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PSR: Prophet Training

by Jeff Borg

When I came to PSR in 1984, I was in an orientation group where we were asked to share what particular kind of ministry we were interested in.  I said, “I just want to be a prophet.”  The group laughed, but I was only half joking.  As it turned out, PSR in the 80s made for great prophet training.

Ronald Reagan was in the White House—we had intervention in Central America, a nuclear buildup, and coddling of South Africa.  Some of us became involved in the Pledge of Resistance, which actively opposed US intervention in Nicaragua.  We protested at the Federal Building in San Francisco and at the Concord Naval Weapons Station; some PSR students were arrested for civil disobedience.  Then there was the annual Good Friday protest at Lawrence Livermore Labs, where they engineered nuclear weapons.  There were several whopping big anti-apartheid rallies at the UC campus, and I remember seeing Desmond Tutu twice, once at the Greek Theater and once at Allen Temple church in Oakland.  Some of us lobbied the PSR board of trustees to divest its investments in South Africa.  The day they voted for divestment is one of my best memories from my time in Berkeley.

The 80s were the heyday of liberation theology.  When I arrived, Robert McAfee Brown had just published his book, Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes.  Bob was friends with people like Gustavo Gutierrez and Elie Wiesel (both of whom came to campus) and yet he was so humble and down-to-earth.  He loved just to hang out and talk with us.  Karen Lebacqz was integrating liberation theology into her work on ethics.  Inside and out of the classroom we talked about all kinds of liberation theologies–Latin American, black, feminist, Korean, South African.

We had great worship—bi-weekly chapel services full of new insights and experiences.  Edwina Hunter (preaching) and Doug Adams (worship and the arts) were inspiring teachers and leaders in making worship lively and creative.  They encouraged us to visit churches in the Bay Area that were known for great worship.  I did see some stellar preaching and had a lot of fun on these visits.

Professor Lynn Rhodes, Dean of Students Barbara Troxell, and Ministers in Residence Paul and Lyda Pierce (on break from United Methodist mission work in Nicaragua) all were great mentors and role models and, eventually, I hope, friends.

I had a job organizing events for the international students at PSR.  I set up a trip where we, with the Pierces as translators, visited farmworkers struggling in the Central Valley.  It was a powerful experience, and I’ll never forget what my friend Sello Magashule said to me, “Jeff Borg, what are you showing me?  This place is as bad as South Africa.”

But there was always a lighter side.  Hiking at Tilden Park, a short drive up the hills.  Dances in the dining hall.  The bookstores and restaurants over on Telegraph Avenue.  The ice cream shop and movie theater on Euclid Ave.  My friends Marty Floyd and Sean Gosieski and I spent a lot of sunny days throwing the frisbee on the Quad.

I don’t think I turned out to be much of a prophet, at least on the large scale the younger, naïve, and somewhat self-righteous version of me dreamed about.  I have tried to make peace and social justice a focal point in my 15 years of pastoral ministry and my 12 years of teaching Political Science.  I’ve learned that change comes ever so slowly, at a frustratingly glacial pace.  But I would not have been nearly as good a pastor and a teacher—and had as much fun doing it—without my years at PSR.

Jeff Borg, M.Div. 1988, teaches Political Science at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, CO.

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