Category Archives: Chaplain

Master of Arts Graduation!

GTU Commencement poster 2021-05-24
GTU Commencement poster May 2021

On 19 May 2021, I was graduated (virtually) with a Master of Arts degree from the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, California), followed by a second graduation on 23 May 2021 from Pacific School of Religion (part of the GTU consortium) with my Master’s hood and a Certificate of Spirituality and Social Change. My thesis title was “Range of Chaplain Engagement with Prisoners”. This will (eventually) appear in the ProQuest dissertation and thesis database. Thanks for the loving and patient support of my family, friends, and community. Hooray!

26 May 2021 Update: I am honored to have been accepted into the Doctor of Ministry (DMin) program of the Berkeley School of Theology! I am very interested in BST’s new cohort theme of “Racism/Prison Renewal/Reparations.”

Katy Dickinson graduation by John Plocher, 23 May 2021
Katy Dickinson graduation by John Plocher, 23 May 2021

6 June 2021 Update:

Katy Dickinson GTU - MA Diploma and hood, May 2021
Katy Dickinson GTU – MA Diploma and hood, May 2021

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In Memory of Daniel Vega Martinez (1969-2021)

Daniel Vega Martinez 1969-2021, collage, from Peggy Bryan
Daniel Vega Martinez 1969-2021, collage, from the Rev. Peggy Bryan

On Sunday, a group of family and friends gathered to remember Daniel Vega Martinez (1969-2021). Daniel or “Big O” was a beloved member of our Stepping Stones reentry community, and had been in my class at Elmwood county jail. The Rev. Peggy Bryan, who leads the Stepping Stones community with Jack Fanning, wrote this tribute and account of Daniel’s death.

“Sadly, we said goodbye yesterday to Daniel Martinez, one of the first men I met at Elmwood and who, in reentry, was my teacher about the authentic challenges faced by living on the streets. Daniel was handed a tough life and the demons of addiction and shame finally tracked him down. Sunday he was found in flames in the cab of the truck he was living in. He was transported to VMC’s Burn Unit but his injuries were deemed unsurvivable so yesterday I offered final prayers as his wife, children and sisters circled him with love…Expressions of condolences and love are pouring in from those incarcerated and those outside who knew, loved and respect Daniel, ‘Big O’, as a man of God and a real St. Paul when leading behind bars, in prison or jail. The cause of the fire is unknown—accident, suicide, homicide…Please keep everyone in your prayers, those who call him father, brother, husband, mentor, friend and teacher are spread far and wide. As plans for a service are known, I’ll let you know. My heart is broken, this has been beyond brutal, but it helps knowing Daniel finally rests In God’s perfect peace.”

Fifty of Daniel’s friends and family got together in the San Jose parking lot to honor his life and lay flowers at the burn site where he was fatally injured.

Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him

30 May 2021 Update: Daniel’s Memorial Service at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church

Daniel Martinez memorial, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, 30 May 2021
Daniel Martinez memorial, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 30 May 2021

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Busy Grad Student

Katy Dickinson Master's Thesis, Range of Chaplain Engagement with Prisoners, 23 Jan 2021
Katy Dickinson Master’s Thesis, Range of Chaplain Engagement with Prisoners, 23 Jan 2021

My Graduate Theological Union Master’s – Theology thesis is called “Range of Chaplain Engagement with Prisoners.” I finished writing it at the end of January, successfully defended it at the start of February and am now working through minor edits with my GTU committee. (Hooray!) In parallel, I am continuing to take classes for GTU’s Interreligious Chaplaincy Certificate program. I am honored to have been accepted into a CPE (clinical pastoral education) program at Stanford Health Care later this year.

I finished a two-part January Intersession class in “Introduction to Pastoral Care and Theology,” and am now taking three GTU classes, “Diversity in Counseling,” “Pediatric Chaplaincy,” and “A Good Death.” Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all classes are online. Professors have to make up for the lack of in-person class time and meet the nine-hours-per-week / per class requirement. In addition to assigned reading and papers, my graduate classes meet by Zoom once or twice a week, plus posting 250 to 500 word reflections to Moodle (learning management system). Each class has a different schedule, so I created a table to remember when I need to post and when replies are due to other students’ posts. Every time I log into Moodle, it tells me how many more reflection posts I need to read. I end up posting to Moodle twelve to fourteen times a week. I will be happy when we can get back inside a real classroom.

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Wissa Wassef Tapestry from Egypt

Katy Dickinson with Reda Ahmed’s tapestry

To celebrate my finishing writing my Master’s thesis, John surprised me with a large tapestry from the Wissa Wassef Art Center, Giza, Egypt. Normally for a big family celebration, we would go out to dinner or maybe on a trip, but during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, that is not possible.

The title of my Graduate Theological Union MA thesis is “Range of Chaplain Engagement with Prisoners” and I will defend it before my committee next month. I finished the last of my required classes in December 2020 and if all goes well, I will graduate in May 2021 with the GTU – MA and a Certificate in Spirituality and Social Change from Pacific School of Religion. I will continue my studies at GTU in the Interreligious Chaplaincy Certificate program.

In 2010, our family visited the Wissa Wassef Art Center outside of Cairo (in Harrania Village, near Giza) where we bought a small tapestry and two books. I am glad to have a second of these lovely works of fabric art!

Our first Wissa Wassef tapestry is a small master work called “Around the Pond,” woven in cotton by Mohamed Achour in 2010. It presents fish and birds with palms and flowering plants around a small body of water.

