Focusing on Voting Rights

EDS at Union Newsletter | October 2020

Categories: EDS at Union, EDS Newsletter

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Dear Friends, 

I pray that you are safe and well during this challenging election season. This fall, we have focused on the importance of the vote and the ongoing struggle to assure the right to vote for all. Why such a focus for a seminary?

In many respects, we have no choice. As a faith community, we are accountable to the just future that God promises us all. And that means we must lead this nation toward its “better angels” to be a place where all persons are free to live into the fullness of their divinely created humanity, even as we prepare our students to do the same. This is not about political partisanship; it is about a moral obligation. And that obligation starts with ensuring that people vote, and are able to do so without intimidation.

There is much at stake in this election. It is about far more than the governing power of a particular political party. It is about the very soul of our country. Will we be a nation that carries forth a racist legacy of exceptionalism or a nation that fosters a legacy of freedom and justice for all?

This is the moral choice we must make on November 3rd. It is for this reason that I ask you to stay engaged during this election season, to inspire others be engaged, and to remain prayerful. And most of all, follow the words of Congressman John Lewis, “The vote is precious. It’s almost sacred, so go out and vote like you never voted before.”

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

The inability to gather in person did not stop returning and new EDS students from marking the beginning of the school year in style. The returning students put together a worship service to welcome the new students including a “signing” of the Book of Matriculation Records.

After that service, all the students joined in a student-led virtual social hour to get to know one another. These two events and ongoing social events throughout the year have helped students build community, despite the physical distance.

EDS at Union began a Facebook Live series in March entitled “Being Church in the Time of Covid-19”. Dean Kelly Brown Douglas interviewed prominent activists and scholars about how Covid-19 affects their work. The audio portion of these interviews were then turned into podcasts! You can see a selection of the interviews below or look through all the videos.

In the late summer and continuing through the fall, EDS at Union has a new Facebook Live series called “The Just Vote”. It coincides with the fall community book read, “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America” by Ari Berman.

If you missed them, you can watch these interviews online, and expect more interviews in this series in the coming weeks!

Recent Videos

Partnership Advocacy

EDS at Union has been busy working with other organizations in advocacy work! EDS partnered with Trinity Wall Street to stand for #JustReentry. We are urging Mayor de Blasio to take action to support formerly incarcerated people as they reenter society to prevent homelessness. 

EDS at Union and Union joined an Amicus Brief on Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. In this case, we are urging the courts to not allow foster and adoption agencies to discriminate on religious grounds.

Lunch Time Conversations

Despite a semester that will be held fully online, EDS at Union is continuing to bring a variety of guest speakers to talk to current students about different topics in ministry. This semester is no different. In October, the topics will be: The Amicus Brief Union and EDS filed on behalf of children’s rights; Church planting with the Rev. Katie Rengers; The ordination process with Bishop Bill Franklin.

Student News

Maryann Philbrook (’22) has been volunteering virtually in San Francisco to help people experiencing homelessness address relational poverty. 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 Ed site this summer, 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. 

Video Statements 

Union’s Academic Dean Pamela Cooper-White preached at Cathedral of  St. John the Divine, in New York, about the legacy of Pauli Murray. 

Check out the video from Dean Douglas about the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act for more context on our Fall book read.

Dean Douglas joined with The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers and The Rev. Winnie Varghese to issue a joint letter on July 4th. “Speaking of Freedom: A Letter to the Church on Breaking Free of White Supremacy.”

Major Events

EDS at Union has had some major events. Dean Kelly Brown Douglas worked with the Washington National Cathedral in September to put together, Democracy Unchained, a conversation series about the state of Democracy in the US.  

EDS at Union partnered again with Church of the Heavenly Rest in Manhattan for a conversation with Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation.

Dean Kelly Brown Douglas, who also serves as the Theologian in Residence at Trinity Wall Street, moderated a series of three conversations titled, Woman’s Suffrage: Race, Gender and Power.

Recent Articles

Dean Kelly Brown Douglas has been addressing the urgent crisis of White Supremacy in this country and the way it affects all people, but especially black people.

In September, she wrote for the Religious News Service that: “We need to Declare a National Emergency on Deadly Policing.

She was interviewed by Afro News in August: The Black Church: The Nucleus in the Fight for Justice.” 


