Certificate of Spirituality and Social Change (CSSC)

Envisioning a world of abundance where all can thrive and flourish has inspired spiritual leaders for many centuries to build justice-making communities rooted in compassion and generosity. This vision continues to call individuals and communities to the work of social transformation across multiple, overlapping concerns, from fostering economic and racial justice to promoting gender equality and environmental sustainability.

Today the complex cultural and political landscape in the United States and around the world demands bold approaches and innovative strategies for transformative social action. Profound demographic shifts in the midst of worldwide advances in technology, economic anxieties, and emerging ecological crises – all of these present significant challenges and compelling opportunities for collaboration among non-profit organizations, social innovators, and faith communities for a world transformed by a Gospel vision of abundant life for all.

PSR’s Certificate of Spirituality and Social Change (C.S.S.C.) offers specialized training for the work of social changemaking. Participants come from and prepare for a wide range of socially innovative vocational paths, whether social justice advocacy, community organizing, the visual and performing arts, or congregational leadership. In each of these arenas, effective efforts for social change rely on ongoing personal change and transformation rooted in a practice of spiritual formation. To that end, the C.S.S.C. program combines these key elements for participants:

• Spiritual formation and theological reflection in a cohort of changemakers;
• Leadership skills for critically constructive social analysis;
• Immersive learning and practice with experienced mentors.

The C.S.S.C. program welcomes those who are already engaged in social change as well as those eager to embark on this vocational path. Participants can complete the certificate as a stand-alone program, add the certificate to the M.Div. or M.T.S. programs, or apply some of the certificate credits to the new PSR Master of Arts degree in Social Transformation (M.A.S.T.) (pending WASC/ATS approval). Flexible learning options (online and hybrid courses, summer and January term intensives, weekend workshops and seminars) enable students to earn this degree part-time and with minimal residency requirements while still participating in a vibrant cohort of colleagues.

Courses, seminars, and workshops for the C.S.S.C. are offered by regular and adjunct faculty at Pacific School of Religion and the Graduate Theological Union as well as partner schools and organizations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to regularly offered required courses, electives and immersion opportunities are designed and arranged through PSR’s Center for Spiritual and Social Transformation (CSST) in collaboration with the Office of Field Education and Contextual Learning. Many of these courses and modules are offered in the evenings, on weekends, or online, which allows participants to continue working in their places of employment and bring that experience with them into the program.

All of these offerings are rooted in a praxis/reflection model of education and C.S.S.C. participants are expected to integrate social changemaking into their course work (especially under the guidance of a mentor and the PSR Director of Field Education in the second half of the program). Opportunities for spiritual formation in community, including retreats, are also available, and C.S.S.C. students are encouraged to adopt a form of communal spiritual practice related to their work during the program.

  • Participate in and demonstrate an understanding of various spiritual formation practices (such as meditation and contemplative prayer, liturgical worship and table fellowship, sacred dance and the visual arts, to name just a few), especially as such practices inform and sustain the work of social transformation;
  • Articulate the significance of personal transformation for the work of social changemaking (such as: recognizing and addressing one’s own collusion with institutional systems of oppressive power; analyzing the multiple social locations one occupies and the varying degrees of privilege they might carry; and acknowledging one’s contributions to unjust social and cultural systems and the ongoing need to seek forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation);
  • Engage in cultural and political analysis both theologically and ethically, especially for insights into structural inequality, systemic injustice, and institutionalized oppressions;
  • Recruit and prepare faith communities to engage in collaborative partnerships with programs and organizations devoted to systemic social change for the common good;
  • Evaluate and appropriate diverse strategies for changemaking drawn from the worlds of social innovation, non-profit organizations, and grass-roots community organizing, and identify the active and/or potential role of spiritual practice/formation in those strategies;
  • Develop skills for transformative leadership suitable for building coalitions committed to the work of social and economic justice, demonstrated with attention to the issues involving professional boundaries, institutional power, and social ethics.

The C.S.S.C. program is designed to be a full-time one-year program. Alternatively, you may take up to three years part-time to complete the certificate. It is not uncommon for current degree students (those in the Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Arts in Social Transformation [pending WASC/ATS approval], Doctor of Ministry, or the GTU Master of Arts) to add C.S.S.C. to their degree coursework as a way to gain competency and specialization in the area of spirituality and social change. Adding the C.S.S.C. to a degree program may or may not require additional semesters of study, depending on the number of elective hours available in that degree program

Course Requirements for the CSSC

Certificate program participants complete course work equal to 21 credit hours through regularly offered classes, intensive seminars, weekend workshops, and mentor-led field work or immersions. The program can be completed in one academic year and participants have a maximum of three years to finish the requirements. Two required seminars and a field work placement constitute the core of the program, which is supplemented with elective courses, seminars, and workshops.

