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CDSP has appointed the Rev. Dr. Kwasi Thornell as a lecturer in pastoral theology. He begins teaching this fall.

Thornell, who holds an MDiv and DMin from Episcopal Divinity School, has served urban congregations in Detroit, New York, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, and was canon missioner at the Washington National Cathedral. He served on the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church from 2000-2006.

In 2007, Thornell was one of the founders of the Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys, a tuition-free Episcopal school for children from traditionally underserved communities in Washington, DC. He retired to California in 2009 and has worked as a tutor and mentor and as interim rector of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Oakland, California. In the summer of 2016, he taught a continuing education course in pastoral theology at CDSP.

“Our curriculum emphasizes mission, discipleship, and evangelism, and Kwasi’s long experience in congregational and urban ministry gives him practical pastoral expertise that can help our students take what they learn in the classroom out into the world,” said the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, academic dean. “We are delighted to welcome him back to CDSP.”

“I am honored and excited to join the Church Divinity School faculty,” said Thornell. “I believe that pastoral care is one of the most important aspects of parish ministry and that we need to take it seriously in preparation for serving the church. I am also excited to assist in developing programs that will include our community in engaging in the world from Holy Hill.”

On Sunday, August 27, the day before CDSP begins its fall semester, white nationalists intend to hold a rally in downtown Berkeley, California, where the seminary is located. Although the campus is far removed from the park where racist groups are planning to gather, students, faculty, and campus community members are planning to join other people of faith in protesting the display of bigotry and hatred. 

The Rev. Andrew Hybl ’12, CDSP’s new dean of students, says that the seminary will keep its chapel open on Sunday from 12 pm-4 pm for prayer and reflection. He is also working with the Rev. Phil Brochard, rector of All Souls Episcopal Parish in Berkeley, to organize those who want to process downtown to the site of the rally. Bishop Marc Andrus of the Diocese of California will help lead the procession.

Participants in the procession can travel with the group as far as the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, about a mile from campus, and then stay there in designated sanctuary space, return home or process to the park where the white nationalists are planning to rally, says Hybl.

On Friday from 2-5 pm at CDSP’s Denniston Commons, Janet Chisholm, a member of All Souls, will lead a workshop in nonviolent resistance that can help people prepare to resist the rally.

“Janet will help us learn centering practices and de-escalation skills that are useful in everyday life as well as in group protests,” says Hybl. “We want to deepen our understanding and commitment to nonviolence as practiced by Jesus and other teachers, and we want to offer students, staff, and faculty an opportunity for discernment about their participation in Sunday’s events.”

Some students will feel most comfortable spending the afternoon in the chapel, some will prefer to be at home, and others will join the faith community response downtown, he says. “I’ve told students that all of us at CDSP will support their decisions about what is best and most faithful for them.”

“This is a dark time in our country, and a sobering way to begin the academic year,” wrote Hybl in a letter to students last week. “Yet, this is the current state of affairs in our world. I am grateful that as Christians, we can stand together to resist the evil that confronts us and walk instead in the light of Christ.” 

CDSP has hired Peter C. Ajer as a lecturer in New Testament. He will begin teaching in the spring semester.

Ajer, holds a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from the Graduate Theological Union with a doctoral minor in peace and conflict studies from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture from Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

He taught a course on the letters of Paul at CDSP in the fall semester of 2013.

“We’re pleased to welcome Peter back to CDSP,” said the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, academic dean. “He has taught and studied all over the world, and his expertise in cultural criticism and postcolonial perspectives will deepen our students’ understanding of the New Testament.”

In his book, “The Death of Jesus and the Politics of Place in the Gospel of John,” Ajer used modern theories of political and social geography to interpret the passion narrative in the Gospel of John.

“What caught my attention when considering teaching at CDSP is its mission of ‘responding to the challenges of contemporary society with the Good News of Jesus Christ,” said Ajer, who was recently an adjunct professor in the department of theology and religious studies at the University of San Francisco. “I would like to continue journeying with the community of CDSP in this mission, which is vital for our world today, and which I can help and participate in.”

Ajer’s current research includes the rhetoric of war in Judeo-Christian scriptures and its interaction with African traditional religions.

“In teaching the New Testament the use of multiple—interdisciplinary—approaches is like clear light going through a prism and becoming a band of many colors,” he said. “We see the Biblical text from multiple viewpoints. Thus we see many thematic strands of development in the New Testament: mercy, service to community, the evolution of our society, and growing nearer to the Divine—and, we see the connectedness of these same realities.”

