In This Issue
2013 Commencement!
President's Charge to the PLTS class of 2013
What Now, God? Retreat
PLTS Welcomes Sara Wilson (M.Div '13) to the staff
Nominate an Alum!
Student Spotlight: Gretchen Colby
Alum Updates
Alums in the News: Rev. Dr. Robyn Provis (MTS '03)
Farewell and Godspeed: Rev. Sarah Isakson
Study at PLTS Online!
Connect with PLTS!
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Above the Fog
PLTS Newsletter

June 2013

Dear Friends,


**Whoops! Our sincerest apologies, we jumped the gun a bit. The CLU board has not yet voted on the proposed merger between our two institutions. Both schools are still working together to work out some remaining details so please read this corrected June issue of Above the Fog and discard the previous version!


Greetings!  There is much good news to share with you this month!  On May 25th we celebrated the graduation of 43 new leaders for the church with Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson as our special guest preacher.  Several already have calls to serve, some in Spanish speaking congregations or new mission starts.  One of our gifted graduates, Sara Wilson, just joined the PLTS staff as Associate Director for Seminary Relations. 


As I travel to synod assemblies this time of year, it is profoundly gratifying to see so many of our very recent graduates taking leadership in worship, speaking on the assembly floor, getting elected to synod councils and making their distinctive contributions in so many ways.  Our graduates are doing amazing ministry in many challenging places - as many of you know first-hand. 


Photo: Montana Synod Assembly listening to Bishop Jessica Crist


Synod assemblies are a great occasion to share the good news about PLTS, to visit with friends and alumni, to hear what is going on in your ministries and to thank you for your generous prayers and contributions to PLTS. At some, we hosted joint receptions with California Lutheran University as we anticipate the next steps in the merger process. We expect action in the next few months from other bodies, whose approval is necessary for the merger to take place, including the ELCA Church Council, the CLU Convocation, and two separate accrediting bodies.  It's complicated!  It is also full of promise and is generating a lot of excitement.


Our partnership with the Graduate Theological Union keeps growing and changing.  We are excited to welcome a new professor of Ethics, Dr. Bradley Burroughs, very soon, whom we will share with Church Divinity School of the Pacific. 


Back on campus we welcomed a wonderful team of volunteers from Our Saviour's Lutheran, Lafayette, who helped paint part of the exterior of the chapel, clear overgrown trees, and do some work in Sawyer. 


It has been a blessed and busy spring! We have much to be thankful and excited about. 


June 30 marks the end of our fiscal year.  I invite you to act now to support this important work of preparing leaders who will shape the church and the world for many years to come.  Gifts from friends like you make up the largest share of our income, more than we receive from student tuition or from synod and churchwide grants.  Theological education of the next generation of leaders depends on you now. 


Be blessed, be faithful, and continue to be the light of God for others in the world.

Peace, Phyllis

2013 Commencement!



President's Charge to the PLTS Class of 2013

"If anyone asks you about the President's charge to the graduates, you can say it went something like:  la, la, la, la, la, la, la  . . . . All my charges to you start with the letter L.


Leave:  It is time to go.  You are so very ready.  You are all dressed up with cap and gown and diploma in hand.  You are so full of knowledge and faith and experience. You are ready to fly.  Much as we hate to see you go and as sad as you may be to leave friends and time in your life that has been rich, your next task is to leave and take the adventure that is sent you.  And it is my job, on behalf of this community which loves you, to let you go.


Lead:  The gifts of leadership are richly distributed among the members of this class.  Your leadership has been evident in the life of this community this year.  It was evident on your internships, and in the classroom.  Your natural gifts have been honed and tested.  The church is calling you to lead us into the next expression of what this church is going to be.  You are being asked not just to follow established patterns, but to lead the way as path-finders and scouts to discover authentic ways for the church to share the love of God in Jesus Christ in our time and to inspire and empower God's people to follow.


 Read the rest of the President's charge hereĽ 

What Now, God? Exploring Career, Vocation, and Self in Mid-Life

Are you in midlife and feel like what you have been doing is no longer satisfying?


Have you found that your mind and spirit are changing, or that you have a vague calling to something new and presently unknown? 


Would you like to do some discernment among and with people in a similar situation? Would you like to petition God about all of this?


Then this retreat is for you!

"What looks like falling can largely be experienced as falling upward and onward, into a broader and deeper world, where the soul has found its fullness, is finally connected to the whole, and lives inside the Big Picture.

- Father Richard Rohr

Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Sierra Pacific Synod are co-sponsoring this retreat for persons inside and outside the ELCA in Northern California and Nevada to meet in a retreat setting to explore what God is doing in their lives.


What Now, God? Exploring Career, Vocation and Self in Mid-Life

July 22, 6:00 p.m. to July 23, 7:00 p.m.
Christ the King Retreat Center
6520 Van Maren Ln., Citrus Heights, CA 95621


Click here for more information and to register 

PLTS Welcomes Sara Wilson (M.Div '13) to the staff

We are pleased to welcome recent PLTS graduate, Sara Wilson, to the position of Associate Director of Seminary Relations.  She began the position on June 1st.


