Much of Stephen Finley’s time in church has been spent researching in hopes that his work benefits churches and the community.

Finley, 45, an assistant professor of African-American religion at LSU, said he is particularly interested in the study of culture and traditions as they relate to the black church. His projects have included African Americans and masculinity, American Africans and UFOs, American-African Mormons and the Nation of Islam.

“My intent is strictly scholarly and research-oriented,” said Finley, who came to LSU in 2008.

While he hasn’t done research in area churches yet, he has done so in other states.

“My interest in doing that is not because of any personal commitment I may have to a particular church or denomination. My contribution is to enhance any perspective and creativity to those who do, so that they might be richer, so that the African-American communities might be richer and inspired.”

In addition to his work at LSU, Finley has provided commentary as one of the contributing writers to the nondenominational African American Lectionary (http://www.theafricanamericanlectionary.org), a free online source geared toward black ministers and ministries.

Created in 2007, African American Lectionary, of Nashville, Tenn., includes more than 5,000 pages of resources, including weekly worship and cultural resources as well as personal development tools. It also pays special attention to the unique needs of young pastors, with several sections designed specifically for their use.

One of Finley’s cultural commentaries for the lectionary dealt with the challenge of annual days, such as men’s day. Finley wrote that the day offers black church communities a “chance to celebrate the healthy roles men have played, and can continue to play, in the unfolding divine drama of black freedom.

“Remember, a lot of people in these churches do these things every year,” said Finley, whose own religious background includes African-American Episcopal and Church of God in Christ. “So how do we continue to refresh and make creative this day that comes up every year?”

A different approach to musical selections is a start, he said.

“At a lot of men’s days, they sing these songs that sort of signify that to be a man, to be masculine is to be ‘soldierish’ or militaristic, and you just sort of rethink that way of understanding of what it means to be a man in a way that is not aggressive, that’s not dominating,” he suggested.

Mind course

Meditation helps increase awareness, relaxation, right brain activity or creativity and intuition, said the Rev. Alec Evason.

“Meditation is really just how people deepen their experience of their own experience or spirituality or whatever that is,” he said.

Evason is offering a free course called “Introduction to Meditation” from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 11 and June 19 at the Jones Creek Library, 6222 Jones Road.

“We’re going to talk about the importance of just clearing your mind, relaxing and working with your breath to do that,” said Evason, who came to Baton Rouge about two years ago from Roanoke, Va. “It’s an opportunity for people not to talk and relax and simply be.”

One of the biblical Scriptures Evason said sums up the idea of meditation is found in Psalms 1:2: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.”

Alec Evason and his wife, Beth, are leaders of the new Spiritual Summit Center, a church that meets in their home at 17547 Willow Trail Drive.

The congregation embraces all spiritual teachings based on the actual teachings of Jesus, the Evasons said.

A native of England, Alex Evason, 63, has been a Unity minister for more than 30 years. He served churches in Illinois, California and Virginia before coming to Louisiana.

Beth Roberts Evason, 65, was born in Alabama and raised in north Louisiana. She has a master of science degree in counseling and more than 30 years in the field.

For information, call Alex Evason at (225) 726-1283 or the library at (225) 756-1140.

Engineering ministry

Peyton Tippett graduated from LSU this spring with a 4.0 grade-point average and a degree in petroleum engineering.

Instead of pursuing a job in the engineering field, the 22-year-old is answering his call to the ministry.

“After my third year at LSU in engineering, I felt like this was what I was called to do,” said Tippett, a Bossier City native who was active in The Chapel on the Campus during his five years at LSU.

On Monday, Tippett will start work as an associate youth minister at a church near Dallas. In August, he will begin work toward a master’s of divinity degree at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Tippett spent his first two summers at LSU interning at the First United Methodist Church in Duncanville. He had the opportunity to work with the youth ministry, a ministry he enjoyed.

His third summer was spent interning in his field of study — for an oil company. He didn’t enjoy that as much.

“It was a great company, but it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing,” he said. “I didn’t have the passion for it. I just kind wanted to hang around youth and be a leader for them.”

Tippett’s next internship took him back to a church and youth ministry.

“That just kind of solidified that initial calling that I had,” he said. “After a while, you can’t just ignore the fact that God is working through some things and you just got to acknowledge it.”

Though ministry called, Tippett said he was determined to finish strong in his pursuit of an engineering degree.

“I don’t really like to give up on anything. Once I started it, I really wanted to finish it,” he said.

Tippett said he took a New Testament class and World Religions class at LSU.

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email him at trobinson@theadvocate.com.