The Rev. Canon Stefani Schatz, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of California and a beloved friend of CDSP, died on July 12. Her family has requested that gifts in her memory be made to CDSP's St. Margaret's Visiting Professorship of Women in Ministry Fund.

Memorial services will be held for Canon Schatz on Sunday, July 30 at 4 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1500 State Street in Santa Barbara, and August 12 at 10 a.m. at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. Read her obituary.

Dean Mark Richardson preached this sermon on July 9, 2017, at St. Clement's Episcopal Church in Berkeley. On July 5, the St. Clement's rectory was the scene of a house fire.

We all gather this morning under quite different circumstances from just a week ago, stunned by the fire that took such a heavy toll on the home of the O’Neill family. Our hearts go out to Bruce, Michele and Jeremy in their grief over loss, and in the shock after such a trauma as this which takes its own time in passing.   

We are so grateful that everyone in the family is safe, and that Michele’s injuries will heal. In the news after fire, tornado, or earthquake, we often see people on camera standing in front of homes completely destroyed but thankful that their family members are safe. We feel that today. 

Sometimes, however, the hidden message is that we should only care about loss of life and be embarrassed about our grief over material things. But we do grieve over the loss of things and I think for good reason. Lost possessions are not just ‘things’; they represent deep and powerful memories and relationships in our personal histories. A message I heard over and over after the Oakland Hills fire of 1991 was that the possessions themselves were not alone the issue; they were symbols of our relationships, the carriers of family stories. The grief of loss is in the memories of life embedded in the objects no longer with us.

I’m guessing that Jeremy would have taken certain items to school with him this summer, not just because he could put them to good use, but because like mementos (Latin for ‘remembrances’) they would have been tangible reminders of the love and nurturing coming from family and friends in his youth, links to his personal history. These bonds will be there for him still, and now take a different form. 

Some of our congregation just returned from Family Camp at Bishop’s Ranch. For many years my own family took this to be an important annual ritual; our children would not let us miss it. And one of the reasons is that through life together, intentional and intensely lived through play and worship, building of friendship, sharing of family roles with each other’s children, we learned and we formed memories in ways that family and friends cannot do alone. I have this old bag that I painted during the family camp arts and crafts hour as our children worked away on similar projects at my side. It's now an old tote bag, and I have better ones at home. But it brings back memories, affectionate connections with people, and inklings of a kind of mutual care into which God is drawing us.

The communities that followed Jesus needed to write down their memories of this transformative figure who had changed them. They did not leave it to immaterial passing thoughts. Rather, they committed to public record the key relationships of the Christ story, teachings and actions that clothed the wisdom they had received. It was a way of being in the world centered in relationship. And the stories contained objects we hang onto in our own recall of the story of Jesus: waters at the well and at baptism, bread and a cup of wine, fair linens and crosses and much more. The objects are made intelligible by linking us to the central figure of our faith, and to relationships, which are built into the meaning Jesus has for us.

The point of all of this is the link to the community dimension of our spiritual life at its core. We are more ourselves in the company of others, in our bonds of affection, than we are in isolation. Tragedy, whether by fire or by some other means, takes up back to these connection, to a faith deeply grounded in community. And our material lives, our possessions, are meaningful especially insofar as they are markers of relationships.

The famous words in Matthew this morning, bear repeating: “Come to me you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” These words, on the surface at least are not characteristic of what we know about the way of Jesus. His burden was not light, his path not easy. But he calls us to something that lightens our path because it is centered in him, and in a burden made lighter by bearing it together.  That’s exactly what a yoke is all about. Part of the truth in this luring into his presence is the sharing in the tasks and burdens of life.

I am mindful of the many times Bruce has been there to pray at the bed side, to be the pastoral friend, and one who gathers resources in support of someone in our community in a time of need. He leads pastorally in what is truly a community task that others in this congregation take on as well, of sharing the yoke of Christ’s ministry.

And now the O’Neills need our outstretched hands and hearts, our prayers and our love. Jesus gives us the image of making a task easier precisely because it is shared. It is the community dimension of our spiritual life.

