Contextual Learning

In our multicultural and multireligious world, effective spiritual leadership requires the kind of understanding, perspective and skill that comes from engagement with diverse communities and contexts for ministry. Contextual learning helps us to see the reciprocal ways that self and culture, social forces, and institutions shape and give meaning to our life together. PSR’s Contextual Learning Program seeks to provide a link between the seminary and diverse communities throughout the world. We will assist students in developing a process for exposure and critical reflection.

Through contextual learning, we can:

  • Discover the lenses through which we view the world and ourselves
  • Learn how these lenses impact our formation as spiritual leaders
  • Understand and appreciate diverse perspectives and how they might radically differ from our own
  • Develop competency for leadership in multicultural and multireligious communities

Contextual Learning Requirements for MDiv Students

Contextual Learning at PSR has two components:

  1. Contextual learning within courses. In the classroom, we highlight the connection between theory and praxis by interacting with diverse communities in the Bay Area.
  2. Cross-cultural immersion courses. MDiv students are required to take three (3) credits of contextual/cross-cultural immersion courses before graduation. These courses are offered primarily during January Intersession. Opportunities for engagement with local communities are offered each year; opportunities for intensive engagement with national or international communities are offered in alternating years. Student travel, board and lodging expenses are supplemented by a scholarship fund and student fundraising. The goal of PSR immersion courses is to avoid theological tourism by forming lasting relationships and partnerships with people, organizations and communities in the host region.

Sample immersion courses:

  • Our local immersion course, Refuge in the City, allies students with a church that works in the midst of the most marginalized populations in San Francisco.
  • Students have participated in national immersion courses in Washington D.C., looking at issues of justice and how the religious community interacts with the political structure in the U.S. Students and faculty have immersed themselves in issues of immigration and environmental and economic justice at the El Paso/Juarez and San Ysidro/Tijuana borders. The immersion to Appalachia focused on faith, health, and economics.
  • In past years, delegations have participated in international immersion courses to Israel/Palestine, the Samoas, Southeast Asia, Uganda/Rwanda, El Salvador, Taiwan, and in 2014, to India.

Contact Contextual Learning


Rev. Odette Lockwood-Stewart
Instructor in the Practice of Ministry
Director of Field Education and Contextual Learning

Grace Gilliam
Associate Director of Field Education and Contextual Learning

Offices of Field Education and Contextual Learning
Holbrook 124/125

Contextual_Cross Cultural Immersion Course Guidelines.pdf109.59 KB
Guidelines+Application for Self-Designed_Special Reading Immersion Courses.pdf209.28 KB