CALIFORNIA -- As San Francisco Bay Area is known as one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the U.S. in terms of peoples, cultures, and environments -- so do Christian communities. Today, both churches and seminary schools in the bay area of northern California are striving to enhance Christian community as they solidify its multi-cultural environment by engaging in ministry work of community outreach.
For example, American Baptist Seminary of the West located in Berkeley, which is a member school of Graduate Theological Union, is a unique school in a sense that it offers both evangelical and ecumenical experience in teachings.
This year’s main focus of ABSW is to explore reconciliation rather than differences, as the student body of ABSW is growing diverse in culture and ethnicity.
Such reconciliatory efforts are made through encouraging students to take courses that address issues of diversity and partake in community outreach.
During an interview with President Dr. Keith Russell, he said: “Each year, our students are involved in congregation and ministries and explore how to understand the ministries of churches that are different (in diversity). Many of them are actively involved in feeding the homeless, overseeing children’s programs as they a lot of those are part of our churches.”
Pacific School of Religion, located in Berkeley, which is also a member school of GTU, shares similar viewpoints about its student body as ABSW.
According to President Dr. William McKinley, PSR is growing in diversity and is offering various multicultural experiences and opportunities to its students.
Recently PSR has revised its Master of Divinity Curriculum to strengthen PSR’s abilities to train students for effective and transformational leadership in a variety of diverse ministries focusing on the “spiritual and professional” aspect of ministry. Students are encouraged to not only hold a “transformative point of view,” but to actually “be transformative” by putting faith into practice.
Three of its new notable courses include “Organizational Leadership in Church and Community”of Field Education, “Local or Global Cross Cultural Experience” of Cultural Resources for Ministry, and Ministerial Practices for Leadership.
PSR in particular has an active Asian American community, known as the PANA (Pacific and Asian North American) Institute, which is designed to increase the awareness of cultural diversity and to strengthen Christian leadership for Asian American/Pacific Islander communities through various programs such as API Youth Leadership Project and APARRI Conference.
Yesterday, April 15, with the PANA Institute, PSR held exhibit titled “From 1853 to 2003: One Hundred Fifty Years of Witness and Community,” which was the first exhibit of old and new photographs that depict life at the Presbyterian Church in Chinatown of San Francisco over the past fifteen decades.
President McKinley noted the significance of existence of the PANA and explained how PSR students are actively involved in other community outreach works focusing on “work for justice, under-benefited workers at hotel and motel, homeless people, food program in Oakland,” he said.
Churches in San Francisco Bay Area are also vital in its involvement in community outreach. One of the biggest churches in SF, Glide Memorial Methodist Church, strongly focuses on serving the community to fight against poverty, drug abuse, violence, and despair persist in San Francisco.
Their major works include feeding the homeless through their Free Meals Program, supporting families through Glide's Family Services, and empowering churches through Global Ministries.