Easter Appeal 2023

Easter Appeal banner (hybrid students speaking)

Greetings in the name of our Risen Savior. I pray that you are already experiencing the new life and boundless hope that are the hallmark of this most holy season.

By now you have probably heard of the strategic changes afoot at CDSP—a bold and responsive new plan I hope you will support via this year’s Easter Appeal. In short, the seminary will transition to a fully hybrid education model beginning with the class entering in summer 2025. This model, which builds on the success of our current low-residence Hybrid Program, will consist of online learning, onsite intensives each year, and a post-graduation curacy program. 

We have heard from many in the days since our January 31 announcement. I want to thank you for your prayers during this especially heartfelt time, in which members of our community are experiencing joy, sorrow, anxiety, or a combination of the three. I would also like to take this opportunity to share a few important words of encouragement and clarification based on many recent conversations. 

This decision affirms the power and promise of formation in community. The clearest theme to emerge from extensive interviews of Hybrid Program alums is the connection that is possible when onsite intensives complement online learning. 

Our students will continue to get to know each other in person and then significantly deepen those relationships through the surprisingly intimate power of detailed online interaction. In a traditional classroom, only a couple students get to share with their classmates on any particular topic. Online engagement benefits from an interpersonal spaciousness that transcends the limitations of a three-hour synchronous session. 

Moreover, the combination of regular online engagement and periodic onsite reconnection in Berkeley mirrors how our students will support each other as colleagues throughout their lives. Literally every time we reach out to our Hybrid Program alums to offer facilitated opportunities to reconnect, they tell us they never stopped supporting one another. They simply continued the habits they formed as a natural part of their program.

We ask for your support as we adapt to our Church’s needs, providing remarkable community formation experiences.

This decision is an investment in local impact, informed by the insights of our West Coast ethos. Another clear theme of our careful deliberations was the power of forming leaders in a way that keeps them rooted in the very communities where they are most likely to serve. 

The Episcopal Church in the western U.S. has always been keenly aware of the limitations of a “one size fits all” ministry playbook. Our Hybrid Program doubles down on the importance of contextual awareness. Students complete field education placements, clinical pastoral education, and the bulk of their coursework while immersed in the culture and relationships of their neighborhoods and regions. For the growing number of our students drawn to multi-vocational and/or multisite forms of ministry, this model is a lifeline. We have teachers and professors, nonprofit leaders and school administrators, lawyers, therapists, and other accomplished professionals thanking us for our support of their forward-looking vocational discernment.

We also know of no other post-graduation seminary initiative offering what our curacy program will provide: In addition to thoughtful, cohort-based continuing education, our alums will receive two years’ salary for their first ministry position. We are coming alongside bishops, dioceses, and local congregations to ensure our graduates have the best possible start to their post-seminary leadership. And we are already hearing stories of how this year’s graduates are accepting positions to which they are deeply called, rather than deciding based on who can currently afford to pay their salaries.

We invite you to make a gift to help us strengthen the foundation this Trinity-funded initiative extends.

This decision strengthens the long-term outlook for CDSP. We understand the fear many observers have expressed, that this decision represents a mere prelude to a looming decision to shutter the seminary. I assure you the opposite is true: This shift strengthens the seminary’s mission, financial footing, and alignment with the strategic priorities of our partners.

In particular, the seminary’s financial future is bolstered by the requirement—which predates this new direction—that proceeds from any rental or sale of our campus facilities as our space needs change will remain with CDSP.

We assure you that all Easter Appeal gifts support a program with a bright, robust future.

Thank you for the many ways you support the mission of a school laser-focused on forming leaders with the skills needed by today’s faith communities—and the neighbors with whom they are interconnected. Please join us in stepping forward confidently into this new era by making your gift to CDSP today.

With Easter joy, and trust in resurrection,

The Rt. Rev. Kirk S. Smith, PhD

Interim President & Dean