EDS at Union Newsletter | December 2020

EDS at Union Newsletter | December 2020

Categories: EDS at Union, EDS Newsletter

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Dear Friends, 

My prayer is that this most blessed Advent season has brought to each of you the hope and joy of the God that is always coming toward us.

Indeed, during this extraordinary year of pandemics and politics we at EDS at Union have tried to hear the call of God challenging us to be a people of moral voice and moral courage, leading the way to a world and society free from the sins of prejudice, privilege, poverty and anything that betrays the justice that God promises us all.

Earlier this year, I had a conversation I with Michelle Alexander shortly after George Floyd’s death, and her words continue to echo in my soul. She said:

Now is the time for our philosophers, our theologians, people of faith, people of conscience to come together and to use our imaginations and to speak up more boldly and with more courage to say yes, not only is there another way of doing justice possible, but another way of doing democracy is possible, another way in this world is possible.” Click here to hear the full quote

With faith and humility, I do indeed believe that at such a time as this, seminaries like EDS at Union have an even more important role to play in fostering the kind of ministries that plant the seeds for God’s just future.

I hope that in the following e-newsletter you will see how EDS at Union and our alumni/ae are living into this call to expand the moral imagination so that we can meet that God who is always coming toward us, showing us the way to a better time, a better place, a better world.

May God’s Peace and Love be with you during this Holiday Season,

The Very Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, Ph.D.
Dean, Episcopal Divinity School at Union
Bill and Judith Moyers Chair in Theology, Union Theological Seminary

Apply to EDS at Union

Are you interested in studying at EDS at Union? The Anglican Studies M.Div. and S.T.M degree programs bring together excellent theological formation, Anglican spirituality, and practical leadership skills with an eye toward helping faith leaders tackle the most pressing challenges facing our world today. EDS at Union is where Anglican faith and scholarship meet to reimagine the work of justice.

Reach out to our team for more information about the program, the application process, and financial aid. Inquiries should be directed to edsinfo@uts.columbia.edu.

Program Highlights

  • Over two weeks in November, EDS at Union students participated in a virtual retreat led by the Rt. Rev. Mark Beckwith. Together they explored what it means to discern one’s vocation amidst the two pandemics of COVID-19 and the resurgence of white supremacy. Bishop Mark Beckwith is the former bishop of the Diocese of Newark and was a founding co-convenor of Episcopalians United Against Gun Violence. Learn more about Bishops United Against Gun Violence.
  • Did you know that Latinx communities are among the fastest-growing segments in the Episcopal Church? In addition to requiring students to take a course in Latinx Ministry in the Episcopal Church, EDS at Union has Spanish Learning Labs facilitated by the Rev. Yamily Bass-Choate, Liaison for Global Missions in the Diocese of New York, and Miguel Escobar, Executive Director of EDS at Union. The students who are beginner and intermediate Spanish speakers have weekly opportunities for online learning and conversation practice. Language is a small part of the broader preparation that takes place at EDS at Union in preparing students for Latinx ministry. See our Facebook page for more information!
  • EDS at Union is hosting virtual Las Posadas, organized by Dr. Sandra Montes and Miguel Escobar. The nightly events will run from December 16 through Christmas Eve. Las Posadas is a Latinx tradition mostly celebrated in Mexico. It is a “sung play” patterned on Mary & Joseph’s search for safe shelter in Bethlehem. Through song, people voice the part of Mary and Joseph seeking refuge as well as the part of a reluctant innkeeper whose stony heart is only slowly transformed. In that spirit, the EDS at Union community is gathering online at 5:00 ET from Dec 16-24th. On three of the days, the EDS’ Team FUN has organized more extensive celebrations to continue after the short service including the unveiling of the Secret Santa Gift Exchange and Christmas Carols over Zoom. 

Recent Events

  • On December 1, EDS at Union got the opportunity to speak with the Rev. David Peters. He is the author of Death Letter: God, Sex, and War and Post-Traumatic God: How the Church Cares for People Who Have Been to Hell and Back. He is also the founder of the Episcopal Veterans Fellowship. Learn more about David’s ministry.
  • On November 18th, EDS at Union celebrated Dr. Sandra T. Montes’ book Becoming REAL: And Thriving in Ministry. Dr. Montes is the Interim Director of Worship at Union Theological Seminary. Why should you read the book? “If congregations were to look outside their doors, they may find that the people who need the good news don’t look like them and that the way to engage them is by having ministries that are REAL. REAL ministry is respectful relationships, excellence, authenticity, and love.”
  • EDS at Union students have Episcopal Morning Prayer Monday through Thursday. But on Wednesday, November 12 our students paused our scheduled morning prayer and were joined by Union’s Thích Nhất Hạnh Program for Engaged Buddhism (TNHEB) for morning meditation. This is part of our commitment to Interreligious Engagement. As part of EDS at Union’s Anglican Studies program, students are required to take two interreligious engagement courses. They of course also benefit from the multireligious and ecumenical learning environment that is Union Theological Seminary. Learn more about the The Thích Nhất Hạnh Program for Engaged Buddhism (TNHEB).

