Spiritual Care and Ethical Leadership for Our Times
Interreligious and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Faith, Resilience, Culture, and Community in an Age of Uncertainty
The events of the past year have been unprecedented. Individuals, communities, organizations, and governments worldwide have been navigating a global pandemic, widespread injustice, and heartbreaking violence. Throughout all of this, one of the GTU community's greatest strengths is our shared vision for and dedication to working towards a brighter future that belongs to us all. This initiative will feature written reflections and videos from scholars, spiritual leaders, and cultural critics from across the GTU, exploring the meaning of spiritual care, ethics, and leadership from a broad array of interreligious and interdisciplinary perspectives. We will also be curating resources to help you build and maintain community in a time of social distancing and uncertainty.
Spirituality x Global Community
Spirituality x Activism
Spirituality x Care
Spirituality x Beauty
Spirituality x Technology
Spirituality in the Gallery
Spirituality x Organizations
Spirituality x Ritual
Spirituality x Environment
Spirituality x Daily Life
Spiritual Care and Ethical Leadership
What is Spirituality?
Discover the Wisdom from Our Contributors
For our eleventh and final installment in this arc of our series of Spiritual Care and Ethical Leadership, we are joined by Chai Motupalli, Director of Student Life at the GTU. In "Spirituality x Global Community," Chai will speak towards the need for action against the alarming impacts of climate change in public life and social settings.
For our tenth episode of our Spiritual Care and Ethical Leadership series, we are joined by Scott MacDougall, the Associate Professor of Theology at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. In "Spirituality x Activism," MacDougall reflects on the ways in which activism can often be a spiritual practice and the importance of hope in effecting change.
For our eighth episode of Spiritual Care and Ethical Leadership, we are joined by Christopher Renz, OP, Professor of Liturgical Studies and Science & Theology at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology. In "Spirituality x Beauty," Chris will speak towards Chris discusses the ways in which experiencing and appreciating beauty can be spiritual in nature.
For the seventh episode of Spiritual Care and Ethical Leadership for Our Times, we are joined by Braden Molhoek . In "Spirituality x Technology," Molhoek reflects on the ways in which technology can enhance or even create spiritual practices.
For the fifth episode of our Spiritual Care and Ethical Leadership series, "Spirituality x Art," we are joined by Elizabeth S. Peña and Lydia Webster. Peña and Webster reflect on how art can be a spiritual experience, whether it's through the creation of art or the experiencing/viewing of art.
In "Spirituality x Organizations," GTU alum of the year Al Tizon, reflects on the benefits for organizations to embrace and tap into spirituality as a resource.
We are joined by Jhos Singer for our fourth episode of Spiritual Care and Ethical Leadership for Our Times. In "Spirituality x Ritual" Singer reflects on the ways in which ritual practices can create or enhance spiritual experiences.
Today, we are joined by Cynthia Moe-Lobeda for our third episode of Spiritual Care and Ethical Leadership for Our Times. Moe-Lobeda's talk, "Spirituality x Environment," will speak about the critical mystical vision and how economic and environmental exploitation is wedded to racism.
In today's episode of Spiritual Care and Ethical Leadership in Our Times, we are joined by Sam Shonkoff, the Taube Family Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at the GTU. In "Spirituality x Daily Life," Sam will touch on how daily practices can mislead and muddle, and the spiritual abandonment felt at times in life. In the discussion, "Spirituality x Daily Life," Sam touches on daily practices, everyday spirituality, finding delight in the everyday, and the question of how do we live spiritually in this time?
This has been a year like no other. Emotions are raw from the grief and disappointment over disrupted plans. Our despair grows over loss of jobs and devastated economies. Our numbing intensifies and our mourning continues for the 1.3 million dead worldwide due to COVID19. Our anger and frustration are fueled by social unrest due to the senseless deaths of black folks and indigenous people at the hands of individuals and systems infected by ignorance, fear, and racism. Our powerlessness intensifies by the devastation of natural and human made calamities of hurricanes and wildfires. Our compassion is tested and anger rages by the deepened polarization and demonization among people fueled by social media, movements of hatred, and populist leaders. All the while, the weak and poor, disadvantaged minorities, desperate migrants, and the earth itself continue to bear the weight of the actions of those whose consciences have been dulled and governed by greed. We are truly living in challenging times and our hearts are weary.
