CST Travels: Summer Conference Season
Claremont School of Theology representatives have been traveling across the country this summer to attend a variety of denominational summer conferences, spreading the news of CST and supporting our students, faculty, and alumni/ae as they are involved in the life of the church.
On June 5-6, President Kuan, along with Noemi Ortega, our Director of Alumni/ae Relations, and Lorraine Ceniceros, our Administrative Coordinator for Advancement, represented CST at the United Church of Christ Southern California Nevada Regional Assembly, based on the theme of “Unexpected Journeys,” which was held at Chapman University in Orange, CA. CST had a booth and also hosted an Alumni/ae and Friends Breakfast at the Filling Station Café, a chance to mingle with CST alumni/ae and others connected to our school.
The next stop was the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church on the theme of “Restoring the Sacred Circle,” held from June 11-13 in Salem, Oregon. President Kuan and Noemi Ortega hosted an Alumni/ae and Friends Lunch there as well. Along with electing General and Jurisdictional delegates, the Annual Conference also voted to send petitions to General Conference recommending divestment in companies that support Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands and recommending divesting in fossil fuels.
At the same time, on June 11-14 in the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church took place. The conference was centered on the theme of “Cultivating the Tree of Life: Renewal of Creation,” which focused on stewardship of the earth and “being green.” CST hosted an Alumni/ae & Friends Breakfast and had the joy of seeing one of our new alumna, A.J. Bush, be commissioned as a provisional Elder.
A.J. said of the experience, “The most meaningful part of conference for me was standing in front of the entire annual conference during the passing of the mantel service between retiring clergy and those being commissioned or ordained. Standing there, looking out over the sea of faces, I felt this strong sense that I was being entrusted with the responsibility of leading these people, this church, into the future. In the background the music of a song floated above us with the words ‘You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of us,’ repeating again and again. In that moment I knew that even though I am imperfect and even though I will make mistakes, God will still make beautiful things out of me and out of those I have the privilege of pastoring.”
From there, it was on to Burlingame, California, for the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church from June 17-20, which focused on “Engaging Faith in the Public Square.” President Kuan, along with Vice President for Advancement and Communications Wendy Lee, and Associate Dean of Student and Community Life Lea Appleton were all able to represent CST, hosting a booth and an Alumni/ae & Friends Lunch. In an exciting moment for CST, President Kuan was elected by the annual conference as a clergy delegate to the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, which will be held in 2016 in Portland, Oregon. At General Conference, President Kuan will represent the California-Nevada Conference in making important decisions about the Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions, which will affect the future of the United Methodist Church.
Closer to home, the California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church took place June 18-20 at University of Redlands in Redlands, California, around the theme of “Judgment, Justice, Joy.” CST staff pitched our tent in the heat, hosted an Alumni/ae & Friends Breakfast, and cheered President Kuan on as he made a speech to the annual conference attendees. Rev. Alison Markey’s Young Clergy Initiative, a program housed at CST, was also recognized at the conference. We were also lucky to have many alumni/ae in Redlands with us. One of our alumni, Yi Shen Ma, told us that he enjoyed meeting fellow CST alumni/ae at the conference because he got to hear their stories and what they have done with their degrees. “I am very proud to be part of an institution that continues to make a difference in the world in quite significant ways,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Glendale, Arizona, on June 17-21, the Desert Southwest Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church gathered. CST Admissions took part in an “Orientation to Ministry” event where they shared about our programs and admission details; they also hosted an Alumni/ae & Friends Lunch.
Further up the coast in Portland, the Unitarian Universalists gathered June 24-28 for their annual Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly, based on the theme of “Building a New Way.” CST was well-represented, with plenty of alumni/ae present, including Meghann Robern, Debbie Rice, Rev. David Miller, and Rev. Rick Hoyt-McDaniels. CST faculty and staff were also present, hosting a CST booth as well as an Alumni/ae & Friends Lunch with President Kuan and Dr. Philip Clayton, a Happy Hour with Dr. Clayton, and a book signing with Dr. Clayton. The conference was full of exciting moments, including joyous celebrations of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision and votes to support reproductive justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.
From June 25 - July 3, in Salt Lake City, Utah, the 78th annual General Convention of the Episcopal Church took place. Dean Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook represented CST at an Alumni/ae and Friends Lunch jointly hosted with Bloy House, the Episcopal School at Claremont. It was the first time that CST had hosted an event for alumni/ae and friends at an Episcopal General Convention. The event was warmly received by 20 alumni/ae from the two schools combined. This conference also marked major milestones: the Episcopal Church elected its first African-American presiding bishop, Bishop Michael Curry, and also voted to allow religious weddings for same-sex couples.
CST mingled with the Methodists again from June 24-27 in Pasco, Washington, for the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, which also focused on “Restoring the Sacred Circle.” CST hosted an Alumni/ae & Friends Lunch at the conference. This was also an exciting conference for us because we have five incoming students from the Pacific Northwest Conference, representing the largest group of students from any of the United Methodist Church’s Western Jurisdictions. In other news, this annual conference also sent a petition encouraging divestment in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories to General Conference.
The most recent conference was the United Church of Christ General Synod, built on the theme of “Unexpected Places,” which happened farther east, in Cleveland, Ohio, on June 26-30. CST was represented by Dean Belva Brown Jordan, as well as Director of Communications Nat Katz and Director of Financial Aid Brenda Nieves, as we hosted a booth and an Alumni/ae & Friends Lunch. More than a dozen alumni/ae, faculty, current and future students attended the event.
Current CST student Scott Hill attended the conference and was moved by the celebrations of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision and that “the entire body of the general conference and the United Church of Christ stood by the decision.” He said, “Words cannot describe my emotional excitement and joy as the tears were flowing down my eyes because of past church proclamations against homosexuality. I was welcomed home into the church and my country all in one day.”
Sarah Fiske-Phillips, another CST student who also attended the General Synod, said she enjoyed taking part in shaping resolutions on reaffirming the UCC’s commitment to full equality for persons of any sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression; on taking action toward a just peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; on calling for reunification in the Korean Peninsula; and on dismantling the New Jim Crow. “I love being a part of a denomination that is always challenging itself to be inclusive and seeks justice for all,” she says of the UCC.
The last conference of the summer conference season is coming up soon: the Disciples of Christ General Assembly, to be held in Columbus, Ohio, and focusing on the theme “Soar” on July 18-22. CST will be hosting a booth and a CST & Disciples Seminary Foundation Alumni/ae & Friends Lunch, and we look forward to seeing many of our current students who will be attending as well!
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