From the Rector's Desk - September 2018

Today marks the second week of classes in the new academic year.  The semester is off to a good start. The community is more settled into the new space, which now feels like home. The new group of students will be the first class to go through the new M.Div. curriculum. The faculty has collaborated to develop an innovative curriculum that combines an emphasis on spiritual formation grounded in Scripture and tradition with an emphasis on faithful social transformation. Students will combine engagement with Scripture, faith traditions, and the world with critical social analysis while also cultivating spiritual practices and skills to build and strengthen communities. The purpose of the new curriculum is to form leaders of spiritual and moral courage who act on their faith in public by working for racial, gender, economic, and environmental justice.   

There are a number of new initiatives PLTS will be working on in the coming months. The faculty is already developing a distributed learning version of the new M.Div. curriculum. The growth in enrollment among ELCA seminaries and beyond is occurring largely through distributed learning models. They are more affordable because students do not have to move and can choose to continue to work if needed. They are more flexible because students are able to adapt the curriculum to their schedules. A sense of community is created by forming cohort groups where students interact with one another and also by bringing them to campus two to three times a year for week-long intensive learning experiences. 

In early October we will find out whether Cal Lutheran and PLTS received the $1 million Lilly grant we applied for in collaboration with all eleven synods of Regions 1 and 2 of the ELCA to develop a Thriving in Leadership Project. The plan is to develop modules on particular leadership themes and create cohorts across synods where groups work on learning projects based on the content of the modules. All eleven Bishops wrote a letter in support for the grant. This is one of the many ways we are collaborating with synods and congregations.

 In January PLTS will host a summit on formation for the Word and Service roster with a variety of leaders and stakeholders who are working on that. PLTS is committed to forming public leaders who make a difference in their communities and the world. This is the kind of formation those who are called to Word and Service will need, and PLTS wants to play a significant role in shaping these leaders.

A major focus of PLTS in the coming months will be on increasing enrollment, and a key element in that endeavor is communicating to a variety of audiences through various mediums how PLTS is responding to the challenging and changing landscape of the culture and the church. We want PLTS to be the ELCA seminary that convenes a larger conversation about emerging models of ministry and what it means to be the church in an increasingly pluralistic and secular world.

Even as church attendance continues to decline throughout the U.S., there is a surge of interest in spirituality and social justice by many. How can the church more effectively engage this deep hunger for spiritual and community renewal? A big part of what it means to be the only ELCA seminary in the west with strong partnerships with California Lutheran University, the Graduate Theological Union and the synods of ELCA regions 1 and 2 is to figure out together how we can communicate and embody our faith in ways that contribute to the common good and so bear witness to the healing and transforming power of God’s love for the world.

In gratitude,

Ray Pickett