In This Issue
Welcome, Rev. Brian Stein-Webber!
Welcome, Nan Hirleman!
Godspeed to Steve Churchill
Founders' Day 2012
Piano Wanted
Goats "R" Us
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Above the Fog
PLTS Newsletter

June 27, 2012

As the seminary slides through the low-activity time of summer, there have nevertheless been many transitions of staff on campus.


You have already heard of the departure of Joel Wudel, VP of Seminary Relations, who is now leading a blissful married life with the Rev. Kari Sansgaard in Boise, Idaho and working for the Mission Investment Fund as a regional representative.  I am the one who will attempt to fill his figuratively very ample shoes.


You also know that Seminary Relations Associate, the Rev. Donna Duensing, has retired after having held many positions of responsibility over the years in seminary relations and contextual education.  We will shortly seeking someone to take her place in seminary relations, and the position description is included further down in this issue.


And you heard last month that the Rev. Dr. Steve Churchill stepped down at the end of July as Director of Admissions (after four and a half years) to become the chaplain at Salem Lutheran Home in Oakland.  A good-bye story is included in this issue.  Candidates for his vacated position will be interviewed this coming month.


Other big news is that Christine Sinnott, who has served a couple of stints in development and communications over the years, will be leaving PLTS at the end of August to become development manager at the Women's Cancer Resource Center in Oakland, where she has been connected for many years.  Her farewell piece will be in the next Above the Fog, and a description of her position for interested persons is available here.


And lastly (though we know there is never a "last" in personnel transitions, since change is ever with us), we now welcome the Rev. Dr. Nan Hirleman, who assumes the position of Director of Contextual Education.  You can learn more about her below.


All of you in your personal, congregational and institutional lives are also probably experiencing some changes as well.  There is, after all, a time for everything under heaven.  Our prayer is that God's constant love will guide both you and us through these times, and cause us to be open to the fresh winds of the Holy Spirit.




Brian Stein-Webber

Director of Seminary Relations

Welcome, Brian Stein-Webber!


Many of you reading this article don't need an introduction to the Rev. Brian Stein-Webber, the new Director of Seminary Relations at PLTS.  Brian is well-known in California for his pastoral ministry in a variety of settings, as well as someone who headed up the Annual Fund at PLTS during the years 1995-2000.


Read entire article.

Welcome, Nan Hirleman!

For the Rev. Dr. Nan Hirleman, moving to the San Francisco Bay area to assume the position of Director of Contextual Education (she will be responsible for supervising internships, teaching parish assignments and the like) is a bit of a homecoming.


Read entire article. 

Godspeed to Steve Churchill


PLTS has just bid farewell to the Rev. Dr. Steve Churchill, who has served for four and a half years here as Director of Admissions.  Under his oversight, the seminary has welcomed five incoming classes, the last one to enter this fall.  Steve will be back on campus at one of the fall's Wednesday worship services so that his departure may be blessed by the whole on-site seminary community, as well as for him to see all of the new students that he has shepherded in.


Read entire article.

Founders' Day 2012
Bonhoeffer's (and Our) Postracial Blues

The election (and now the possible reelection) of Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency hailed for many the dawning of the postracial condition. And yet virtually from day-one of his presidency, unpleasant racial realities intruded upon our postracial cultural fantasies-with issues of religion and Christian identity being quite often front-and-center. This lecture turns to an unlikely place-to a 1940s German prison cell and to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's prison poetry, with its African American blues signature -- to examine the postracial condition of race or his and our postracial blues.


Join us for Founders' Day, September 26, 2012. Our speaker this year will be J. Kameron Carter, Associate Professor in Theology and Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School.

Click here to register online.

Piano Wanted

The seminary is blessed to have a few very nice pianos.  The one in the chapel provides wonderful accompaniment (with the help of a pianist!) for worship and special events.  The one in Founders' Hall, donated by the Egertson family, has lovely sounds for meetings in that room.  However, the spinet piano in Sawyer Hall has reached the end of its functional life.


We would love it if someone in the wider seminary community would like to donate a well-functioning spinet or upright piano (that keeps its tune well) for Sawyer Hall, so that beautiful music could also fill the air there.