And yet, if we are mindful, if we are attentive to each other and the earth, and if we see each other as siblings rather than faceless statistics, then we encounter amazing things. We hear a universe calling us into greater integration. We encounter the lived faith of people from every religion trusting in God in these uncertain times. We encounter the good will of people who selflessly give of themselves. All of this goodness, compassion, and hope shine through our dim times and like the sun, burns the fog of separation, fear, and despair that pervades us.
Advent which comes from the Latin word for “coming” is a time for us to deepen in mindfulness to the light around us which already pierces through the clouds of despair. It is this light that truly liberates us, truly sets us free. To help cultivate awareness of this light in this Advent season, members of Call to Action’s Re/Gen 2020 Cohort (of which I am a member of) have carefully curated reflections from over 20 scholars, educators, pastors, artists, dancers, activitsts, and visionaries. We have privileged the voices of women, queer folks, indigenous people and people of color. Some of the contributors have strong connections to the GTU. Their prophetic words, lives, and work embody hope, liberation, joy, and selfless love.
For over 40 years, Call to Action has worked to educate, inspire and activate Catholics to act for justice and build inclusive communities through a lens of anti-racism and anti-oppression principles. They invite you to join them on this Advent journey encountering the lives and work of people of good will.
Click on the link below to learn more about the Advent reflections and to subscribe. https://www.cta-usa.org/news/adventcalendar
"Exploring Spiritual Fluidity – What Do You Do When One Religion Isn’t Enough?
Sermon created for the SKSM Multi-Religious Intensive (August 2020)
For those of you that I haven’t met, I’m Dianne Daniels, the Intern Minister here at the Unitarian Society of Hartford. I want to talk with you today about Exploring Spiritual Fluidity – What do you do when one religion isn’t enough to satisfy your need to connect to Mystery – to the Sacred – with more than the tradition you’ve been raised with?
Let’s get some definitions in place so we can all be oriented to what I’m speaking about: To be Spiritually Fluid – or to be a Multi-Religious person – means that you have the experience of being shaped by or of creating and maintaining a bond to, and understanding of, more than one spiritual or religious community at the same time.
Religious and / or Spiritual communities can provide you with wise teaching, loving practices, a holy relationship, and a path to awakening, and because we are human beings with free will and intelligent minds, we can also plant our flag, so to speak, philosophically and theologically so that people in our lives that we have influence over and that influence us know where we stand.
You know I love to use definitions in my sermons, so let’s start with a definition of the word religion. Religion can be defined as the formal structures and practices that shape an individual’s or a communities’ relationship to Mystery and to the world. Religion carries and speaks with a certain amount of authority – and this authority is recognized and accepted by the communities and individuals within the communities that identify as part of the tradition.
We as Unitarian Universalists have a certain amount of authority vested in ourselves and our congregation – the principle of Congregational polity states that each congregation is self-governing, choosing its own leadership, handling its own finances, and choosing delegates for the General Assembly each year.
Our theologies from congregation to congregation may differ slightly, but whether by individual conscience, justice-seeking community, or by God, Spirit, the Universe, Mystery, or the great Beyond, we Unitarian Universalists (aka UUs) are united in a belief that we are part of an interdependent web of existence. Our faith, our religion, is practiced in covenanted community.
We also subscribe to, and accept, the principles that are stated to represent the denomination and were accepted by its supervising body and its member congregations.
These public expressions of our community values, practices and understandings are the information that shape the denomination, it’s member congregations, and the individuals who claim the UU Faith as their primary religion.
I used the term Spiritually Fluid in the beginning, so let’s talk about what it means to be Spiritual, to express your spirituality, and what it means to be fluid within the realm of Spirituality.
To be concerned with and to act in a Spiritual manner means that you’re relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material and physical things. Spirituality includes the recognition of a feeling or sense or belief that there’s something more to being human than sensory experiences, and that the greater whole of which we are a part – that interdependent web I spoke of – is beyond us, perhaps divine in nature.
Your spirituality also helps to express your way of relating to Mystery – that which is difficult or even impossible to understand fully or explain. Mystery affects how we - not as a group, but as you – your individual self – view the world, and Mystery touches our lives through our spiritual and religious practices, like ritual, prayer, physical movements and postures, spiritual disciplines, beliefs, values, commitments and traditions, and ways of connecting to the sacred.
