Boots on the Ground Theopraxis

21 08 2013

Boots To be a Christian is to be an optimist—to believe that good can overcome evil. In this day and time there are so many negative messages in the news: the Boston bombing, young women being held captive for years in a private home, the closing of US embassies around the world due to terrorist threats, young men of color being shot down in the streets…. To be a Christian, to be a person of faith, is to believe that there is a just and good presence that has, can, and will overcome evil.

One of my favorite theologians, Jon Sobrino, speaks about the crucified people. Sobrino teaches at the University of Central America in San Salvador, El Salvador, where in 1989 a government death squad entered the Jesuit faculty living quarters in the middle of the night, pulled everyone out of their beds (6 Jesuits, 1 female housekeeper, and the housekeeper’s daughter) and slaughtered them in the University square. These brutal deaths were to be a message to the people of El Salvador that evil was in control.  Except that the extremity of the event caused the message to backfire. As a result, the US ceased to support the government armies of El Salvador and the United Nations called for a cease-fire. In essence, this horrific event led to the end of a brutal civil war.

Jon Sobrino, away on a lecture tour, escaped death that night, but has been writing about it ever since. In his liberation theology we hear the call to search our souls for our own part in creating and sustaining the brutality of the cross. When asked at the Presidential lecture of Santa Clara University in 2009 how he would define ‘Liberation Theology’ his immediate response was this: “first we must ask, liberation from what…?” and then he answered his own question, “liberation from ourselves!” He went on to ask the audience, “how have we, how are we putting people on the cross?” This was not a general question, but specifically addressed to those of us privileged enough to be in the audience. “How have we, how are we putting people on the cross?” He concluded by saying, “we must work at taking people down from the cross, and if we are not working at taking people down from the cross, then we are part of the problem.”

Liberation theology brought to the world the challenge of theopraxis. No longer content with the discussion of philosophical systematic ideas about God and the work of God in the universe, liberation theology has challenged the world to put legs to faith. Latin American theologians and the theologians of Black Theology of Liberation in the US have pounded away for decades now crying out for boots on the ground theopraxis that essentially takes people down from the cross. Our global 20th century liberation theologians, of which there are many—far too many to begin naming them in this short blog—have shown us the way….

To be Christian is to be an optimist—to believe that God has, can, and will overcome evil. We need the faith to believe that resources are present to overcome evil. We need the faith to believe that the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth has overcome evil. We need the faith to believe that God reigns and people count. We need the faith to believe that our efforts can and will make a difference. We need to get our boots out, dust them off and get to work!

LeAnn Snow Flesher, PhD

Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament

American Baptist Seminary of the West





To the Class of 2013…

15 06 2013

The following is the student address, given at the 2013 ABSW Commencement by Master of Divinity graduate Loretta Dickerson-Smith, who also received the Claiborne M. Hill Award for highest academic standing for an M.Div. Student.

Chairman of the ABSW Board of Trustees Rev. Dr. Jim Hopkins presents M.Div. graduate Loretta Dickerson-Smith with her diploma.

Chairman of the ABSW Board of Trustees Rev. Dr. Jim Hopkins presents M.Div. graduate Loretta Dickerson-Smith with her diploma.

President Martin, Trustees, esteemed Faculty members, family, friends and the graduates of 2013, today is a day to be thankful and to be inspired. Before we begin celebrating, I would like my fellow graduates to give special accolades to President Paul Martin, Dean LeAnn Snow Flesher and the Chairman of the Trustee Board. Now, my question I must pose to each of them is a simple one: Have each of you signed our diplomas? Are you sure?…..you see, none of the graduates want to start celebrating too quickly.

All humor aside…today is a day of thanksgiving and to be inspired. Each graduate has completed the requirements for the degree which began after receiving our letters of acceptance to be a part of the ABSW community. We came in response to God’s call to service; a call not solely for the students but one which includes the faculty and staff. The faculty and staff would be teachers that would shepherd us in this process of discovery as we learned the meaning of servant-leadership.

As I reflected on the journey, we spent time understanding our beliefs and doctrine in our Introduction to Theology course. We examined the work of the classic theologians such as Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer as well as contemporary ones like James Cone or Mary Rutherford. I am sure you remember the assigned reading from Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth. It was an all consuming task to understand what Mr. Barth was trying to say. You definitely read it more than once and to be able to clearly articulate pneumatology or the role of the Holy Spirit for the final exam. How was that first exam…as we started to construct our own theology, if was interesting to see if our beliefs mirrored these theologians or even our classmates.

