EDS at Union Newsletter | March 2020

EDS at Union Newsletter | March 2020

Categories: EDS at Union, EDS Newsletter

Where Faith and Scholarship Meet to Reimagine the Work of Justice

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Dear All:

As I write this message to you during these difficult and anxious times, as we all navigate COVID-19, I pray that you are well. While Union Theological Seminary has joined schools across the country in conducting classes remotely, EDS at Union students are staying connected through virtual morning prayer and peer group conversations. I hope each of you, even amidst “social distancing,” are finding ways to be in community as you take care of yourself and one another. Let us hear anew the words from Hebrews: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together [even if virtually] . . . but encouraging one another . . .”

The health crisis that is COVID-19 calls us to not forget the most vulnerable: the poor, those without healthcare, children who rely on a school meal, children without internet ability to learn remotely. This health crisis reveals other crises too long ignored: endemic injustice and growing inequality. For far too long, ‘the least of the these’ have been neglected even by those of us who claim to be church. Let us take this time when we are not able to be physically together in worship as an opportunity to grow into new ways of being church.

In this perplexing time, I hear the words of Bishop Barbara Harris, whose loss we all greatly mourn, reminding us “church is real when it gets down to the nitty-gritty nub of life where Jesus was in the lives of people.”

Here at EDS at Union we are committed to training our students for ministries that follow Jesus into the “nitty-gritty nub of life.” During this time of crisis, let us all recommit ourselves and support one another in being church in the world.

May the blessing of God be with you all!

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


The Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, the first woman to be ordained and consecrated a bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion, died on March 13, 2020. She was 89. Please read Dean Kelly Brown Douglas’s message on Bishop Harris’ passing here.


   Resources on COVID-19 from Churchwide Partners

Faith-Based Response
to Epidemics

Episcopal Relief and Development has developed the following webpage for sharing information and resources related to congregations’ role during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Resources for Prayer &
Worship at Home

Forward Movement has developed a list of resources for congregations and individuals who are seeking ways to engage in prayer and worship – including spiritual communion – from home.

On Jan 10, staff and students traveled to Annunciation House in El Paso, TX. For six days, students participated in a “Border Awareness Experience” aimed at educating visitors on the realities of the border. This pilgrimage kicked off a semester-long focus on the experiences of immigrants and asylum-seekers, especially unaccompanied children.


On February 5, EDS at Union welcomed two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sonia Nazario, author of Enrique’s Journey, for a presentation on unaccompanied children seeking asylum, and the role faith leaders can play in those children’s journeys. Ms. Nazario met with students, offered a powerful address, and participated in a conversation with Dean Kelly Brown Douglas. Ms. Nazario is a committed truth-teller who has put her life and wellbeing on the line to tell immigrants’ stories.


On February 7, students met with Demetrio Alvaro, Director of Operations at Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) and learned about EMM’s historic and churchwide role in welcoming and resettling refugees. For those interested in supporting asylum seekers, check out the following congregational toolkit.

Learn more about our work with EMM here and here.

This semester, EDS at Union is piloting a ‘Spanish Learning Lab’ in which students who are beginner Spanish speakers have weekly opportunities for online learning and in-person conversation practice. We are especially thrilled to welcome the Rev. Yamily Bass-Choate, Liaison for Global Missions in the Diocese of New York, who is leading the weekly in-person conversational practice sessions.

Learn more about Spanish Learning Lab.

Classroom Highlights

The Rt. Rev. Jeff Lee has joined EDS at Union as a visiting lecturer in Anglican Liturgy. Bishop Lee has entitled his course “Practical, Pastoral Liturgy: Making Believe” and notes “in discussing readings, reflecting on experiences of liturgical prayer, and practicing the art of presiding, students will be offered the opportunity to prepare in heart, body and mind to be effective presiders, to reflect on the experience of being formed to serve as walking, talking sacramental signs themselves.”

Learn more here.

The Rev. Dr. Joshua Samuel welcomed the Rev. Kenneth O. Ofula to offer a lecture on Anglican missions in East Africa as part of his course “Anglican Missions and Social Justice.” The Rev. Ofula is a priest of the Anglican Church of Kenya and Ph.D. candidate in World Christianity and History of Religions at Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr. Samuel’s course explores mission in a postcolonial context by listening to the voices mission in the global Anglican church that foreground social justice and liberation of the oppressed.

