chimes.sum2013.web0729 - page 4

SFTS CHIMES | Summer 2013
“As it is, there are many members, yet one body.”
— 1 Corinthians 12:20
Dear Friends,
he graduating class of 2013 chose 1 Corin-
thians 12 as one of the Scripture readings
for Baccalaureate: many members, one body.
Class members selected this text in part because of
the strong bonds they have formed during their time
at San Francisco Theological Seminary. As an SFTS
alumna still close to my own classmates, I deeply ap-
preciate this sentiment of kinship and connection.
As our current graduates step off this beautiful hill
and out into the world, these bonds will be especially
important for them. They face substantial challenges
as they become leaders in the church. Statistics from
the Presbyterian Church (USA) website state that the
denomination experienced a 21.7% decline in mem-
bership from 2001 to 2011. The Church Leadership
Connection lists 137 first-call positions available in
the PC(USA), while nearly three times that many
seminary graduates are looking for their first ordain-
able call. As director of enrollment for SFTS, I am
sometimes asked why anybody would go to seminary
in light of these facts.
Why indeed?
In my ministry with prospective and current SFTS
students, I have become convinced that God is call-
ing a new kind of leader for a new church. At a time
when parish positions decrease in mainline churches,
I see more and more students entering seminary to
minister outside of traditional ecclesiastical settings.
Today, many students come to SFTS sensing a call
to serve as chaplains in a hospital, hospice, or branch
of the military. Others hope to work in education
as teachers or spiritual counselors. Still others plan
to serve in faith-based nonprofit organizations or to
establish nonprofits themselves.
For those who do wish to serve in a congregation,
their dream worshiping community may look very
different than the one in which they were raised.
How about church in a coffee shop or in an art gal-
lery, or even in a brewery? With movements such as
the PC(USA)’s 1001 NewWorshiping Communities,
seminary graduates can find support to do something
truly new, not just in the church but in the broader
world. They can help cultivate communities of faith
that bring the gospel to those outside the walls of our
too often sparsely filled church buildings.
I don’t think this upswing in nontraditional calls is
happenstance. I believe the Holy Spirit is moving in
and through our current and future students to guide
the church in a new direction: one in which we move
beyond the familiar constructs of our known church
entities. Smart, passionate, gifted and capable, our
graduates are ready to be Christ’s hands, feet, eyes,
and ears in the world. And they are willing to em-
brace the vulnerability of Christian vocation in a time
when they will have to blaze their own trails.
San Francisco Theological Seminary is also listen-
ing to this leading of the Holy Spirit. As we continue
to discern our calling as a seminary, we are prepared
to meet the educational needs of these new and fu-
ture faith leaders. We are also committed to looking
beyond the majestic walls of our hilltop castles to the
changing needs of the church and the world. It is
truly an exciting time to be a part of this seminary
community and to witness how God is moving in
our midst.
So why are people still coming to seminary? Be-
cause God is still calling people here. Just as 1 Corin-
thians 12 describes, God is still appointing apostles,
prophets, and teachers. God is still beckoning those
who will do deeds of power or who have gifts of heal-
ing. God is still empowering those who will help,
lead, and speak with various tongues. The Body of
Christ is still on the move!
Grace and peace to you,
Rev. Elizabeth McCord
Director of Enrollment
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