The discussions that took place in the classroom, the hallways, and the library or outside as we left to return home covered so many topics. For example, do you remember the instruction, “Turn to Genesis 1 & 2”? “How many creation stories are in the Old Testament?” or “What is the proper exegesis of Paul’s instruction to the Ephesians Church which says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you to the Lord.” This passage goes on to say “Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church as gave himself up for her..” Our instructors impressed the importance of interpreting the text based on the context and then to provide a contemporary relevance for the church of today. Accurate interpretation of the Old and New Testament also required a familiarity with Hebrew and Greek and therefore we enrolled in UBL: Understanding Biblical Languages. I will never look at the definitions of various words in the same way. One must always look at the semantic range and thing look at the context that we find the words.

Middler year continued to stretch as we worked as interns in a specific faith based ministry. We were exposed to leading special worship services like marriages and funerals, sermon preparation, and writing exegetical papers. We were able to exhale as we completed those internships, self-reflections and project papers. Perhaps we were in need of self-care and found the many courses in pastoral counseling helpful. Of course, those desiring to go into the preaching ministry benefited from evaluating the public ministry of Jesus and were ncouraged to view the text from a womanist perspective.

Furthermore, we constructed our individual credos which are our personal statement of our beliefs and faith while being intentional about worship and setting aside a time of Sabbath to refresh our minds, bodies and spirits while meditating on God’s goodness. My question to the graduating class is whether today marks the culmination of God’s call on our lives?

My response is: no, today marks not the end of the journey, but a new beginning. As we exit the hallowed walls of ABSW, we will begin new ministries as pastors, community service leaders, head of non-profits that will mitigate social injustices, or even instructors to prepare future seminarians who like Isaiah will say, “Here am I Lord, send me.” Send us to those who are without shoes, clothes, food and shelter to provide for those necessities so many take for granted. Send us to those who are exploited and marginalized who have no hope and cannot acknowledge that they may be on the brink of change. Send us to individuals in the midst of spiritual dry places and tell them about the love of Jesus Christ. Send us to those in need of healing and restoration. No, our work is not finished, our work has just begun.

Often, on graduation day, we look outside for heroes, but I see them right here among us. I have seen in my years at ABSW that we don’t have to look far for inspiration, and that we each have the potential to make an inspiring contribution to others by being true to our values and committing ourselves to lofty goals.

When you leave here today, celebrate what you have accomplished but look forward with an eye toward how you too can be the inspiration for others.

Congratulations Class of 2013!





Congratulations to the Class of 2013!

12 06 2013

 On Saturday, May 18th, 2013 the American Baptist Seminary of the West held Commencement at Oakland Burmese Mission Baptist Church in Oakland, California.  ABSW wishes to congratulate the class of 2013, and looks forward to finding out the ways in which each individual uses their newly-conferred degree to bless their community!

ABSW Class of 2013: (Back Row) Byung-Hwoon Lee, Loretta Dickerson-Smith, Young Kwang Cho, Ronald Cole, Vickia Brinkley, Dwayne Eason, (Front row) Grace Cho, Christiana Felix, Ky Sun Youn, Paulette Anthony, Mary Breland, Brenda Dudley, and Stephen Moon (Not pictured: Vivian Wells and Emily Harrison).

ABSW Class of 2013: (Back Row) Byung-Hwoon Lee, Loretta Dickerson-Smith, Young Kwang Cho, Ronald COle, Vickia Brinkley, Dwayne Eason, (Front row) Grace Cho, Christiana Felix, Ky Sun Youn, Paulette Anthony,Mary Breland, Brenda Dudley, and Stphen Moon.

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Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr leads the faculty, staff, trustees, and graduates in a prayer before the ceremony.

Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr leads the faculty, staff, trustees, and graduates in a prayer before the ceremony.

ABSW Student Timothy Downs leads the processional with the ABSW banner.

ABSW Student Timothy Downs leads the processional with the ABSW banner.

2013 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Doctorate Rev. Dr. Donal Ng addresses the graduates.

2013 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Doctorate Rev. Dr. Donal Ng addresses the graduates.

DMin graduate Stephen Moon with ABSW President Paul Martin.

DMin graduate Stephen Moon with ABSW President Paul Martin.





