Sermon for CDSP Baccalaureate Service
20 May 2016 Acts 17: 24 -31
John 1:1-5, 9-14
I once heard John’s Gospel described as ‘a paean to the unlimited beauty, eternal creativity, and breathtaking presence of Christ in this world’.
I believe that indeed it is and therefore what a truly magnificent sending out scripture this surely is for those of you about to fully and finally take your leave of this wonderful institution, this place of your shaping and forming, this place which will variously have angered and frustrated you, challenged and enriched you, encouraged and enlightened you, taught and enabled you, fed you and blessed you . . .
I cannot begin to express just how incredibly humbled I am to be with you all in this moment of transition from student to servant, in this moment of richly deserved celebration, in this sacramental moment of thanksgiving for all in God’s creation that has been and is yet to be in all of our lives. Thank you for inviting me to share in this very precious occasion. It is very, very special to be back home again.
Two weeks ago I was in Fiji at a high level gathering of church leaders, political leaders and academics drawn from across the Pacific region. We were charged with developing an inter-faith communiqué for presentation at the upcoming G20 Summit meeting to be held in China later this year. The idea being that faith communities have a unique and important perspective and dare I suggest, an irrefutable responsibility to contribute into that globally influential essentially secular gathering of the leaders of the worlds leading nations. Or perhaps I should say, to that globally influential essentially secular gathering of the worlds leading economic players.
High on the Fiji agenda was the challenge of getting the G20 to take seriously the crucial Pacific wide issues of climate change, economic development, social justice and education – four of the distinctive aspirational goals, which now comprise the United Nations SDG’s (Sustainable Development Goals) or what is now the expanded version of the tragically under-realised MDG’s (Millennium Development Goals).
These newly minted SDG’s, as I am sure you all well know, are ultimately the noble goals seen as essential to achieving world peace with justice and the prospect of flourishing for all humanity. These are the goals, which were assented to late last year by 193 of the countries represented in the UN General Assembly. Present also at that Assembly were many of the world’s most prominent and well known faith leaders and certainly I commend to you the speech made by Pope Francis at that time. Following on from Pope Francis extraordinary public witness it has been heartening to see how many people of all faiths across the world are seeing movement toward the fulfillment of the SDG’s as a missional matter, as a matter of God’s justice.
‘Thus says the Lord, do what is right, for soon my salvation shall come, and my deliverance shall be revealed . . .’
The problem however in the case of the Fiji gathering is of course the monumental disconnect between the outwardly honorable nature of the SDG’s and the outwardly and inwardly dubious, utterly self serving nature of the G20!
One is to do with the care of God’s creation by responding tenderly and with abundant generosity of spirit to human need; the other is to do with abetting the disfigurement, the crass exploitation of God’s creation. One is incarnational and thus redemptive, the other is disembodied and thus life denying.
To my graduating class, your ministries are now set to be within the global village whether here in Berkeley, California or in Auckland, Aotearoa, New Zealand. Here in each one of the public squares into which you are now authorized to step, fully equipped, fully aware, fully certificated for the myriad challenges likely to be set before you, you will find the same juxtaposition of critical factors which inevitably impede the rightful progress from blessed creation to blessed redemption.
Key among these impediments is what George Bernard Shaw described as the greatest of evils and the worst of crimes imaginable and that is poverty . . . and by poverty I am adopting Amartya Sen’s definition of poverty as being the inability to lead a decent and dignified life or indeed what Robert McNamara so poignantly described as a condition of deprivation that falls below any rational definition of human decency. A decent and dignified life, a life of human decency, a life, which knows fulfilment of deep spiritual hunger, surely these things are the birth right if not the human right of all human beings?
And yet today’s tragic reality is that none of us need look far before we bear witness to the antithesis to dignity and decency – daily we are confronted with countless human lives battered, happiness stifled, creativity destroyed, freedoms eradicated, human dignity crushed, spirituality derided.
This then as most of you have already experienced, is your new occupational vineyard, the public square, the sphere within which you and I each, daily, have our call to serve the Christ we seek to emulate, the Christ we promise to follow.
