Union Theological Seminary Academics


Topics in Ministry: SU 190

2013 Offerings

Fall 2013

Drawing on expertise from community and alumni/ae resources, these workshops address specific topics concerning the practice of ministry.

Section 01: Moral Injury and Soul Repair
Friday, September 20, 1:00-5:00 p.m.
Saturday, September 21, 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Rita Brock and Herman Keizer

This course will introduce moral injury in veterans and recovery through soul repair. While often concurrent with PTSD, this course will explain how moral injury and PTSD differ and explore theological, liturgical, and scriptural resources for understanding soul repair. In addition, we will discuss social responsibility for moral injury and the role of religious communities in supporting recovery. Moral injury as a consequence of working in other life or death conditions will also be examined.

Section 03: Cellblocks and Border Stops: Transformative Activism in an Age of Dehumanization
Friday, October 18, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 19, 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Charlene Sinclair and Jan Rehmann

In the last four decades, mass incarceration and immigration control in the US has skyrocketed. Today, the US is number one in the world in incarceration with more than seven million people under control of the criminal justice system. At the same time, immigrant deportations and detentions have never been higher, with eleven million immigrants out of compliance with federal immigration law and at risk from carceral structures of control.
This course will explore how moral and religious ideologies grounded in the notion of an inevitable human pathology and insisting on punitive retribution as a necessary gateway to redemption have fueled the cellblock as the solution of choice for many of the crises the US faces today: poverty, addiction, violence, family abuse, homelessness, and large-scale displacement and migration.
This course will require participation in a two-day conference on incarceration and immigration as well as the completion of a 10-page reflection paper the theme of which will be negotiated with the course instructor.

Section 04: Reflections on Power, Privilege, and Social Justice
Friday, November 8, 1:00-6:00 p.m.
Friday, November 15, 1:00-6:00 p.m.
Tanya Williams

This course offers an introduction to the dynamics of oppression at the individual, institutional and socio-cultural levels. The course will provide theoretical frameworks for understanding social oppression and an opportunity to apply these frameworks to specific forms of oppression in relationship to students' identities and work situations. During this course, students will be offered tools to reflect on their multiple social identities and the interconnections among these identities and varying privilege and disadvantage related to different social group membership. Core concepts that will be discussed include social power, privilege, dominance and subordination, prejudice, discrimination and liberation.  Additionally, students will explore issues of commonalities, differences, conflicts, and develop skills of dialogue that are useful in any form of ministry.

Section 05: Intergroup Dialogue Facilitation
Dates: To be arranged depending on students’ schedules
Tanya Williams

Across the nation, it is believed that dialogue is an effective educational and community-building method. Dialogue engages members of socially and culturally diverse communities in gaining intergroup understanding, increasing positive relationships, and effectively utilizing intergroup collaboration. Facilitation and dialogue skills can be applied in any meeting or group setting, one-on-one conversations, and even structural and institutional analyses. These skills are crucial to religious leaders, educators, and activists. This course will train intergroup dialogue facilitators to lead a group of peers through a sustained weekly intergroup dialogue. We will cover dialogic communication, group building, conflict surfacing and de-escalation, and social justice education. The students will work in pairs to facilitate dialogue, not simply as teachers, but also as learners with dialogue participants.  This course will offer experience in both analyzing and understanding issues of diversity and social justice, as well as building practical skills to communicate across difference. Placement form and interview will be required for enrollment. Some students will have the opportunity to facilitate a sustained 8 week dialogue in Spring 2014 for additional credits.

Note: Enrollment limited to 6 students.

January 2014

Section 01: So you want to think about K-12 teaching? How to get from here to there.
Monday, January 13, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Tuesday, January 14, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Wednesday, January 15, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Rebecca Tatum and Su Yon Pak

This course will offer options for teaching after seminary, including private, parochial, charter, and public schools. We will discuss why seminary graduates make great teachers and how to make the seminary experience attractive to school employers. Each session will include a site visit to one or more NYC schools to observe and meet with teachers and administrators. Students will reflect on the connections between ministry, seminary education, and work in a school. By the end of the course, every student will have created a packet of resources for a K-12 job search (including a statement of educational philosophy and a revised resume), and a list of teaching placement agencies and contacts from our school visits.

Section 02: Doing Bi-Lingual and Bi-Cultural Ministry
Wednesday, January 15-Friday, January 17, 1:00-5:00 p.m.
Samuel Cruz and Vanessa Cardinale

In this course we will assess the challenges and advantages of urban bi-lingual and bi-cultural ministries. Some issues to be addressed are: How to preach in such a context, ways to deal with the influence of culture while worshiping within a multicultural context, whether bi-cultural/multicultural ministry is a viable approach to doing church, navigating issues of race/racism and ethnocentrism. We will also consider the many possibilities of community engagement and empowerment within multicultural ministry settings.

Spring 2014

Section 01: Weddings, Funerals and Memorial Services
Friday February 28, 1:00–5:00 p.m. and 6:00–8:00 p.m.
Saturday March 1, 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Janet Walton and Barbara Lundblad, with guest resource people

Should a wedding look like weddings in the movies? Should a funeral be in the church or at the funeral home? Can I preside at a wedding or funeral if I’m not ordained? This two-day course will engage those questions and several more:

  • What is included in pre-marital counseling? Should it be required?
  • What is involved in planning the wedding ceremony: order of service, vows, scripture and other readings, music, customs (i.e. jumping the broom)?
  • What if the people getting married are from different religions or none? Will I preside at weddings for non-members if I’m a parish pastor?
  • How can I minister to someone who is dying and to their loved ones?  
  • Will there be a funeral, a memorial service or a celebration of life?
  • What scripture, other readings, music and testimonies about the deceased will be part of the service?
  • What are resources for preaching at weddings and funerals?

Section 02: Ministry for an Aging Society
Friday March 7, 14, & 21, 1:00–5:00 p.m.
Meredith Lisagor

As clergy and teachers, we must foster and defend the aliveness of the eternal in human identity—especially when it is under siege by irreversible changes. This course, therefore, will focus on the processes of aging and the spiritual ramifications that have always called for creative ministry—never more than now, as we enter an era with unprecedented numbers of elderly. After exploring both society’s and their subjective notions about aging, students will examine the unique spirituality of later adulthood with an eye to developing effective approaches for meeting the needs of individuals and families embroiled in the dramas of aging. They will be introduced to current issues in the bio-ethics of aging and end-of-life to unpack how a person qua meaning-maker and homo religioso abides (even in the dementias), and how to think about an individual’s life story as it is ending. The ultimate aim of the work will be to deepen pastoral competence for lifetime care of souls—and for transforming a thanaphobic society into one that reverences the late stages of life.

Section 03: Spiritual Care:  Partnering with People Experiencing Mental Illness, Their Families and Mental Health Professionals
Saturday April, 12, 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Friday April 25, 2:00–6:00 p.m.
Saturday April 26, 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Maggie Jarry and Su Yon Pak

This course will provide a practical introduction to experiences of people with psychiatric illnesses and ways to effectively partner with people experiencing symptoms, their family members and mental health professions.  The course will include an overview of mental health systems, types of illnesses and ways to effectively assist people while retaining a role as spiritual care provider.  Class speakers will include mental health consumers in recovery, pastors, family members, psychiatric professionals and administrators working with homeless services.  Emphasis will be on the importance of hope and recovery from mental health consumer/survivor perspectives.  Key terms and a suggested reading list will be provided.  The class will include one field trip.  Grades will be based on class participation and completion of either a short reflection paper or an in-class presentation.

Note: Enrollment limited to 12 students.

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