Dear Friends of ULS:
Today is Juneteenth, the commemoration of the day that Texas slaves were freed in 1865 - two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
The campuses of United Lutheran Seminary will be closed today and every Juneteenth hereafter so that the community can mark this occasion with the hope and solemnity to which we are called. I pray you also will find some time to ponder the meaning of freedom, in both the theological and civil definitions of the term.
Our seminary’s two campuses are uniquely situated at the crossroads of history and hope. In Philadelphia, the idea of freedom and equality was conceived not too far from our Mt. Airy campus in Independence Hall, albeit by white men, many of whom owned slaves. In Gettysburg, that idea of freedom was paid for in blood by the Union soldiers who died fighting in the shadow of our campus buildings and by the hundreds of free Black people captured by the invading army and sold into slavery. It would be remiss to not also mention the thousands of slaves forced to serve the rebel army, placed in harm’s way to remove the dying and wounded in the wake of the battle. Memory and truth are commingled in our school’s historical narrative. On days like today, we are called to remember, listen, reflect and pray.
Consider this quote from author bell hooks (she deliberately spells her name in lowercase letters): “Fundamentally, we are called to choose between a memory that justifies and privileges domination, oppression, and exploitation, and one that affirms reciprocity, community, and mutuality. …we can remember and reshape paradigms of human bonding that emphasize the increased capacity of folks to care for the earth and for one another. That memory can restore our faith and renew our hope” (hooks, Outlaw Culture, p. 203).
Jesus calls us to remember, to proclaim the Gospel truth of reciprocity, community, and mutuality. I invite you to join me in this process of recalling memory and proclaiming the radical truth of freedom in Christ in, with, and under our communities. We are not yet where God intends us to be. As a white person who unwittingly lived in privilege for so much of my life (and continues to struggle with the privilege in which I live), I am humbled by these truths, and called to lament and repent of those times when I was complicit in furthering the systems that oppress and exploit. I am grateful for my Black friends and colleagues who are patient and caring in my learning process. Both Martin and I realize that every opportunity for cross-racial conversation and reconciliation we experience is a gift of God’s grace from a community that owes us nothing.
I invite those of you who define yourselves as white folks to join with me in learning and loving across the racial divides that society has placed on us. A good place to start is by exploring the website of the African Descent Lutheran Association. There are also resources at the Metro New York Synod website authored by one of our D.Min. students, the Rev. Linda Bell. I am deeply grateful to my Black siblings whose freedom and suffering is bound up with our own as the result of the baptismal covenant we share. Thanks be to God for your patience, your faith, and your resilience!
Faculty/Staff transitions, COVID announcements, Chapel Restructure
President-elect Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin will begin in his position August 1. Under Bishop Erwin’s leadership, by the grace of God, ULS is well-positioned and re-energized for moving forward into a faithful future. I very much look forward to serving in ministry with him. For anyone who did not get a chance to read the announcement, it is available here.
After serving as your interim president since last December, I’ll be returning to my former position as Vice President for Institutional Advancement, rejoining a dedicated team of staff, and teaching several Preaching courses over the next few semesters, as well. I know I’ll be talking to many of you in the coming months and hopefully seeing you in person sometime soon.
I am pleased to report that the Board of Trustees promoted Dr. Vincent Evener to the rank of Associate Professor with tenure and voted a three-year extension to the contract of Dr. Crystal Hall, who is on the tenure track. Both are effective July 1.
After much prayerful discussion and research, the COVID-19 Task Force has recommended that August intensives be held online. Considering students come from other states during intensives, coupled with the data showing an increase in cases since some states started to re-open, we believe this to be the wisest decision in this season. Students, staff and faculty were notified. In addition, we will make a decision regarding fall classes (including October intensives) by July 1. That information will be shared with the ULS community.
As I previously shared with you, Dean of the Gettysburg Chapel, Rev. Dr. John Largen, has announced his retirement as of June 30. Please join me again in thanking Dr. Largen for his years of dedicated service and ministry to ULS. We wish him the very best in all future endeavors.
With Dr. Largen’s departure, ULS has restructured Chapel for the 2020-2021 academic year, effective July 1, 2020. I am very pleased to announce that Rev. Dr. Charles Leonard will be the Dean of Worship Life, United Lutheran Seminary. Rev. Terrence McCarthy will be Pastoral Presence, Gettysburg/DL and Coordinator of Worship Life. Rev. Gwendolyn King will be Pastoral Presence, Philadelphia/DL and Coordinator of Worship Life. Those students now called Sacristans will be referred to as Student Assistants for Worship Life. For August intensives (online), there will be one weekly online ZOOM worship, held on Wednesday. Details will be forthcoming. Once a determination regarding fall classes is announced, more information will be available regarding worship services.
The next newsletter will be forthcoming on July 17th. Until then, stay safe and know that you are loved.
Rev. Angela Zimmann, Ph.D., CFRE
United Lutheran Seminary
Gettysburg + Philadelphia
President, United Lutheran Seminary Endowment Foundation
Adjunct Professor of Homiletics