ABSW CONTEXTUAL EDUCATION

14 05 2013

Celebrating our 2012-13 ABSW Student Interns

Beginning with summer 2012 and through the fall and spring semesters, Director of Contextual Education and Associate Professor of Ministry, Dr. Nancy Hall, has worked with ten student ministry interns during this academic year. Some have already completed their work; others will wrap up their assignments this month. These are students in both the Masters in Community Leadership and the Master of Divinity degree programs. All have done outstanding work in a wide variety of ministry sites, typical of ABSW’s commitment to diversity both in contextual education and throughout our curriculum.

IMG_3175 Nancy, Clanci, AntonClanci Cochran completed her two–semester MCL internship last August at City Year Sacramento, working as Regional Admissions Manager West Coast under the supervision of Anton Taylor, Regional Director, Diversity Recruitment West Coast. City Year, a nation-wide program, is an education-focused, nonprofit organization that unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of fulltime service to keep students in school and on track to graduation. [www.cityyear.org/sacramento.aspx ](Photo: Dr. Nancy Hall, Clanci, and Anton).

 

anitalatinAnita Latin focused her two-semester internship on the founding and building of her own non-profit organization in San Francisco, OVL Foundation. Initially, OVL will be reaching out via Abba House, providing transitional housing for single mothers ages 18 to 20. Other programs will be developed in the future. Anita’s internship supervisor was Rev. Dr. Brenda Goudeaux, co-founding pastor of Calvary Christian Center, Sacramento. Anita began her ABSW Doctor of Ministry program this past January. [www.ovlfoundation.org]

 

BHLeeByung-Hwoon Lee arrived from Korea in 2011 and completed his MCL internship in December 2012, serving at Oakland Korean United Methodist Church. He ministered to the young adult group and also worked on writing a centennial history of the congregation. Rev. Kang−Won Lee is the senior pastor of the church and served as Hwoon’s supervisor. Hwoon began ABSW Doctor of Ministry degree coursework this January.

 

paulettePaulette Anthony undertook an extended unit of Clinical Pastoral Education from October to February at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco for her MCL internship. She provided spiritual care to families, patients, and staff in adult intensive care, oncology, and general medicine. Her ACPE Associate Supervisor was Allison Kestenbaum.

 

 

 
Ron ColeRon Cole served during the fall semester with Dr. Ronald Burris, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Richmond. He has continued his MCL internship year this spring by ministering with the visitation team to sick and shut-ins at Allen Temple Baptist Church, working with supervisors Rev. Olu Bereola and Rev. Jessie Land.

 

 
sanol leeSandol Lee serves as an associate minister at Contra Costa Korean Presbyterian Church, conducting weekday early morning services, leading the singles ministry, and working with the praise band. He will complete his MCL internship this spring, under the supervision of Rev. Jason Jeon, senior pastor of the church.

 

Eun-Jeong LeeEun–Jeong Lee is enjoying the first semester of her MCL internship at Logos Church in Fremont by leading the music program and starting prayer groups. Her supervising pastor is Rev. Seung Ku Jung.

 

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Three Master of Divinity students will complete their Middler Colloquium coursework and internships this month.
Photo: Elder Virgil Childs and ABSW Students Elder Loretta Belton (front), Rev. John Adams and Rev. Yvonne Adcock (back)

John Adams is the Supply Pastor at Elmhurst Presbyterian Church in Oakland, carrying out a full range of ministerial duties during his internship year. He is being supervised by Rev. Sonia Coleman (MDiv 2009).  As John began his pastorate he was also mentored by the late Rev. Dr. R. Thomas Coleman, who passed away in October.

Yvonne Adcock’s internship site has been Balsam House in Oakland, a non–profit residential home for women in transition that Yvonne founded and runs. Her supervisor this year has been Ms. Barbara McDavid of Parks Chapel AME, Oakland.

Loretta Belton, an elder in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, has served her internship this year at Market Street SDA Church in Oakland. Her supervisor is the pastor of the church, Elder Virgil Childs, who also serves as Coordinator of African American Ministries for the Northern California Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists.

Contextual education is at the heart of ABSW’s innovative curriculum. As one group of students completes their year of supervised internship, junior year students at ABSW are working with Dr. Hall this spring to finalize their MDiv and MCL placements for 2013–14.





