From the Dean: Safely Reopening featured image background

Seminary News

From the Dean

Man in gray suit, blue tie, and wire glasses.

We are certainly living in challenging and unprecedented times. Even so, North Park Theological Seminary has continued its important work throughout this pandemic crisis, and we are excited to be underway with the Fall 2020 semester. I’m also pleased to report that our enrollment numbers for both the summer and fall have been higher than our three-year average, despite the slowdown from COVID-19 issues.

The entire University has worked diligently on campus reopening, risk mitigation, and other necessary considerations. Many new safety protocols and requirements are in place to create optimal conditions for University and Seminary students, faculty, and staff, and we will always base our planning on current public health guidelines. For the latest North Park updates and information, please visit our special Fall 2020 site.

We know how eager our Seminary students have been to return to campus not only for some face-to-face learning and worship, but also for the spirit of our community, even under more guarded conditions. Coming together is a hallmark of our Seminary experience. Meet two students who are excited to be back in Nyvall Hall.  So many of you make it possible financially for students to apply and continue with their studies to earn their Seminary degree. On their behalf, we are deeply grateful for your generous support.

Serving as the Seminary for the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), we are dedicated to preparing those who are called to serve in ministry. We are now working on an important initiative that will further expand our role by transitioning administration of the current Covenant Orientation (CO) Program from the ECC to North Park Theological Seminary. The ECC will continue to lead the CO Program’s steering committee and collaborate with our Seminary as this important program becomes part of our curriculum. The Seminary’s Luke Palmerlee will be the new director of the CO Program. Currently, due to COVID-19, the CO Program is operating at a very limited capacity with an occasional online class, but we will be excited to announce when the program resumes at full capacity and how students can apply.

While we’re pleased our many Seminary programs can now welcome our graduate students who live on-campus or commute from the greater Chicago area back to campus, we also are focused on cohort-based program expansion across the country. These programs are even more valuable during this time, as they enable students to pursue their education online and cost-effectively, while remaining in their home ministry and avoiding relocating to our Chicago campus. I hope you’ll read more about our ever-expanding cohort programs, including Professor Jim Bruckner’s online teaching experience.

In our School of Restorative Arts, we completed the spring semester and conducted summer classes via “old school” resources: correspondence educational packets, which means mailing materials and completed assignments back and forth between Stateville and our Seminary. Stateville Correctional Center is, of course, still on lockdown due to the pandemic so we’re continuing with correspondence learning and other creative strategies.

We are looking forward to expanding the SRA program later this fall at Logan Correctional Center, a woman’s detention center in the Illinois Department of Corrections. SRA Director Dr. Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom reports on our work. 

Many things will certainly be different this year. For instance, we will not be holding any in-person events, including Convocation, lectures, or symposiums. But through our diligent attention to staying safe, and with God’s blessings, we will go on. What hasn’t changed is what often signals a new school year—the inevitable transitions among our Seminary faculty and staff. In particular, we are pleased to announce that after serving as interim, Dr. Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom has been named Dean of Seminary Faculty. We are grateful to those who concluded their Seminary service, and we are delighted to welcome new colleagues who are joining our many efforts to move forward.

Now, more than ever, we are so thankful for your prayers and your support. Know that we also pray every day for your health and well-being.

Many blessings,

Rev. Dr. David W. Kersten C’77 S’82 S’97
Dean, North Park Theological Seminary
Vice President for Church Relations