Spirituality can connect and overlap with religion but tends to be more local / individual in its impact, and idiosyncratic, that is, something distinctive to an individual.
Spirituality can also work through religious structures, communities, and traditions, but often functions apart from them.
So, with what we’ve talked about so far, what does it now mean to be Spiritually Fluid?
Because Religion and Spirituality are rather amorphous and potentially ambiguous – those dimensions of life that don’t fit into neat, binary categories – the terms beg more exploration and conceptualizing their differences and similarities.
According to Duane Bidwell’s book, When One Religion Isn’t Enough: The Lives of Spiritually Fluid People, from which I drew considerable inspiration and information for this sermon, religious multiplicity – spiritual fluidity - has been increasing on a nearly daily basis.
One-third – 33% - of U.S. marriages are interfaith – marriage between two people of disparate religious backgrounds or affiliation. I happily celebrated my 30th anniversary in such a marriage this past weekend. When my husband and I married, we were technically an interfaith marriage, with him following the Fire Baptized Holiness Pentecostal religion, and me more accurately described as a “None” with Pagan leanings.
After 30 years of marriage, we both now identify as Unitarian Universalist, but he still has his Pentecostal roots, and I’ve expanded my Pagan leanings into Rootwork and Ancestral Veneration. Still an interfaith marriage.
1 in 8 U.S. residents – approximately 13% say Buddhism influences their daily spirituality – making their personal spirituality more interfaith than singular faith, or to use a different term, making them Religious Multiples – Spiritually Fluid practitioners.
Religious multiplicity isn’t uncommon – though we might think it is, or was – it’s HERE, and likely coming to a neighborhood near you, if it already hasn’t.
Religious multiplicity is framed by scholars as a cognitive, conscious choice, made by educated, socially privileged, usually white people – though that too, is changing.
The number of African-Americans investigating, studying and learning more about the paths their Ancestors might have followed – using terms like African Traditional Religion (ATR), or in my case, the indigenous practices and wisdom known as Rootwork – is also increasing. People are seeking a “return to their roots” and including forms and practices they were not originally raised with, but which resonate with their spirits and their definition of themselves.
The focus is shifting away from orthodoxy and doctrine and more toward how spiritually fluid people – some might call them seekers - integrate and practice their religion through body, mind, community values, rituals, tradition and everyday behavior.
Some scholars characterize “Elite practitioners” as those who have the freedom, social capital and resources to explore and study two or more paths deeply – being able to travel to immersion experiences for a second spiritual or religious path in addition to having the time and funds to do so.
Who are the people described as Spiritually Fluid or Religious Multiples? They can be Spiritual Nomads – intentionally ignoring the boundaries between religious “territories” in order to find meaning, spiritual nourishment and shelter. They know where they belong, and they’re not afraid to cross institutional or doctrinal lines to find the life they desire.
Some Spiritually Fluid practitioners are born to religious multiplicity as the result of an interfaith marriage, or through a parent or influencer that converts from one religion to another and they intentionally explore and appreciate what was “lost” through the change away from the original religion.
Yet other practitioners identify as Religious “Nones” who explore various beliefs and practices but don’t take the step of formal alignment with a singular path. They would rather not describe their spirituality in institutional religious terms or categories and instead center on relationships and the integration of mind, body and spirit.
There can be many steps between the realization that you may no longer be mono-religious and the concrete step of beginning to study or be involved with a second or third spiritual / religious path.
The first, perhaps, being that you are curious about another path as explained or practiced by a friend or associate, and certain spiritual practices like meditation, prayer or ritual opens the doorway and generates energy, joy, and a desire to do and know more.
Next is the beginning of engagement – making a definite commitment to nurture, adopt or accept a spiritually fluid practice tied to the initial exploration. You begin weaving multiple traditions into your lives, celebrating holidays, and participating in rituals with family and community to celebrate aspects of your new identity and encounter Mystery in various forms.
As you gain knowledge and experience, you can grow into the ripening state where you claim your religious multiplicity with confidence, framing it as a gift and releasing the thoughts and feelings that it might be a liability. Our society emphasizes mono-religious life, and publicly declaring your religious multiplicity / spiritual fluidity carries some degree of risk.
The final step – though learning and spiritual growth continue - is the generative stage, which manifests as concern for guiding and mentoring other people new to the path of complex religious bonds and contributing to the next generation of spiritually fluid seekers. Giving back to the community becomes a central practice as you fine-tune your practices and maintain your spiritual life.
