Faith Formation

chaplain lisa ishihara

Monday prayers

SPU leaders, faculty, and staff, led by University Chaplain Bo Lim, gathered each Monday at noon for a time of prayer. Begun last summer and continued through fall and winter quarters, the time was set aside to pray for our campus, our country, and the world.

Campus collaborates for sustainability

A “sustainability charrette,” a half-day forum on sustainability and creation care, was held in October at SPU, led by J.J. Johnson Leese, assistant professor of Christian Scripture in the School of Theology; Sustainability Coordinator Bethany Davis; and Cher Edwards, associate dean of graduate education in the School of Education. The event — funded by an SPU innovation grant — brought together stakeholders from across campus to explore, study, and collaborate on ways to provide more interdisciplinary and experiential sustainability learning opportunities for students. “Because the issues emerging from the environmental crisis are so very interdisciplinary and intersecting with virtually every aspect of human life, we consider this a good model for moving forward,” Leese says. Jean MacGregor, co-director for the Bioregion Washington Center for Undergraduate Education, helped facilitate the session. She has worked with higher education institutions for decades to promote sustainability efforts and curriculum in the Pacific Northwest. 

Seminary hosts “Multiethnic and Missional?” conference

As cities grow increasingly diverse, the Church and other Christian communities are called to witness to Christ’s love in multicultural and multiethnic surroundings. Seattle Pacific Seminary hosted a panel discussion over lunch in May for Seattle community members, students, pastors, and ministry leaders about how to lead diverse, missional churches. At the event, which was also livestreamed, Associate Professor of Reconciliation Studies Brenda Salter McNeil and Darrell Guder, professor emeritus of missional and ecumenical theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, discussed ways to create diverse and missional churches in a conversation moderated by Associate Professor of Missiology David Leong. Attendees also split up into small groups to discuss best practices in multicultural leadership and how to engage neighborhoods and communities, seek truth and reconciliation, and approach missions work. 

First graduate coordinator expands campus garden’s reach 

Gregory Reffner, a first-year SPU seminarian and Seattle Pacific’s first graduate garden coordinator, joined the work of the undergraduate SPU garden club in tending an organic campus vegetable garden over the summer, a time when it was historically neglected as younger students return home for their summer break. The bounty was shared with neighbors.
A $4,000 grant from the Seminary Stewardship Alliance paid for his position. Last year, Assistant Professor of Christian Scripture J.J. Johnson Leese and three other seminarians, including current student Thomas Parks, applied for the grant. It also funded a February showing of the documentary Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry. “When anyone comes on campus, I want them to know that we are serious about the first commandment given to human beings, to tend the garden,” Leese says. Her viewpoint goes beyond weeding, watering, and planting. “In anything that we are doing, we should be environmentally sensitive to the wonderful creation that God has given us,” she says. “We have this unique capacity to have a theological foundation for the work we do in ways that secular communities don’t. There’s so much potential to honor God the creator through our service of the creation.”

Weter Lecture explores role of imagery in faith

For April’s Weter Lecture, Associate Professor of Theology Brian Bantum examined how Protestant reformers such as John Calvin, Martin Luther, and their white male successors became like icons, symbols of Christian faithfulness that shaped the Protestant understanding of what it means to be human and who can reflect God’s image. In light of this, Bantum asked the audience to consider what it might mean if we saw artists as holding a vital priestly function in Christian life, responsible for creating new and diverse images of faithful Christians. Delivered each year by an SPU faculty member, this lecture — established in 1975 to honor Professor Emerita of Classics Winifred E. Weter — celebrates and upholds the values and heritage of the liberal arts. Bantum’s teaching and research focus on the ways Christian identity is revealed and challenged by the realities of race, ethnicity, and gender. 

New research program helps faith communities engage young adults

SPU’s School of Theology at SPU is the only institution in the Pacific Northwest to receive a $1.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help Northwest congregations engage young adults, working with them to design innovative ministries that support and enrich their faith lives. The Endowment’s $19.4 million Young Adult Initiative has established innovation hubs at 12 colleges, universities, and seminaries across the nation to help congregations as they design and launch new ministries with young adults, ages 23 to 29. Jeff Keuss, professor of Christian ministry, theology, and culture, is leading Pivot Northwest, the five-year initiative at Seattle Pacific. Pivot has identified 12 congregations to work with, helping them better understand the experiences of young adults and working with them to design, launch, and evaluate new ministries. The hub will also gather leaders for mutual learning and support. “Christian affiliation among young people in the U.S. is dropping, and church participation among many denominations is declining,” Keuss says. “Yet we know the desire to gather, spiritually grow, be intellectually challenged, and find deep purpose in life is highly valued by young adults, as are communities that offer authentic commitments to such emphases. Pivot is designed to address this disconnect.” 

Rev. Lisa Ishihara named new chaplain

After a nationwide search, Rev. Lisa Ishihara was selected to become the University chaplain for SPU, beginning August 1. Director of chapel programs at Biola University for the past 10 years, Ishihara has done extensive speaking and teaching, and she recently contributed to a new book, Leading Change Through Diversity in Spiritual Development. Ishihara is also an ordained clergyperson in the Pacific Coast Japanese Conference of the Free Methodist Church and so, says Provost Jeffrey Van Duzer, “She understands both SPU’s Wesleyan heritage and the changing dynamic of the student body on our campus.” In her new role, Ishihara will lead University Ministries. Ishihara received her bachelor’s degree from California State University at Fullerton, as well as two master’s degrees from the Talbot School of Theology.

Bo Lim, University chaplain since 2014, will be returning to his faculty role as associate professor of Old Testament in SPU’s School of Theology.