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Registration now open for our 2017 Earl and Boswell Lectures: Borders and Identity

By | A World on the Move, Igniting Change, Main News, Queering Faith | No Comments

Jose Antonio VargasWithin the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, join us for an engaging weekend of workshops, worship, direct action, and networking around the theme of “Borders and Identity.”

Migration across all kinds of borders—both physical and metaphorical—is reshaping our understanding of identity across boundaries of race, culture, religion, sexuality, gender, and nationality. It has been a major, and divisive, theme of national politics. Halfway through the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, join us for an engaging weekend of workshops, worship, direct action, and community building. The conference will emphasize practical skills, timely resources, and a deeper analysis of the critical issues facing us at this moment. Our goal is to equip leaders to stand for justice with all those on the borders and margins.

Register for “Borders & Identity” now

In Memoriam: Jean McCarter

By | In Memoriam, Main News | No Comments

The Pacific School of Religion community extends our condolences to the family and friends of Jean (Maxwell) McCarter, who passed away last week. From 1979 to 1991, Jean’s husband, Dr. Neely McCarter, served as president of Pacific School of Religion. The McCarters lived on campus during that time and Jean shared a warm ministry of hospitality with the students, faculty, and staff.

Jean was born in Clinton, South Carolina, where she met  Neely who attended a Presbyterian college in the area. She and Neely were married in 1954, and had three children, Robin, Robert, and Shirley. During their time at Pacific School of Religion, the McCarters raised their family in the Maybeck House and were a vibrant part of the community.

President David Vásquez-Levy shares, “Jean remained committed to PSR and its mission throughout her life. She was looking forward to being part of the 150th Founders Day celebration this past October, but her health prevented her from participating. Still, she valued hearing about the gathering and believed strongly in the renewed vision and mission of PSR.  We are grateful to God for Jean and Neely’s leadership and commitment to PSR. Please keep their family in prayer as they celebrate Jean’s remarkable life and grieve her death.”

Eileen Weston, PSR Archivist, reflects, “Jean was a gentle, gracious lady and a real asset to PSR for many years.  Her personal interest and caring presence was a gift to students, faculty and staff alike.”

Jean is preceded in death by her husband, Neely (1929-2009).

PSR teams with the Forum for Theological Exploration for a new Emerging Leaders Program

By | A World on the Move, Main News | No Comments

Announcing a new program for  emerging leaders who are first- or second-generation immigrants and who are interested in exploring pastoral ministry as a career.

Pacific School of Religion has been given the incredible opportunity, beginning in March 2017, to coordinate a first-time mentoring & internship program for young adult (under age 30) emerging leaders who are first- and second-generation immigrants and who may be considering a path toward pastoral ministry in service to immigrant and non-immigrant communities throughout California, with a focus on the Central Valley. This innovative program has been made possible through the generous support of the Forum for Theological Exploration.

The “FTE Emerging Leaders Program” will begin with an all-expenses paid weekend retreat on March 10 and 11, 2017 on Pacific School of Religion’s campus in beautiful Berkeley, California. The event will include meetings with President David Vásquez-Levy and faculty member Filipe Maia, together with our inaugural program mentors. Regular mentor guidance will be provided directly from the mentors throughout the Spring and Summer of 2017 under the supervision of PSR.

In addition, paid internship opportunities will be available for those who choose to pursue them, beginning in the Summer of 2017. The pool of mentors and internship providers are being carefully selected from an ever-growing pool of denominational partners.

Internships will provide “hands on” experience working with clergy in a denomination as close to the intern’s place of residence as possible.

Interested emerging leaders can complete an application by visiting here. The application deadline is Friday, February 10, 2017.

If you know of a first- or second-generation immigrant young adult who is seriously considering pastoral ministry as a calling, we encourage you to let them know about this amazing program.

“Immaculate Desire: The Place Your Desire and God’s Desire in You Collides”: Reflections from Alumna Christine Haider-Winnett (MDiv ’15)

By | Alumni/ae, Main News, Queering Faith | No Comments

Christine Haider-WinnettAlumna Christine Haider-Winnett (MDiv ’15) shared the below reflection at a PSR Chapel Service.

I can’t tell you how special it is to be here with you today. For those of you who don’t know me, I graduated from PSR in 2015 and my husband, Alex, is still a student here. I am now an ordained deacon seeking the priesthood through Roman Catholic Woman Priests, a group of women ordained validly but illegally in the Catholic tradition.

