On Wednesday, February 26, 2020, Eden Seminary hosted an African American Read-In. This event was the last in the Black and Brown Lives Matter series that was hosted throughout the month. The event was open to anyone who wanted to attend and read.

The event was held in the Rotunda, where students, staff, and visitors could stop by and listen. This particular event highlighted African authors and their literary works. Guests could bring their own pieces to read from, or there was a table set up with piece that participants were welcome to pick from. Each person was given 15 minutes to read from their chosen author(s).

Sonja Williams, associate Dean of Students here at Eden and organizer of the series, commented on the final event and what it meant to her.

Eleven straight hours of uninterrupted theological wondering that included both tears and joy. The Holy One showed up in ah-ha moments, the rejoicing of the amen corner, and the community hugs and most importantly, the sacred space of an alternative theology –the intentional space to have church a new way. The Rand Rotunda located in the center of the building, the center of theological discourse became priority for black wisdom and black experience to reverberate beyond the halls and into a space that willingly engaged a shared church history and Afrofuturism- love for the arts, for a perfect utopia.

The African American Read-In on Wednesday, for me, was putting theory and theology into practice. It was an opportunity to listen intently to the wisdom, griefs and joys of the past. Not simply to honor them, but to become involved in the making of a future they fantasized about. This was an opportunity for the wider community to engage in a praxis of inclusion, at least a praxis that wonders how to imagine a society absent of supremist oppression.

Cory Lovell, a student here at Eden, also attended and read during the event.

The Black & Brown Lives Matter Series: African American Read In, which occurred at Eden Seminary on Wednesday, February 26th, was one of the most compelling and engaging events I’ve experienced in my time at this institution. Having a background in contemporary art and literary event planning, it reminded me of the enduring transformative power of performance art in public spaces, especially spaces in which this type of performance rarely happens outside of prescribed roles. Prophecy was quite literally brought down from the pulpit and put into a public thoroughfare. The words and ideas of various authors of the African Diaspora, from every era, genre, region, and religious and ideological background you could imagine, were read by a diverse array of performers; white, black, brown, male, female, non-binary, and interfaith as well.

The experience was multifaceted, and interacted not only with thought and rhetoric, but with space and behavior as well. It was not only the power of hearing novels, biographies, poems, biblical commentary, political theory, and correspondence from prominent voices of color read aloud in a religious institution, but also the power of watching which of those voices each performer specifically chose to lift up. What that choice said about a particular individuals engagement and focus on African/African American thought. What it sounded like to hear often revolutionary Black words spoken in these hallways, where oil paintings reflecting a long leadership lineage of Euro-Whiteness is omnipresent in our psyche.  Hearing how timeless and relevant words from the 1960’s and the 1840’s, from Nairobi and Harlem, from the pulpit and the prison cell, still are to our time and our community, right here and right now.

The public nature of this prophecy led to inevitable engagement by passersby in many forms. No one could simply ignore these words. You had to engage and make a choice. Folks often chose to sit down and directly listen, many to stand up and read. Sometimes folks were taken by surprise and tried to respectfully sneak around the proclamations, treated them respectfully but went about their business as usual. Others avoided all together, often entering a doorway, and immediately turning around to utilize an alternate entrance. It was impossible as a viewer to not see in these interactions the macro-cultural connections made to how we engage with prophetic Black and Brown thought in America as a whole.

Finally, as a part of a religious community here at Eden who believes in the ever present Eternal Spirit of the Divine, it was powerful to hear that Spirit manifested in sound, in vocal vibrations of life affirming revolutionary thought, and to have those vibrations bounce about the marble, granite, and wood of this building, infusing with our physical infrastructure, so that it is now inextricable from our heritage and institutional theology.

Eden Seminary hosted a series during the month of February called Black and Brown Lives Matter. The goal of this series was to look to the future and goals that the Black Lives Matter movement has. Anyone in the community and at Eden were welcome to attend the events, where there was an open dialogue and a place of learning.

The Eden series was created to engage the 13 principles of Black Lives Matter, a movement co-founded by three progressive community organizers: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi.

I Define Me

The very first event was to engage Tracie Berry McGhee, M.ed.,LPC in conversation. She is a Non-violence Ambassador for the King Center and founder of SistaKeeper Empowerment Center, and international nonprofit for young women. The mental and emotional health of a community is vital for survival.

