Monday, June 18, 2018

Samantha Hasty: Seeing Hope in the Hopeless

ESR MDiv graduate Samantha Hasty offers the following reflection on her recent travel as part of ESR's Contextual Theology Intensive to Cuba May 20th-28th, 2018:

Time and again during our eight days in Cuba, we saw hope. There was never not hope there. I do not know why it was so surprising to me. Hope is a core belief of who I am, yet I could not stop myself from loving the shock and aww I felt over and over as each day we met a new person with endless amounts of hope for Cuba. I grew up thinking the worst about Cuba. I was taught it was led by an evil man with evil plans and filled with evil people because they would choose to stay there. The only people there we ever felt compassion for (at least in my childlike understanding of the Cuban existence) was the ones we heard about trying to escape such as the family of Elian Gonzalez in 2000. I can now say that I have spent time on the other side of this conversation, and in the words of my beloved Professor at ESR (Rev. Dr. Nancy Bowen), “it is complicated.” Indeed, it is complicated. On our American side, we have been given only our side of the story, and in Cuba they have been given theirs. My mother always taught me there are three sides to a story: yours, mine, and the truth. Somewhere in the middle of both our sides of propaganda and experience, there is truth; there is hope.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Keelin Anderson: Highlights from the 2018 ESR Contextual Theology Intensive to Cuba

ESR MDiv student Keelin Anderson offers the following on her recent travel as part of ESR's Contextual Theology Intensive to Cuba May 20th-28th, 2018:

Living in Cuba

My dorm room in the Centro Martin Luther King (CMLK) in Marianao, Havana, was surprisingly comfortable, with AC and a bathroom with shower. Things do not work the same in Havana as in Portland, OR, where I live. Due to the US Blockade of trade with Cuba, Cubans have limited access to many basic aspects of life that I take for granted. Most of the toilets we found did not have seats, presumably because they wore out 20 years ago and could not be replaced. At times we had to go without napkins and toilet paper. The water is not as clean as in the US. We were told to avoid consuming the water (including ice in beverages, teeth brushing, and fresh veggies or fruit). This was not only impossible to do, but confusing as we were told everywhere we went that the water and food was safe. I think most of us got sick at some point during the week, a few severely.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

New Student Introduction: Brown Mujete

We are excited to begin introducing to you some of our incoming students for the fall 2018-19 entering class. Our first introduction is from Brown Mujete, who joins us as an MA International Cooper Scholar from Kenya. He shares some thoughts on coming to ESR below:

I was born and bred in the western province of Kenya to Christian parents and pastors in the Friends Church Quakers. I’m the third born in a family of four; a brother and two sisters. I schooled in northern Kenya (Turkana County) for both my primary and secondary education where I met and accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior.

After high school, I joined Friends Theological College – Kaimosi in 2006 to pursue a Diploma in Theology which is my passion. While in Kaimosi, I served as a chaplain and a pastor to various schools and churches. In 2009 I moved to Lodwar where I served under Pastor John Moru as the youth pastor in Lodwar Monthly Meeting Turkana County.

I later joined St. Paul’s University – Limuru – Kenya for a bachelor of divinity program and graduated in 2012. My ministerial passion is teaching and preaching the gospel, serving with the elderly people, mentally challenged and people with various disabilities. I like listening to people with various challenges, praying with them and offering myself to help where possible.

In December 2015 I got married to Petra at a colorful church wedding at Eldoret Town Village Meeting. We are foster parents to baby Alexis Judy (18 Months old) whom we took in when she was 2 months old after her mother requested us to do it since she was a student and unable to fend for her. On 23rd March 2018 God blessed us with a baby Boy Drake Jeremy.

Petra is pursuing a diploma in finance and accounting at the moment graduating in November 2018. Our dream is to develop a home for the elderly and people with psychological disorders in western Kenya.