Learn more here.

Events & Workshops

EDS at Union joined First Bethel AME Church for our second annual Hymn Sing celebrating the legacies of Absalom Jones and Richard Allen. Dean Kelly Brown Douglas joined AME Pastor Henry Allen Belin in telling the story of Absalom Jones, the first black priest of the Episcopal Church, and Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. It was a gift to come together in song.

Watch videos from the event here.

On February 18, students met with the Rev. Audra Abt, a multilingual Episcopal priest who has a thriving ministry with Central American immigrants in the Diocese of North Carolina. An example of what ministry on the margins looks like, she engaged with students on piecing together a ministry that goes beyond traditional forms. She was recently featured in this article from Leadership Education at Duke Divinity.

Thank You for Your Support of EDS at Union

Every student – whether enrolled or graduated – has benefited from the tradition of philanthropic giving to Episcopal Divinity School. Thanks to this generosity, EDS at Union will continue to build on its legacy of transformative theological education, academic excellence, and prophetic thinking. Make your donation online or call Miguel Escobar at (212) 280-1569. Checks can be mailed to Episcopal Divinity School at Union, 3041 Broadway at Reinhold Niebuhr Place, New York, NY 10027.

EDS at Union on ECF Vital Practices

The Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) has the following EDS at Union podcasts and discussion questions now available on their congregational resource website, ECF Vital Practices:

  • A Conversation with Bishop Jeff Lee of the Diocese of Chicago available here.
  • A Conversation with the Rev. Dan Scheid on the Flint Water Crisis available here.

Alumni/ae News Updates

The Rev. Shirley Bowen, ’04, continues to serve as the Executive Director & Chaplain at the Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center – a designated Jubilee Center of The Episcopal Church with a fierce vision for seeking solutions to poverty, isolation & despair. She has spearheaded two new programs in the past two years: a security deposit revolving loan fund for those unable to save enough to secure stable housing; and an overnight warming center inviting those who live outside into the center during extreme weather conditions. This is a first in Southern Maine’s fast-growing small city struggling with the effects of expanding gentrification.

The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas ’88 co-wrote an op-ed, “Greta Thunberg compels us all to be prophets,” and was featured in an article about confronting climate despair.  Her new co-edited anthology, Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis is on Earth Day Network’s list of suggested books. She led a two-day climate intensive for the Episcopal Church in Colorado and traveled to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona to view the border wall. She is scheduled to preach at Washington National Cathedral on April 19 for the launch of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Gail Cafferata ’97 recently published  The Last Pastor: Faithfully Leading a Closing Church (Westminster John Knox Press, 2020).  Before attending EDS she served for nearly 25 years as a medical sociologist in universities, the Department of Health and Human Services, Boston Children’s Hospital and various non-profits. As an Episcopal priest, she was called to lead a Northern California congregation for nine years before it closed in 2012. Her book is based on this experience. She also used a national study of pastors in five mainline denominations (Episcopal, Lutheran (ELCA), Methodist (UMC), Presbyterian (PCUSA) and United Church of Christ (UCC)) who had similar experiences. Gail and her husband Bob have a home in Santa Rosa, California where they enjoy sailing, hiking, and spending time with their two daughters’ families and their four grandchildren. 

The Very Rev. Tom Chesterman, ’56 regularly takes a turn officiating and preaching Sunday mornings at True Sunshine Church in Chinatown in San Francisco. He is also frequently returning to Santa Rosa (his hometown) on Sunday afternoons to consecrate the Sacrament at an interdenominational service for the intellectually and developmentally disabled at a local Presbyterian Church. This service is important to him because his son, Timothy, is part of this population. It was originally organized by families of those, like his son, who was moved into community homes because of the closure of Sonoma Developmental Center, but now includes others with similar disabilities, for whom regular parish services are not appropriate.

In mid-March, he expects to attend the annual gathering of Westar Institute, an intellectually and spiritually uplifting event, which he has been joining in for several years now.  Maybe other fellow ETS graduates, and other like-minded folks, may want to join in?

The Rev. Eric Fialho, ’17, was ordained to the priesthood in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Riverside, CT. Eric has been serving as curate there since June.