Diversity and Globalism

Carly Garcia is fighting for her husband Alex, along with Pastor Rebecca Turner to advocate for and educate others of the hardships and present laws against brown skinned folks, particularly immigrants.

Queer Clergy and Straight Communities: A Conversation

Rev. James Ross II provided space within the series to discuss the problematic order of erasing the sexual orientation of persons of color to use the magic of their being for the sake of church and society. There is a cost to remain silent.

Intergenerational, Black Families, and Black Villages

Rev. Aaron Rogers vividly discuss the strongholds of white supremacy and capitalism that uses a thumb of oppression to keep the margins of society outlined with black and brown bodies.

Roots of Spoken Word: A Practical Theological Approach

Rev. Dr. Sonja Williams led students through the good news of the gospel with the lens of an spoken word artist. Dr. Williams brings the study of aesthetics front and center as a way of truth telling through the strange and unique. Probably more commonly known as ethnography as she integrates theology and the social sciences to create a way through struggle. At the foot of the cross is culture, and wisdom, and experience that the church must engage.

Film “Just Mercy” Documentary and Reflective Study – When Restorative Justice Matters

Advancement Director, Sonya J. Vann who provides oversight to the ECFFM Task group helping students reduce their overall indebtedness, led the community in a reflective study on Restorative Justice. To earnestly build the beloved community that is sustainable, empathetic and one that grows, requires urgent attention. And the attention must be intentional towards a mercy that is just.

African American Read-In

The African American read-in brought in members of the greater community. Fathers came with their daughters, seminaries invited friends, deacons and lay leaders were able to integrate learnings from their parishes with what their friends and leaders are learning at seminary.

The Black & Brown Lives Matter Series was a glorious movement towards an inclusionary progressive church.

Below are the events and their descriptions used in Eden’s communication.

 

A big thank you to all congregations who participated in UCC’s Seminary Sunday.  And more to come in following weeks. Below are a few stories from Eden students and staff who participated in their churches on February 23rd.

My extended mission moment was at St. Paul UCC in St. Louis. I simply asked what does Tom Ressler (the pastor at St. Paul) and Matt Hellis, Stephen Nietzsche (Eden Students), Lorin Cope (Eden Staff), the St. Louis Association Prayer Calendar, the message on the back of the bulletin and the bulletin insert all have in common? The congregation then responded with, “Eden Seminary” in joyous response. Then we read the responsive prayer from the bulletin insert.

With a church like St. Paul – having so many Eden connections – in some ways every Sunday is Seminary Sunday.

-Lorin Cope

 

My two congregations, Grace UCC and Mount Tabor UCC, have welcomed international students of Eden Seminary for several years now on Seminary Sunday, and both support Eden Seminary financially. We love connecting to the wider Church through their witness of life and ministry in their contexts. Rev. Edith was embraced warmly at Grace UCC, and Rev. Michael at Mount Tabor UCC. Edith connected with the people as she shared her story of being a woman in ministry in Kenya and being the mother of four children. Michael, too, lifted up his wife and four adult children, then shared his story of ministry in Tanzania.

After worship at Mount Tabor we all sat down to Mardi Gras brunch of pancakes, sausage and bacon. The youngest worshiper present that morning told me how she liked an African story Michael had shared in his message about finishing well. The story told of an unhappy worker who filled his boss’s bags with hay instead of grain in an effort to “get back” at the boss. In the end, the boss awarded the workers the bags they had filled that day. The worker did not end up finishing well!

Thanks to Jill Schantz and Eden Seminary for building these connections around the globe and here locally in St. Louis. These two small congregations are glad to participate in the theological education through Eden Seminary which enriches the Church Universal. Grace, peace, and a splash of joy~

Rev. Dr. Carole R. Barner

 

The responsive prayer that Eden Seminary shared as a resource for churches during this event.

Register for Convocation Here

Join us for this year’s Spring Convocation themed “Theological Education for a Joy-Filled Future.”  This two-day event will examine the means by which we inspire joy for the future.  As always, the Convocation will include worship, lectures and presentations, student juried papers, and opportunities to visit with new and old friends.

Dr. David Greenhaw has been serving as president of Eden Theological Seminary for 23 years.  In light of upcoming retirement at the end of June and a Spring Convocation theme on the future of theological education, Dr.  Greenhaw will lead a conversation on Tuesday afternoon and will preach at the closing worship on Wednesday afternoon.

Also speaking during this event will be Dr. Daniel Aleshire, Former Director of the Association of Theological Schools and Dr. Steven Ray, President, Chicago Theological Seminary.