In the end we have to name the difference between loss of possessions and loss of hope and lingering despair. We can lose one without losing the other. I want to take a moment to share a thought directly with the youngest O’Neill:  Jeremy, you are about to go away to college and there are lots of thing you would have taken with you, which you won’t be taking; they were lost in the fire. But something of more importance still lies before you, and it is the wonder and exploration of future possibilities. And this future anticipation will build on the bond of love that has ushered you forward at this point in your life—the love, nurturing and affection of family and friends. This is not lost but now placed in new perspective that will only be gained over time.

The truth about the Christian faith is that it is radically social; it is not about the journey of individual souls into life with God. It is much messier than that. The realism of our struggles together—our successes and our brokenness and yes our traumas—are brought to this altar where we ask God to transform the gifts of our imperfect lives so that we may be given as Christ’s own body for the life of the world. Jesus tells us to take on this yoke together and learn from him, united with one another in pure affection as we prayed in the collect.

 “Grant, O loving God, to all who are bound up in the effects of suffering and loss this day the sense of fellowship with others and the faith and knowledge of your love, and give them your peace which passes understanding, for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”

A sermon preached by Professor Emeritus Donn Morgan at an evensong memorial for Bishop Frederick H. Borsch on May 17 in All Saints' Chapel:

We gather tonight to remember and give thanks for the life and ministry of Frederick Houk Borsch.  Fred touched many of us here tonight directly, but the difference he made for the church, the academy, and this school goes far beyond that.  Of one thing I am certain, Fred would want more than remembrance and thanksgiving here tonight—he would also want, in the context of this worship service—a proclamation of the gospel, something that challenged and motivated us to live out our faith fully and well.  In many ways Fred would join with the apostle Paul tonight, saying: “Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

“Because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”  Sounds wonderful, but not always easy to say, to believe, to act on.  One of my first and most vivid memories of Fred Borsch can be related to challenges of faith like this.    Among the many new practices that Fred brought to CDSP was regular “Quiet Days,” times for a stop in the routine, away from campus—a chance for reflection and prayer together,  a common meal, a solitary walk in the woods ... It was our first Quiet Day.   Fred was, appropriately, our leader.  There we were, out at the beautiful Franciscan retreat center, San Damiano, and Fred was speaking in the chapel.  He spoke of his own struggles with God, and how he found himself at some point alone in a chapel screaming: GOD DAMN IT, GOD, LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO!  In the midst of a serene and peaceful quiet time—that woke me up. Those words, not often heard from Fred, were a testimony to a real and abiding—if sometimes challenging and frustrating—relationship between Fred and God.  Whatever else we remember about Fred, that relationship with God, that connection with God, and the resultant commitment to serve the world in God’s name—these were at the center of Fred’s life and ministry.

Memories of Fred’s life in the academy and here at CDSP illuminate a way we may interpret our lessons tonight from Daniel and Corinthians. These texts touch a central part of the Christian faith: the mystery and promise of resurrection, life after death.  Fred’s early New Testament studies focused on the “son of man” (or, as translated tonight, “the one in human form”), that enigmatic figure responsible for many of the later visions and proclamations of Daniel—including the prediction of a deliverance of the people of God—some of whom now sleep in the dust of the earth.  In the middle of very hard and oppressive times comes the promise of life anew.  For the son of man and for Fred God is and will always be right in the middle of it all this difficult stuff.  So also for us.

In Corinthians we have the conclusion of a pretty extensive discussion of the resurrection of the dead.  Questions like: “Is there such a thing?” “What kind of body is raised?” “Is it perishable?” “Is it imperishable?” are raised. That discussion, a very serious one in New Testament times, is no less serious today. Many years ago Fred was writing an article on resurrection. He invited the faculty to read a draft and to come together to discuss what resurrection really means. I won’t rehearse the conversations and positions taken that night, except to say that Fred was pushing us all to talk about this most important and most difficult part of our faith—as scholars and as faithful Christians.  Tonight’s passage, with its strong affirmation of change and transformation, expressed for most of us, including Fred, a clear, compelling, and abiding reality—again with God and Jesus Christ right in the middle of it all.  So also for us.

Aside from his work as a scholar and teacher,  Fred was the dean and president of CDSP.  To this work he brought a deep commitment to education in general and theological education in particular. As an Anglophile educated for a time in England, Fred began an exchange program with an English theological college (in which CDSP’s present dean of the chapel participated, among many many others), encouraged faculty to live amidst students (like university “dons” of yesteryear), initiated the practice of student retreats (initially with the dean alone) and quiet days.  Fred was clearly a “student” dean in the sense that this was the constituency at CDSP he most identified with.  Not only in the classroom, but also on the basketball court, on the golf course, at a baseball game, at the bridge table—in all of these places Fred was found with students and friends, playing as hard as he worked!  Besides classroom and recreational venues, Fred had two other favorite places at CDSP:  this chapel and his study (located approximately where the present kitchen at Easton is).   In my time at CDSP I can remember no one—dean, faculty member, or student—for whom chapel worship was more important and more central.   Worship, as leader but perhaps especially as a congregant, provided Fred with time both individual and communal, with time both quiet and loudly celebrative, with time that sustained and refueled. 