Spiritual Fluidity in thought and practice helps individuals subvert the assumption that religious bonds are singular, chosen, and defined by belief and belonging – there is a commitment to loyalty, not to “purity.” A Spiritually Fluid Practitioner (or Person - SFP) can experience the benefits of thinking and relating in more creative, flexible, and open-minded ways; access a broader store of knowledge; adopt broader world views and greater cultural awareness.
There are many more benefits to Spiritual Fluidity than I can cover in the time I have before you today, but what I hope I’ve done is to open your eyes to an option that may have been right in front of you, but not obviously “seen.”
I’ve found rich and beautiful experiences as a result of my spiritual fluidity – I’ve connected to ancestral practices that help me to feel more authentic in my spiritual path. I connect to my ancestors on a regular basis and tap into the wisdom they have and the feel the love they have for me. I’m carrying forward the energy of my bloodline and while I did not know them while they were alive, I feel their influence on me and their strength renews me.
If you’ve felt a yearning, or even just curiosity about another religious or spiritual path, I encourage you to check it out. Remember, that doesn’t mean you have to leave another path behind – this is a And / With option.My ancestral veneration and Rootwork enhances my UU spirituality and religion as I add my ancestry to the list of sources I can draw from.
Learning more about yourself reinforces your inherent worth and dignity – because ALL of who you are is valuable and worthy of exploration. Don’t be afraid to reach beyond your current threshold – what you are seeking is seeking you and may just be waiting for you to reach out with your hands, your heart, and your spirit.
This project involves research into disability and inclusion in religious and spiritual spaces, placing emphasis on how digital communication technologies can be used to more actively include members of communities that have historically been discriminated against or forgotten.
My research at the GTU has, up to this point, been largely based on ethnography and sociological theory. However, with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, my focus has shifted to include more practical aspects of Hindu Studies. The research I have done in the last year, which I will continue throughout my PhD, will assess disability and inclusion in virtual religious spaces—focusing on how Hindus in America have reacted to these issues. COVID-19 has shown a spotlight on how useful digital communication technologies can be in including disabled individuals into spaces they might not have access to offline. Additionally, the pandemic has made room for these technologies to be improved to be more accessible for differently-abled individuals who need specific accommodations to participate in online services. Seeing the positive impact that these technologies have had for disabled individuals in other non-religious aspects of life has driven me to incorporate Disability Studies into my own work at the Center for Dharma Studies. The GTU’s mission to nurture justice and peace through the education and work of its students will be fulfilled through my work in my PhD and beyond as I use my platform as an emerging scholar to advocate for inclusivity in religious spaces, both virtual and in-person.
Watch Victoria's interview below, and listen to the extended audio version here.
I am a Ph.D. student focusing on Christian Spirituality at Graduate Theological Union. My research interests are in the areas of human objectification, such as the theological objectification of women in Christianity, sexual objectification of the female body in the continuing wars in Korea, and somatic spirituality for people traumatized by human objectification. I recently published articles titled, “The Body as the Space in which Power Operates: Sexual Violence of Clergymen in the Korean Church” and “Objectification of Comfort Women and the Theology of #WithYou.”
When the world suffers, religion should suffer with them. When a religious community loses its ability to sympathize with suffering, it is easy to create violent gods. As an ordained minister of the Korean Methodist Church, I seek to find a thoughtful theology and appropriate spiritual practices for those who suffer based on three disciplines: Christian Spirituality, Art and Religion, and Religious Education. The many challenges faced in 2020 have taught us several spiritual lessons, including: We are all connected, and no one can be free from suffering as long as we live in the world. The various issues seen around the world remind us of the importance of connection in our lives: Political matters related to coronavirus, the environmental crisis created by human selfishness, and even the issue of racism, which easily judges a human being by skin color or race, tells us how we disconnected from the world and have been using and objectifying others for our gain. It is time to realize that we are all connected and restore our wholeness.
We are all connected, and no one can be free from suffering as long as we live in the world.
My project is designed to remember the numerous people who died due to the COVID-19 virus using a kind of Korean traditional dance, salpuri. Countless people have died, but we only remember them by numbers. At that moment, we overlook that each and every person was a precious human being with irreplaceable individuality and uniqueness. This video contains three parts: 1) the isolation due to COVID-19, 2) the enlightening moment of transition from selfishness to compassion for the suffering of others, and 3) dancing the salpuri for the dead.
