Certificate of Spirituality and Social Change (CSSC)

Envisioning a world of abundance where all can thrive and flourish has inspired biblical prophets and spiritual leaders for many centuries. This vision calls individuals and communities to the work of social transformation across multiple, overlapping concerns, from race and ethnicity to economic and social policy, from gender and sexuality to environmental sustainability.

Today the complex cultural and political landscape in the United States and around the world demands bold approaches and innovative strategies for transformative social action. North Atlantic societies are witnessing profound demographic shifts in the midst of dizzying advances in technology, economic uncertainties, and emerging ecological crises. These challenges present compelling opportunities for collaboration among non-profit organizations, social innovators, and faith communities for a transformed world.

PSR’s Certificate of Spirituality and Social Change (CSSC) offers specialized training for those opportunities in the work of social changemaking. Participants come from and prepare for a wide range of socially innovative vocational paths, whether social justice advocacy, community organizing, the visual and performing arts, or congregational leadership. In each of these arenas, transformative work calls for a deep spiritual grounding in a process of mutual learning and empowerment. To that end, the CSSC program combines these key elements for participants:

  • Spiritual formation and theological reflection in a cohort of changemakers;
  • Leadership skills for critically constructive social analysis;
  • Immersive learning and practice with experienced mentors.

The CSSC program welcomes those who are already engaged in social change as well as those eager to embark on this vocational path. Participants can complete the certificate as a stand-alone program, add the certificate to the MDiv or MTS programs, or apply some of the certificate credits to the new PSR Master of Arts degree in Social Transformation (MAST). Flexible learning options (online and hybrid courses, summer and January term intensives, weekend workshops and seminars) enable students to earn this degree part-time and with minimal residency requirements while still participating in a vibrant cohort of colleagues.

Courses, seminars, and workshops for the CSSC are offered by regular and adjunct faculty at Pacific School of Religion and the Graduate Theological Union as well as partner schools and organizations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to regularly offered required courses, electives and immersion opportunities are designed and arranged through PSR’s Center for Spiritual and Social Transformation (CSST) and the Director of the CSSC program. Many of these courses and modules are offered in the evenings, on weekends, or online, which allows participants to continue working in their places of employment and bring that experience with them into the program.

All of these offerings are rooted in a praxis/reflection model of education and CSSC participants are expected to be engaged in a form of social changemaking work under the direction of a mentor from the very beginning of the program. Opportunities for spiritual formation in community, including retreats, are also available and CSSC students are expected to be engaged in some form of communal spiritual practice related to their work. The goals throughout all of these programmatic activities include:

  • Understanding and participating in a variety of spiritual practices to inform and sustain the work of social transformation;
  • Honing the capacity for cultural and political analysis while reflecting theologically on social change;
  • Recruiting and equipping faith communities for collaborative partnerships in programs devoted to systemic social change;
  • Evaluating and appropriating diverse strategies for changemaking drawn from the worlds of social innovation, non-profit organizations, and grass-roots community organizing.
  • Developing skills for transformative leadership to build networks committed to the work of social and economic justice.

Course Requirements for the CSSC

Certificate program participants complete course work equal to 21 credit hours through regularly offered classes, intensive seminars, weekend workshops, and mentor-led field work or immersions. The program can be completed in one academic year and participants have a maximum of three years to finish the requirements. Two required seminars and a field work placement constitute the core of the program, which is supplemented with elective courses, seminars, and workshops.

One-on-one intake interviews are required for the students accepted into the CSSC program. The Director of the CSSC works with each participant to draft a plan for completing the program based on the participant’s interests, faculty resources, and available social change mentors.

Required Seminars (6 credits)

Participants are expected to enroll in two required seminars offered each academic year to develop cohort relationships and provide a framework for vocations engaged in social transformation:

1. Spirituality and Social Change (3.0 credits, usually offered in the fall semester)
is co-taught by PSR faculty and social changemakers from around the San Francisco Bay Area. This seminar offers tools for and grounding in critical social analysis, theological reflection, and spiritual practice.

2. Transformational Leadership (3.0 credits, usually offered in the spring semester) surveys and develops the knowledge and skills needed to lead organizations, communities, and movements of social change. PSR faculty and social change leaders from the wider community present the diversity of approaches to this kind of leadership and methods for effective social transformation.

Mentor-Led Field Work/Immersions (6 credits)

In consultation with the Director of the CSSC program, participants choose a broad sector or area of interest with which to focus their work (such as economics, ecology, social justice) and are paired with a mentor active in that field. Participants work closely with that mentor throughout the program. Those already working in some area of social changemaking may apply to have that work count toward these required credit hours for the program. In some cases, a participant may choose to combine a series of immersive learning/internship experiences for this requirement. Participants enroll in two courses to earn the required 6.0 credits in this area:

1. Social Change Field Work I (3.0 credits)
Participants collaborate with each other, the faculty instructor, and their mentors to draft learning objectives and establish criteria for assessing the outcomes of their field work and immersion experiences. Participants meet together in person three times during the semester and provide regular progress reports online through a dedicated website.

2. Social Change Field Work II (3.0 credits)
Participants will submit a final project in this course (such as a vocational plan, a social venture proposal, an educational module for community organizing, among others) based on their field work/immersion experiences geared toward a specific area of social change. Draft iterations of the project are submitted online throughout the semester for feedback from colleagues, mentors, and the faculty instructor. The class meets in person at the end of the semester to present their final projects and solicit observations and proposals for next steps.

Elective Courses, Seminars, and Workshops (9 credits)

A variety of regular PSR courses are offered each academic year that can meet these elective requirements. In addition, special lectures and topical workshops (both on and off the PSR campus) can be combined for academic credit by enrolling in the “Social Change Intensives” course. The Director of the CSSC program maintains a listing of these occasional offerings and works with participants to draft a plan for earning these elective credit hours.

Academic Program Manual for the CSSC

Program Manual 2014-2015 (pending)

Other CSSC forms

CSSC worksheet for 2014-2015 (pending)

CSSC Course Offerings for 2014-2015


For more information on how to apply for the CSR, consult the Admissions Information and Requirements chart and contact Admissions.