Inauguration Overview

“The Real Presence of Christ in the 21st Century”
Feb. 10-11, 2012

Long before the inauguration of Rev. Dr. James L. McDonald as 11th president of San Francisco Theological Seminary, the former director of Bread for the World promised that his inaugural celebration would be “festive and fun.” The more than 500 people who gathered in San Anselmo Feb. 10-11 for Inauguration Weekend not only helped McDonald celebrate, but they were inspired by lectures, worship and fellowship.

McDonald’s inauguration address on Feb. 11 at First Presbyterian Church, San Anselmo, was titled “The Real Presence of Christ in the 21st Century.” McDonald called on those in attendance to seek justice, continuing a long tradition of service by the SFTS community. "Compassion is the essence of the people God created us to be," he said.

Rev. Dr. Dean McDonald, the president’s wife, helped set the tone for the weekend by preaching at Community Worship on Feb. 10. Among her many experiences, Dean McDonald directed the College of Preachers at Washington National Cathedral for five years and was a frequent preacher and worship leader in the Cathedral’s services.  

After community lunch on Feb. 10, noted journalist and best-selling author Keith Boykin gave a keynote speech as part of the Inauguration Symposium. Boykin is a CNBC political commentator and social justice advocate who attended law school with President Barack Obama.  Boykin’s rousing address brought attendees to their feet as they stood in ovation after his hour-long speech.

In addition to Boykin, the Inauguration Symposium panel included Mike McCurry, partner at Public Strategies Washington, Inc., and former press secretary for President Bill Clinton. Dr. Daniel Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools, also participated as well as Dr. Heidi Hadsell, president of Hartford Seminary, and Rev. Dr. Martha Taylor, SFTS adjunct professor and Christian leadership facilitator.

The Inauguration Symposium was one of several occasions when people of faith offered reflective thoughts on the Inauguration theme of “Faith and Public Life.” Others who participated in the weekend events included Chris Rhodes, representing the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Mission Council, President McDonald’s former pastor, Rev. Dr. Roy Howard of Saint Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Rockville, Md., and Dr. James Donahue, president of the Graduate Theological Union.

Representing Bread for the World, the Washington, D.C., nonprofit where President McDonald worked for 13 years, were Ricardo Moreno (M.Div. ’02) and Adlai Amor, a new member of the SFTS board of trustees. Proceeds from the Inauguration Service offering went toward Bread and the Marin and San Francisco Food Banks.

The town of San Anselmo was represented by Mayor Tom McInerney and The Very Reverend Archpriest Stephen Meholick of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church. Among the SFTS Board of Trustees members participating in the Inauguration Service were Rev. Dr. Joanne Whitt, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, San Anselmo, Peter van Bever, board chair, and Jan Doak, chair of the presidential search committee. Current and former SFTS faculty members who spoke during the Inauguration Service were Dr. Elizabeth Liebert, dean of the seminary, Rev. Dr. Eugene Park and Rev. Dr. Marvin Chaney.

U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who represents California’s 9th Congressional District that includes the city of Oakland, could not attend but offered a heartfelt letter of support that was read during the inauguration ceremony.
Music was a key part of Inauguration Weekend, featuring a concert by the Cyrus Chestnut Trio on Feb. 10 at First Presbyterian Church, San Anselmo. Then during the Inauguration Service on Feb. 11, there were performances by the Allen Temple Men’s Chorus of Oakland, the SFTS Korean Student Singers and the SFTS Seminary Singers.

Following the Inauguration Service, a reception was held at Alexander Hall on the SFTS campus. As the crowd began to dwindle, President McDonald jammed on his flute with a local jazz ensemble, marking a festive and pleasantly unexpected note to close a historic weekend for the SFTS community.


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