Sara is a native of Wisconsin, and a 2005 graduate of Carthage College in Kenosha, majoring in social work and minoring in religion.  While there, she worked in the chapel office, was on the search committee for the new campus pastor, played in the pep band, and was a member of Pi Delta Chi.


After college, Sara served in the VISTA program of AmeriCorps, working for an HIV/AIDS organization in Monterey, California.  She was involved with education and prevention efforts, housing assistance, free testing, and end-of-life support.  After one year, she became the Director of Development there, and finished her last six months as the Interim Executive Director.


Sara's call to professional church ministry began while a teenager on a mission trip to the Kentucky Appalachian mountains.  While in Monterey, she attended a Cursillo retreat that opened her eyes in new ways to the mystery of God's grace.  A year later, she enrolled at PLTS.


Describing her years at the seminary as a student, she emphasizes that being in the M.Div program was not only educational, but truly transformative.  Experiences like CPE and internship taught her the ministry of presence, which she now feels as central to her call of passing on what she learns of God and gospel to others, primarily through example.


Sara understands the tasks of the Office of Seminary Relations as building community connections and friendships to the mission of growing church leaders.  She looks forward to working at PLTS during a time of transition and brings mature development gifts with her.  Every day she hopes to learn something new and in the early mornings, you will likely find Sara in the gym or running on a local trail.  In her free time, she enjoys cooking, sight-seeing, and having fun with friends and family.

Nominations Being Received for Alum Awards

At Founders Day in September, PLTS will honor a few of its alums by giving awards in honor of Parish Ministry and Special Service.  We are now soliciting nominations for those awards.  If you know of a PLTS alum who is known for extraordinary ministry and is 40 years or older, please send their name with supporting recommendation to Rev. Brian Stein-Webber at or 2770 Marin Ave., Berkeley, CA 94708 by July 31, 2013.

Student Spotlight: Gretchen Colby awarded 2013 Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship

"Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries has named Gretchen Colby as the 2013 Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholar.


 The Joel R. Workin Scholar is a publicly-identified LGBTQ seminarian who embodies Joel's passion for justice and faith in their lives and ministry. This award comes with a financial gift to support the Scholar's study. In addition, the Scholar represents ELM throughout the year.


Gretchen was chosen from a pool of excellent candidates. The Joel R. Workin Scholarship Committee includes three friends of Joel's: the Rev. Jeff R. Johnson, Greg Egertson, and Michael Nelson; former Scholar the Rev. Jen Rude; and ELM Executive Director Amalia Vagts.



About Gretchen Colby:

Gretchen has served as intern at Trinity Lutheran Church in Manhattan, NY since last August. She is studying at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA and is expected to graduate in May 2014.  Gretchen received her bachelor degree at Vassar with a major in Biology and a minor in Latin American Studies.  In addition to her ministry work, Gretchen has long been involved with teaching in California and abroad in Chile.  In August, Gretchen will marry Jill Rode, an MDiv student at Luther Seminary and fellow member of Proclaim.


In her essay for the Working Scholar program, Gretchen wrote:


"Allowing myself to be called into a space of vulnerability has let me connect with pastors on my candidacy committee, who share their own stories of love and relationship; it has allowed me to show my internship congregation what a queer intern is like (in fact very much like all interns, but mostly like me); and it has allowed me to discuss the mystery of love and the politics of homosexuality with my family.  Not all conversations have been positive; not all prisons want to be opened.  Yet, these new beginnings for growth and life are continually offered to me and to the people around me by God in grace and love."


Read more about Gretchen hereĽ

Alum Updates

Greta Ruth D'Ambruoso was born to Abigail ('08) and Will D'Ambruoso on May 28th. 


Mark Taylor (TEEM '08): Mark was called from American Lutheran Church, Harlowton, MT to Plentywood Lutheran Church, Plentywood, MT on December 1, 2012.


Margrethe Kleiber (M.Div '93): She lives in Alexandria, VA, with her husband Tony and their two cats, Simba and Nala. Tony is currently serving with the State Department in Kabul, Afghanistan.


Dr. Dan Peterson (M.Div '00): Dan will be ordained to a specialized ministry through the Northwest Washington Synod at Seattle University/Matteo Ricci College where he teaches. In addition, Dan's first book, "Tillich: A Brief Overview of His Life and Thought," has been published. It's part of the "Theology for Life" series available through Lutheran University Press.


Ron (M.Div '82) and Melanie Martin-Dent: Melanie has been serving Hope, Anaconda for six years while Ron was doing interim ministries. An opportunity came for him to serve two Methodist congregations in nearby Butte with help from Bishop Crist. He started last July, and says it's been quite fun and rewarding. 


Erik (M.Div '05) and Tauni Samuelson: Erik is the campus pastor and does some teaching at Trinity Lutheran College in Everett, WA.


