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Church Divinity School of the Pacific will award honorary degrees to the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe DMin ’06, Barbara Creed, and the Rev. Canon Britt Olson ’96 at its annual alumni convocation on October 12.

“We are delighted to welcome these distinguished Episcopal leaders to Holy Hill and to recognize their service to our seminary and the wider church,” said the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, president and dean. “Our community has been enriched by each of them, and I look forward to expressing our collective gratitude for their ministries.”

The degrees will be awarded at the convocation Eucharist in All Saints Chapel at 5:45 p.m. The Rt. Rev. David Rice, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, will preach, and Olson will preside. A reception will follow the service at 7 p.m. Guests are invited to register online.

Barlowe, currently executive officer of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, served the Diocese of California from 2002-2012, first as missioner for congregational development and then as canon to the ordinary. During that time, he completed his Doctor of Ministry degree at CDSP. He has also served in the Dioceses of Iowa and New Jersey, and holds an MDiv from the General Theological Seminary and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College.

Creed, chair of the Church Pension Fund board of trustees, has long been a leader in the Dioceses of California and El Camino Real, where she currently lives. She helped lead the fundraising effort that now endows CDSP’s St. Margaret’s Visiting Professorship of Women in Ministry, and also served on the boards of the Graduate Theological Union and Episcopal Community Services of San Francisco. She is of counsel at Trucker Huss, the largest employee benefits law firm on the West Coast, where she has practiced law for 25 years. She holds a J.D. from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College.

Olson, who served as canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Northern California for seven years, is vicar of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Seattle, where she is helping to lead the congregation’s revitalization. She is a consultant to congregations through the Diocese of Olympia’s College for Congregational Development, and has also served as canon for evangelism and congregational development in the Diocese of El Camino Real and at parishes in Oregon and Nevada. In addition to an MDiv from CDSP, Olson holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon.

Church Divinity School of the Pacific, the only Episcopal seminary on the West Coast and a founding member of the Graduate Theological Union, educates students who can proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world in traditional and emerging ministries. Learn more about our residential and low-residence programs at  

The Rev. John F. Dwyer, an Episcopal priest and lawyer with a background in insurance and finance, has been named chief operating officer of Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

 The Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, CDSP’s dean and president, announced the appointment today.

“John brings a rare combination of gifts and experiences to CDSP,” Richardson said. “That includes a deep commitment to the Episcopal Church, a passion for welcoming people and populations that may feel alienated from the church, and substantial expertise in administrative and financial matters acquired as both a lawyer and a priest. I am pleased to welcome him to CDSP.”

Dwyer is in his seventh year as rector of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, in Roseville, Minnesota. He is treasurer of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota (ECMN), where he also serves as a member of the Standing Committee, chair of the joint finance and audit committee and president of the disciplinary board. He is a liturgical practicum instructor in ECMN’s School for Formation and has previously served as a trustee and a member of ECMN’s personnel committee.

He will begin work on October 30.

"I am delighted to be joining CDSP's leadership team at this time of such change in the wider church and in the new and inventive ways her leaders are formed in furtherance of Jesus' message and mission to the world,” Dwyer said. “I am energized and excited to work with the dedicated individuals striving to secure CDSP's future through sustainable, responsible, and imaginative uses of the assets and resources of the seminary." 

CDSP, a founding member of the Graduate Theological Union, recently welcomed an incoming residential class of 19 students to campus. The seminary’s low-residency program, founded in 2014, currently comprises 36 students. In 2016, the seminary revised its curriculum to focus on the core Christian concepts of mission, discipleship and evangelism. CDSP also requires Master of Divinity students to receive training in community organizing.

Prior to being called to Minnesota, Dwyer served faith communities in Washington, D. C. and Maryland. He earned his Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary in 2007. Before attending seminary, Dwyer practiced law in New York City for 18 years, focusing in the corporate insurance and finance areas. He received his Juris Doctor from St. John’s University School of Law in Jamaica, NY, and earned a B.A. from Fairfield University in Connecticut.

Dwyer will arrive in Berkeley with his husband, Ben Riggs, artistic director of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, and their 4-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog, Lincoln. From 2002-2007, Riggs was an adjunct faculty member at the Iliff School of Theology, where he directed the Iliff Choir.

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.”