Behold! New Things Happen at PSR's Earl Lectures

February 11, 2009

During the climactic final worship of the 2009 Earl Lectures, held January 27-29, the scripture reader asked the question from Ezekiel 37:3, “Mortal, can these bones live?" As the question rang out in the sanctuary—the bones of the former University Christian Church, newly purposed as the Ecumenical Center of Berkeley—the answer was “yes! “ Meeting on Holy Hill for the first time since 1949 added a new vitality to the lectures, which explored the phenomenon of the “Emerging Church”—new expressions of Christianity in the 21st Century. (The Lectures had been held at First Congregational Church of Berkeley since 1950.)

“It felt like our annual family reunion returned home this year,” said PSR president Bill McKinney. “We’re so grateful to First Congregational Church of Berkeley for helping us host this magnificent event for nearly 60 years, but once the space became available it seemed important to renew the connection between the lectures and the PSR campus and student body.”

The theme for the Earl Lectures was “Behold a New Thing,” and new things abounded during the lectures, workshops, and worship services. Services featured Japanese taiko drumming, sacred play, praise and worship from PSR’s growing neo-Pentecostal student contingent, and an invitation to “Twitter” responses on laptops during the service. PSR’s professor of educational ministries Boyung Lee expanded on demographic knowledge of generations X and Y. Davidson College professor Gerardo Marti added expertise on building ethnic and racial diversity in churches. Jay Johnson, senior director for academic research and resources for PSR’s Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, and Richard Lindsay, GTU PhD student in art and religion, previewed their spring 2009 course, Pop Goes Religion, exploring the relationship between religion and popular culture. At the CLGS luncheon, Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, director of the Institute for Welcoming Resources, talked about the intersections of her work for LGBT equality, international human rights, and her call as a UCC minister. Punk evangelist Jay Bakker, son of Jim and Tammy Bakker, discussed the need for grace and welcome to all people as he spoke about his position as pastor of Revolution Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a church that meets in the back room of a bar. And Bruce Reyes-Chow, pastor of Mission Bay Community Church and moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) held forth at a “Theology on Tap” night at La Val’s pizza, just off campus.

“There’s a new energy happening in the Church happening though the various emerging church movements we explored this year,” McKinney said. “We wanted people not just to hear about it or talk about it, but to experience it for themselves.”

During a ceremony at the Bade Museum, the PSR Alumni/ae Council presented its annual Distinguished Alumni/ae Award to graduates who have provided outstanding service in their ministry or profession and shown distinguished leadership in faith communities on a local, regional, or national level. These included a family of remarkable Methodist clergy trained at PSR, James Corson (MDiv ’55), John Corson (MDiv 1960) Richard Corson (MDiv 1970) and Roberta Corson (MDiv 1969); Herb Dimock (MDiv 1943) author of a dozen books; and Lynice Pinkard (MDiv/MA ‘98) senior pastor of First Congregational Church of Oakland.

"’Inspired and energized’ is what I'm hearing from many, many people on campus after this year’s Lectures,” said Mary Donovan Turner, vice president for academic affairs. “The staff at PSR worked very hard to ready the campus and prepare for visitors which created an air of hospitality and welcome for alums, pastors, and church members from around the country, and we couldn’t be prouder of how things came off.”

For more information on this year’s Earl Lectures, as well as archives on past lectures, see: