Preparing Students for Ministry

Dear Friends of Starr King,

How do we prepare people for ministry and religious leadership in these challenging times? At Starr King we understand that countering oppressions—working for wholeness and liberation for individuals and communities—is at the heart of ministry.

In Starr King’s “Educating to Counter Oppressions/Threshold Seminar” we begin by studying the historical and theological roots of this understanding of ministry in the work of 19th century leaders such as William Ellery Channing and Thomas Starr King. (Read Arliss Ungar’s “Speaking Out for Justice: Words of Rev. Thomas Starr King”). We amplify their understandings by reading and discussing a diversity of contemporary writers such as Eboo Patel, Leslie Feinberg, Peggy McIntosh, Forrest Church, Rosemary Bray McNatt, James Cone, George Tinker, and more.

It is my joy to convene this required seminar at Starr King taken by our entering students each fall. The “Educating to Counter Oppressions/Thresholds Seminar” is in full swing with thirty students and five teaching assistants engaged together. (Read Starr King School’s guiding statement on “Educating to Counter Oppressions”.)

Faculty members from Starr King and the Graduate Theological Union enrich the seminar by providing guest lectures. These lectures serve to introduce students to the scholarly disciplines and practices of ministry and offer them a glimpse of what they are called to do and be. From this starting point, students examine how each of the roles of ministry fosters wholeness and liberation: preaching, teaching, pastoral care and counseling, leading ritual and worship, guiding congregations to engage in social justice ministries and interfaith relationships, and connecting ministry to the arts.

Students then evaluate their learning needs. This week each student is assessing hirself* in light of the professional skills, capacities, bodies of knowledge, and personal qualities of character and spiritual life needed to meet the school’s “Threshold” expectations around “Spiritual Practice and Care of the Soul” and “Prophetic Witness and Work.” (Read more about Starr King’s eight “Thresholds” for ministry and religious leadership.) Later in the semester, the students will discuss their self-assessments with their advisors to plan their learning goals for future semesters.

The last four weeks of the ECO/Threshold Seminar will be focused on racial justice work. Students will collaborate on anti-racism projects, putting what they’ve learned about ministry and religious leadership into practice.

The ECO/Threshold Seminar builds a shared foundation for students at the school to move forward in their callings to religious leadership, connected to one another in covenant and mutual support.

All ministry is grounded in communion with one another, as Thomas Starr King said, “We are not intended to be separate, private persons, but rather fibres, fingers and limbs . . . The creator does not propose to polish souls like so many pins—each one dropping off clean and shiny, with no more organic relations to each other than pins of a card. . . . There can be no such thing as justice, until [people], in large masses, are rightly related to each other.”

The support of the school’s graduates and friends widens the circle of communion and community we foster in our educational endeavor. Thank you for your part in this good work.

In grace and gratitude,

Rebecca Parker
President and Professor of Theology

510 845 6232 ext. 112
hirself: gender inclusive pronoun