Mike (M.Div '05) and Emma Gutzler:  Mike took a call in Woodbridge, VA two years ago. Takes a special interest in PLTS happenings and keeps himself aware of changes. He has also been working with the synod on an urban ministry in DC.


Korey (M.Div '05) and Alison Finstad: Moved to Rocky Mountain for call in Denver about two years ago. Focusing on stewardship in present call. Alison is working as a church administrator at an ELCA congregation.


Edward Groop (M.Div '64): If there are any classmates who would like to get in contact, send an email to:  


Tim (M.Div '87) and Mimi Philips: Tim  has answered the call to be the Assistant to the Bishop and Director for Evangelical Mission of the Pacifica Synod, starting May 1, 2013. For the past 12 years, Pastor Philips has been serving as Senior Pastor of King of Glory Lutheran Church in Fountain Valley. Over these past 12 years, Pastor Philips has been involved in multicultural ministry in Orange County and has been a supervising pastor for a seminary intern. 


Tuhina Rasche (M.Div '13): Tuhina will be ordained on Saturday, June 29 at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Oakland CA, where she will be serving as Associate Pastor.


John Kuehner (M.Div '09): John was ordained on Sunday, June 9 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in San Carlos, CA, and will be serving as Pastor at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in San Francisco, CA.


Carole Parmeter Dyer (M.Div '99): Carole was ordained on May 26th at King of Glory Lutheran Church in Fountain Valley, CA. She will be serving Christ Lutheran Church in Orange, CA. 



Photo: Carole Parmeter Dyer's ordination. Credit: Lorrie Prothero

Alums in the News:
Rev. Dr. Robyn Provis (MTS '03) 
and Michael Larson (MTS '11)

PLTS Alum Robyn Provis (MTS '03), who was called to be the pastor of Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minn. last spring, was recently featured in an online article for her work in suicide prevention and marriage equality:


"When the news of the passage of the marriage equity bill by the Minnesota House of Representatives reached Rev. Dr. Robyn Provis, the first person she wanted to share it with was her wife of nearly eight years, Kathy Luebbe.


Provis and Luebbe were married in Toronto, Canada, and for years she says they have played a game on road trips of "Now we're legally married. Whoops, now we're not."



Q. What is the biggest challenge you've taken right now?

I love life and I love to push myself by taking on multiple simultaneous goals. Currently I am the pastor of a diverse church where I am devoted to caring for the congregation and neighborhood. I believe the good news of the gospel isn't good news until its good news for everyone. I have a deep belief in the centrality of the instruction to "love one another." I don't want to argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I'd rather talk about the joy they were feeling that gave way to the dance. My hope is that all faiths can stop fighting over who is in and who is out and get down to alleviating poverty, discrimination, and hopelessness. The two areas that inspire me the most are marriage equality and suicide prevention. Those may be disparate topics but they are important to me.



Find the original article here.


Read the omitted sections hereĽ 



Michael Larson (MTS '11)currently serving as music and arts ministry director at Lutheran Church of the Cross in West Fargo, was featured in an article about Project F-M, based in Fargo and Moorhead, Minn. "The Project," as they refer to it, seeks to "make space for 20/30-somethings to love God and neighbor by cultivating an open-minded, curious faith."


The article states:

    "Michael Larson, 26, grew up Lutheran in rural Minnesota. His faith was formed and kept solid through music, eventually leading him to Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif.


    "I came with many questions, and left with even more, but it was a way I was able to think about them finally in a more graceful way," Larson said.


    "I'm thankful for finding The Project," said Larson, currently music and arts ministry director at Lutheran Church of the Cross in West Fargo. "It's given me an outlet that allows me to be myself without fear of being rejected. As a gay man, I've found it difficult to be my entire self within some church institutions."



The original article can be found here. 

Read the omitted sections hereĽ 

Farewell and Godspeed: Rev. Sarah Isakson

PLTS recently bade farewell to the Rev. Sarah Isakson, who had served as a member of the Pastoral Care Team while pastoring at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley.  She is returning to her previous hometown of Tucson, Arizona to continue in ministries as yet unknown, but already involving gardening.


Sarah graduated from PLTS in 2002 with a Master of Divinity Degree and was called to the historical congregation on University Avenue that has a long connection with the seminary.  While at Church of the Cross, she supervised many teaching parish students and helped the congregation to become more open to its neighborhood.


Among her most important accomplishments was instituting a seasonal youth shelter on the church campus in 2004, drawing support from the city, congregations, other non-profits and many individuals.  The name of the shelter, mirroring Sarah's own spirit, was YEAH! (Youth Engagement, Advocacy and Housing).  That ministry continues strong today.


Sarah has been a down-to-earth connector of people throughout her ministry, without respect to differences of class, culture, status, color, appearance or wealth.  Her no-nonsense yet joyful approach was refreshing and gave her many friends and admirers.  At her farewell worship service, her friends represented the countries of Finland, China, Korea, Germany, Viet Nam, Ethiopia, Singapore, Philippines, Mexico, Tibet and the USA.


Godspeed, Sarah.  We will miss you!

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