Interior of the Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. (Photo courtesy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields)

“Why Read the Bible?” is the title for the inaugural Helen White Memorial Lecture, which will be held on Saturday, April 13 at 4 p.m. at the Church of St. Martin-in- the-Fields. The annual lecture will cover a wide range of topics in biblical studies over the next 10 years while honoring Helen White for her long and vital ministry of spreading biblical literacy in southeast Pennsylvania.

The inaugural lecture of the series will be delivered by the Rev. Dr. Eric D. Barreto who serves as the Weyerhaeuser Associate Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary. Professor Barreto is a New Testament scholar whose work focuses on the Acts of the Apostles. He is known at PTS as a popular, engaging and inspiring professor who encourages deep investigation and wide-ranging application of the biblical text. He is looking forward to addressing a favorite subject, “Why Read the Bible?” when he delivers his address at the Helen White Memorial Lecture.

Helen White, who died on Jan. 11, 2018, was an effective and passionate creator of biblical studies opportunities for, in her words, “the people in the pew.” Starting in the 1970s at St. Thomas in Whitemarsh, and then as a staff member for the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, Helen planted group after group organized to study the Gospels and then all the texts of the Bible. Four groups she started are still studying at her home parish, the Church of St. Martin-in- the-Fields.

A participant in the program, Cathy Glazer, put her experience this way: “Participating in ‘Approaching the Gospels Together’ has allowed me to go deeper into what Jesus is saying. By reading the text of the Gospels and discussing them in a small group, I have been able to process what the Word is saying to me, and what I’ve been called to do.”

“Helen White was the Johnny Appleseed of biblical literacy,” said the Rev. Jarrett Kerbel, rector of the Church of St. Martin-in-the- Fields. “With unmatched wit, intelligence, biblical knowledge and charm, she attracted generation after generation into engaging scripture.”

Because White felt so strongly that biblical literacy was so easily within reach and so crucial for all followers of Jesus, and because she dedicated her life to this ministry, the Church of St. Martin-in-the- Fields has established this annual lecture in her honor to advance and celebrate her mission and ministry. The event is free and a free-will donation will be collected to support the ongoing lecture series.

One of her three sons, George H. White III, said, “My brothers and I, along with Helen’s extended family, are thrilled the church is doing something like this so connected to her life’s work. And she’d want it emphasized that her impact was a result of being so inspired by her numerous mentors and all those she had the privilege to guide as group leaders and participants.”

Barreto, an ordained Baptist minister, lists among his publications Ethnic Negotiations: The Function of Race and “Ethnicity in Acts 16” (Mohr Siebeck, 2010), “Exploring the Bible” (Fortress, 2016) and “In Tongues of Mortals” and “Angels” (Lexington, 2018). He is the editor of Reading Theologically (Fortress, 2014), and is a is also a regular contributor to ON Scripture, the Huffington Post, and For more, go to and follow him on Twitter @ericbarreto.

The Inaugural Helen White Memorial Lecture, “Why Read the Bible?”, will be held on Saturday, April 13 at 4:00 p.m., with a reception to follow. The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields is located at 8000 St. Martin’s Ln. Philadelphia, PA 19118. RSVP for the lecture at For more information, call St. Martin’s at 215-247-7466.