This will be a time to interact with current students in their academic and ministerial work and re-connect with members of your graduating class at the Tuesday evening reception and program.

There will be Special welcome for recent Eden Alumni of classes of 2015-2019 and a Dinner with the President to honor classes celebrating 45th – 50th anniversaries. Special honors for those 50th anniversary alumni.

Members of the Eden Black Alumni Association meet for Breakfast, 7:30 am in Schroer Commons. Separate registration required. Register at this link.

If you need housing, options you might explore are available online as well.

Registration is open. All participants, including current students, please register.

This month Eden Seminary will be hosting a series called ‘Black and Brown Lives Matter’.  There will be seven events covering numerous topics from diversity, LGBTQ+ clergy, and matters of black families and women. Also offered is a chance to watch the “Just Mercy” documentary and partake in a discussion after. Included is an African American read-in during the last week of February featuring any topic from an African author. We at Eden hope to see you there!

For more information or to sign up for the read-in, please contact  Rev. Sonja Williams at [email protected]

Thank you Rev. Darrell Goodwin for speaking here at Eden! If you were unable to make the lecture, you can watch the full talk on YouTube @EdenSeminary.

About the Topic:
Rising theological education costs, reductions in scholarship funding, and lower-than-average pastoral salaries are just some of the factors leading to financial challenges among ministers today.  Leading a church and managing educational debt along with other personal financial obligations can be overwhelming for ministers.  In 2016, Eden Seminary, in partnership with the Association of Theological Schools and the Lilly Endowment began a three-year project to help students reduce their educational debt through the Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers (ECFFM) Initiative.  Around the same time, the Pension Boards-United Church of Christ (PBUCC) launched the Ministers’ Financial Vitality Initiative (MFVI), intended to increase and improve financial wellness among UCC authorized ministers.

Although these combined efforts have been successful, it has become apparent that economic justice and financial vitality conversations with authorized ministers must occur earlier in their experience to be effective.  As a result, the PBUCC and Eden are partnering in their efforts to connect some of this information to current students and clergy to plant a seed in their financial wellbeing.

About the Speaker
Rev. Darrell Goodwin serves the Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota Conferences as the Associate Conference Minister.  Rev. Goodwin brings to this role over 20 years of experience in pastoral ministry and higher education.  he has served as pastor and Found of Liberation United Church of Christ in Seattle (2007-2019) and Everett United Church of Christ (2017-2019).  He currently serves on the UCC Board of Directors and on the Global Ministries Board. From 2006-2016, he served in several positions in higher education, including Associate Director of Multicultural Affairs and Dean of Students.

With the new year brings resolutions and a time to make a difference. Why not start the new year right with self-reflection and exploration? In this process you may find yourself at a crossroads; feeling uncertain of your next step in life’s journey. You know you want to commit to a goal to improve life in the coming year but are unsure where to start.  Eden Theological Seminary can offer you numerous opportunities to help you on your next step; to commit to a goal to make a change and a difference.

Register Here.  

Eden’s annual admissions event, 24 Hours at Eden, gives you an opportunity to explore new paths to grow through education. You will learn about our Masters, Dual, Doctorate and Non-degree programs. You will have an opportunity to attend class if you want, to engage in concepts and questions, and most importantly to self-reflect.  We will provide a venue to build your network and speak one on one with Eden faculty, staff and students.

Previous attendees expressed that 24 Hours at Eden left them with a sense of community that was inclusive and ecumenical.  This event fosters an environment that is a safe space to learn, grow and self-reflect.

Alumna Amy Brooks reflected on her experience, “24 Hours @ Eden was a true window into life at Eden. The hospitality was outstanding, and the whole weekend was a positive experience. Through 24 Hours I had the opportunity to see the campus and meet the people in ways that would not have been possible in a shorter visit. I was able to get a sense of the community as a warm, welcoming place where the heart is valued as much as the mind. As a current student at Eden I can affirm those things to be true of this Seminary.”

Recent alums from Eden’s Walker Leadership Institute, NEXT Steps program, described a feeling of uncertainty after retirement, almost like chaos.  They wanted to find an atmosphere where they could have both a spiritual and introspective process; one that was both instructive and affirmative.  Eden is a friendly and safe space in which to explore.  The NEXT Steps program is a rewarding experience allowing students to investigate the future, and possibly gain more clarity of call.