William Knutson, ’12 was ordained a priest in January 2020 by The Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Bill is serving at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ojai, CA.

The Rev. Eric Law ’84 has a new book out, Fear Not: Living Truth and Grace in a Frightened World. He also released an album, Up-Side-Down Town which is available through Amazon, CDBaby, Apple Music, KKBox, Spotify. The album has its beginning the night of the 2016 election.  In my struggle that night, I began writing songs, the first of which is called Weeping May Spend the Night inspired by Ps. 30. When he posted the first version of the song on Facebook, the video got over 4000 views. So, he continued writing more songs resulting in this album of 12 songs. Some lyrics of the songs were included in Fear Not. Many churches are using both the album and book for their Lenten study and for workshop and study groups during this election year.  Also in March, he will be the Interfaith Scholar in Resident at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI.   

The Rev. Mark Nestlehutt, ’97 accepted the position of President & Executive of Seamen’s Church Institute in January. You can read more about his appointment here.

The Rev. Canon Jayne J. Oasin, ’00 was given an award by the Black Clergy Caucus and Union of Black Episcopalians, Earl B. Scott Chapter, of the Diocese of New Jersey at the annual Absalom Jones Service of Witness to Black Ministry on Sunday, February 16, 2020.

Chaplain, 1st Lieutenant, Bryan Pearson, ’12. He finished Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Jackson, SC on 20th of December. He is now the Battalion Chaplain for the 3-69 Armor Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, United States Army.

The Rev. Canon Ron Spann, ’70, was the preacher at the consecration of his daughter, The Rt. Rev. Shannon Macvean- Brown, as the 11th Bishop of Vermont, and the first-ever African American to serve as priest or bishop in that Diocese. He is also a spiritual director and served 15 years as spirituality faculty for the CREDO Institute.

Owen Thomas, Jr., is the son of the Professor Rev. Dr. Owen C. Thomas, ’49, who passed away in 2015. He was a lay minister in the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil from 2014 until he and his wife to Oslo in 2018. They spent over 30 years in Brazil managing social projects. During their last 5 years they worked at the Anglican Social Center outside Brasilia teaching English to children at risk. In 2015 they got a visit from the Diocese of Indianapolis, a sister Diocese to Brasilia, and Mr. Thomas helped to interpret for the visiting brethren, including the then Bishop Kate. They remember their time in Brasilia fondly. They moved to Oslo (his wife is from Norway) to prepare for retirement and have been fellowshipping with the folks at St. Edmund’s Anglican church in the center of Oslo. Mr. Thomas is currently studying to be a Licensed Reader (aka Lay Minister) with a course provided by the St. John’s College in Nottingham, England, and enjoying it very much. He is excited to be alive in this time!

The Rev. Meg Wagner ’15, currently serves as the Missioner for Communications, Reconciliation, and New Initiatives in the Diocese of Iowa and co-founded the Beloved Community Initiative in Iowa. She is also on the Presiding Officer’s Advisory Group on Beloved Community Implementation that is planning the May 5-7 conference, Building Beloved Community for The Episcopal Church – which will be a gathering of people all across the church engaged in the work of racial justice, healing, and reconciliation. She is happy to talk to anyone who is interested in attending, presenting, or exhibiting at the conference and hopes to see a lot of EDS folks there!

The Rev. Dr. Walter Van Zandt Windsor, D.Min., ’00. Since 2017, he has been the full-time Clinical Chaplain at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola. He is also the vicar at two churches: St. Paul’s in Woodville, Mississippi and St. Andrew’s in Clinton, Louisiana.

 Dr. Gale A. Yee, ’17, the Nancy W. King Professor of Biblical Studies emerita, will be preaching at St. John’s Cathedral of the Los Angeles Diocese on May 3rd for Asian American and Pacific Islander month. She will be awarded an honorary doctorate from Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria at their May 14th commencement.

In Memoriam

Jean Holtham Ross, ’63 died on Thursday, 6th Feb. 2020 in the doctor’s surgery. Jean graduated from ETS in 1963 then sailed to England to marry Ian Ross on 20th July 1963 in Oldham. They lived in Old Trafford, Manchester for 15 years and since 1984 have been in Shrewsbury. She is survived by her husband, Ian Ross, their four children, their spouses and eight grandchildren. Her full obituary can be found here.

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