My research at the GTU studies the documentary record of a textile garment of shame from the Mexican Inquisition in the sixteenth century. Through a material culture study, I explore blended Anglo-Iberian, Anglican-Catholic identities amid reforming Anglican and Catholic movements. My work supports the mission of the GTU in working toward a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world by offering a greater understanding of intersectional identities and belief systems in the development of communities.
The history of a textile garment employed in institutional shaming inspires my practical ministry orientation, which embodies woven threads of religious, racial, and cultural identity in ways that carry affective data and story to form community. My research explores how people weave together intersectional identities amid affective experiences of loss, even within the systems that marginalize them.
Serving as a bilingual and bicultural bridging presence within a Spanish-speaking faith community echoes and inspires my scholarship.
In my research and my ministry activities, I confront some of the critical issues of the age: belonging, illness, power and authority, geographic inequity, colonialism, and the healing power of faith-based community. Helping to offer access to online worship and social contact within a congregation in transition embodies the interconnected nature of the garment I study.
Listen to Pam Steven's extended interview here.
I am a Master of Social Change (MASC) student at Starr King School for the Ministry, and am serving my community through an internship placement with Jews on Ohlone Land (JOOL). As a queer Jew I am grateful to be living in the Bay Area on Huichin, Ohlone territory. And, I recognize that my ability to make my life and belong to community here is predicated on the genocide and removal of many Indigenous people. I also recognize that the Ohlone people were given instructions by their Creator about how to care for this specific ecosystem, and only when the land is returned to their care will everyone be able to live in right relationship with the land here.
When we are all re-connected to our heritages and respectful of the original tenders of the lands where we live, we can stop and heal generations of trauma, celebrate differences and prepare for climate disaster while working towards ecological balance.
My research focuses on Jewish relationships with land and Indigenous people in North American/Turtle Island diaspora. As an intern for JOOL, I am learning how to support politically strategic and spiritually authentic interfaith movements of relational repair with both humans and the more-than-human world. My internship furthers the mission of the GTU and addresses the most pressing issues of 2020 by supporting Jewish people as we learn both how to be good guests to the Indigenous people whose land we are on and how to re-embodying our own earth-based Jewish heritage in community. When we are all re-connected to our heritages and respectful of the original tenders of the lands where we live, we can stop and heal generations of trauma, celebrate differences and prepare for climate disaster while working towards ecological balance.
Jews on Ohlone Land (JOOL) works towards 100% Jewish participaion in Shuumi - a voluntary land tax. Shuumi supports the return of land to local indigenous people and himmetka - "Community resiliency centers to prepare for natural and human-made emergencies and mitigate the impaces of climate change" (Sogorea Te' website).
Watch Leora's interview below, and listen to the extended audio version here.
Ched Myers graduated from the GTU with his MA in 1984 and is the co-founder of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries. In this video reflection he talks about getting involved with social justice by digging into the roots of the matter.
In business, taking advantage of a niche market requires intentional strategy. Can this principal apply to ministry? I am exploring the possibility of refocusing a Presbyterian congregation towards intentional Seniors' Ministry in a Canadian retirement community. As COVID continues to restrict, a study of successful transition to niche ministry becomes urgent.
Today's leaders in in the pulpit are called to be more than just acceptable. They are challenged to be exceptional. The Church no longer plays the significant influence it once had. In a world filled with cynicism and hypocrisy, the time has come for the Church to once again take its place as a voice of reason, and of justice, but also as an example of respectful and mature leadership. The Executive Leadership Focus of the Doctor of Ministry Program at San Francisco Theological Seminary has been a thoughtful and challenging program to bring out the excellence of theology and care and leadership skills I use each day as I lead a Presbyterian congregation in Western Canada. As I begin the Project Phase of my program, I am in search of finding a way to lead my charge through a needed transition to focused ministry, for the congregations future value and sustainability to the wider community. The recent events of a viral outbreak have had a significant impact on a congregation dominated by Seniors. While previously, the administration dabbled with the notion of how it might be more intentional to serve this group in the body of Christ, our restricted ability to worship, visit, provide pastoral care and maintain communication with our members, has only heightened our awareness of moving deliberately towards this approach to ministry.
