Contextual Learning Staff

Holbrook 124/125

Rev. Odette Lockwood-Stewart
Instructor in the Practice of Ministry
Director of Field Education and Contextual Learning

Grace Gilliam
Associate Director of Field Education and Contextual Learning

Rev. Marvin Lance Wiser
Temporary Associate Director of Field Education and Contextual Learning

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In our multicultural and multireligious world, effective spiritual leadership requires the kind of understanding, perspective and skill that comes from engagement with diverse communities and contexts for ministry. Contextual learning helps us to see the reciprocal ways that self and culture, social forces, and institutions shape and give meaning to our life together.

PSR’s Contextual Learning Program seeks to provide a link between the seminary and diverse communities throughout the world. We will assist students in developing a process for exposure and critical reflection.

Through contextual learning, we can:

  • Discover the lenses through which we view the world and ourselves
  • Learn how these lenses impact our formation as spiritual leaders
  • Understand and appreciate diverse perspectives and how they might radically differ from our own
  • Develop competency for leadership in multicultural and multireligious communities

Contextual Learning Requirements for M.Div. Students

Contextual Learning at PSR has two components:

  1. Contextual learning within courses. In the classroom, we highlight the connection between theory and praxis by interacting with diverse communities in the Bay Area.
  2. Cross-cultural immersion courses. MDiv students are required to take three (3) credits of contextual/cross-cultural immersion courses before graduation. These courses are offered primarily during January Intersession and are taught by PSR core faculty or approved adjunct faculty. Opportunities for engagement with local communities are offered each year; opportunities for intensive engagement with national or international communities are increasingly offered on a yearly basis. Student travel, board and lodging expenses are supplemented by a scholarship fund and student fundraising. The goal of PSR immersion courses is to avoid theological tourism by forming lasting relationships and partnerships with people, organizations and communities in the host region.

Some immersions will require an Immersion Course Application Form. Note, some limited enrollment immersions may also require a supplemental application from faculty. These will be made available as they are necessitated. 


Contextual Learning at PSR seeks to make it possible for all interested students to engage with immersion courses that stretch their awareness and strengthen their theological and multicultural capacities as leaders and change agents.

Sample immersion courses:

  • Our reoccurring local immersion course, Refuge in the City, led by Bishop Yvette Flunder, allies students with a church that works in the midst of the most marginalized populations in San Francisco and Oakland. Participants engage in on the ground hands-on theological learning as they practice the City of Refuge theology and inner-city model for ministry development.
  • Students have participated in national immersion courses in Washington D.C., looking at issues of justice and how the religious community interacts with the political structure in the U.S. Students and faculty have immersed themselves in issues of immigration and environmental and economic justice at the El Paso/Ciudad Juárez and San Ysidro/Tijuana borders. The immersion to Appalachia focused on faith, health, and economics while the one in New York City afforded students the opportunity to live into the intersection of arts and ministry. PSR national immersions have placed students and faculty in the following areas: New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Manzanar, Phoenix, Santa Fe, Hawaii, Appalachia, St. Louis/Ferguson, U.S./Mexico Borders. A recent course is:
    • #BlackLivesMatter: Bay Area-Ferguson Activism Immersion, July 29 – August 12, 2015, was co-led by PSR faculty Dr. Sharon Fennema and Dr. Osagyefo Sekou in partnership with Eden Theological Seminary. Students participated in Ferguson events surrounding the 1-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, met with local leaders and community activists, and explored local and national dynamics that catalyzed the current protest movement against systemic patterns of brutality and racialization.
  • In past years. PSR delegations have participated in international immersion courses to Israel/Palestine, Jordan, the Samoas, Southeast Asia, Uganda, Rwanda, El Salvador, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico, Taiwan, India, and France. A recent sampling includes:
    • Engaging Communities of Liberation: Cuernavaca, Mexico, August 10-20 2015. This two week immersion developed out of a partnership with CETLALIC, a language school in Cuernavaca, Mexico with deep progressive roots and a passion for a liberating pedagogy, which included language study for ministry, engaging liberation theologies, base communities, women’s groups, LGBTQ communities, and social justice advocates. This course will be offered again during Summer Sessions.
    • Holy Places and Displacements: An Immersion in the Middle East, January 11-23, 2016, was led by PSR faculty Dr. Yii-Jan Lin, and Dr. Peter Makari of UCC/DOC Global Ministries. This immersion course challenged participants to engage holy places, divine inheritance, exile, and displacement both in biblical times and in today’s Middle East.
    • Guatemala: Roots of Migration, January 16-27, 2016, was Led by PSR faculty, Dr. Boyung Lee and PSR President, Dr. David Vásquez-Levy. Changemaker Fellows traveled to Guatemala and were hosted by urban and rural communities, such as Tierra Nueva and Casa del Migrante. This Immersion was in partnership with Iglesias Hermanas (SisterParish) and with NISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala).

Upcoming Immersion Courses

2016 Summer Immersions:


Rev. Dr. David Vásquez-Levy, PSR President
Dr. Hatem Bazian, Zaytuna College co-founder and UC Berkeley Faculty
Dr. Karla Suomala, Professor of Hebrew Bible and Judaism, Luther College

This course will take place in Paris, France and addresses the on-going global migration and refugee crisis readily documentable on the daily news and extensive policy debates at the local, national, and international levels.   At present, the number of people that are on the move from their homeland as immigrants or refugees number over 50 million and are not confined to one region, ethnic, or a religious group but come from populations all over the globe.  This course is open to alumni and friends of PSR. For more detailed info visit this page.


Rev. Dr. Justin Tanis, Managing Director, Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS)
Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, Sr. Pastor, Glide SF

Contextual Learning at PSR and CLGS will again partner with CETLALIC, a language school with deep progressive roots and a passion for a liberating pedagogy. This two week immersion will include language study for ministry and will engage liberation theologies, base communities, women’s groups, LGBTQ communities, and social justice advocates. This immersion will now be offered each summer through partnerships with PSR, CLGS, Glide Church, and Cathedral of Hope. 2016 dates will correspond with Cuernavaca Pride.

Vocare - The Contextual Learning Newsletter