Student News

Maryann Philbrook (’22) has been volunteering virtually in San Francisco to help people experiencing homelessness and to address relational poverty. For this work, she has been awarded the Francis in the City Award for “Invaluable Social Support” by Miracle Messages.

Carl Adair (’21) has been working with his Field Education site, Zion Episcopal Church, to create a new podcast called “Thin Places.” 




Mary Barber, MD (’21) and Nicole Hanley (’22) offered reflections to the Center at Mariandale about their trip to US-Mexican Border in January 2020. Their trip to El Paso and Ciudad-Juarez included conversations with immigrants and a pilgrimage with the Annunciation House.

Linda Aristondo (’23) was awarded a grant from the Episcopal Evangelism Society. She will capture the narratives of marginalized persons, and their response to the injustices experienced through COVID-19 and expressed through the Black Lives Matter movement. She hopes that listening with the Church’s heart to the pain in community members’ souls will establish the Church as a place to turn to.

In The News

In Dean Douglas’ latest article in Faith & Leadership, she writes that after the election, faith leaders must fill the vacuum of moral leadership: “Unity follows justice. Not the other way around. So this means that, yes, we have to really understand the places where people have felt most deeply alienated from each other and disempowered. I do think that we do have to bring this nation together, but we can’t bring the nation together around the false premises of unity when we’ve still got the original sin that is white supremacy in our very foundation that has led to all of this inequality.”

The New York Daily News published an op-ed by Dean Douglas about the important role Black religious leaders have in getting out the vote. “Historically, religious leaders – especially Black religious leaders – have been at the forefront of this fight for civil rights. . . With the current crises our nation is facing, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the epidemic of police brutality, it is particularly pressing for religious leaders to guide our society to a place where human life is respected and treated as sacred.”

In late August, EDS at Union, was proud to join an amicus brief filed by Children’s Rights as part of the Interfaith Coalition for Children’s Rights on the Supreme Court case, Fulton v Philadelphia. Read Children’s Rights August press release here. On November 4th, the Supreme Court began holding oral arguments for this case. It has high stakes for children and families in the child welfare system. A broad ruling in favor of Catholic Social Services could potentially enshrine a license to discriminate against LGBTQ+ families on religious freedom grounds. See the report here.

Earlier this month, The Episcopal Church and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry launched the 4th season of The Way of Love Podcast. Dean Douglas was this season’s first guest, sharing the conversation at the 2020 International Black Clergy Conference, presented by The Episcopal Church’s Office of Black Ministries. They discuss their understanding of being Black Episcopalians, and the lessons that the whole Church can learn from the earliest days of the Black Church through to the present day.




Facebook Live Conversations

  • The day after the presidential election, Dean Kelly Brown Douglas spoke with The Rev. Patrick Cheng, Theologian in Residence at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and Adjunct Professor at EDS at Union. In this episode of The Just Vote, Rev. Cheng, a former lawyer, debriefed election night with Dean Douglas and considers the election’s implications and the ongoing result determination from a faith and constitutional law perspective.
  • On November 6th, Dean Kelly Brown Douglas spoke with Ari Berman, author of the award-winning book Give Us The Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. They reflected on issues of voter suppression and access to the ballot during the November 3rd election.   
  • In December, for our Just Conversation series, Dean Kelly Brown Douglas spoke with Dr. Ben Chavis Jr. He is a Union alum and the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a trade association of the more than 200 African American-owned community newspapers from around the United States. They explored the realities of racialized inequities intrinsic to our nation and the role of media and churches in dealing with those inequities.
  • In late December, as the semester was wrapping up, Dean Kelly Brown Douglas spoke with Zephyr Teachout in our Just Conversation series. Zephyr Teachout is an author, former political candidate, and associate professor of law at Fordham University. This fall, Teachout enrolled at Union in the Master of Divinity program. In this Just Conversation, they discussed the state of our democracy and some of the constitutional challenges that lie ahead. They also looked at voting rights and voter suppression in the 2020 Election, and the potential outcomes to the Trump administration’s ongoing litigation efforts.

Podcast Episodes

Alumni/ae News

The Rev. Sandy Boyd ’78 was presented the Bishop’s Cross to her by Bishop Kym Lucas at the 133rd Annual Convention of the Episcopal Church in Colorado as an expression of thankfulness for her dedication and service. The Bishop’s Cross is awarded by the Bishop to recognize individuals whose lives embody the spirit of Christ. Bishop Lucas said in her recognition of Boyd, “I’m honored to present the Bishop’s Cross to Sandy. I’m grateful for her 25 years of service on the Board of Examining Chaplains, and all the ways that she has been a pioneer for women in ministry, and her dedication to the formation of leaders in this diocese and for the whole Church.”

