Director of Vocational Discernment
and Community Engagement
It was a full year for the Theological Commons at MTSO. Events new and recurring brought nearly 500 attendees to campus. Our events are carefully designed and selected to follow the newly adopted Theological Commons mission and vision statement:
As a theological school, we believe we are called to share our intellectual resources with the church and the world in numerous ways, through the education of our students and in dialogue with our broader community. We do this in part through the Theological Commons, a learning network built on partnerships of scholarship, inquiry and practice. By offering events, learning resources and continuing conversation, the Theological Commons promotes the sharing of knowledge and experience between students, faculty, clergy and the public for the benefit of all participants and those they serve.
The Theological Commons presented a few spring events I'd like to highlight.
In March, we brought together community nonprofit leaders, pastors, seminarians, MTSO alumni and other members of the public for "Developing Community: A Toolkit for Doing Nonprofit Work." More than 50 people participated in the day-long workshop, with seven presenters offering breakout sessions throughout the day and networking with students over lunch.
Keynoter Rev. John Edgar focused on asset-based community development; Rev. Julia Nielsen presented on sustaining volunteers; Christine Shaw keynoted on writing and managing grants; Robert Caldwell shared on unifying the religious and nonreligious around a common mission; Angela Plummer spoke on the development of a nonprofit from her experience as executive director of the Columbus Refugee and Immigration Services; Chad Hansen gave an instructional presentation on tax law and other nonprofit business aspects; and Claudine Leary talked about overall development practices for nonprofits.
(A new nonprofit conference focusing on community organizing and development is planned for Sept. 19-20. Information is in the story above.)
Another key event highlighted the research of Professor Linda Mercandante on those who consider themselves spiritual but not religious. Dr. Mercadante, who holds the Straker Chair of Historical Theology, offered a free March lecture and signed her new book, Belief without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but not Religious. You can read the introduction of her book here.
An April event highlighted MTSO's commitment to sustainability. We screened the documentary Chasing Ice, which follows National Geographic photographer James Balog and his Extreme Ice Survey to publicize the effects of climate change. The director and some of the production crew were on campus to show the film and lead discussion for faculty, staff and students, with a public showing for more than 60 people in the evening.
The crew discussed ecology and theology with students and enjoyed farm-to-table fare from Seminary Hill Farm, calling it "some of the best food in the Columbus area." The team made DVDs available for all, and many students have shared the work with their congregations or in other small-group settings. For more information about the film or to obtain a DVD for your own personal or congregational use, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To cap off the year, MTSO hosted participants in the Sermons of Wesley Project, through which people of color read the sermons of John Wesley together. The two-day event capped eight months of study, bringing together people from the North Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church for lectures, discussion, reflection and fellowship.
The Sermons of Wesley Project was sponsored by the Theological Commons and the East Ohio Conference Racial-Ethnic Ministries Office. It was funded by the General Commission on Religion and Race.
The Theological Commons is planning another rich and varied slate of events for the upcoming academic year. We hope you'll plan to join us.
Emeritus Professor Paul Minus addresses the class of 2014
Emeritus Professor Paul Minus returned to the MTSO campus May 24 to address the school's 52nd graduating class. His address came 50 years after he and three colleagues were arrested while attempting to accompany two African-American men to Easter services at an all-white Methodist church in Jackson, Miss.
Dr. Minus shared details of that act of civil disobedience, which drew national attention, and discussed how it helped shape MTSO.
After diplomas were awarded, class representatives Randy May and Christina Yost presented the graduates' gift to the school. The class, which chose the theme "Embracing and Cultivating the Winds of Change," contributed to the purchase of a windmill for Seminary Hill Farm. It will soon be erected on a 33-foot tower near the campus pond. The windmill will harness wind power to provide irrigation for a planned orchard and to aerate the pond.
The windmill's 8-foot wheel was temporarily displayed in Dickinson Courtyard during Graduation Weekend, providing a great backdrop for photos and another example of MTSO's commitment to a sustainable world.
Video of the ceremony and photos from a stunningly beautiful graduation day are available here.
As you read this new edition of Campus View, I want you to know how appreciative I am that so many of you engaged the life of the school in so many ways this past year.
I am particularly grateful that you were able to provide financial support for our shared work and mission. At a time when an increasing number of seminaries are experiencing significant financial stress, you are helping us buck that trend.
Gifts to the Methesco’s Greatest Needs and Seminary Scholarship funds totaled $308,371 in the fiscal year that ended June 30, up from $303,994 last year. Total giving for the fiscal year was $1,166,093, up from $925,430 last year. Furthermore, as of June 30, our managed endowment was at its all-time high. The (unaudited) total was $39.4 million.
We currently spend 5.25 percent of the endowment each year. The largest portion of that spending is for student scholarships and aid, which are crucial to our effort to prepare the very best leaders with the least student indebtedness possible.
I rarely use this space to talk in depth about finances, but considering our stable and healthy outlook during a time of real challenge for many seminaries nationwide, I would be remiss if I didn’t stop to express my gratitude.
So, on behalf of those who learn, teach and serve in many ways on our campus, I thank you for your past support and for considering what you might be able to do in the year ahead.
Seminary Hill raises its profile and offers a Summer Share
Seminary Hill Farm is earning accolades well beyond the borders of MTSO’s campus. The July 5 issue of the Columbus Dispatch featured an in-depth story about the USDA-certified organic farm, including interviews with President Jay Rundell, Manager of Farm and Food Tadd Petersen and student Ariel Hively.
The farm also has a new Facebook page full of news and images from a colorful summer season. The week-old page already has almost 300 followers.
This week brings the first pickup in the farm’s Summer Share program. This example of community-supported agriculture offers Summer Share members an opportunity to invest in the farm and then collect a week’s worth of freshly washed and sorted produce every Thursday from July 10 through Sept. 25. There’s still time to sign up before the first pickup, Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. Details are here.
Community Organizing and Development Through Nonprofits
The Theological Commons at MTSO will present “Community Organizing and Development Through Nonprofits” Sept. 19 and 20. Participants will hear enlightening anecdotes and glean valuable nuts-and-bolts advice from successful leaders of both faith-based and non-faith-based nonprofits during this Friday-Saturday event.
Along with the practical knowledge it offers, the event provides a great opportunity for those in nonprofit work to broaden their network of friends and colleagues.
Conference topics include:
Community development and organizing
Nonprofit tax law
Identifying needs: collaborating and building connections in community
Starting a nonprofit, from the basement to the streets
Asset-based community development
Among the presenters is keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Troy Jackson of Ohio Prophetic Voices, the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, and People Invested in Communities Organizing (PICO). Learn more and register here.