Original article by Marian Wright Edelman (FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT EMERITA)

As America is immersed in a new movement demanding an end to racial and economic injustice, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) announced the appointment of Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson as CDF’s next President and CEO. He is a national racial justice thought leader, community organizer and movement builder and a champion of children’s rights with a longstanding relationship with CDF. He led the effort to bring the CDF Freedom Schools® model to children and families in the St. Louis area and demonstrated his leadership at CDF’s annual Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry at CDF Haley Farm. He co-chaired the Ferguson Commission after the tragic 2014 shooting of teenager Michael Brown by police, which released the “Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity” report calling for sweeping changes in policing, the criminal justice system, child well-being and economic mobility.

CDF’s mission to Leave No Child Behind® and ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood has never been more important than during these perilous times for children and our nationDr. Wilson shares CDF’s servant leadership values and is committed to training the next generation of servant, not self-serving, leaders. In his assumption of the presidency, he is the right leader for CDF at this time and I could not be more pleased.

Dr. Wilson has worked long and hard over many decades to pursue and achieve God’s vision of community and justice with peace and love. He has been President and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation since 2011, a faith-based grant-making organization supporting a movement for child well-being in St. Louis through philanthropy, advocacy and organizing for racial equity and positive child-focused public policy. Under his leadership, Deaconess invested nearly $90 million to improve the lives of children. Responding to the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism, Deaconess launched collaborative funds investing in Black-led recovery efforts and racial healing this year. Dr. Wilson serves as board chair for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) and vice-chair of the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE).

For 10 years from 2008-2018, Dr. Wilson pastored Saint John’s Church (The Beloved Community), an interracial, inner city congregation related to the United Church of Christ where he established The Beloved Community Conference resourcing social justice ministries and Sojourner’s Truth: Celebration of Preaching Women. After the police killing of Michael Brown his church hosted the #BlackLivesMatter Freedom Ride to Ferguson and served as the welcome center for the #FergusonOctober.

Dr. Wilson has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Xavier University of Louisiana, a Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Duke University. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. He is married to Dr. LaToya Smith Wilson, a dentist for St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and they are raising four children.

Dr. Wilson has shaped policy from the ground up, listening to and learning from those affected by unjust systems, structures, and policies—especially young people. The hurts, hopes, struggles and stories of children, especially poor children, have shaped his community strategies for systemic change. Dr. Wilson says he is now honored to serve young people through CDF at this critical time when there is so much work to do. “As we wrestle with the politics of the pandemic, protests, and a presidential election, it’s a little too easy to forget about crafting policy for children who don’t get to vote, don’t have lobbyists and can’t make campaign contributions…According to the U.S. Census Bureau estimates, 2020 is the first year in American history where the majority of children in our country are children of color. Child well-being and racial justice are intimately and forever intertwined. This makes the civil rights legacy and child advocacy vision the Children’s Defense Fund has woven together for nearly fifty years even more vital.”

I’ve gotten to know and respect Starsky over many years. As Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III, Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, says: “Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson is an extraordinary bridge-builder who has spent his ministry being a ‘repairer of the breach.’ He has organically created meaningful relationships with young Black Lives Matter activists and civil rights icons. This is not happenstance, but a skill nurtured by a deep commitment to community building and his belief in the power of developing organizational efficiency with courageous compassion. This is the moment in history where leaders of Wilson’s caliber are so needed to build bridges, speak prophetically, love fiercely, and organize carefully to create a new world for our children yet to be born…[T]he only phrase that is appropriate comes from the epistle penned by Paul to the church at Corinth; ‘Eyes have not seen, ears have not yet heard…’ what tomorrow holds for CDF as it marches into the future under the leadership of a grounded and gifted young servant named Starsky Wilson.” It is with immense joy that I welcome Starsky Wilson as my successor as President of the Children’s Defense Fund. He will continue to lead our movement to ensure no child is left behind.

NEXT Steps:  Vocation and Aging

You are invited to enroll in this 14-week process of self-discovery.
For more information, contact Steve Lawler, Director of  Walker Leadership Institute at Eden Seminary, at  [email protected]

Apply  Here

NEXT Steps introduces participants to theological, philosophical and psychological concepts of vocation and aging. It is a gathering for adults contemplating or entering retirement, and those who are recently retired. All program activities are designed to stimulate your individual self-discovery as you develop a personal plan for your new and meaningful chapter of life.

NEXT Steps participants follow a 14-week process of self-discovery through readings, presentations, small group discussions, and discernment. All classes will meet via ZOOM.

By the end of the course, participants will have developed a plan for their next phase of life.