Alumni/ae News

The Reverend Dalene Fuller Rogers ’90 has retired to Brunswick, ME and is active as a pulpit supply pastor, and provides sabbatical coverage. She consults with clergy on interim ministry issues, and is an active Spiritual Director, and pastoral counselor to ministers and laity. Currently, the Rev. Fuller Rogers is working on her memoir from a spiritual journey perspective. She continues to enjoy writing poetry, photography, bicycling, hiking and snowshoeing.

The Reverend Dr. Mark Henrickson ’80 continues as Professor of Social Work at Massey University in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand where he’s been since 2003. Before lockdown, in January he was able to go to Kiribati in January to develop a curriculum on gender and sexual diversity for Youth Voices Count and Boutokaan Inaomataia ao Mauriia Binabinaine. He and his research team are finishing up a three-year funded national study on the ethics of consent for intimacy and sexuality in residential aged care. He is currently working on two books, one he is writing with the working title Re-theologising Social Work, and one he is editing called HIV, Sex and Sexuality in Later Life. In addition to the usual teaching, research, and supervision, He is on the rosters of two parishes, one in Auckland and one in Bream Bay (about 2 hours north).

The Reverend Robert Gallagher ’71 has worked with the Order of the Ascension to create a three-session retreat, Pathways of Grace: making ourselves at home. He leads this along with Michelle Heyne, the order’s Presiding Sister. They had 56 people join from 19 parishes in nine dioceses in all sections of the country. He has also been writing in response to both the protests and John Lewis’ death. He has written blogs and letters to city political leaders. Here are a few examples: Red Cars, A nation and world society at peace with itself. Through his writing, he has also made a new friend, Victoria Beach. She is the chair of the African American Community Advisory Council of the police department. They began to exchange messages with me and invited him to a couple of the Council’s gatherings, which he wrote about in God’s harmony.

The Reverend Dr. Ellen Richardson ’11 officially “retired” as priest (and retired MD). She is now engaging and occasionally helping out at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church, Athens GA and learning the role of grandmother.

The Very Reverend Dean Gary Hall ’76 is serving as interim dean at Bloy House for the 2020-2021 academic year. He will also serve as visiting professor of religion and public policy at Arizona State University in 2021-2022.

The Reverend Micki Varner ’03 has recently been hired as the director of Mission Services for the PeaceHealth Oregon Network. She had been serving as the interim Mission director since March and previously served as the Spiritual Care Manager with PeaceHealth. PeaceHealth is a Catholic health system with medical centers and clinics located in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Micki, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, is a board-certified chaplain who has served PeaceHealth as a chaplain and the manager of Spiritual Care since 2003.

Dr. Brigitte Löwe ’03 gives many speeches, mostly in German. She did give a speech in English about the British poet Jane Austen in 2017 in remembrance of her death (July 18th 1817) to a group of student in Munich. Her German topics are Tales of Terror which initiated in Cambridge with Phyllis Trible, Jephthas daughter, now ‘enriched’ by Lion Feuchtwanger, Jewish refugee, who wrote about the same subject. She spoke about her main subject, Germany’s horrible past in the shoah, in an essay about Shame – Guilt – Silence where she wrote about the German poet Elisabeth Langgässer. She also wrote and spoke about Two Different Kinds of Measurement in German, meaning the treatment of women in the bible or priests (see the Malleus Maleficarum) in the course of the time.

Dr. Charles Patterson ’63 is a retired Episcopal clergyman who has written a tongue-in-cheek modern divine comedy inspired by and based on the original Divine Comedy that Dante wrote 700 years ago. It tells the story of Tom Reed, a young Episcopal priest, who after a brief, ill-fated stint as the rector of a parish in Connecticut goes to New York, leaves the church and embarks on a viaggio (journey) down into the Underworld (aka Hell). To see how the story begins, go to and click “Novel” You’ll know right away if you want to read more.

The Very Reverend Dean Thomas Chesterman ’56 recently had a second bladder tumor removed at Kaiser Hospital in Santa Rosa. He had one last year, and it was a small one, similar to this one and it was a day surgery as well. He is facing such things as an expectation of aging.