The time has come for the Church to once again take its place as a voice of reason, and of justice, but also as an example of respectful and mature leadership.
Gideon M. M’Imwonyo Mbui is a 2nd year doctoral student in the department of Theology and Ethics. His research interests and passions center around spearheading sustained theo-ethical engagements geared towards Ufanisi kwa wote (Swahili: A thriving/flourishing for all), through a constructive theological regime that deliberately takes into account the unique challenges and opportunities of the Kenyan/African context, and their attendant ramifications for the myriad issues of critical concern, on the global arena. Just as the GTU seeks to foster an atmosphere of healthy and respectful interreligious/faith dialogue/s through radical border-crossing and inclusion, Mbui envisions his overall project as both a catalyst and a model for positive, sustainable change by way of enhanced collaboration, than competition.
A foremost sphere of change-via-collaboration is in the harnessing and execution of our individual gifts and talents for the enhancing of the collective wellbeing of all—both near and a far off—including our non-human co-inhabitants of the Earthly home. For Mbui, through the selfless sharing of our stories and resources, each one’s unique gifts and talents included, we are then more likely to discover that the commonalities we share on account of our humanity far outweigh the perceived differences that every so often threaten to disintegrate socio-cultural, religio-political and economic fabric.
This project draws inspiration from the story and stellar work of Professor Wangari Maathai, the late Kenyan environmentalist, feminist and social justice activist; she was the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Winner. As an Experiential Learning Fellowship ’20 recipient, my podcast series focuses on urging us each be an agent of positive change—a “hummingbird”—wherever we are; with whatever resources we’ve got.
Through the selfless sharing of our stories and resources, each one’s unique gifts and talents included, we are then more likely to discover that the commonalities we share on account of our humanity far outweigh the perceived differences that every so often threaten to disintegrate socio-cultural, religio-political and economic fabric.
Vanessa Fox is a graduate student pusrsuing a Master of Arts in Social Change at Starr King School for Ministry. As part of the Leadership Team at the Network of Spiritual Progressives, she invites like-minded organizations to collaborate in a more widely-encompassing social justice movement. In addition, she is a Prayer Chaplain and leader of anti-racism training at Unity church as well as an artist, creating a multi-media piece imagining peaceful interfaith dialogue in a loving world.
In Vanessa's contribution to the GTU's Spiritual Care and Ethical Leadership for Our Times series, she talks about the importance of healing generational traumas as well as leading with love.
"The only value you need to have as a leader is love. Let love lead the way."
Watch her interview below, and listen to the extended audio version here.
Leonard McMahon is currently pursuing his doctorate in political theology at the GTU. His claim is that religion, properly framed, can be an impetus for civic engagement. McMahon argues that when religion is experienced as contingent and not absolute, it becomes a resource for democracy. In fact, as “proof of concept,” he recently formed his own consultancy firm, Common Ground Dialogue, to be the public face of his research in theology, ethics, and classical to early Christian spirituality. From this, McMahon has adapted an ancient contemplative method for modern use. His probing, inquisitive method gently leads politically divergent citizens into a feeling of mutuality, authenticity, and contingency; no attempt is made to change anyone’s views, but the tone has softened and differences may be explored without defensiveness or violent conflict. Thus, discourse is improved, and our democracy is strengthened.
I am gratified but not surprised that I am at this innovative point in my work. Frankly, at the GTU, it could not have turned out any other way.
McMahon got the idea this spring while working as teaching assistant for a course on social entrepreneurship. It is courses like this, and opportunities like his podcast series and this Project, that allow the GTU to make good on its promise to “translate scholarship into solutions with impact.” Its uniquely collaborative history makes it the ideal hub for issues of religion and public life and a living example of pluralism and democracy. Nurtured in an atmosphere of interreligious dialogue, McMahon is "gratified but not surprised that I am at this innovative point in my work. Frankly, at the GTU, it could not have turned out any other way."
View Leonard McMahon's interview below. Listen to the extended interview by clicking here.
Sheryl Johnson is a scholar of economic ethics and a pastor in an economically and racially diverse congregation. Her research and ministry have been profoundly reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. Practically, this has included new initiatives to support and equip Latinx youth at the Congregational Church of San Mateo as they engage in distance learning. Sheryl's research examines the ethical rupture that exists between the stated commitments of North American mainline Protestant churches toward economic (and racial, gender, etc) justice and their internal financial and governance practices. She particularly examines the impacts of neoliberal values and economic structures as well as the sense of “crisis” and “exceptional” circumstances, fuelled by secularization and mainline decline.
