Back,” a grouping of spoken word poetry and hip-hop music (on iTunes, and Charles has a wife, Margaret, and three children—Ashleigh, Jasmine and Nicholas.