Wednesday, January 11, 2017

“It is Well with My Soul”: A Journey of Grief and Faith

In this powerful reflection ESR MDiv student Anne M. Hutchinson shares about the loss of her son. 


Everything about that phone call felt wrong, even before I answered. It had started as an ordinary evening in April. I was in an empty classroom preparing for an English as a Second Language class that I was subbing for, when my phone rang, with an unknown number showing up on the caller ID. It was my son’s stepmother, and she quickly put my son’s father on. He said starkly, without any preliminaries, “Your son is dead.” My son? Not our son? When had he become exclusively “my” son? Almost mechanically, I asked the requisite questions: how did it happen, when would the funeral be. My ex said he had just come from the coroner’s office and was too upset to talk any more. My son had taken his own life at the age of 27.
Trying to take it in, I called my sister and a close friend to let them know. It was too late to cancel class. The students would be arriving within the half hour. Somehow, through the shock, I finished my preparations and greeted the students as they arrived. The subject was spring, which would begin in a few days. In a numb state, I put on my bravest face and got through the session. I invited the students to generate English words about spring: flowers, seeds being planted, rain, frogs—of all things. From the words, they created sentences to practice vocabulary and verb forms. They worked in their textbooks in small groups, as usual. Finally, time was up and I sent them home.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

New student introduction: Keelin Anderson

We have a number of new students joining us for our spring semester during the 2016-17 academic year. We're excited to introduce to you one of these - Keelin Anderson, who is an MDiv Access student from Portland, Oregon. She shares some thoughts on coming to ESR below:




Hello to the ESR community! My name is Keelin Anderson and I live in the paradise that is Portland, OR. Everything you have heard about Portlandia is true. Not only can I have hot soup and a new mattress delivered by bike to my home, I can also have my Christmas tree delivered petroleum free (well, at least the last mile of delivery). It snowed an inch yesterday which, though rare, completely shuts down the town. Also, I am laid up with a sore knee. So, I have all of the perfect excuses to lounge on the couch and write this hello…

I come to ESR with the hope that I will be able to work at my edge more fully academically and spiritually. My route here has been convoluted (though I am sure to God’s eye it looks strait as rain). I was raised without religion. I had no interest in God until my late twenties. At that time I took up meditation to manage symptoms left over from an abusive childhood. Meditation broke me open to a whole new worldview. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Transgender Day of Remembrance

ESR MDiv student Anthony Kirk delivered the following message during Joint Bethany/ESR Worship on November 18, 2016:


Being transgender in America is a dangerous, lonely, and isolating existence. We are denied safe spaces. We are denied equal treatment and protections under the law. We are not given adequate medical treatment. We are even denied a place to use the bathroom.
          We have been butchered at the hands of politicians, congregations, medical professionals, counselors, by gay and lesbian people, our families… Our lives have been dismissed as not real. That we are simply mentally disturbed. We can have the “dysphoria” beaten out of us, verbally, emotionally, physically. We are left for dead. We are drowning in pain and sorrow. We are murdered at alarming rates. 41% of us attempt suicide.
          2016 has been a painful reminder to me and to my community at just how vulnerable we are at the hands of our society. This year boasts the highest rate of transgender murders—mostly transwomen of color—and the year is not yet over. My siblings of God are calling suicide hotlines more than previously reported. After the election last week the levels skyrocketed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

ESR student Chris Duff: First reflections on studying in South Korea

ESR MDiv student Chris Duff is spending Fall Semester abroad - studying in Seoul, South Korea thanks to an exchange program partnership between ESR and Hanshin University Graduate School of Theology. In the spring, Chris will return to Richmond along with two students who will join us at ESR from Hanshin. Below are some of Chris's initial reflections on his time there:

(Chris, 3rd from left, with fellow classmates)


I’ve been here in South Korea for the past two and a half months attending the Hanshin University Graduate School of Theology as a part of a student exchange. The life of a student here in Korea is really no different than it is in the United States: lots of paper writing, replacing blood in your veins with coffee, and an unhealthy lack of sleep. However, an added benefit is being able to witness a unique blending of culture and religion that we often don’t get to see in the west.

Korea is a country with a long history and diverse religious landscape. Shamanism was for the longest time the dominant religion in the country, and over the course of time Buddhism, Confucianism, and, in the past century, Christianity have made their marks on the culture and society of the country. Around 30% of Koreans are Christian, a little less than 25% are Buddhist, and the remaining are generally non-religious with small groups of other religions mixed in here and there.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Why Not Preach Philemon?