If you have a lead, or a piano, please contact Brian Stein-Webber, Director of Seminary Relations, at 510-559-2711 or

Goats "R" Us

For the third year at least, PLTS has hosted some hungry guests.  You guessed it, the goats have been back!  As you crest the top of Marin Avenue and turn into the seminary grounds, you could look down the hill on the left and see them.  The hill is way too steep for our intrepid grounds crew to mow, but the sure-footed goats don't mind it a bit.  Perhaps two hundred or so of them were let loose on a year's growth.  There was no baa-ing, only sustained and loud chewing.  They hardly raised their heads to say "hello" when we walked by.  So PLTS had some potentially bothersome growth taken care of, but the goats fed themselves at the same time.  Oh, and another main reason to enlist our four-footed friends is that the slope has many pockets of poison oak.  And, as it turns out, goats are impervious to it! 

Julé Ballinger, MDiv 2004
, welcomed her second son, Nathan Lang, on March 29, 2012.


Susanne Blume, MDiv 2008took a new call beginning July 1 as Executive Director of Lifeline Partnership in Washington, DC, which provides for the spiritual and social needs of individuals with developmental disabilities.


Valerie Carlson, MDiv 2012, was ordained on Sunday, July 29, at Gift of Grace Lutheran Church in Seattle.  She is called to Emmanuel Lutheran, Bakersfield, California.  Her husband, Dan "DC" Carlson, will pursue his MA at the GTU this fall. 


Dan Hallgrimson, MDiv 1977, led a Rotary Group Study Exchange Team to Malaysia in November for a month. He was also able to visit old friends in Malaysia where he served as a Peace Corps teach from 1964-1966. Retired life is good!


Nina Hannawalt, MDiv 2002, married Stephen Berchtold on May 14, 2011 at Hacienda de las Flores in Moraga. They both like hiking and camping, so went to Evergreen Lodge outside Yosemite for their honeymoon.  They are now living happily together in Lafayette.


Phyllis Horman, MDiv 1995, completed a year of CPE Residency and has been serving since September 2011 as Chaplain through Pacific Health Ministry at Hawaii State Hospital, a forensic, psychiatric hospital.


The Rev. John George Huber, ThM 1972 & DMin 1984, looks forward to the dedication of the Ecumenical Collection of John George Huber on October 20, 2012, at the recently constructed David Allan Hubbard Library on the Fuller Theological Seminary campus in Pasadena. The list of this collection of books, documents, DVDs and CDs now numbers 275 pages, and counting. The collection includes the proceedings of all the Lutheran World Federation Assemblies from Lund 1947 to Stuttgart 2010, and those of all the World Council of Churches Assemblies from Amsterdam 1948 to Porto Alegre 2006. A special emphasis is Faith and Order papers of the World Council of Churches and Bilateral dialogues of various confessional traditions.


Ron Martin-Dent, MDiv 1982, is now serving Mt. View/Trinity United Methodist Congregations in Butte, Montana.


AmyJo Mattheis-Holmquist, MDiv 1998, has just published Religion Made Me Fat, the story of her life in the church and out of it. It highlights the love and joy she found in it, and narrates the destructive and harmful aspects of it that worsened as she grew into a mature woman and finally helped her leave it.


Kathleen "Kit" Neeley, MDiv 2000, has just accepted a call as the solo pastor serving Family of Christ Lutheran Church, Vancouver, Washington.


Mary Sanders, MDiv 1997, has been serving United Lutheran Church in Tacoma for about the past year and a half. She loves the people and the weather - much like Berkeley's (except for snow in the winter!). She and her husband just welcomed their second grandson, born to Chris Ode (also a PLTS graduate) and his wife, their daughter, Sarah Sanders-Ode.


Joshua Serrano, CATS 2010, was installed on July 15 as the associate pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Orinda. "I think that God calls and we follow," said Joshua. "The process I went through was very similar to the one that every first call candidate has to navigate. We have to have a lot of faith that God is using the people in the assignment process, the Synod who matches the congregation with the candidate, and the church who issues the call.  It seems like God was in the mix during this entire process.   I am grateful for the grace granted to us during these times of transition." You can read Pastor John Valentine's sermon, preached at Joshua's ordination, here.


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