Jen Ayres

Jennifer R. Ayres

Professor of Religious Education


PhD, Emory University, 2007
ThM, Union Theological Seminary-PSCE, 2002
MDiv, Union Theological Seminary-PSCE, 2000
BA, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 1994


(404) 727-6329


On research leave for the 2023-24 academic year.

The Rev. Dr. Jennifer R. Ayres‘ research interests include practical theological approaches to education and formation, ecological religious education, pedagogical theory and practice, theories and pedagogies of place, and story-centered approaches to education.

She is the author of three books: Waiting for a Glacier to Move: Practicing Social Witness (Wipf and Stock, 2011), Good Food: Grounded Practical Theology (Baylor University Press, 2013), and Inhabitance: Ecological Religious Education (Baylor University Press, 2019). Her current research, for which she received a grant from Emory’s Halle Institute for Global Research, seeks to develop a link between place-based local ecological practice and global cooperation for ecological change.

Named Emory University’s Exemplary Teacher of the Year in 2022, Ayres’ commitment to pedagogical vision and practice is embodied in and beyond the classroom, in her service to Candler as director of the Doctor of Ministry program (2018-2023) and chair of the Curricular Revision Task Force (2021-2022). She also has served on the advisory committees for Emory’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, Halle Institute for Global Research, and the Green Seminary Initiative.

Ayres is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).


Inhabitance: Ecological Religious EducationBaylor University Press, 2019

Good Food: Grounded Practical Theology, Baylor University Press, 2013

Waiting for a Glacier to Move: Practicing Social WitnessWipf and Stock Publishers, 2011


“Field Trip,” in Embodied Teaching blog series, Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, February 2023

“Paying Attention,” in Embodied Teaching blog series, Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, September 2022

“A Pedagogy for Precarious Times: Religious Education and Vulnerability,” in Religious Education vol. 116, issue 4, 2021

“Recovering Mystery: Ecological Encounter and Practical Theological Knowing,” in International Journal of Practical Theology vol. 25, issue 1, 2021

“Memories of Home: Theological Education, Place-Based Pedagogy, and Inhabitance,” in Grounding Teaching in the Environmental Humanities: Place-Based Pedagogies in the South, Routledge, 2018

“Could More Time for Wandering Transform Theological Education?” in Faith and Leadership, June 01, 2017

“Cultivating the ‘Unquiet Heart’: Ecology, Education, and Christian Faith,” in Theology Today, vol. 74, issue 1, April 12, 2017

“Liturgy and Food Culture: Introduction,” in Liturgy, vol. 32, issue 2, February 23, 2017

“Learning on the Ground: Ecology, Engagement, and Embodiment,” in Teaching Theology and Religion, vol. 17, issue 3, July 01, 2014

“Lives Worth Living: Religious Education and Social Movements,” in Religious Education, vol. 108, issue 4, August 15, 2013

“Jeremiah 33:14-16,” “Malachi 3:1-4,” and “Zephaniah 3:14-20,” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Volume IWestminster John Knox Press, September 03, 2012

Emory University Exemplary Teacher of the Year, 2022

The Provost’s Distinguished Teaching Award for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Education, 2022

The Vulcan Materials Company Teaching Excellence Award, 2021

The United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry Exemplary Teacher Award, 2021

President’s Humanities Fellow, Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, Emory University, 2017-2018

The Louisville Institute Collaborative Inquiry Research Grant for Cultivating Ecological Faith: Faithful Education and Leadership for Our Time, 2014-2017

American Academy of Religion Regional Grant for Religion, Place, and Pedagogy: Establishing a Bio-Regional Network of Teacher-Scholars in Religion and Ecology

Wabash Center Small Project Grant for Religion, Place, and Pedagogy: Establishing a Bio-Regional Network of Teacher-Scholars in Religion and Ecology

Lilly Theological Research Expense Grant, The Association of Theological Schools

Accepted into the Wabash Center Workshop for Pre-Tenure Faculty

Louisville Institute Dissertation Grant

Emory University Dean’s Teaching Fellowship (declined)

Emory Initiative in Religious Practices and Practical Theology Research and Travel Grant

Graduate Division of Religion Graduate Fellowship, 2002-2006

Be(com)ing Christian: Theology, Education, and Public Life

Becoming a Reflective Practitioner

Doctor of Ministry Final Project Seminar

Religious Education and Our Ecological Context

Religious Education as Formation and Transformation

The Art of Teaching

In the media

May 6, 2022

Jennifer Ayres receives top teaching award: 'Exemplary she has been, extraordinarily so'

November 3, 2016

Service of Word

March 15, 2016

Service of Word and Table

October 22, 2014

Food Insecurity: A Challenge to Faith Communities

September 30, 2014

Service of Word

April 24, 2014

Food and Faith: Eating as a Spiritual Practice

February 23, 2013

Discovering a Life: How Working For Social Justice Shapes Christian Life

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