The Very Reverend Canon P. Thomas Spann ’70 after 17 years, he has just stepped down as a non-stipendiary assisting priest and founder/Director of the Christ Church Grosse Pointe Spirituality Center. Bishop Bonnie Perry has appointed him as a co-chaplain to Diocese of Michigan’s Commission on Ministry. He is also a member of the Steering Committee to discern and implement a Strategy for Mission and Ministry for the African American Congregations in the diocese. Since 1998 he has served as an endorsed educator in an international school of adult formation, PRH-international (Personnalité et Relations Humaines). He combines PRH formation with his ministry as spiritual director. In early 2019 he served as co-facilitator with The Rev. Cn Ron Byrd for an East African Clergy Convocation, an initiative of the Office of Black Ministries. He currently serves in the same Office as a co-mentor in its collaboration with the Virginia Theological Seminary’s project, Thriving in Ministry, a Lilly-funded initiative with black clergy. He is very proud of his daughter, the Rt. Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown, who just celebrated a year anniversary of being the Bishop of Vermont.

The Reverend Bob McKay IV ’67 He continues living in Treasure Lake, PA as an active pensioner. He regularly serves the congregation of St. Paul’s, Philipsburg PA each Sunday, where he presides, preaches and celebrates. The service is on Facebook. He has reunited with his first wife, Robin after becoming a widow six years ago. She worked in the library of the Philadelphia Divinity School my senior year 1966-7. We have two boys, two grandsons in college, and our youngest lives here with us.

Ms. Elvira Charles ’93 is looking forward to celebrating her 94th birthday in November.

The Reverend Canon Gerogene “Gigi” Connor ’91 has been busy since her graduation and ordination. She served at many churches: St. Paul’s Rock Creek in Washington DC; St. Michael’s in Manhattan; and St. Peter’s Cathedral in Southwest Florida where she was the Canon Evangelist. In Southwest Florida she was deputy to General Convention, and she brought John Philip Newell, John Bell and Dominic Crossan to the Cathedral to be Theologians in Residence – each for a week! After ten years she tried to retire. She went to Woodstock, New York as Vicar/Priest in Charge at St. Gregory’s. In 2013, she returned to Florida, to really retire but became Priest in Charge at St. Alban’s, St. Pete Beach, Florida where she has been ever since. She also served on the board of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus for many years until they ‘sundowned’ in 2018. She also is an Associate with the Iona Community in Scotland.

The Reverend Cliff Winddotter ’90 as of May 2019 is now an assistant priest in the Engelbrekt Parish, Diocese of Stockholm, Church of Sweden. It is an inner-city parish in a rather affluent part of Stockholm. The parish has two churches: the Hjorthagen church and the Engelbrekt church. For the previous eighteen years he worked in rural Sweden.

The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas ’88 delivered six sermons for Chautauqua Institution on the theme, “Faith to Save the Earth,” which are now posted on her YouTube Channel. For American Climate Leadership Summit, she made a short video, “Praying with Our Body.” Her sermon for Oct. 11, “Invitation to love’s banquet,” is posted at She is a member of the new group, Clergy Emergency League, a grassroots network formed to resist the rise in authoritarianism in this country and to reclaim authentic Christianity. Please consider joining us.

The Rev. Dr. James W. Jones ’67 wrote a book on embodiment and the neuropsychology of religious experience which was published this year by Oxford University Press. In September, Living Religion: Embodiment, Theology, and the Possibility of a Spiritual Sense was positively reviewed in the Church Times. He was also recently elected a member of the Society of Ordained Scientists.

The Rev. Dr. Peter Michaelson ’70 has been sailing in Narragansett Bay and attending Zoom meetings with an occasional adventurous liturgical supply.

The Rev. David Jones ’70 has moved back from France to the Santa Cruz, CA area.

The Rev. Steve White ’71 and Nan celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year with a cruise on the Queen Mary 2.

Christopher Lewis ’70 is retired and still in the UK, in Suffolk.

The Rev. W. Raymond Webster, II ’70 is happily retired in Amherst, MA

The Rev. Louis Temme ’70 is in Philadelphia, dealing with pandemic restrictions and activities, such as those are.

The Rev. Tom Faulkner ’74 is still sculpting and preaching in Manhattan, NY.

The Rev. Richard “Doc” Morgan ’70 is more retired than he was, in Westerly, RI.

The Rev. Dr. Kwasi Thornell ’72 joined the staff of the Diocese of Southeast Florida as the Bishops Deputy for Special Ministries. He will oversee anti-racism and racial justice ministries, and also work with ecumenical and interfaith partners. He will also be involved in school ministry.