From the Rector's Desk - June 2018

PLTS has just completed its first full year in the new space in downtown Berkeley, and I have now been the Rector for exactly a year and four days. I arrived in Berkeley for the decommissioning service on May 27, 2017 and walked with others down the hill to our new location on Center Street where we began a new chapter in the history of PLTS. The first academic year culminated with commencement on May 19th. It was a wonderful celebration of the commitment and hard work of students, faculty and staff. Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton was the preacher. It was particularly moving to see family members come forward as TEEM students received their certificates. It was a reminder that the call to ministry of all PLTS students involves the love and support of family and loved ones.

The week before commencement I convened a conversation with students to reflect together on community life in the new location over the past year. Students are enjoying the new space and over the course of the year have made it their own. It was a constructive conversation that generated some useful suggestions about how to improve our life together. There is a strong esprit de corps (community spirit) that we can build on. The new curriculum that will allow students to complete the M.Div. in three years, including internship, begins in the fall.

The week after commencement a community organizing class was held at PLTS that will be required in the new M.Div. curriculum. This course was taught in conjunction with the ELCA Churchwide community organizing training. There were fifty-two students, pastors, deacons and leaders from around the country who gathered to learn how to relate the practices of community organizing to congregational ministry. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda and I taught the course with a cadre of pastors, deacons and organizers, along with a few community organizers from the national networks. It was a transformative experience for many who participated. The leadership team agreed that combining the PLTS class with the ELCA training worked well. My hope is that PLTS will become the place to be for anyone interested a theologically and biblically grounded approach to community organizing that is geared to congregational ministry.

In recent weeks many of us have been attending synod assemblies in Regions 1 and 2 to meet people and talk about PLTS. This summer, I will be working on the self-study for our accreditation visit from the Association of Theological Schools in the fall. I will also be doing some planning for next year, including working with the Dean and a faculty member on the development of a distributed learning version of the M.Div. curriculum.

Last but not least, Rabbi Daniel Lehmann is the new President of the Graduate Theological Union. The schools of the GTU are grateful for the leadership of Dr. Riess Potterveld, and looking forward to working with Rabbi Lehmann. You can read more about him here.

Thanks for your interest in and support of PLTS. I am particularly thankful for the partnerships and collaboration between the seminary and all those who share in our mission.

In gratitude,

Ray Pickett