Our new Wissa Wassef tapestry is undated but is probably much older than the first, even though John just bought it from a store in France. It was woven by Reda Ahmed in wool and cotton. Looking at our 2010 pictures, I realized we saw Reda Ahmed weaving during our Wissa Wassef visit. We hung the tapestry last night and it may take months for the textile to settle into its new home above the stairs. The weaving presents a large blue tree with red flowers, with a smaller tree and bushes as well as birds, weasels, and a lizard. I am thankful for this lovely and generous gift. The lively images and cheerful colors make me happy!

Note: Nothing pictured is for sale. Please do not ask.

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Interfaith Work

Jewish and Muslim interfaith studies books, Dec 2020

This semester at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), I took a pair of half-semester classes, “Judaism and its Interreligious Context” (taught by Dr. Yehezkel Landau) and “Islam and its Interreligious Context” (taught by Dr. Mahjabeen Dhala). Both were excellent classes with inspiring professors. Together, these two classes met the GTU Master’s requirement for Interreligious Studies. I combined the term papers to create a final paper called “Getting Closer to God Through Interfaith Work.”

I have finished the major writing for my Master’s thesis, titled “Range of Chaplain Engagement with Prisoners,” and am waiting for my thesis committee’s feedback on the last few chapters. I have to defend my thesis in early February 2021, which means spending two or more hours answering questions by my review committee about the 100+ page document and my research. I officially graduate in May 2021 with my Master of Arts – Christian Theology, with a Certificate in Spirituality and Social Change. I will continue my studies in the GTU Interreligious Chaplaincy Certificate program but I am happy to be done with my Master’s classes.

Getting Closer to God Through Interfaith Work

Introduction

This paper presents reflections on interreligious dialogue from the lived experience of two notable leaders. Based on conversations with Maha Elgenaidi and Rabbi Melanie Aron, and considering related scholarly material, I examine my next steps with regard to interfaith engagement in my work and ministry. The title of this paper comes from Maha Elgenaidi but I find it rings true for me as well. Interfaith work makes me feel closer to God. I am using this paper not only to document the accomplishments and views of two remarkable women but also to emphasize the benefits of interfaith work to the community. 

Please read the remainder of the paper at “Getting Closer to God Through Interfaith Work.”

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Theodicy Meme

camper Jesus meme 5 June 2020
I love a good meme, so finding one on theodicy is a special treat. (“Theodicy means vindication of God. It is to answer the question of why a good God permits the manifestation of evil.” – Theodicy in Wikipedia) The image base of Jesus sitting on a park bench, talking with a young man has been used for two memes I particularly like:

  • 24 March 2020: Man: “Facebook?” Jesus: “No, I literally want you to follow me.” Man: “So… Twitter?” Jesus: “I’m going to start over again and you can let me know where I lose you.”
  • 5 June 2020: Man: “So why do you allow things like hate, famine, war, suffering, disease, crime, homelessness, despair, etc. to exist in our world?” Jesus: “Interesting that you should ask because I was about to ask you the exact same question.”

The blank image can be found on imgflip if you want to make a meme yourself.

I have studied Christian Theology for two years at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and hope to finish my Master’s thesis by the end of this year. I also start work on my Certificate in Interreligious Chaplaincy in September, with a focus on Islamic Studies. My thesis topic is jail chaplaincy, so theodicy is of particular interest. Although theology has not been considered the “Queen of the Sciences” since the High Middle Ages, having the opportunity to gain understanding and inspiration from classes such as “God and Suffering” and “Christian Theology and Natural Science” has been an honor and privilege. Still, I appreciate a little levity on these weighty subjects.

camper Jesus meme 24 March 2020

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Congratulations on EfM Graduation, Joel Martinez!

EfM Education for Ministry seminar online 30 March2020EfM Class Meeting Online, April 2020

Since we could not honor Joel Martinez in-person while under COVID-19 quarantine, we celebrated online. Congratulations to Joel Martinez for his graduation after four years of study from Education for Ministry – so proud of him! In addition to taking the regular EfM program, Joel was my Co-Mentor for three years at Elmwood Jail. To do this work, he became an accredited EfM Mentor and volunteer for the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy. Joel took Year-1 at our home church (with me and my Co-Mentor, Karen LeBlanc), Year-2 and Year-3 in jail while serving as a volunteer chaplain with me as his Mentor, and Year-4 back at our home church (with Karen and me as Mentors).

2017 Bishop Mary, Peggy Bryan, Joel Martinez, Katy Dickinson at Elmwood Jail 2017 Elmwood Jail: Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, Rev. Peggy Bryan, Joel and Katy

As his EfM Administrative Mentor, I would usually make this presentation in front of the whole congregation of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church but thanks to technology and my geek husband, John Plocher, we were able to celebrate together in a video segment during the regular weekly service. John even created this stand-alone video.

Contact me if you want to learn more about the EfM class that starts in September. More about EfM in the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real. Our 2019-2020 EfM class held its closing session last night but we are taking signups for the seminar that starts in September 2020. We will meet in person or online as appropriate. More about EfM:

Education for Ministry (EfM) is a program of the University of the South – School of Theology, a unique four-year distance learning certificate program in theological education based upon small-group study and practice. Since its founding in 1975, this international program has assisted more than 100,000 participants in discovering and nurturing their call to Christian service. EfM helps the faithful encounter the breadth and depth of the Christian tradition and bring it into conversation with their experiences of the world as they study, worship, and engage in theological reflection together.

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Images Copyright 2017 – 2020 by Katy Dickinson.

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