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Immersion Blogs


Watch the 2016 Earl Lecture here!

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The 2016 Earl Lecture, The New Story of Work, is now available to watch here:

The New Story of Work on Friday, April 15, 2016, brought together organizers, business and faith leaders, activists, and scholars to explore and strategize around the meaning of work and the significance of labor today.

The keynote speaker, Annie Leonard is a lifelong environmentalist currently serving as the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. She has over 25 years experience investigating, organizing and communicating about the environmental and social impacts of all our stuff: where it comes from, what it is made out of, and where it goes after we get rid of it. Her 2007 online film, The Story of Stuff, has been viewed over 40 million times making it the most watched online environmental film to date. In 2010, she authored a book of the same title which takes a deeper dive into the issues in the film.

God Writes The First Line of Poetry, Genesis 1:1-6: Poem by Marvin K. White

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Marvin K. White Black Lives Matter Immersion

Marvin K. White (far right) with his fellow #BlackLivesMatter immersion participants

In honor of National Poetry Month, we invite you to read “God Writes the First Line of Poetry Genesis 1:1-6,” by MDiv student Marvin K. White.  Marvin is serving as a pastoral intern at Glide Memorial Church.


1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

“And” is a conjunction.
So then God is “The” conjunctive.
God is the “AND”.
God serves to join us.
God requires connectivity.
God takes us jointly or God does not take us at all.
I know you so well I can finish your sentences.

2. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

God is about fluidity.

3. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

God is the first light bulb going off and the first inspiration.
God is the first line of poetry.

4. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

God is the first line break. God breaks God’s lines so God can take a breath.

5. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

God is the first stanza.
Creation then is about God making sense of it all.
The only response to formlessness can be poetry.
God hovered until God needed a break.
And then God began editing.
So much of creation was God journaling.
So much of creation was God freewriting.
So much of creation was God spitting bars.
So much of creation was God’s stream of consciousness.
God the open mic.
God the spoken word artist.
God the itinerant artist.
God the vernacular artist.
God the visionary artist.
God the folk artist.
God just willy-nilly filling all of space
Like that blank piece of paper we so often face.
Poetry is our God response to hopelessness.
Poetry is our God response to state violence.
Poetry is our God response to inequalities and inequities.
Poetry is our God response to poverty, homelessness,
The inadequacies of healthcare and glass ceilings for women
And people of color.

So when we say poetry is revolutionary at Glide, we mean it.
When we say poetry saves lives at Glide, we mean it.
Because our poetry,
And our stories
And our “re-mything”
Is the appropriate response to “Why are they still killing us?”
Because our poems and our writing is the only way to answer our children, “Will they mistake my skittles for a weapon?”
Because our participation in creation, is the only way to break down metaphorically,
And to transform their hate of us into energy,
“Why are they kicking us out of our home?”
“Why is there no medicine for my condition?
“Why is there no food on my table?”
“Why can’t I work if I want to work?”

6. And God said, let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

God, The Water Cycle,
God, The Continuous Movement
On, Above and Below
The Surface Of The Earth.
God, in the major dips of our lives,
God The Thin Ice, The Tall Glass, and The Epson Salted Soak,
God, who when think, we are drowning, preserving us.
When I go through my phases, God the liquid, the solid and the gas.
Reshaping the geologies of the Earth, God.
Poetry, then like The Water Cycle, and the firmament, is essential for life.
We are made from evocation and to be evocative…
The Poetry in us
Is the God in us
Because we are the making sense and the meaning of it all.
We are the revision.
And the new word count.
We are the spell checked.
And beloved, today we are the freed verse
Because we know that Poetry in the hands of God’s people,
is always about flow.


Welcome to new staff members Wanda Scott and Arnaldo Rodriguez

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PWanda Scottacific School of Religion is pleased to welcome Wanda Scott as our new Chief Advancement Officer. Wanda comes to Pacific School of Religion from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where she served as Director of Development for the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. There she successfully raised significant campaign and major gifts, collaborating with faculty, dean and volunteers, and partnering closely with Alumni Relations and Institutional Giving.

Wanda has over 16 years’ experience in nonprofit administration in key development and marketing roles. Prior to joining Case Western Reserve University, Wanda served as the Assistant Director for Community Relationships for John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio; Corporate Development Director for the Northern Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council; and Manager of Corporate Sponsorships for the Cleveland Orchestra. Earlier in her career, she served as an account executive with United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, and was Marketing and Development Director of the International Society of Hypertension in Blacks.

President David Vásquez-Levy said, “Wanda brings a wealth of experience and skill in advancement coupled with a deep understanding and commitment to the work of theological education. As we prepare to celebrate PSR’s Sesquicentennial, Wanda’s leadership of the Advancement office as well as her leadership role on the Administrative Team will help both resource and cast PSR’s renewed vision of preparing theologically and spiritually rooted leaders for social transformation.”

Wanda holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Cleveland State University, Ohio, and a Master of Theological Studies from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, where she focused on Biblical Studies and Feminist Interpretations of the New Testament, as well as Hebrew and Biblical Greek. Wanda has been an Adjunct Religion Instructor at John Carroll University, and also at Cuyahoga Community College. She has moderated and served on panels on interreligious dialogue and religious education, and presented workshops on the topic. She contributed the chapter “The Religion Classroom as a Site for Justice” to the 2016 book, Comparative Theology in the Millennial Classroom: Hybrid Identities, Negotiated Boundaries (Routledge, 2016).

Wanda has served on professional and community boards in the Cleveland area, and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the American Academy of Religion.