A new decade and a new beginning go hand in hand, and we hope to be a part of that process for you. So, gather yourself and a guest to come to Eden for 24 Hours! We look forward to the opportunity to get to know you better while you take a look at what’s possible for your future.

Welcome to campus!  Eden’s students for the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree gather on campus January 6-10 for an annual in-person engagement with faculty, staff, campus resources, and each other.  Students are working this week in areas Advanced Theological Education, Practical Theological Method and Skills for Writing the D.Min. Project and Proposal.  It is exciting to see what creativity and collaboration emerge.

Eden’s Doctor of Ministry degree is designed to guide leaders of the Progressive Christian Movement in ministerial leadership.  it is open to those who hold the Master of Divinity degree or its equivalent.

Leaders here transform their ministries to be:

Inspired by Theological Imagination.  The program aims to build capacity to see God’s creative and redemptive purposes at work in the world informed by deep knowledge of the scriptures, traditions and practices of the faith.

Empowered by Social Transformation.  The program aims to build capacity to engage one’s theological imagination and spiritual formation toward social justice action and institutional reformation in order to lead communities to collaborate in God’s redemptive work in the world.

Grounded in Spiritual and Vocational Formation.  The program aims to build capacity to nurture one’s walk of faith while critically engaging one’s faith tradition in its particularity, and to forge relationships of collegiality and accountability with others to collaborate more fully with God’s redemptive work in the world.

Noted New Testament Scholar and Activist the Rev. Deborah Krause to Build on Eden’s Nearly 170-Year History of Preparing Progressive Christian Leaders and Advocating for Social Justice

ST. LOUIS (Dec. 10, 2019) – The Board of Trustees of Eden Theological Seminary today announced the appointment of the Rev. Deborah Krause as president. Krause, the first female president in the Seminary’s history, will guide the institution as it works on multiple fronts to expand its role as a leading resource for Progressive Christianity and a catalyst for social justice.

Krause has long been a familiar face at Eden, currently serving as professor of New Testament studies. An ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Krause has been a member of Eden’s faculty since 1992 and served as the multidenominational Seminary’s academic dean from 2005 through 2018. Among her accomplishments over this time were a comprehensive curriculum revision completed in 2016 and inclusion efforts that have substantially boosted diversity on Eden’s campus. She is also a prominent voice advocating for social justice in the St. Louis community and beyond, leading efforts like the Seminary community’s participation in the Ferguson Freedom Movement after the officer-involved shooting death of Michael Brown in 2014.

In her new role leading the Seminary, Krause plans to extend and expand upon the Seminary’s initiatives to bring people together to forge a joy-filled future for Christianity. In recent years, Eden has launched multiple new programs to advance its mission, retaining a strong focus on preparing tomorrow’s church leaders while also creating and strengthening ties to the business community, civic organizations and interfaith initiatives. New offerings include a degree program in Community Leadership and Next Steps, a non-degree program designed to help retirees to find new callings to support their communities.

“Eden has long served as a pillar of the Progressive Christian Movement, and I’m excited for the opportunity to help strengthen and expand its role in the months and years ahead,” Krause said. “The theological education provided at Eden empowers church and community leaders to explore their faith, pursue racial equity, promote interfaith collegiality and strengthen the resiliency of the church. We will work to build on this foundation moving forward.”

Krause will succeed David Greenhaw, who plans to retire in the summer of 2020 after a 23-year tenure as Eden’s president. Krause will officially take on the new role on July 1, 2020, after a transition period working in partnership with Greenhaw.

“Deborah Krause has extraordinary gifts and brings deep wisdom to this work. She is ready to lead Eden,” Greenhaw said. “No one loves Eden more than Deb, and no one will work harder for Eden’s future.”

Krause was selected for the position after an intensive search process led by Eden Board of Trustees chair and former president and CEO of Parents as Teachers Dr. Susan Stepleton and board member and retired Energizer Holdings CEO Ward Klein.

“We conducted an exhaustive search process over six months, working with a renowned national search firm,” Klein said. “After hundreds of contacts and consideration of dozens of strong candidates, we are excited about the board’s selection of Dr. Krause as Eden’s next president.”

About Eden Theological Seminary
Founded in 1850, Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, is called to strengthen the life of the church by educating women and men for ministry, enlivening critical reflection on faith, and supporting bold Christian discipleship. Despite changes in the religious landscape, Eden is thriving through its focus on working together with others to forge a joy-filled future for Christianity. That means not only training tomorrow’s faith leaders, but also being an ally and a catalyst for the community. We fight for the marginalized, for interfaith unity, for ethics across business and civic activity, and ultimately for the greater good.

