Dear CDSP Community,
As we listen to experiences from around the Episcopal Church, we at CDSP have been inspired by your generosity and your courageous honesty amid the challenges of the ongoing pandemic. This piece of feedback from a would-be event participant recently came across my desk:
My silence is an indicator of how overwhelmed I feel. Thank you for your desire to help us connect. Please keep it up.
This candor reminded me of a sermon Dr. Scott MacDougall preached in chapel last spring, reconnecting us with the deeply theological need to bring our whole humanity to bear in times of trial. He said it would be unwise and indeed unfaithful to pretend to God and each other that it is well with our souls when we have been constantly confronted by the forces of death and despair. And this was before any of us could fully understand that “The Long 2020” would go on to encompass the entirety of 2021.
The Rev. Dr. Randal Gardner ‘84, who received the note I quoted above in the course of his work as our alumni relations associate, summed up a composite story we have heard repeatedly in various venues: “Our support staff has been trimmed, our volunteer pool has shrunk, and we are managing extra duties to keep the church afloat. We are carrying the burdens of uncertainty, of societal polarization, of pent-up grief, and of concern for family.”
We are tired. We are overwhelmed. We are making difficult choices that sometimes separate us from the relationships that sustain us. Nevertheless, we have not lost touch with our longing for community with friends and neighbors. We are still hungry for communion in its many forms, still persevering in a hope bound up in Jesus’s healing presence and trustworthy promises.
CDSP is full of this hope because we are connected to resilient friends and supporters like you. Your devotion inspires us in ways that keep us focused on our mission of forming ever more skilled and healthy ministers, lay and ordained, for the Church and world. Your generous giving to the seminary both supports this mission and bolsters the spirits of our community.
I can think of no better message for the Advent Appeal than to share among the whole CDSP community our admiration for how your work and witness continue to impact your neighborhoods and form loving, responsive disciples. In particular, I commend to you the testimony of three distinguished members of the CDSP family, each of them leading significant ministries that are making a difference when Good News feels hard to find. You can read more about their stories in the fall issue of our Crossings magazine.
From the Rev. Christie Fleming ‘17, founder of Lighthouse Homeless Ministry in Bastrop, LA, on conversations that affirm human dignity:
My homeless friends have taught me that so many of us do not understand our own worth. I’ve had numerous conversations, filled with tears, when we talk about the fact that they are loved by God, loved by God even if they walk around in boxer shorts and a torn up t-shirt and flip-flops.
From the Rev. Edwin Johnson ‘10, chair of the Presiding Officers’ Advisory Group on Beloved Community Implementation in the Episcopal Church, on walking with congregations taking their first steps toward relationship with neighboring communities they have hurt or ignored:
What I’ve heard from those neighbors, those folks nearby, they often talk about having waited for this moment for a really long time. Every single time they say, “We’ve been waiting for this moment. We’re excited to work with you.” Even through the pain and difficulty and awkwardness, it ends up yielding the most fruit right away.
From the Rev. Dr. Lisa Cressman ‘92, founding steward of Backstory Preaching, on the benefits of making sermon preparation a sustained, embodied spiritual practice:
The preachers are really excited about what they’re preaching because they’ve been transformed themselves by the Good News. Now, they’re really jazzed: “I get to preach. Let me share with you this cool thing that just happened. This Good News I know, because I just experienced it.”
Of course, I could go on. The clear chime of gospel hope is ringing out from hundreds of communities shaped by CDSP’s graduates, close colleagues, and other stakeholders. The seminary perseveres so that this legacy will continue.
I ask you to give to our Advent Appeal in witness to the hope that God has put in you.
By the grace of the Coming Christ, your gift will multiply this sense of confident anticipation here on the Holy Hill and beyond. Thank you for your perseverance and support in these difficult days. May this season remind you that none of us walks alone.
In hope and gratitude,
The Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, Ph.D.
President and Dean, Church Divinity School of the Pacific