Arnaldo RodriguezWe are also delighted to welcome Dr. Arnaldo Rodriguez as PSR’s Interim Director of Admissions. Dr. Rodriguez brings over forty years of experience in admissions and enrollment management, with a particular commitment to facilitating educational access for under-represented communities. His strategic approach to admissions and enrollment and his ability to capture and communicate a school’s particular mission have made him an effective and recognized leader in the field.

Since his retirement as Vice President for Admissions and Financial Aid at Pitzer College in Claremont, CA—where he served for 14 years—he has focused on interim work to help schools during leadership transitions. His interim work has included St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga and St. Mark’s Episcopal School in Upland, CA. He earned a Doctorate of Education from Seattle University and Masters and undergraduate degrees in Psychology from the University of Oregon and the University of Portland, respectively.

“I do not belong to myself”: Reflections on African Spirituality and Theology, with Dr. Bienvenu Mayemba

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On April 6, Dr. Bienvenu Mayemba gave a lecture entitled “‘I do not belong to myself’: Reflections on African Spirituality and Theology.” Dr. Mayemba is a Jesuit priest and Theologian from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He resides in Abidjan, Ivory Coast where he is the Director of BARAZA, Chair of African Theology, the Coordinator of Academic Conferences, and Professor of Systematic Theology, African Theology and Postcolonial Theory at the Jesuit Institute of Theology and at the Catholic University of Western Africa.

Dr. Mayemba is currently serving as International Visiting Professor of African Religion and Christianity: Theological and Socio-Political Perspectives, at Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley. His talk was sponsored by the Changemaker Fellows 2016 Cohort and the Office of Community Life.

Watch the lecture here:

Reflections on African Spirituality and Theology from Pacific School of Religion on Vimeo.

New Doctor of Ministry program in Hawai’i

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Summer 2016, Pacific School of Religion will begin offering our Doctor of Ministry program in Hawai’i. This cohort of students will come from a wide range of places in the Pacific World and the focus of their work will be on the ministry issues that arise in the Pacific contexts. For the first class we expect students from Japan, Hawai’i, and American Samoa.

The PSR DMin program has three components:

  • the DMin seminar meetings with PSR faculty members where students meet together for one or two weeks annually to study methodologies, project design, and give progress reports on their work along with cohort meetings during the year on their own;
  • four elective courses (regular PSR courses taken by video conferencing, online courses from PSR, or courses taken at other schools and transferred into the PSR program);
  • and a project which analyses a problem in the practice of ministry and proposes a new approach to that practice.

Ministers who have a MDiv or equivalent education and training and have worked in ministry for at least three years after the completion of the Master of Divinity degree or other master’s level theological education are eligible to apply for the DMin. More information about the Doctor of Ministry program and its requirements are available here.

The first beginning DMin seminar will meet this summer in Honolulu July 25 – August 5. Applications for the PSR Hawai’i DMin program are accepted year round. The program begins with the seminar and it takes about six weeks to process a DMin application, so ministers who want to start this summer should apply no later than June 24 to be sure the admissions process is complete by the time the seminar begins.

If you have any questions, please be in touch with the PSR DMin Program Director, Randi Walker rwalker@psr.edu or call 510/849-8221, or contact the Admissions Office at 510/849-8931 or toll-free at 800/999-0528.

“Creativity is evidence of the divine”: Patrisha Gill, Artist in Residence at City of Refuge

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Patrisha Gill (front row, third from right) is working towards her Master of Theological Studies with a concentration in liturgical studies, focusing on worship in the arts. For her Field Education placement, Patrisha serves as Artist in Residence at City of Refuge United Church of Christ in Oakland.

Through my Field Education work, I’m exploring how the arts­­—video, visual arts, dance, photography, spoken word, and music—enhance the worship experience. As worship leaders, how can we provide ways to make sure the artist’s expressions have meaning for all? My goal is to create a space where participants see God, meet God, talk to God; pray, smile, laugh; be one with one another, the earth and the divine. This experience has transformed me.

I love the quote, “Imagination is evidence of the divine.” I would venture to say that creativity is also evidence of the divine. I don’t know if spirituality enhances creativity or vice versa, but I believe we’ve all been given gifts, and those gifts can be used to transform lives.

At PSR, I’m learning to create sacred space; Professor Sharon Fennema has been an amazing mentor and teacher in that area. Watching her has helped me see things differently and trust myself in this area, and I would love to teach other worship leaders new ways of creating sacred space. Our worship needs not only to create a space of comfort, but discomfort: to think and pray on things that make us uncomfortable, to jar us a little bit, to move us into action.

I’ve been involved in music all my life, but I’ve always had to fall back on my accounting skills to support myself. The exactness of numbers, reconciling down to the penny, appeals to the right side of my brain. And while it’s very separate from my music and other creative pursuits, accounting is essential in church administration.  When you are a director of a department, and not just a worship leader, you need both the creative side and the administrative side. It’s great when you can utilize both sides of your brain in ministry.

I find it so honoring that the members of City of Refuge are investing in me.

I was their minister of music years ago­—they’re still willing to invest in this new part of me, to come along with me on this journey. I’m profoundly grateful to have the chance to express everything inside of me in this way, and to the people who have made it happen, Mz. Ann (Pastor Ann Jefferson), Bishop Yvette Flunder, and my partner, Rev. Janice Steele.

I want to take the things that I learn here, add my imagination, and ask God to blow on that creation and bless it, so it lives and breathes to bless others.