Above: The peer mentors stop to pose for a photo in front of the Press Administration Building, while taking a walk around Eden’s campus. (From left: J. Samuel Subramanian (UTS), Pamela Ayo Yetunde (UTS), Damayanthi Niles (Eden), Soe, Bo Myung (CTS), Sharon Tan (Eden) and Eleazar Fernandez (UTS))

A grant from Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion made it possible for six faculty of color, from three seminaries, in three states to meet on Sept. 27 and 28 at Eden, for the first of two meetings.

The group, “Leading from the Margins,” started by Dr. Sharon Tan, Acting Dean of the Seminary and Professor of Theological Ethics at Eden, explored the family system model to see how it can help them think through agency, power, and connections.

The group consists of Eden professors Dr. Damayanthi Niles, professor of Constructive Theology and Dr. Tan. As well as Eleazer Fernandez, J. Samuel Subramanian and Pamela Ayo Yetunde professors from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities and Bo Myung Seo from Chicago Theological Seminary. They are all minority professors from United Church of Christ Seminaries and in the Midwest.

“This Wabash grant is aimed at supporting mid-career minority faculty in leadership training,” Tan said. “It’s a well-known organization that seeks to improve the quality of teaching and learning in theology.”

They do several types of workshops with different types of faculty. Tan found out about the opportunity after being involved in another Wabash workshop, which looked at issues of race and theological education. Last spring, she submitted a grant application and after working to shape what it would look like, received the grant for the 2019-2020 academic year.

“Leading from the margins” was inspired from when Tan first became dean several years ago at United Seminary and realized she needed to learn more about leadership and leading other people in a theological sense.

“I started trying to do some reading in that and there’s a ton a business leadership material out there. I realized that material was written by white people for white people,” Tan said. “Some of the advice didn’t seem to fit and didn’t address some things that I was looking for answers to.”

When this grant opportunity came up, Tan decided to extend the idea to other colleagues to think about how they might be able to add to and talk about theological leadership.

The name, “Leading from the Margins,” came from the reality that minority faculty can feel like they are not at the center when working at a majority white institution.

“They’re on the margins of the dominant culture. There have been books about doing theology from the margins, doing ethics from margins, so the term ‘from the margin’ is not totally unknown,” Tan said.

Leadership from the margins will be an opportunity for those in the group to feel like they are not on the margin, their learning and development as leaders are the purpose, not a byproduct, of the study.

“We talked about the nature of belonging and I think everybody left feeling that they belonged to each other,” Tan said.

Niles said when she got together with the group, she no longer felt like she had to explain her thought process, what she was saying just clicked with the other professors.

“It was very powerful to not be on the sidelines,” she said.

Niles said it was nice that the six of them work in different fields, areas of interest and have connected in so many cool ways.

“We could free think. We had the fun of imagining wildly,” Niles said.

They will meet again, next spring or early summer.

“In between now and the next (in person) meeting there will be Zoom meetings once a month. Doing some reading and talking,” Tan said.

The hope is to keep the group going with an outcome, in the next few years, of an edited volume.

One of the professors in attendance was Eleazar S. Fernandez, a professor at United. He is the most senior of the group that met, and the most famous, Tan said.

“For the last five or six years, he’s also been president of Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines. He doesn’t sleep,” Tan said. “He works in the daytime here (at United) and in the nighttime here, he works for the Philippines, daytime there.”

Tan said that he’s enormously productive and it was an honor to have him there.

“He doesn’t go around telling people what he knows, he asks questions,” Tan said.

“What I wanted from him, and I’ve told him, is a comparison of the power he has as a minority faculty member here (at United), he’s the most senior one but minority in a majority white institution. To being president in the Philippines where he’s not only the most powerful (as president) but also in the majority race and culture. What does he get to do there that he doesn’t get to do here, some insight into comparing those,” Tan said.

“He seemed intrigued by the question, although I’m pretty sure he’s thought about it.”

He didn’t give an answer that weekend.

“I think he wants to figure out more about what he wants to say before he says it.”

Tan said it was a productive and encouraging couple of days.

“I think diversity is a gift,” Tan said. “People who we don’t know, people from other cultures bring gifts. We want those gifts, it makes all of us better people.”

The group enjoying dinner at Tei Too.