How then are we to most effectively leverage ministries of light and life when so much is pressing in from the dark side, poverty, unjust wars, nuclear threats, rising oceans, human trafficking, corruption, racism, the stark raving lunacy of Donald Trump and so on and on it goes.
Well it is at this point that I want to return again to what I earlier mentioned as ‘the breathtaking presence of Christ in the world’ . . . for here in John’s Gospel is the solemn promise that what is going on when Jesus shows up on earth is somehow mysteriously part of what is and was always true about God. Thus before we meet Jesus in Galilee or in Bethlehem, we meet him ‘in the beginning . . . with God’. John is showing us that Jesus Christ is the embodied plan of God that existed from before his birth.
We also learn the basic plot of the gospel: creation no longer knows its Creator and is in darkness. But the Light has arrived in the world. The Light will make the Father known to the world, as the divine Word of God. All of this is matching and expanding what was revealed in the Old Testament, though now God has been ever more gracious.
John is reassuring us that nothing at all therefore can make a difference to the eternal truth about God. God’s welcome, God’s joy, God’s light – all of this is eternal, not fixed in time or space but eternally occurring, eternally seeking, eternally knowing and therefore there is theoretically no way that the darkness can ever, could ever, completely overwhelm or overthrow God’s people.
The challenge therefore before each one of us really is quite simple. We are to be courageous; we need not fear the dark. We are to endeavor in all we say and all we do to exemplify what we really mean when we confess to believing in Him in whom we live and move and have our being.
We are called inexorably to prophetic action and in this respect I want to say that I have every confidence in the graduating class that you will continue to be unafraid in your public witness, that you will continue to be unbowed in your pursuit of justice for the downcast and the marginalized, that you will continue to act always with compassion and kindness, that you will temper your outrage with critical analysis and strategic action, and crucially that you will continue to practice the art of patience with others and with yourself – after all you now have a whole lifetime of selfless, sacrificial ministry ahead of you . . . yes there is urgency but so too is there time, God’s time for you and for me to be continually blessed by knowing, by ever more deeply knowing, that because we believe, we too have become the children of God, entrusted, empowered, enlightened.
Let us then move on from this day with greater certainty, greater clarity and greater confidence in attending to the multiple tasks that lie ahead. Be always as I so lovingly remember you all to be - so incredibly grace filled and so wickedly good humoured.
In closing, may I just share a very short but I think a superb poem by Mary Oliver. Some of you may already know it. It is called The Song of the Builders,
On a summer morning
I sat down
On a hillside
To think about God
A worthy pastime
Near me, I saw
A single cricket;
It was moving the grains of the hillside
This way and that.
How great was its energy
How humble it’s effort.
Let us hope
It will always be like this
Each of us going on
In our inexplicable ways
Building God’s universe.
© Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel
Proudest Alumni of CDSP!
The Most Rev. Dr. Paul Kwong '82, archbishop and primate of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui and bishop of the Diocese of Hong Kong Island, will speak at the 122nd commencement of Church Divinity School of the Pacific on May 20 at 10:30 am in the chapel of the Pacific School of Religion.
The event is open to the public and will be broadcast live online at www.cdsp.edu.
Kwong, who was elected chair of the Anglican Consultative Council in April, was ordained a priest in 1983 and became bishop in 2007. He was brought up in an Anglican family in Hong Kong, and his great-grandfather was one of the first Chinese Anglican priests in the 19th century. Kwong holds a bachelor degree from Lingnan College, a Master of Divinity from CDSP, and a PhD in theology from the University of Birmingham.
At the ceremony, CDSP will award the Master of Divinity degree to 10 candidates and will also grant the Doctor of Ministry degree, the Certificate of Anglican Studies, and Certificate of Theological Studies, and the Master of Arts degree in cooperation with the Graduate Theological Union.
Kwong and two retired CDSP faculty members, the Rev. Dr. Linda Clader ‘88 and Dr. Donn F. Morgan, a former dean and president, will receive honorary doctorates at the ceremony.
