Community Engaged Learning Staff

Holbrook 124/125

Rev. Dr. Christy Newton
Instructor in the Practice of Ministry
Director, Community Engaged Learning

Grace Gilliam
Associate Director, Community Engaged Learning

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Most Recent Immersion Blog

From May 22 – May 31, 2017, 16 PSR students in the Faith & Public Policy Immersion: WDC course engaged with government leaders, media, religious leaders, organizers, nonprofit advocacy, and justice organizations and movements. Explore and respond to their insights and reflections at

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 at PSR seeks to make it possible for all interested students to engage with immersion courses that stretch their awareness and strengthen their theological and multicultural capacities as leaders and change agents.

Sample immersion courses:

  • Our reoccurring local immersion course, Refuge in the City, led by Bishop Yvette Flunder, allies students with a church that works in the midst of the most marginalized populations in San Francisco and Oakland. Participants engage in on the ground hands-on theological learning as they practice the City of Refuge theology and inner-city model for ministry development.
  • 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/Ciudad Juárez and San Ysidro/Tijuana borders. The immersion to Appalachia focused on faith, health, and economics while the one in New York City afforded students the opportunity to live into the intersection of arts and ministry. PSR national immersions have placed students and faculty in the following areas: New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Manzanar, Phoenix, Santa Fe, Hawaii, Appalachia, St. Louis/Ferguson, U.S./Mexico Borders. A recent course is:
    • #BlackLivesMatter: Bay Area-Ferguson Activism Immersion, July 29 – August 12, 2015, was co-led by PSR faculty Dr. Sharon Fennema and Dr. Osagyefo Sekou in partnership with Eden Theological Seminary. Students participated in Ferguson events surrounding the 1-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, met with local leaders and community activists, and explored local and national dynamics that catalyzed the current protest movement against systemic patterns of brutality and racialization.
    • Holy Places and Displacements: An Immersion in the Middle East, January 11-23, 2016, was led by PSR faculty Dr. Yii-Jan Lin, and Dr. Peter Makari of UCC/DOC Global Ministries. This immersion course challenged participants to engage holy places, divine inheritance, exile, and displacement both in biblical times and in today’s Middle East.
    • Guatemala: Roots of Migration, January 16-27, 2016, was Led by PSR faculty, Dr. Boyung Lee and PSR President, Dr. David Vásquez-Levy. Changemaker Fellows traveled to Guatemala and were hosted by urban and rural communities, such as Tierra Nueva and Casa del Migrante. This Immersion was in partnership with Iglesias Hermanas (SisterParish) and with NISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala).

Contextual Learning Requirements for M.Div. 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 one-and-one-half (1.5) credits of contextual/cross-cultural immersion courses before graduation. These courses are offered primarily during January Intersession and are taught by PSR core faculty or approved adjunct faculty. Opportunities for engagement with local communities are offered each year; opportunities for intensive engagement with national or international communities are increasingly offered on a yearly basis. 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.

Self-Designed / Hybrid immersion courses. MDiv students can meet their contextual/cross-cultural immersion requirement by submitting a proposal for a Special Reading Course that follows the Self-Designed Immersion Guidelines. Approval of this SRC can take up to 90 days; be sure to begin the process early. Students are encouraged to schedule an appointment with the Director to consult on the viability of a planned proposal.

Hybrid immersions are those programs & fellowships with educational and immersive elements that have been approved by the Director of Contextual Learning as meeting immersion course guidelines. If a student is accepted into one of these (usually summer) programs/fellowships, the director will consult with the student to identify PSR faculty for an SRC. Examples of some of these approved programs and fellowships are:

Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) – application for seminarians is usually in late December; be sure to apply early if interested.

Cambridge Interfaith Programme (CIP) Summer School

Some organized gatherings at Taize Community in France

Some immersive programs offered by World Christian Student Federation – North America

Some immersions will require an application. Most immersions have limited class sizes, some with wait lists. Be sure to check Upcoming Immersion Courses for course-specific application(s) and final due date. Submit your application early.


Vocare is the newsletter of Contextual Learning and Field Education opportunities for PSR students and communities. Vocāre is a Latin word meaning “to call” or “to invoke.”

Vocare has changed format to an online e-newsletter. Explore opportunities in community engaged learning at

PSR Immersive Intensives require an application, submitted to Community Engaged Learning and reviewed by course faculty. Download the application:

Immersive Intensives offered by other GTU schools or organizations that have been approved by the CEL Director to fulfill the MDiv cross-cultural immersion requirement have different application processes that will be provided along with the information documents.

Applications are being accepted NOW


Upcoming Immersion Courses

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