The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas ’88 preaches and leads retreats on building emotional and spiritual resilience in a time of crisis. On February 5, she will present a “framework for the heart” at a retreat (open to all) at BTS Center, which is dedicated to “transformative faith leadership.” She was keynote speaker for “Deep Green Faith: Earth-Hearted Hope in a Time of Crisis,” for Center for Religion and Environment & Sewanee: University of the South; led a climate preaching series for two dioceses and for United Theological College (UTC) in Montreal; and offered a retreat for Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality.

The Rev. Dr. Bryan Cones ’13 received his PhD in liturgical and practical theology from the University of Divinity in Melbourne, Australia, working with Stephen Burns, formerly of EDS. His thesis, This Assembly of Believers: The Gifts of Difference in the Church at Prayer (published in November by SCM Press), argues that differences of gender, sexuality, age, and ability, among others, are opportunities for new encounters with the divine in the liturgy. Bryan just completed an interim ministry at St. Simon’s Episcopal Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois. His article on St. Simon’s Zoom liturgy, ““How Do We Gather Now?” appeared in the August 26, 2020 issue of Christian Century.

The Rev. Patricia Eustis ’98 has retired from parish ministry and is now living in Seattle, Washington close to her youngest son. She is also attending a virtual Morning Prayer with St. Andrews Greenlake, and teaching an online Advent Bible Study. Having a great Retirement

The Rev. Dr. Carol Flett, M.Div. ’88; D.Min. ’00 retired from parish ministry in the Diocese of Washington in 2012 and volunteered for 8 years in Montgomery County Maryland as Co-Chair of the Faith Community Working Group. In that role, she coordinated a semi-annual series of 3 monthly “Multicultural Dialogues on Racism & Bias” using exercises from the Episcopal Church’s Seeing the Face of God in the Other. Dr. Flett and her dialogue partner, who is a Mediator, recently presented a workshop at the Oregon Mediation Association’s annual conference on “Facilitation of Anti-racism Dialogues as a form of Mediation”. The exercises presented in the workshop were appreciated by mediators and diversity officers of non-profits organizations who participated in the workshop.

The Rev. Dr. Steve Jacobson ’66 married Diana Erb in September at the Chapel of St. James the Fisherman in Wellfleet on Cape Cod. After his wife Deni died in 2018 he renewed his friendship with Diana, widow of The Reverend John Erb in the Diocese of Toronto (Anglican Church of Canada). They live half-time in Toronto, Ontario and in Eastham, Massachusetts.

The Rev. Cameron Miller ’80 has a new book, a collection of poems and essays on Nature, Human Nature, and the Sacred. “Cairn, Marking the Trace” was nominated for a 2020 Pushcart Prize and widely available.

The Rev. Warren Murphy ’72 recently published a memoir recounting his many years of ministry in the state of Wyoming. It is entitled Unique And Different: A Memoir of a Wyoming Journey published by Sundance Media. It covers his adventures of 43 years serving small rural ranching congregations, the Wind River Indian Reservation, the town of Cody next to Yellowstone National Park and much more. Some stories are profound while others humorous. It explores new ways of doing small church ministry while promoting both social and environmental justice. It also includes stories of serving on the EDS Alumni Association board. The book’s website is found at UniqueAndDifferent.info.

The Very Rev. Thomas C. Chesterman, ’56 has continued to serve most Sundays at True Sunshine Church in Chinatown, San Francisco, where he is Vicar Emeritus, and where he served actively in the 1960’s, in charge of a very active ministry, especially for youth and a large Chinese Language School, an after-school program, and a playground and youth center. At the present time, it is easier physically to serve, because all services are conducted by Zoom, and he can serve from his home office computer, just adjacent to my dining room. Sadly, there is no more Chinese Language School, nor playground or youth center or refugee hostel.

The Rev. Dr. Anita Louise Schell, D Mn ’09 is now canonically resident in ECCT (Episcopal Church of CT). After 35 years of ordained ministry, she tried something new. In August 2019 she became the provisional-priest-in-charge at Saint Ann’s Parish, in Old Lyme. She and her husband Steve MacAusland are relishing living by the Connecticut River in a community committed to addressing eco-justice at the local level. She gives ongoing thanks for her years at EDS and all she learned at EDS about collaboration, cohorts and addressing social justice, learnings from which she draws every day. In the time of COVID she has become more technologically literate, including singing in virtual choirs.

The Very Rev. Mary Slenski, ’08 concluded her ministry as the Interim Dean and Rector of Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis on December 3. This was her fifth interim appointment.

In Memoriam

The Reverend Alexander Blair ’57 passed away peacefully on June 25th in Berkeley, Calif at the age of 95. Two years into his MDiv from Episcopal Theological Seminary he moved to Church Divinity School of the Pacific to finish his MDiv. Once ordained he served in the Diocese of Rio Grande for 20 years. In 1977, he started his PhD which culminated in his dissertation being published more than 30 years later as “Christian Ambivalence toward its Old Testament: Interactive Community veus Status Obedience (Wipf & Stock 2011). He is survived by his wife, their four children, children’s spouses and six grandchildren. Please visit the memorial website honoring him for more information. Or you can read the full obituary here.