The students came from many places in the Pacific world. There were pastors from Samoa and Tonga and Hawaii; missionaries from the United Church of Christ in Japan working with Japanese-speaking people in the Bay Area; a Christian lay woman from Hong Kong interested in knowing more than she learned in Sunday School; a former federal judge, a Chinese American woman from Hawaii; a Catholic Sister who came from Vietnam as a boat person and now lives in Texas; an American pastor, daughter of immigrants from China who serves a multi-cultural congregation with Japanese roots; and an African American man who finds his home in a Samoan congregation in Hawaii. My colleague Tafa Muasau, President of the Kanana Fou Theological Seminary in American Samoa and I had an enormous amount of Pacific Christian history right there in the room. We hardly missed the lack of a textbook on the subject. Continue reading
Things collapse with regularity in the Pacific world. So much of the geography is volcanic, erupting in ash and fire and destroying the natural growth and building of generations. Below the surface, large sections of the earth collide and press on each other; the surface ruptures; everything shakes down into dust. Tsunamis may come and wash the rubble into the sea. Typhoons blow along the coasts and fires ignite in the coastal hills. Pacific world people in all their diversity, relate to each other in stories of earthquake, wind and fire. Continue reading
The other day I was walking along Euclid Avenue on the way to the Bancroft Library when I passed an empty storefront. It had been, for a short time, a shop with religious articles, not a Christian store, but a multi-religious store for spiritual seekers of all kinds. Now all the books and candles were gone; no more advertisements in the windows for spiritual guidance for a fee. All that was left in the center of the empty store, woven into the carpet on the floor, was a labyrinth in blue, big enough to walk into. I suddenly had an idea about Mary Tolbert’s idea of a lab church for PSR, where PSR students would practice their ministry skills and offer a community, online and in person, to those in the neighborhood adventurous enough to try it out. We thought of the Ecumenical Center at the time, but why not this storefront. Continue reading
Before World War I, PSR students were an optimistic lot. They were the Progressive Era generation. One of them, W. C. Allen, wrote,
Our growing civilization has not yet outgrown the social message of Jesus. We are growing into it. The passing centuries are not taking us away from our prophet, – we are more nearly approaching the significance of his message with our expanding social needs. And there is yet more truth to break forth from his words. He is fast leading the nations onward to disarmament and international arbitration.
They were reading Social Gospel thinkers such as Shailer Mathews, Walter Rauschenbusch, Jane Addams and Washington Gladden. These thinkers looked into the depths of the industrial economic system of their day and urged Christian people to apply the teaching of Jesus and the Hebrew prophets to the situation of workers living in poverty. Their work is worth reading again because it is still relevant. Continue reading