During his years at CDSP Fred seemed infected with a joie de vivre, with a love of study, of the Bible, of the seminary, and of the church that was contagious to most who came to know him.  Though a serious man, he was also a jokester, willing to participate in pranks, to laugh at himself—to testify to the fact he did not have all the answers, all the power, all the influence—but that the God whom he loved and served did.  Increasingly over the years after leaving CDSP Fred seemed, at least to me, to become more and more an institutional person, albeit with a prophetic tinge, since he was always an advocate for change and transformation in whatever institution he served. Surely this institutional character is reflected in the offices he held—but more important perhaps in his growing belief that institutions like universities and dioceses and seminaries, as well as a multitude of others (from publishing houses to city halls!)—were, or could be, the vehicles for living faithfully and well with Christians and non-Christians in this God-given world.

Fred Borsch: servant of the church and academy, educator and priest, advocate and bishop, faithful and modest Christian, teacher and proclaimer of the gospel. Tonight we remember this very young and relatively inexperienced scholar who came to work with a very distinguished and senior faculty pretty well set in its ways. Despite its leadership in liturgical reform and its liberal leanings, Fred’s job, among others, was to challenge CDSP’s faculty to change still more. Through his charm, his guile, his God-given brains and gracefulness—and, he would be sure to say, a lot of pushing by the Holy Spirit—he helped shape a faculty and a seminary that would be ready for the huge transitions happening in the church in the 1970’s. Thanks in part to that shaping, CDSP has been and continues to be a national leader in theological education initiatives.

Tonight the life and ministry of Fred Borsch call us to remember and to do three things as we seek to “be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord.”  

  • First, be engaged—with God, with each other, with the church and other institutions as vehicles for change.  Pray hard, study hard, love hard—as team players.  We can’t do any of this by ourselves, without the ONE who is the be all and end all of our lives and ministries. 
  • Second, Take time off for play, for reflection, for perspective, for rejuvenation, for graceful revelation.  Find a healthy balance and integration of rest and relaxation with the intense work of engagement. 
  • Finally, and this is surely the bottom line for us tonight, as it was for Fred Borsch:  Give thanks to God.  For the gift of life—with its mysteries, with its tragedies and challenges, with its opportunities to love and serve.   For the gift of each other—as companions along the way.  For those wise ones, like Fred Borsch, who shine like the brightness of the sky and who help us to know that in the Lord our labor is not in vain.

Amen.

Watch a video of the service online.

The Rt. Rev. Frederick H. Borsch, retired bishop of Los Angeles, who served as dean and president of CDSP from 1972-80, died on April 11 at his home in Philadelphia. He was 81 and had begun treatment for a blood cancer last fall.
 
On May 17 at 5:30 pm, during the spring board of trustees meeting, CDSP will hold a service of evensong to celebrate Bishop Borsch's life. The Rt. Rev. Barry Beisner '78, who studied at CDSP under Borsch's leadership, will officiate, and Professor Emeritus Donn Morgan, who served on the faculty during Borsch's tenure, will preach.
 
"I met Fred Borsch early in his career when he was dean of CDSP," said Dean Richardson. "What stands out from then and the years that followed was his humble but firm and prophetic leadership, whether in the classroom, the chaplaincy at Princeton, or as bishop of Los Angeles. He lived a beautiful balance of the pastoral and prophetic ministries called out of him. Fred was also a scholar for the church, leaving us a great gift in the form of sermons and essays on the New Testament parables and other writings. CDSP remains indebted to his visionary leadership."
 
The New York Times chronicled Borsch's lifelong commitment to justice and equality. "When riots erupted in Los Angeles, fed by the acquittal of four police officers accused of beating a black taxi driver, Rodney King...Bishop Borsch wrote, 'In biblical terms, if the society fails to care for the poor, for the widows, the orphans and the strangers in their midst, that society will come to tragedy.'" 

Watch a recording of the service here.