Clader, who was the first ordained woman on the CDSP faculty, holds a Ph.D. in classical philology from Harvard and taught classical languages at Carleton College, from which she holds an A. B., for twenty years. In 1988, she received her Master of Divinity from CDSP, and in 1991, she returned to the seminary as professor of homiletics. She also served as dean of the chapel for several years and as academic dean for a decade. She retired from full-time teaching in 2013, but continues to offer occasional preaching courses.
Morgan taught Old Testament at CDSP from 1972-2013 and served as president and dean from 1995–2010. He also taught biblical studies, Christian education, homiletics and other multidisciplinary courses and topics. He holds an A.B. from Oberlin College, a B.D from Yale Divinity School, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate School. He is currently editor of “The Oxford Handbook of the Writings of the Hebrew Bible.”
Students enrolling at CDSP in 2016 are receiving a hefty new summer reading list designed by faculty to prepare them for their studies. Two titles on the list will introduce students to some of the significant intellectual work done by CDSP faculty in recent years.
In a 2015 review of this 1999 book by L. William Countryman, Sherman E. Johnson Professor Emeritus in Biblical Studies, Israel Galindo wrote: "Countryman's book is a worthy contribution to the study of ordination and the issue of the nature of clergy vs. laity. His framework of interpreting clergy as priests among priests is a helpful corrective to overly strict sacerdotal polarities between clergy and lay." Galindo, of Columbia Theological Seminary, was the consultant to CDSP's recently concluded curriculum review process. Read the review.
Shortly after the 2014 publication of her most recent book, Dean of Academic Affairs and Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics Ruth Meyers said in an interview: "In the book, I propose that missional worship isn't a matter of particular techniques but rather an approach to worship and to all of congregational life that places God's mission at the center. Having memorable models invites people to think creatively about a missional approach to worship. ... Look outside your doors. See who is in your neighborhood and ponder how God is at work in your context. Ask how your worship can more fully express the needs and hopes of your community and how your congregation can respond to the needs in your neighborhood."Read the interview.
During her nine years leading the Episcopal Church’s nearly 2 million members, the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori spent a good deal of time representing the church on public issues ranging from caring for the poor to caring for the planet. Next fall, CDSP students can engage with her firsthand when the former presiding bishop returns to campus as the St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry to teach a course entitled The Public Square: Engaging Emerging Opportunities.
“We are going to consider a variety of ways in which pastoral leaders might engage the public square, in partnership with others, and including such areas as public policy, human flourishing, scientific discovery and artistic creativity,” Jefferts Schori says. “Climate change would be an excellent example. I expect us to focus on how people of faith can flourish in their baptismal vocation of reconciliation. We will consider how to balance this work with reflection, Sabbath, silence, and re-creation.”
Jefferts Schori, who was a teacher long before she was a preacher, has advanced degrees in both science and religion. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Stanford in 1974 and a Ph.D. in oceanography from Oregon State University. Prior to her ordination to the priesthood in 1994, she was a visiting assistant professor in Oregon State University's Department of Religious Studies, a visiting scientist at Oregon State University's College of Oceanography, and an oceanographer with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle.
Jefferts Schori received a Master of Divinity from CDSP in 1994 and an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 2001. She served as bishop of Nevada until 2006 when she became the first woman elected as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. Her term ended last November.
The Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, Ph.D., CDSP’s dean and president, had long hoped to recruit Jefferts Schori to spend a semester at CDSP. “This is an opportunity for Bishop Katharine to return to the classroom where she is so gifted, and to share with us the wisdom of her experience gained over a decade of episcopal leadership,” says Richardson, who co-taught seminar sessions on theology and evolution with Jefferts Schori several years ago at General Theological Seminary. “The Women in Ministry experience is also a time set apart for one's personal research, reflection and writing, and that is something she richly deserves.”
Asked what she loves about teaching, Jefferts Schori says, “Watching and experiencing fertile minds making leaps, discovering things, making new connections, and being invited into that creative ferment.”
All of her multi-faceted experiences with religion in the public square will come to bear on the Tuesday evening course at CDSP.
“We’ll consider how to encourage constructive and elevated public dialogue that is at once civil and earnest, evangelical and thoughtfully critical, and energetically focused on a vision of the beloved community – God’s peaceable kindom of all creation,” she said.