NEXT Steps will have our first meeting on Tuesday September 8, 5:30 pm CST/ 6:30 pm EST for approx. two hours. The remaining meetings will all meet for two hours September 22, Oct 6, 20, November 17, December 1 and 15.

The week of November 2-6 will meet as decided by the class due to the National Election on Tuesday Nov. 3, 2020.

The cost is $500.

Course leaders:

  • Beth Long-Higgins, Executive Director, Ruth Parker Center for Abundant Aging
  • Jill Schantz, Director of LIFE programs @ Eden Theological Seminary
  • Steve Lawler, Director of the Walker Leadership Institute @ Eden Theological Seminary


  1. The Brink of Everything by Parker Palmer
  2. Creative Aging by Marjory Zoet Bankson

Other readings, digital resources and personal and group exercises will be assigned throughout the course.

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins and Rev. Steve Lawler would like to invite you to an optional brief orientation to the course and introduction to the instructors on September 1 at 5:30 CST/6:30 EST. This meeting will answer questions of logistics, introduce the instructors, and generally try to make the opening day of NEXT Steps as smooth as possible.  Contact [email protected] to register for this orientation event.

This year you have the opportunity to gather together (online) throughout the 2020-2021 academic year.  Meet on Zoom.  Register for each event to receive a connection link.

“Coffee with the President” are quarterly informal gatherings (on zoom) with Eden’s new president, Rev. Dr. Deborah Krause.  Grab a cup of coffee and join this virtual gathering.  Re-connect with your classmates and meet alumni across geography and generations.  Hear news from Eden focusing on a different topic each gathering.

Tuesdays 9 – 10:30 am central –
September 1st – Coffee with the President
December 1st- Coffee with the President
March 2nd- Coffee with the President
May 4th- Coffee with the President

Alumni Affinity Gatherings are for anyone involved or interested in the theme. Grab your lunch and join other Eden alumni in this co-learning space and place of mutual support.

Fridays 11:30 am – 1:00 pm central –
October 2nd – Chaplains
November 13th – International Cross-Cultural Travel Seminars
January  8th – Eden alumni by age groups
February 5th  – Geographic groups
June 4th – Growing up on the Eden campus

Spring Convocation with Class Reunions, April 6-7, 2021

Intensive Focused Learning (IFL) Courses:
Eden’s IFL courses are one-two day courses that dive into particular areas of theology and ministry to empower leaders in all parts of the church.

IFLs are available to audit.
Contact [email protected]
Deadline, September 4th.

All courses are online for the fall 2020 semester.

Audit fee: $292.50
Audit fee, ages 65 and above: $146.25

Simple application required.  No application fee.

  • Leading a Missional Organization:  Church and Nonprofit Management
    September 25 (7:30 pm- 9:00 pm), September 26 (9:00 a.m – 2:30 pm), October 24 (9:00 am – 2:30 pm)
    Instructor:  Steve Lawler
  • Music for the Resistance:  A Singing Revolution
    September 25 ( 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm) and October 30 (1:00 pm –  4:30 pm)
    Instructor:  Paul Vasile
  • Theologies of Accompaniment:  Global Partnerships and Mission
    October 2 ( 10:00 am – 11:30 am), October 7 (8:30 am – 2 pm; Schmiechen Public Lectures) and October 9 ( 10:00 am – 3:30 pm)
    Instructor:  Mary Schaller Blaufuss
  • Woman Preach Conference (Virtual)
    October 9 (4:30 pm – 8:00 pm) and October 10 (8:30 am –  6:00 pm)
    Register and Participate fully in the Woman Preach Conference
    Instructor:  Dietra Wise Baker
  • Catholics and Justice: Catholic Social Teaching in Relationship with Protestants
    October 23 (5:00 pm – 8:00 pm) and October 24 (10:00 am –  2:00 pm)
    Instructors:  Sonja B. Williams and Marlene B. Lang
  • Octavia Butler’s Earthseed and Black Imagination
    November 13 ( 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm) and November 20 (1:00 pm – 4:00 pm)
    Instructor:  Sonja B. Williams

For more information go to https://www.eden.edu/intensive-focused-learning-ifl-courses-fall-2020/.

#IamEden – We are Eden!

We challenge you, our Eden family, to encourage prospective students to consider Eden for this fall.

The time has never been better.  Half price tuition this year. Application process expedited.

