Community Gathering

Tue, Feb 18, 2014 12:30 pm

February 14, 2014

Dear Friends:

Yesterday, our board of trustees took an important step toward building a strong, sustainable future for CDSP. To ensure that our assets are available to continue forming leaders for our church, the board has voted to lease Shires Hall, our office and classroom building on Ridge Road, and to rent two empty apartments in the Virginia St. student housing as the first step in renting that entire building at market rate.

The board also decided not to increase tuition for the 2014-15 academic year.

I want to be clear with you about what we are doing in leasing some of our property, and, more importantly, what we are not doing:

The leaders of today’s CDSP have been entrusted with the extraordinary gift of our property here on Holy Hill, bought and built by past generations in the service of our mission. For many years, the best use of some of this property has been housing the ordinary functions of a residential seminary. It has served us well.

Today, as we seek to train leaders for the 21st century church, we are increasingly augmenting our core residential MDiv program with low-residence, online, and intensive courses. As a result, we need to use our assets in new ways—developing smart classrooms, cultivating online pedagogical expertise, and creating flexible space for collaboration, to name just a few. Leasing some of our underused property to another educational institution—several are interested—will help us address the structural deficit we have in common with many seminaries and free up revenue for new, innovative forms of theological education.

What we are not doing is shutting down the campus, ending residential theological education, or selling off assets to keep the wolf from the door. Our residential programs will continue to be at the core of CDSP’s mission, and will continue to enrich and be enriched by our newer programs and pedagogies. In short, our new work will be made possible, in part, by using our current assets in new ways.

Redeploying property has some practical implications. Assuming that a lease for Shires is forthcoming, in July we will relocate offices and other administrative functions to the second floor of Parsons Hall on Le Conte Avenue, which will become CDSP’s “front door.” Students will continue to live on the third and fourth floors of Parsons, and all CDSP students who want campus housing will continue to have access to it. As we develop the remodeling plans for Parsons, we will be sure that the privacy and security of students is protected. 

The move will also allow us to implement our new administrative services arrangement, which will make us more flexible and efficient while still preserving full cross-registration with other GTU institutions. I invite you to learn more about the board’s decisions at our next community meeting on Tuesday February 18 at 12:30 p.m. in Denniston.  In the meantime, should you have specific questions about these changes, please talk with Elsbeth Wetherill in my office at 510-204-0733 or

On the same day our board took this vote, the Christian Century published an editorial about mainline theological education titled “Innovative Moment.” One passage in that essay seems particularly relevant to me: “Institutions in survival mode typically spend little time or energy in visionary thinking. It would be a shame if the current crisis in seminary education didn’t lead to fresh thinking about how the church calls, trains and places people for pastoral ministry and other forms of church leadership.”

In voting to use our property in new ways, the trustees of CDSP have taken an important step toward freeing up energy and money for just the kind of fresh thinking that this editorial urges. I am grateful to serve with trustees who are willing to meet these strategic challenges with creativity and enthusiasm, and I am glad to be embarking upon this newest period of change with all of you.


The Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson

President and Dean 

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