Since the pandemic, Sheryl has focused her scholarship on Disaster Capitalism and how this present moment could serve to magnify the ethical rupture or could serve as an occasion that reveals long-standing inequality, leading toward reparations and transfers of wealth.
This research project intersects with her pastoral work which is situated in a religious context with a great deal of inequality (primarily class and racial) within one community with two worship services (in English and Spanish). The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a number of practical initiatives to support the most marginalized members of the community (particularly undocumented Latinx families) as well as for the more privileged members to undergo analysis of their own privilege, leading to conversations about reparations as a response to inequality. Both Sheryl's research and pastoral projects engage inter-religious analysis. She looks to non-Christian communities for alternative economic models and approaches and to offer a comparative perspective. In her pastoral work, the Congregational Church of San Mateo engages particularly Muslim counterparts as they host a Muslim preschool in their building and seek to build just relationships, although within a landlord-tenant structure, exemplifying embedded inequalities.
Listen to the extended interview by clicking here.
In this reflection, 2020 GTU Alumna of the Year Dr. Cecilia González-Andrieu urges us to consider the most vulnerable members of our population when envisioning a better future.
As Dean of Louisville Seminary, Debra Mumford explains how her insitution is working to practice what it preaches by mandating that students are taught to understand, critique, confront and dismantle the many structures that uphold white supremacy.
In this reflection Dr. Mahjabeen Dhala calls us to "awaken the pilgrim in us and embark on a journey inward and toward the substance of being human."
In this reflection, Dr. Singleton reminds us that, "Only in the prophetic transformation of human value will black lives matter in a way that reflects the true nature of divine will."
In this reflection, GTU alumnus Dr. Michael Sepidoza Campos reflects on transgressing theory to engage lived reality in order to love.
In this final reflection on our series, Dr. Uriah Kim renews the call of the GTU community to "encourage and sustain a healthy and caring society — one that engages across differences."
In her reflection, Dr. Wendy Arce, Associate Dean of Students at the GTU, shares her abuelita's wisdom: "Persevera y Vencerás" - Perservere and you will overcome.
In her reflection, Dr. Elizabeth S. Peña reminds us that art can comfort us, art can help us understand and express our own emotions, and art can give us hope.
Dr. Braden Molhoek, from the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences at the GTU, shares his reflections on the ethical complexities we face in our time of profound emotional and mental instability.
This week, Dr. Munir Jiwa speaks about our connectedness in these times: This is "a rare global life-affirming moment to think more about our shared humanity, the environment that begs us to change our destructive ways, and to address and heal the inequalities, inequities, and injustices that stare us in the face." Read Dr. Jiwa's reflection by clicking on the button below. Stay tuned for a video from Dr. Jiwa.
In this bonus video for our “Spiritual Care and Ethical Leadership for Our Times” series, Sam Shonkoff of the Center for Jewish Studies, shares reflections on “Covid and Koved.”
Dr. Rita D. Sherma and Dr. Devin Zuber are co-chairs of the GTU’s Sustainability 360 Initiative. Dr. Sherma is the director of the Mira and Ajay Shingal Center for Dharma Studies; Dr. Zuber is Associate Professor of American Studies, Religion, and Literature at the Center for Swedenborgian Studies. For both scholars, "This current great disruption has pushed us, like many others, to return to our roots, and to reengage, reread the texts we love that have so formatively shaped us."
Reflections from Dr. Kathryn Barush, the Thomas E. Bertelsen Jr. Associate Professor of Art History and Religion at GTU and the Jesuit School of Theology.
Reflections from Dr. Deena Aranoff, Director of Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies at the GTU.
Reflections from Dr. Kamal Abu-Shamsieh, Director of the Interreligious Chaplaincy Program at the GTU.
Interim President Uriah Kim reflects on building community amid the coronavirus pandemic. "In these past weeks, there is a sense in which we remain remarkably intertwined: engaging with one another through Zoom, chat platforms, email, old fashioned phone calls, and at fundamental human level, in our shared experience of unfathomable circumstances."
The views expressed by contributors to the Spiritual Care and Ethical Leadership for Our Times series do not necessarily represent those of the Graduate Theological Union.