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
CDSP’s plans for the largest solar installation of any seminary in the United States took a big step forward in January when the institution received an anonymous gift of $250,000 over five years toward the project’s $560,000 cost.
“At CDSP, we believe that moral accountability in our relationship to the environment is an essential component of quality theological education,” said the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, dean and president. “We strive to be good stewards of the resources we have been given, and with this generous lead gift for solar energy, we will be able to reduce CDSP’s carbon footprint and model sustainable living as a Christian community.”
CDSP committed to reducing its global warming pollution by 50% by 2030 when it signed the Paris Pledge developed by Interfaith Power and Light, an anti-global warming advocacy network. The pledge was launched at the United Nations-sponsored Paris Climate Change Conference in December 2015, which Richardson attended as a representative of the Episcopal Church.
The planned installation of more than 400 solar panels on three buildings is a key part of the seminary’s plan to fulfill the Paris Pledge. The panels will be installed first of the roofs of Easton and Parsons Halls and later on the roof of Shires Hall.
“We are blessed with an active, supportive community of donors and alumni who share our vision of environmental sustainability as an integral part of theological education,” said Laurel Johnson, director of alumni affairs and major gifts officer at CDSP. “This generous lead gift makes that commitment tangible and provides alumni and friends with the opportunity to join this important movement to make CDSP more sustainable for generations to come.”
In January, CDSP’s solar panel plan was given a boost by the California Public Utilities Commission which voted to allow solar panel owners to sell the excess power they generate back to their utility at full retail rate. The practice, known as net metering, is seen by solar advocates as essential to making solar installations affordable because it allows solar users to get credit for the excess energy they generate in the daytime and draw on that credit during peak usage times when solar energy is not being generated.
The solar installation project is now being reviewed by the City of Berkeley, and CDSP hopes to begin work this spring.
This year, CDSP has a new summer reading list for incoming students. Each month between now and the official start of the summer reading season, we'll highlight some titles on the new list chosen by our faculty members.
This month, Visiting Assistant Professor Scott MacDougall discusses two books that he hopes will help incoming students understand the purpose of studying theology. “People studying for ordained ministry aren’t training to become a theological Delta Force,” he says. “They’re training to facilitate other people’s theological exploration.”
“I am convinced that we as a church need to rediscover theology as the work of all people. It’s not optional, it’s a requirement for being a Christian person,” says MacDougall, who, like Thompsett, is a lay theologian. “Those of us who teach in seminaries are not an aristocratic class of professional theologians.
“The way Thompsett frames her case is deeply Anglican. She attends really closely to the ways in which Anglican people through time have done theology and what the concrete results of that work have been, especially the ways in which theologically sophisticated laypeople have led movements for social justice and changed from within the way the church looks.”
“This book is an introduction to systematic theology from the perspective of someone who believes that the task of doing theology should be deeply troubling and painful,” says MacDougall. “He does this in narrative form, using examples from philosophy, literature, scripture and the lives of the saints, and raises thorny theological issues that we will investigate more fully in my courses.”
When members of the Society of Ordained Scientists gathered at CDSP earlier this month, it was to share how they traverse the worlds of faith and science, how those journeys shape their ministries, and how their ministries can influence their communities.
“Everyone in the Society, in some way, has had two careers, has held authority in science and the church,” said the Rev. Lucas Mix, PhD, who is warden for the Society’s North American Province. Mix, an adjunct faculty member at CDSP, received his MDiv from the seminary in 2007 and his PhD in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard in 2004. This year he is a research fellow at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, New Jersey, where he is investigating astrobiology and society.
“All of us have this language that we have learned from being church geeks and science geeks,” Mix said, “and there is something wonderful about being with people who speak your language. Being able to talk to each other allows us to put things in new ways.”
In addition to Mix, attendees included CDSP President and Dean Mark Richardson and the Rev. Dr. Marilyn M. Cornwell (MDiv ‘06), rector of Church of the Ascension, Seattle. Both were presenters (download Dean Richardson's presentation), as was the Rev. Dr. Ted Peters, research professor emeritus in systematic theology and ethics at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences at Graduate Theological Union. Both Cornwell and Peters (from whom Mix took a seminary course in religion and science) were accepted as new members during the retreat.
Also attending was the Rev. Deacon Josephine “Phina” Borgeson (MDiv ‘74), the Rev. Robyn Arnold (MDiv ‘08), the Rev. Barbara Smith-Moran (DMin ‘09), and the Rev. Dr. Robert Russell, director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences and professor of theology and Science at Graduate Theological Union.
Founded in 1987, the Society of Ordained Scientists has more than 100 members and holds a yearly retreat in the United Kingdom, where it was founded. Additionally, it meets every two years in the United States. This year’s meeting was the first to be held at CDSP.