2013 Mentor Exhibit

7 05 2013

Advanced students in ABSW’s M.Div. program have been engaged this past year in researching, designing, and implementing major projects in specialized areas of ministry. On Monday, May 6th, 2013, these projects were on display in ABSW’s Crouch Classroom, and the project designers dialogued with visitors about their process and outcomes. A number of Faculty, staff, students, and guests spent the afternoon experiencing and discussing this wide variety of ministry initiatives that are building up the Body of Christ in our churches, neighborhoods, and communities.

Following the exhibit, the community gathered to bestow blessings through prayer upon the graduating class of 2013.  It was a special time, dedicated to remembering the journey that is seminary, and looking ahead toward the path that God is laying before each of the graduates.

At the close of the event, the ABSW family shared in the final community dinner of the semester, reflecting on the fun and fellowship over the last year.

Andrew Josey explains the work he did as a Chaplain Resident.

Andrew Josey explains the work he did as a Chaplain Resident.

Loretta Dickerson-Smith displays her project on coping with loss.

Loretta Dickerson-Smith displays her project on coping with loss.

Ron Dillingham shows his efforts to aid the homeless.

Ron Dillingham shows his efforts to aid the homeless.

Dwayne Eason demonstrates the use of community media in social justice.

Dwayne Eason demonstrates the use of community media in social justice.

Tracy Freeman explains her project to fellow student, Cherri Murphy.

Tracy Freeman explains her project to fellow student, Cherri Murphy.

Michael Sumrall shares his project with President Paul Martin.

Michael Sumrall shares his project with President Paul Martin.

Brenda Dudley displays her project about ministering to people in their last days.

Brenda Dudley displays her project about ministering to people in their last days.

Cecil Richardson discusses his project with Adjunct Professor Corinna Guerrero.

Cecil Richardson discusses his project with Adjunct Professor Corinna Guerrero.

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The Prodigal Son

19 03 2013

Newhall Fellow Khalia Jelks shares the story of the Prodigal Son through dance during a recent ABSW Community Chapel Service.





The Shape of Music in Worship

14 03 2013
HymnodyRev. Dr. Nancy Hall, Associate Professor of Ministry and Director of Contextual Education

We are now well into the 2013 spring semester at ABSW and the seminary is filled with students taking an array of both core curriculum and elective classes. My course, “How Hymns Shape Worship and Faith,” has students from five GTU schools as well as ABSW. In this seminar-style course we are studying the history of hymnody in Christian worship, various forms and styles of hymns, current directions in new hymns, and how the texts of our congregational song serve as a foundation for Christian education and corporate theology. Among other assignments, each student will give a class presentation and paper of a teaching event built on hymns.

Students in my class are using as a textbook A Survey of Christian Hymnody, by David W. Music and Milburn Price, and Somebody’s Calling My Name, by Wyatt Tee Walker. The history of sacred music has always included some form of “the people’s song,” although there were eras when singing praise to God became more the domain of priests and professional musicians. Happily, the congregation’s voice has never been completely stilled, and the post-Reformation era saw a burgeoning of hymnody that has been flourishing for almost 500 years.

Questions continue to be raised about the style and content of texts and tunes — this is nothing new in the world of church music. In our class we’re reading and giving reviews of articles concerned with how music is shaping current worship practices and influencing people’s experience of the Divine. These articles give us the opportunity to hear what theologians, musicians, and church leaders are observing about trends in congregational song.

The heart of our time together, however, is the students’ weekly assignment to bring a hymn or song of their choosing to class and share a brief reflection about what the lyrics and the music mean to them, along with addressing these questions: “What is the theological message this hymn or song offers? How would you exegete this text?”

Over our semester together, we will sing dozens of hymns. Some will be hundreds of years old. Some will have been written very recently. My hope is that through our study and our sharing all of us — students and professor alike — will become more knowledgeable, more discerning, and more creative as leaders and planners of music in worship.

My friend Jacque B. Jones, president-elect of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada (www.thehymnsociety.org) wrote a wonderful text that I see as descriptive of my course and my mission to teach seminary students about our rich and ever-evolving body of congregational song. Two lines from Jacque’s hymn:

God, whose song became creation, touch our lips with burning coals.

Free our hearts to sing your praises, while your music shapes our souls.

©2010 GIA Publications, Inc.

The “people’s song” is one of God’s great gifts to the church and to humanity. We are celebrating that gift this spring, at ABSW.








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