SKSM President Rebecca Parker is currently on sabbatical and returns to Starr King in March of 2012. Starr King’s Dean of Faculty, Gabriella Lettini, writes this month’s column.
Dear Friend of Starr King,
As the new Dean of Faculty, it is a pleasure to greet you at the opening of a new semester. Our faculty, students and staff are busy in different Starr King locations: teaching and taking classes at the Berkeley campus or online; advising students in person or via Skype; or working in internships or Clinical Pastoral Education programs all around the country.
During the first two weeks of January, I started my new Deanship working from my hometown of Turin, Italy. This modality gave me the opportunity to fulfill the responsibilities of my office while also reconnecting with my cultural context and faith communities. The vitality of these connections enables me to offer richer theological and cultural perspectives to my students.
The Conscience of the Church: Waldensians
I come from the Waldensian tradition, a religious movement born in 12th century Southern France and Northern Italy. The movement embraced evangelical poverty, a critique of church hierarchies, the refusal of the church as a political power and a strong emphasis on lay leadership, including women. Persecuted as heretics for centuries, Waldensians survived only in the area of Northern Italy where I come from, the Waldensian Valleys.
Today, Italian Waldensians are a small movement, but a very strong public voice for progressive religion. We are at the forefront of Italian struggles to “counter oppression and build just and sustainable communities,” to foster multi-religious education and interfaith dialogue, and to grant equal religious freedom and rights to all citizens by fighting racism, xenophobia and anti-immigrant policies. We also advocate for economic justice and political transparency; fight to eradicate sexism and homophobia; and work to build a culture of peace and respect for the earth.
Starr King – Rome
I teach the Rome immersion course, “Rome: Cross-roads of Religions,” where North American seminarians and community members learn about the “histories” of Rome, Italian religious diversity, and contemporary socio-political challenges. We learn from diverse scholars, faith leaders and activists. Last year, we met and worshipped with a newly founded Italian Unitarian Universalist group.
Learning in multiple locations enables students to open their horizons, to analyze issues from new angles, to enrich their visions and to see their own ministry as part of a much larger and diverse network –a world-wide net of love and justice.
Thank you for your ongoing care and support.
Rev. Gabriella Lettini, Ph.D. is Dean of Faculty, the Aurelia Henry Reinhardt Professor of Theological Ethics, Director of Studies in Public Ministry, and Director of the Master of Arts in Religious Leadership for Social Change.
Notes on Photos: The Waldensian Church in Torre Pellice, Waldensian Valleys, Italy, is the church where Rev. Lettini was ordained; Mole Antonelliana in Turin, now hosting the Museum of Moving Images, was originally designed to be a synagogue.
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