"This is a good book for people who are new to this stuff of reading the Bible and asking questions that are outside of their own experiences of marginality, poverty, and solidarity. For example, in my country [Colombia], there are no clear demarcations between who is white and who is black. Divisions based on skin color are not the same, because we see ourselves as mestizaje. So we ask how we can bring class to the reading of the Bible."
The Rev. Tripp Hudgins, a doctoral student in liturgical studies and ethnomusicology at the Graduate Theological Union, has been named the 2016-17 Bogard Teaching Fellow at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers, academic dean at CDSP announced last week.
“We’re pleased to welcome Tripp, who has an energetic presence, a lively mind and a deep understanding of how music and culture affect one another and how both shape our experience when we gather to worship,” Meyers said.
Hudgins, who has been serving as director of admissions and an adjunct professor of liturgy at the American Baptist Seminary of the West, will serve as a teaching assistant in the fall term, then offers a course during the spring semester. He succeeds Stephen Shaver as the Bogard Fellow.
“It is a privilege to have an opportunity to learn and teach within a community I already know well,” Hudgins said. “I look forward to deepening the relationships that already have a profound influence on my work.”
The Bogard Fellow participates in CDSP worship and community life and attends monthly colloquies at which faculty discuss one another's scholarly work.
Hudgins, a native of Ashland, VA, has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Richmond and master’s degrees in both divinity and theological studies from the former Seabury-Western Seminary in Evanston, IL. He was ordained in the American Baptist Churches, USA, in 2004.
After serving two congregations as pastor, Hudgins and his wife, Patricia Austin, moved to Berkeley where they live in community with their infant son, Elias, as part of All Souls Episcopal Parish near CDSP.
His Ph.D. focuses on the history of American Protestantism and music as lived eschatology.
Watching war movies, reading science fiction and examining Zen Buddhism aren’t your typical seminary fare, but they are among the many innovative, online continuing education courses available at CDSP.
The Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership (CALL) offers online courses during winter, spring and fall sessions that allow students to go at their own pace and learn at a time convenient to them. Courses are seven weeks long and are open to everyone, lay or ordained.
David Cunningham, a member at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, Berkeley, and former director of planned giving at the University of San Francisco, is effusive about the CALL program.
“My wife, Claire, and I have taken two courses, Brian Taylor's ‘The Empty Way’ and John Kater's ‘Anglican Theology,’" Cunningham said. “Both were very rich in content and most stimulating and inspiring.”
Taylor’s course, “The Empty Way: Contemplative Christianity and Zen Buddhism,” was offered in the fall of 2015 and will be offered again in the spring of 2017. It explores the spiritual practices of contemplative Christianity and Zen Buddhism, including an openness to life as it is, compassion towards others, and freedom from anxiety-producing habits of mind.
“This course is not specifically Episcopal,” said Taylor, who served for 30 years as rector of an Episcopal congregation in New Mexico and has studied and practiced with a variety of Zen Buddhist teachers in San Diego, Albuquerque and Chicago, where he now resides. “This course puts together a Christian and Buddhism landscape and looks at the overlap. Today there are just so many people interested in Buddhism.”
Cunningham said the course helped further his and his wife’s own Christian formation.
“We found the course content a powerful tool for another approach to our Christian faith journey,” Cunningham said. “Brian showed us, via a video, how to sit in Zen meditation and why. He then guided our work to connect this contemplative experience to our spiritual learning.”
As part of the class, students were required to meditate each day. The Cunningham’s devoted 20 to 30 minutes a day to meditation, and “we still meditate now several months after the course ended. I wish Brian would teach another class. He is an excellent teacher.”
In an upcoming class titled “War in Film and Faith,” participants will explore whether it is possible for disciples of Jesus Christ to participate in or approve of war. And if so, under what circumstances? The course, taught by Dr. Bradley Burroughs, will approach these questions through the lens of contemporary films—both fiction and documentary—that portray key aspects of war. The films will be augmented with readings that deepen students’ understanding of the rich history of Christian reflection on war.