One-on-one intake interviews are required for the students accepted into the C.S.S.C. program. The Director of the C.S.S.C. works with each participant to draft a plan for completing the program based on the participant’s interests, faculty resources, and available social change mentors.

Required Seminars (6 credits)

Participants are expected to enroll in two required seminars offered each academic year to develop cohort relationships and provide a framework for vocations engaged in social transformation:

  1. Spirituality and Social Change: SPFT 1082 (or SPFT 8182 for online course) Spiritual Formation for Leadership (3.0 credits, usually offered in the fall semester)
     is co-taught by PSR faculty. This seminar introduces a variety of spiritual practices, opportunities to engage in them with colleagues, and relate such spiritual formation to critical social analysis and theological reflection.
  2. Transformational Leadership: FTRS 2973 Transformational Leadership (3.0 credits, usually offered in the spring semester) surveys and develops the knowledge and skills needed to lead organizations, communities, and movements of social change. PSR faculty and social change leaders from the wider community present the diversity of approaches to this kind of leadership and methods for effective social transformation. 

Mentor-Led Field Work/Immersions Capstone (3 credits)

In consultation with the Director of Field Education and the Coordinator of the C.S.S.C. program, participants choose a broad sector or area of interest in which to focus their work (such as economics, ecology, social justice) and are paired with a mentor active in that field. Those already working in some area of social changemaking may apply to have that work count toward these credit hours for the program. In some cases, a participant may choose to combine a series of immersive learning/internship experiences for the required field work credits.

FERS 3001, Social Change Field Work/Immersion, Capstone Course (3.0 credits)
This seminar serves as the capstone course for the C.S.S.C. Participants collaborate with each other, the faculty instructor, and their mentors to draft learning objectives and establish criteria for assessing the outcomes of their field work and immersion experiences. Participants meet together in person three times during the semester and provide regular progress reports online through a dedicated website. Participants will submit a final project in this course (such as a vocational plan, a social venture proposal, an educational and/or spiritual formation module for community organizing, among others) based on their field work/immersion experiences geared toward a specific area of social change. Draft iterations of the project are submitted online throughout the semester for feedback from colleagues, mentors, and the faculty instructor. The class meets in person a fourth and final time, at the end of the semester, to present their final projects and solicit observations and proposals for next steps.

Elective Courses, Seminars, and Workshops (12 credits)

In addition, you are required to take twelve credits in the areas of your choice, based on your career goals and vocational needs. All courses designated for C.S.S.C. credit listed on the C.S.S.C. website are applicable for these credit hours. A variety of regular PSR courses are offered each academic year that can meet these elective requirements. In addition, special lectures and topical workshops (both on and off the PSR campus) can be combined for academic credit by enrolling in the RSFT 2505 Social Change Intensives course (up to 3.0 credits total may be used toward C.S.S.C.). The Director of the C.S.S.C. program maintains a listing of these occasional offerings and works with participants to draft a plan for earning these elective credit hours.

Academic Program Manual for the CSSC

Program Manual 2014-2015
     Part I
     Part II
Please submit your signed Statement of Understanding by the first two weeks of the Fall or Spring you matriculate and register in this program.

Other CSSC forms

CSSC worksheet for 2014-2015

CSSC Course Offerings

CSSC List of required and elective courses for 2014-2015

Changemakers 2014-2015 in the CSSC

If you are a Changemaker Fellow for the 2014 -2015 year, you must be in the CSSC program and complete all 21 credits by the end of Spring 2015. Below is a brief chart summarizing the differences between requriements for CSSC students and Changemaker Fellows. For more on your requirements, log into the Changemaker Moodle page.


CSSC Regular

CSSC Changemaker 2014-2015

Fall Year 1 SPFT 1082 Spiritual Formation for Leadership (3.0 credits)--Instructor James Lawrence SPFT 1082 Spiritual Formation for Leadership (3.0 credits)--Instructor James Lawrence
FTRS 2974 Changemaker Fellows Seminar (3.0 credits)--Instructor Boyung Lee
Spring Year 1 FTRS 2973 Transformative Leadership (3.0 credits)--Instructor Randall Miller FTRS 2973 Transformative Leadership (3.0 credits)--Instructor Randall Miller
FTRS 2974 Changemaker Fellows Seminar (3.0 credits)--Instructor Boyung Lee
Total Required Credits 9.0 credits 15.0 credits
Total Elective Credits 12.0 credits 6.0 credits

For more information on how to apply for the CSSC, contact Admissions.