I'm always glad when it's time to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe; but it's a celebration that always makes me a little nervous. At its worst, it can be a particularly unpleasant example of "supermarket Christianity," where we simply pick and choose anything that happens to attract us, the more "exotic" the better, without thinking about what it means, to us or to the people whose sacred story it is. It can be a kind of neo-colonialism, or worse; stealing other peoples' sacred stories or borrowing them without asking is probably worse than stealing their property or borrowing their car without asking.
That's why tonight makes me a little nervous. But there are lots of reasons why I am glad to be part of this celebration...and maybe the most important is for the message it communicates to us, here in this our own context...although the setting of the characters in the story was nothing like the one most of us call home
Juan Diego was a member of the Nahuatl people of Mexico in one of the darkest times for his people. They had been overwhelmed by their Spanish conquerors, their history and traditions distorted, their religion mocked, their treasure stolen, their identity challenged; and their conquerors had done everything they could to turn them into Spanish-speaking Christians. Christ was the victorious King of Kings whose counterpart sat on the Spanish throne on the other side of the world, and his virgin mother was a Spanish queen depicted in jeweled splendor who looked nothing like the women Juan Diego met every day. No people could have been more dispossessed than the Indian people of the Valley of Mexico in Juan Diego's time. Their oppression was profound, and it was complete.
And at just such a time, Juan Diego has a vision; and the woman he sees looks nothing like the statues of Christ's mother he saw in church. This woman looked suspiciously like the mother goddess his people had revered, to whom they had turned for comfort and support...and yet, she was Christ's mother. And most surprising of all, she spoke to Juan Diego in Nahuatl, which was the language of his own people. And as the legend unfolds, this mysterious figure does amazing things -- roses appear in the middle of winter on a hilltop, her image is miraculously imposed on Juan Diego's cape, and maybe most miraculously of all, the bishop comes to believe in Juan Diego and his vision. The figure he met on that December day in a place his people knew was holy became the symbol of survival, and hope; Our Lady of Guadalupe became the symbol that the Holy One knows who matters, who has value even when those in charge think otherwise. And Juan Diego discovered that God speaks the language of those who need God most: the ones whose value is denied, whose identity is under attack, who would seem to be hopeless and lost.
Our Lady of Guadalupe became the champion of our neighbors, our brothers and sisters to the south who were once the people of this land where we live. She is the patron of Mexico, and even a Church that at first scoffed at the story has come to realize that the love people have for her cannot, and will not, be challenged.
The descendants of Juan Diego and his people have endured centuries of struggle, and they still do. Their country was pillaged by their conquerors. A church that should have been on their side chose instead to support those conquerors and their descendants who owned most of the land and kept the mass of the people in conditions of misery. The struggle for freedom, for a sense of identity and self-worth has been a struggle of centuries. But always, in times of suffering and in times of struggle, the Virgin of Guadalupe has been the sign that God was still with them. And in our own time, when the descendants of all the Juan Diegos have made their way north in search of life instead of death, the Virgin has gone with them -- only now she speaks Spanish. When Cesar Chavez led migrant workers in the fields of California to demand a better life, the Virgin of Guadalupe was heir patron, because she still remains the sign that whatever the forces of oppression and death may say, nevertheless -- Emmanuel. God with us.
I don't suppose there is a more powerful image for the Advent season than the figure of the mother of Christ who is also the patron, the friend, the advocate, the supporter of a people who continue to be mistreated, not least by political demagogues. It's the message of the Magnificat: God has shown strength with his arm, scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly, filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. That's what happens when God comes to be with the people who need God most: They are vindicated. The lies that they heard to "keep them in their place" are revealed for what they are -- lies.
We are walking through a time when the shadow of death seems to be particularly strong -- shadows of fear, shadows of hate, shadows of discrimination and intolerance are all around us. But Emmanuel -- God is with us. Remembering and honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe is a way to stand with all those who are suffering tonight as Juan Diego suffered nearly five centuries ago. It is a way to stand with our neighbors from the south who are being vilified for political gain even as they flee for their lives. It is a way to stand with those in our own place and time whose religion is demonized or mocked. It is a way to stand with people whose lives are considered not to matter. It is a way to stand with people whose lives have become a pilgrimage towards safety in the face of awful violence. It is a way to stand with those, whoever they are, who wonder where is God when they need God. It is a way to remember God's own priorities, never more obvious than in the story of Jesus' own birth as homeless, an outcast, a member of a despised minority and a scorned religion, and as Matthew would have it, a refugee.
Advent is a time of Emmanuel -- God coming to be with us. Maybe it's people like Juan Diego who get to see how true that is: roses bloom in the mountains in December, and hope is born, because God turns out to speak Nahuatl, and Spanish, and Arabic, and those who tell us the truth about God turn out to look like those who need it most.
A sermon preached at All Saints Chapel on December 17, 2015