“The films ideally are intended to open up certain questions and issues related to the ethics of war,” said Burroughs, a former CDSP professor who now lives in Dayton, Ohio, and teaches at United Theological Seminary. “For instance, the first film we watch is ‘Glory.’ When I had full-time students in Berkeley, most were inclined toward a form of pacifism. ‘Glory’ is intended to open up the question, might there be a time when war is just? This film portrays a war that has as strong of a claim to justice as any, in my opinion.”
In addition to “Glory” (1989), students will watch and reflect on one movie per week, including: “American Sniper” (2014); “Defiance” (2008); “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012); “Wag the Dog” (1997); “Selma” (2014); and “Restrepo” (2010).
Burroughs had an abundance of films from which to choose. So he chose ones that were easy for students to access online and that best addressed the questions he had in mind.
“For instance, I wanted to consider moral injury, which is not just PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but also war injuries in the larger framework—the idea that by participating in a certain act, you feel that you have damaged your own ability to do good or be good. This is of immense significance for those ministering to soldiers and returning soldiers.”
For that issue, he chose “Restrepo,” a documentary that chronicles the lives of men from the beginning of their deployment in the Korengal Valley of northeast Afghanistan (at the time, regarded as one of the deadliest places on earth) until their return home.
“It’s a really powerful movie about how the ways the effects of war continue long after the general public has stopped thinking about it,” Burroughs said. “When soldiers come back, we’re not so good at thinking about the enduring consequences of what we have asked those people to do on our behalf.”
Burroughs said courses that deal with contemporary issues challenge the faith formation of laypeople and clergy alike.
“What I would say about my courses is there are right or wrong answers, and we are too quick to say there is no right or wrong. I certainly hope when you walk away from this course that you can make your case in a way that is faithful to Christian scripture, tradition and reason.”
Looking ahead to the fall of 2016, science fiction writer Michelle Murrain will teach a course called “Sci-Fi Faith.” A primary text for the course will be “The Sparrow,” by Mary Doria Russell, a book about the first Jesuit mission to a planet inhabited by intelligent life. The course will also include short stories and non-fiction readings.
“We’ll be talking about the themes in science fiction that have to do with God, creation, the ways in which religion manifests in human beings and may manifest itself in the future,” said Murrain, who lives in Healdsburg, California. “There’re lots of ways in which religious concepts have made their way into science fiction since the beginning.
Murrain, who has a Ph.D. in biology and a certificate of theological studies from the Pacific School of Religion, has written numerous science fiction books and currently works as a relationship coach.
She said the Sci-Fi Faith course will consider existential questions about the universe and human nature.
“Most of religions are human and earth bound—Jesus came to earth to save humans,” Murrain said. “So what does it mean if there are aliens and what is God’s relationship to them? So it forces us to think a little bit bigger than we may have before. It will really expand our sense of who is God and what God is responsible for.
“We’ve never seen aliens, but the universe is very large. Chances are there are other living creatures out there. So what is God’s relationship to them?”
Taylor, who teaches the contemplative prayer and Zen Buddhism course, said the CALL program answers a very specific need faced by many people of faith today.
“It’s not always easy to engage a lot of your parishioners in significant adult formation,” Taylor said. “You can offer courses on weeknights, Saturday programs, or Sunday forums, and often the only thing possible in these settings is a ‘101’ level of formation. It is difficult to go deeper. In a congregation, there will only be a small number of people who want to or can participate.
“On a national level, such as in CALL courses, you can go into depth in a way you can’t do in a parish,” Taylor said. “ There are people spread around all over the church who are looking for more in-depth experience but they can’t get it unless you go online.”
As a past participant in two of the CALL courses, Cunningham said, “I think this is a very vital way to the future for our church. It is easy to log on; the conversations make you really think; and the new experience learned, especially via the Zen experience, changes attitudes and bad habits. I breathe first before getting upset in traffic. Claire is most pleased about that!”
For more information about upcoming CALL courses, go to http://cdsp.edu/center-for-anglican-learning-and-leadership/call-online-spring-2016/. Continuing Education Units are offered for CALL courses at the rate of 2 CEUs per course. Spring courses run April 11 through May 30