The very first time I preached at PSR chapel was almost exactly 5 years ago, when I offered a short reflection on what Our Lady of Guadalupe means to me. So, it seems so sacred and perfect to be spending another Advent reflecting on Our Lady in this space that continues to shape my life, my ministry and my family.

I will be honest and tell you that I found it easier to speak about Our Lady of Guadalupe all those years ago. Our Lady of Guadalupe is a reminder of everything I love about Mary: this weird, fierce sacred woman who incarnates the lived experiences of oppressed people and inspires us to work for justice.

On the face of it, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception seems to be the polar opposite of Our Lady of Guadalupe. While Our Lady of Guadalupe is portrayed as a fierce goddess, the mother of God who enters into the human story to defend and inspire her people, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception can easily be seen as a fragile little girl. Someone so pure and dainty that she’s hard to relate to.

Perhaps most troubling, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception seems to present a problem with Mary’s ability to consent: how could Mary have been chosen at conception to be the mother of God and yet still have been able to freely answer “yes” to God’s call? If she was already conceived without sin for the express purpose of bringing the Christ Child into the world, what choice did she really have but to say to the angel Gabriel “May it be done to me according to God’s will?” Did she really have the freedom to say no?

I think the answer to this question lies most clearly in the Magnificat, the song Mary sings at her cousin Elizabeth’s house. In the Magnificat, it becomes clear that this miracle pregnancy is something that God is doing with Mary, not something done to her. Mary portrays herself as an active participant in this moment. She blesses God as she sings “my heart proclaims the greatness of the lord” and she receives God’s blessing with joy stating “from this day forward, all generations will call me blessed.” Mary enthusiastically rejoices in a collaboration between herself and God.

In the Magnificat, it is clear that Mary freely claims and has agency in what is happening to her. But at the same time, there does seem to be something cosmic and fateful about this pregnancy. Mary chose to birth the Christ Child, but I don’t think it was simply a choice. Instead, I think she is rejoicing at having finally uncovered her calling—having found what her heart was most deeply longing for. Mary rejoices because, like Jeremiah before her, she can hear God whisper: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I consecrated you.” After years of searching, Mary finally realizes exactly what she has been consecrated for.

If you are here at PSR, maybe that means that you, too, have seen glimmers of what God has consecrated you for. I have been lucky enough to experience that a few times in my life: I felt it as a thirteen-year-old girl sitting in my small-town Catholic church when I first knew I was called to be a priest. I felt it last year, during my ordination as a deacon, when my bishop (a fabulous 80 year old woman with a purple streak in her hair) laid hands on my head.

And I felt it a few more times: When, at 16, I realized that the feelings I had for a female friend were more than friendship, and I finally claimed something queer within me. And I felt it years later, when I first realized my husband was the person I wanted to grow old with. I felt it earlier this year, the first time that I heard my baby’s heartbeat on the sonogram.

These moments were more than a simple choice on my part, and were more than something chosen for me by God. They were moments where my joy collided with God’s rejoicing in me. Moments when a lifelong longing suddenly made sense. When the kindling fire that God had set before my birth finally burst into flame. These were, simply, moments I fell in love.

To me, the Immaculate Conception is the celebration of those moments in each of our lives. It’s the recognition that all of us—not just Mary and Jeremiah—were known by God and consecrated for a purpose from the first moments of our creation. This day is a reminder that our life’s destiny is to uncover and live out the purpose God set for us, a purpose that is made most clear to us in moments of love, and passion and desire.

And so, as we celebrate this weird and sometimes uncomfortable feast of the immaculate conception, I invite you to see it—not as a denigration of sexuality—but as a celebration of desire. A celebration of that desire that God set in our hearts before we were born—desire for one another, for our vocations, and for the sacred. A celebration of the ways that our longings can serve as our true compass, pointing us toward our calling: that place where our joy and God’s rejoicing in us collides.


Christine Haider-Winnett graduated from Pacific School of Religion in 2015 with a Masters in Divinity. She also holds a Certificate in Women’s Studies in Religion from the Graduate Theological Union and a BA in Peace and Global Studies from Earlham College. Christine is an ordained deacon in Roman Catholic Womanpriests (USA) and former Co-President of the Women’s Ordination Conference, the largest organization in the world working for women’s equality in the Catholic Church. She currently serves as deacon at St. Hildegard Catholic Community in Berkeley, California. Christine and her husband Alex (also a PSR student) are eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child. You can learn more about Christine’s ministry here.