We looking forward to joining ESR to learn and gain new experience from friends for the betterment of the ministry we have been called to. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

God in the Checkout Line

ESR MDiv student Keelin Anderson prepared the following essay for the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference  coming up June 6-10, 2018, in Canby Grove, Oregon: 

            I am currently staying for a few months in a small town called Richmond in rural Indiana. Unlike my neighborhood in Portland, OR, there is no Whole Foods here, no organic kale, no unbleached toilet paper, no vegan deli, and few who could afford these things if they were available. The local grocery store does a find job, but they do not have the staff to rush to open a new cash register when the line gets longer than two customers.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Practicing Mysticism in the World

ESR Board of Advisors Clerk Dwight L. Wilson delivered the following message during ESR worship on Thursday, March 22, 2018:
Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, Robert Walter Weir

Jesus was my first hero. I expect him to also be my last. One of my favorite stories is of him in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, "If it's possible, remove this cup." We don't read the answer; it is implied. This is almost universally true in the Gospels. Jesus prays. By his actions we learn the answer.
I write modern psalms directed to the Holy One. I am a mystic who, like Jesus, receives my answers in organic surround sound. From the Spiritual Source I act out my response. This has been true since in nearby Middletown, Ohio I became both the first conscientious objector I had ever met and the first black protester I knew to take complaining to the streets. From the activation of spirituality I am happy to say I have photos of my three young grandchildren demonstrating separately at multiple sights in California and Kansas. One person is an aberration. A second generation is a trend. A third generation is a family tradition. As Jesus' brother said, "Faith without works is dead."

Monday, March 5, 2018

When God is calling

ESR MDiv student Keelin Anderson delivered the following message during ESR worship on Friday, March 2, 2018:

Luke 9: 1-6 NRSV

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

Luke 9: 57-62 NRSVAs they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

In our readings today, Jesus doesn’t pitch discipleship very well. He basically tells us that if you follow him you will be barefoot, hungry, homeless, and alienated from your family and your former way of life. So, I ask you, what are you all doing here contemplating seminary?

I joke here, but Jesus is saying his call is not an easy one. There will be people in your life who will not understand. There will be habits and assumptions of your own you will have to leave behind. God is calling for an ongoing radical transformation in your way of being in the world. Not everything and everyone in your life is going to come along with you.

Three years ago I was minding my own business, walking home from a yoga class in my neighborhood in Portland, OR, when an idea popped into my head. “Go find out what it takes to become a hospital chaplain,” it said. I had been a nurse and a massage therapist, so in a way this made sense, but I had never had a religion. I was raised by divorced parents, my mother a scientist and atheist, my father, a psychiatrist who during my teen years, lived in a cult that followed the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Religion at the least was suspect, at the most, dangerous.

I had come to my own sense of God in my late twenties through meditation, a practice I mostly did by myself. It had never occurred to me to do religion with other people. My sense of religious people came from American media. Throughout the world people were fighting wars in religion’s name. At home, “Christian family values” meant homophobia and misogyny. As far as I could see, religious people wanted either to control me or kill me. Now God wanted me to get an MDiv?

And here I am three years later giving a sermon! I have not made a dime since I began school. I have abandoned my husband and two cats alone at home in Portland for this Spring Term. I have discovered I am a Quaker. I am learning to appreciate that there is something to this “gathering together in Jesus’s name.” I feel more able than ever to express my true self and allow God to move through me, and, I have to work constantly on my faith and courage. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Jephthah’s daughter then and now

The other day, after grading a set of Intro to Old Testament Studies papers, I posted on Facebook, “It’s a good day when you learn new things about how to read well known texts from your students.” This post by ESR M.Div. Access student Nikki Holland is one of the papers I learned from. The assignment was to write about what you would say about one of the women from Joshua and Judges for an adult Bible Study group. Nikki chose to write on Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11:29-40). I invite you to read what Nikki’s response. I hope you find it as illuminating as I did.
 - Nancy R. Bowen (Professor of Old Testament)

From the surface, the story in Judges 11:29-40 seems foreign and weird to us. A man makes a foolish vow and keeps it, though it results in the death of his daughter; and what is maybe more astonishing, she participates. But with a close examination of this story, we can see several themes that echo through our lives today.

1)      Victim blaming
   Upon realizing that he has vowed to sacrifice his own daughter (hereafter called “Daughter”), Jephthah lays the blame immediately on her head. “You have brought me very low,” he says. “You have become the cause of great trouble to me” (Judges 11:35). He explains that he has made a vow, but the emphasis is on her culpability. Never mind that he made a foolish vow and she was simply fulfilling her role as a faithful daughter in celebrating his victory.[1] Jephthah deflects blame from himself onto Daughter. I hear echoes of his words in my own generation, “Look what you made me do…” and “Well, you shouldn’t have been in that place anyways."