ESR's Stephen Angell delivered the following message during worship on September 6, 2016:

Although Paul’s epistle to Philemon is one of the Scriptural texts suggested by the Revised Common Lectionary for this week, I have never heard a sermon given on this text. This provoked me to think about what I, or the broader Christian church, might be missing by not hearing more sermons on Philemon.
Charles Colcock Jones [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
The evangelical Presbyterian Charles Colcock Jones (1804-1863) was, according to American National Biography Online, “a wealthy planter … best known during his lifetime as a tireless worker for the evangelization of African-American slaves. … Hundreds [of slaves] joined one of his churches [in Liberty County, near the Georgia sea coast.] … Though he was frequently sought out for advice and counsel, slaves never forgot that Jones was a slaveholder and their response was always filtered through that reality.”
Once, possibly in the 1830s or 1840s, Jones chose the text of Philemon for his open air church service for slaves. This choice of text did not inspire a favorable response from his audience. According to Jones (as recorded in his diary), “When I insisted on fidelity and obedience as Christian virtues in servants and, upon the authority of Paul, condemned the practice of running away, one half of my audience deliberately rose up and walked off with themselves, and those who remained looked anything but satisfied, either with the preacher or his doctrine. After dismission, there was no small stir among them; some solemnly declared that there was no such Epistle in the Bible; others, that they did not care if they ever heard me preach again.”
(That’s questionable exegesis – Paul uses the word “obedience” once in this epistle, in verse 21, and it is applied to Philemon. Paul is hoping for Philemon’s obedience. He mentions nothing about Onesimus’ obedience.)


Thursday, August 25, 2016

North Carolina Yearly Meeting: An ESR Visitor’s Standpoint

ESR's Steve Angell attended this summer's annual sessions of North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM), and shares his reflection on the gathering:



In separate conversations, two F(f)riends that I have known for a long time, Brent McKinney and Billy Britt, greeted me warmly and welcomed me back to North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Friends United Meeting), meeting at Caraway Conference Center in Sophia, North Carolina this month (Eighth Month, 2016). I was delighted to receive their welcome. But, in all honesty, I had to admit that they couldn’t welcome me “back,” because I was attending North Carolina Yearly Meeting for the first time! Both Brent and Billy were astonished. Hadn’t they each been in many meetings with me over the years? I agreed that it was so, but this was still my first time visiting with them in North Carolina. So, with gratitude for the wonderful hospitality of Brent, Billy and many others, and even though I bring something of a practiced Friend’s eye to the occasion, these are still the reflections of a newcomer to NCYM (FUM).

Monday, May 9, 2016

A graduation farewell from Danny Coleman, MA '16

Hello friends,

I regret that I won't be able to attend graduation in Richmond.  Sadly, travel cost considerations from Seattle--coupled with my job responsibilities--made it unfeasible.  Although the total amount of time I spent "in person" at ESR was relatively brief, I do feel a strong connection and I hope to visit in the future.  I very much appreciate that I was able to "attend" the Baccalaureate Dinner and Service remotely via Adobe Connect.  Thanks for making that possible.

I want to thank each of you for your instruction, guidance, support and encouragement during my time as a student at ESR.  Attending seminary and earning a Master's degree was a dream that I nursed for many years before way opened for it to come about.

When I was awarded the Nancy Kortepeter Mullen Scholarship for 2013-14, it was a tremendous affirmation and confirmation and inspiration.  I recall sharing the news with my wife and we wept tears of joy together.  Receiving the scholarship had a significant impact on our lives and marked a major crossroad.  There is a story in the biblical book of Joshua, chapter 4, in which the Israelites--having crossed the Jordan river--set up "standing stones" to serve as a visible reminder of their miraculous journey.  After receiving the scholarship I decided that if I managed to graduate I would likewise make a token of remembrance--something I could look upon all of my days to remind me of what God has done in and for me at ESR and of the many kindnesses extended to me there.

Attached is a photo of my remembrance.  The text reads "Fides quaerens intellectum," which was the motto of Anselm of Canterbury, and translates as "Faith seeking understanding."  Already, in the short time I've had it, it has provided opportunities to tell people about my experiences at ESR.  



And so, friends, my thanks and best wishes to you.  

-Danny