It has been a busy summer in ministry and mission for all of us. As the COVID 19 health crisis has gripped our world, churches and organizations have had to adapt. At Eden, we have noticed and celebrated the ways in which Eden alumni and friends have been innovating in worship, justice witness, faith formation, and compassion to continue in ministry while keeping people safe. At Eden we have no less adapted – building an entirely online schedule for fall 2020 for our vibrant community of learning and faith. In addition to a fully online course and contextual education schedule, faculty and staff have prepared for community life structured with many opportunities to engage in chapel worship, student cabinet leadership, supplementary learning and formation activities (weekly forums held by our Dean of Students in self-care, ministry formation, etc.), networking events, social events, and social justice and community engagement.

If there were ever a time to engage at Eden – it’s now.

  • Tuition is half price
  • Schedule is accessible (online and flexible for work and family life)
  • Contextual Education has adapted to virtual learning – innovate in ministry with trained supervisors and Eden faculty (many placements offer $400 per month)
  • Student satisfaction is high (spring 2020 on-line evaluations show Eden students are highly satisfied with the new format)
  • Faculty and staff are excited and engaged
  • The world needs the church and its ministry more than ever, and vital/well educated/trained leaders to serve

Connect with Eden Admissions Staff.  Call 314-918-2642.
Or Email:  [email protected]


Growing up in southern Indiana, Karen Pepmeier and her friends would comb the farm fields during harvest season, gathering leftover ears of corn to raise money for their youth group.

“You hate to see it lay in the field and rot,” Pepmeier said. “If you grow up in one of these areas, you’re very familiar with the waste that occurs there.”

Nearly 50 years later, Pepmeier, now a student at Eden Theological Seminary, has assembled a group of volunteers and farmers to funnel this excess produce into food deserts in St. Louis. The program has harvested thousands of pounds of vegetables from Indiana farms this summer, distributing it to St. Louis food pantries and soup kitchens.

For many farmers, having leftover produce is an unavoidable issue.

At harvest time, farmworkers move quickly along the rows of sweet corn, selecting only unblemished ears of a certain size, said Jana Vieck, whose family has farmed in southern Indiana since the 1860s.

“When you’re shopping at the grocery store, you’re looking for a pristine ear of corn,” said Vieck, former dean of the College of Health Science and Human Performance at Vincennes University. “If it’s not big enough or if it’s not perfect, people typically don’t want it.”

Given that farmers are often operating on razor-thin profit margins, it also doesn’t make financial sense to harvest every single vegetable, Vieck said. From a business perspective, leaving leftover produce in the fields is usually the most economical option.

She and her husband, Lonny Vieck, who works for a fertilizer company, have partnered with Pepmeier to collect the excess produce and send it to food pantries in St. Louis. They’ve also become de facto representatives of the fledgling project, persuading their friends and family to open their fields to the volunteers.

For the Viecks, sharing excess crops with marginalized communities — or gleaning, as it’s known in the Bible — is an important part of their faith.

“My husband and I really believe that if your faith is just about going to church on Sunday, then you’ve missed the whole point,” Vieck said. “If we know that there are people who are hungry and we know that this food is here, how could we not participate in this?”

Connecting urban and rural

Students and staff from Eden Theological Seminary have made three trips this summer to Vincennes, Indiana, a farming community on the Illinois border.

Volunteers spend several hours filling buckets with sweet corn and potatoes, which is later bagged and stuffed in pickup trucks, backseats and car trunks.

“We’re driving more cars so we can socially distance, but that also means we have more room for produce,” said Kristen Leslie, a professor at Eden Theological Seminary and program co-organizer. “Our cars always smell like corn by the time we get home.”

Since mid-July, the group has collected and distributed more than 3,000 pounds of sweet corn and potatoes. But bringing fresh produce to food insecure areas in St. Louis is just one component of the program, Leslie added.

“If that was all we were interested in, just making sure food didn’t go unused, there are actually much more efficient ways to do that than what we’re doing,” Leslie said. “But we’re interested in connecting communities.”

Volunteers from St. Louis, who may have never set foot on a farm, have a brief window into the challenges of small-scale farming, trying to time their harvest based on the weather or push a tractor out of the squelching mud.

“They’re learning about our lifestyle and where the food comes from, and we are learning about what happens to this food,” Vieck said. “Where’s the gap? Why are there areas that don’t have access to all this food when we’re in a country that has an abundance of it?”

For Pepmeier, it has been heartening to watch people from vastly different backgrounds sit down and have a conversation.

She hopes to expand the program and partner with other farmers in the St. Louis area, but she doesn’t want to lose the “cultural exchange and personal connection.”

“Bringing a truck full of produce is helpful for a day,” Pepmeier said. “But if we can teach people how to share food, how to grow food and how to look out for one another, in the grand scheme of things, I think that’s better.”