News & Insights

There has been an update to this story. Read it here. 

Written by Stephen Butler Murray

Our friends at Pacific School of Religion (PSR) have announced plans to build 265 apartments for seniors on their campus in Berkeley, California.

Here are my thoughts: Freestanding theological schools need to utilize the resources they have to survive, and for many seminaries, land and property are the coin that they have to use. 

Gone are the days that denominations offered significant financial support, and increasingly mainline Protestant churches are unable to pay for a full time minister much less donate money for theological education. 

That PSR, the oldest seminary west of the Rockies, is monetizing its property to continue its educational mission should be of no surprise. As we watch a number of seminaries sell or repurpose land and property, it should be said that PSR's approach is unique, nimble, and opens the door for an older generation to participate in an ongoing educational and spiritual life. 

We all will miss the buildings of the PSR campus, but if keeping such buildings meant the end of the seminary, then the buildings are nothing more than damaging nostalgia. What will the church be now and in the future is the question: a museum to past glory days, or living into the present needs of the world by whatever means are at hand?

Read the news about PSR's plans to build senior housing here.


Note: Guest blogger Stephen Butler Murray is president of Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit, which was featured in the Autumn 2015 issue of In Trust. If you are affiliated with an In Trust Center member school, you may read the full article titled "Open Book."

The Summer 2016 issue of In Trust included a feature about the Graduate Theological Union, of which PSR is a founding member. If you are affiliated with an In Trust Center member school, you may read the full article, "The View from Holy Hill."

Image: Rendering of the senior housing plans by Solomon Cordwell Buenz. Courtesy Berkeleyside.

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