Tag Archives: John

Mentor Accreditation, EfM, GTU


My second year of classes at at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley starts early next month. Before that, I need to finish registering six students for the Education for Ministry (EfM) seminar for which I am a Mentor on Mondays, September-June annually, hosted at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. I have been an Accredited Mentor for EfM since 2011, with about fifty students having taken the course with me. Accreditation is by University of the South – School of Theology, which sponsors the EfM extension program from Sewanee, Tennessee.

Education for Ministry (EfM) is 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. – From Education for Ministry (EfM)

A requirement of being an EfM Mentor is re-accreditation every 12 to 18 months. As the EfM Coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real since 2015, I am responsible for arranging mentor training, including my own. This month, six of us participated in the training, with an EfM Mentor Trainer coming from Boston and mentors from churches all over Central California: Los Osos, Salinas, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Mountain View. The Diocese hosts our training weekend at Sargent House, its elegant and historic headquarters in Salinas.

In addition to the Monday night EfM classes, I am also a Mentor for faith-based classes on Wednesday and Friday nights in two men’s dorms at Elmwood Jail. I used to present the EfM program at Elmwood but EfM’s nine-month cycle did not work well for the inmates, so in 2018 we shifted to the Transforming Literature of the Bible (TLB) materials that I revised to fit the jail setting. TLB can be offered in two three-month terms. My Co-Mentors are Karen LeBlanc, Joel Martinez, and Diane Lovelace, with my husband John Plocher as our backup.

Today, I registered at GTU. I was glad to sign up for classes that do not conflict with my own teaching / mentoring schedule. I am very much looking forward to taking:

  • Christian Theology & Natural Science
  • Archaeology of the Lands of the Bible
  • Research Methods

I forgot to take group pictures at this year’s EfM Mentor training, so these are of the 2018 mentor cohort.

Diocese El Camino Real Sargent House Salinas CA August 2018

EfM Mentor Training Salinas August 2018

Pictures Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson

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New SmartCar with Flames

Katy Dickinson 2017 SmartCar with flame wrap

In 2010, I bought my first SmartCar and gave it a vinyl wrap with a multicolored ribbon design called Kite Strings. Since I have been commuting to Berkeley to earn my Masters at Graduate Theological Union and my car was growing noisy and bouncy, I decided to upgrade. I bought a used 2017 SmartCar and just had it wrapped in flames by Vinyl Ink Custom Wraps. 2017 is the last year that SmartCar made a gas-powered version – and my commute from San Jose is too long for an electric car. The eye-catching wrap makes my tiny car more visible in the Bay Area’s heavy traffic. My “new” car gets 37 miles per gallon of gas and is very easy to park, even in Berkeley!

John Plocher 2017 SmartCar with flame wrap
Katy Dickinson 2017 SmartCar with flame wrap
Katy Dickinson 2009 and 2017 SmartCars with wraps
2009 SmartCar with Kite Strings wrap in 2010

Pictures Copyright 2010-2019 by Katy Dickinson and John Plocher

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Jail Classes Thriving

The two classes I mentor at Elmwood Jail are thriving. The Education for Ministry (EfM) class has been going since 2015, and the Transforming Literature of the Bible (TLB) class started this year. Both will be recruiting new inmate students this month for the next sessions.

The Rev. Canon William Barnwell created TLB in the early 1980s at the University of New Orleans, and continued its development for many years at National Cathedral. Between May and August 2018, in consultation with Canon William, I revised the 36 sessions in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Testament, kept some of the original literature, and added more diverse selections appropriate to jail ministry in California. The literary selections are included to provide a diverse context in which to understand some of the major themes in the Bible passages under consideration. In May, I started the first TLB Hebrew Bible pilot class in a minimum security men’s dorm. This TLB program is in addition to the EfM program also presented weekly, in a medium security dorm at Elmwood.

We finished the first full (two term) TLB pilot class in October – graduating our first students. The overall rating for the class is 93% Excellent, with 93% of students reporting that they would Definitely recommend the class to others.  One student who just graduated turned down an early release date so that he could finish the class. Thirteen signed up for the third TLB term that started in October.

I am grateful to my Co-Mentors Diane Lovelace and Joel Martinez, and my husband, John Plocher (with the Rev. Peggy Bryan as backup). This program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy  (CIC), St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, and the University of the South – School of Theology, EfM Program. Thanks to Collette Lynner of CIC for supporting TLB production.

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson

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Interfaith Panel on Religion and Environment

Today, the Islamic Networks Group (ING) presented an interfaith panel discussion on Religion and the Environment at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, in Saratoga, California (the Silicon Valley).  I was honored to be the panelist representing Christianity, joined by other certified interfaith speakers who are Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim.  Some of the questions we answered, in addition to those from the audience:

  • What texts or traditions in your religion speak to the relationship of humanity to the natural world and the importance of caring for the environment?
  • Stewardship can be interpreted as living in harmony with the earth: careful and responsible management of shared resources; or dominance and making the most out of an owned resource. How does your faith tradition interpret stewardship of the earth? Does your religion have a formal position on this?
  • What personal or community practices have you observed in your faith group with regard to these teachings?
  • How do adherents of your faith consider climate change? Do people in your religious tradition feel a responsibility to respond to climate change? What have you observed in this area in your faith community?
  • St. Andrew’s holds an annual Faith and Innovation Conference. Technology and innovation have had both positive and negative effects on the environment, for example: reducing transport emissions on the one side, and on the other side using developing countries as a dumping ground for e-waste. Does your religious tradition have a point of view on this? What have you observed in this area?
  • How can religious traditions and groups work together for the good of the planet?

Each of us researched and brought notes to the panel.  Part of what I said was about Christianity and Environmentalism in the Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox branches, and part about the ongoing tension between Stewardship and Dominion. My materials included:

  • From St. Andrew’s Prayers of the People
    • (2 Sep 2018) “Creative God, we pray for the earth. Keep watch over those who rescue endangered species and repair scorched landscapes. Make us good stewards of creation.”
    • (16 Sep 2018) “Creative God, quarks and galaxies bear witness to your imagination.  Inspire scientists, naturalists, and conservationists who work to conserve precious natural resources. Grant us the wisdom to be good keepers of the earth.”
  • From 1982 Episcopal Hymnal – 14,161 hymns include “earth” – 5,274 include “sky” – and 5,254 include “stars”
    • “For the beauty of the earth” – “For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies. Christ, our Lord, to you we raise this, our hymn of grateful praise…”
    • “The Holy Trinity” Verse 4 – “Holy! holy! holy! Lord God Almighty! All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth and sky, and sea…”
    • “Earth and all stars” – “Earth and all stars, Loud rushing planets, Sing to the Lord a new song! Hail, wind, and rain, Loud blowing snow storm, Sing to the Lord a new song! God has done marvelous things. I too sing praises with a new song!”
  • Book of Common Prayer: Prayers and Thanksgivings, Prayers for the Natural Order pp.827-828
    • 40. For Knowledge of God’s Creation
    • 41. For the Conservation of Natural Resources
    • 42. For the Harvest of Lands and Waters
    • 43. For Rain
    • 44. For the Future of the Human Race
  • “Steward” in the Bible, 20 mentions in NSRV. The steward’s job: Manager of house and lands and workers – Master of the Household (Isaiah 22:15)
    • “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” 1 Corinthians 4:2
    • “For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain” Titus 1:7
  • “Dominion” in the Bible, 50 mentions in NSRV – Ruler, owner, in control over
    • “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”” Genesis 1:26
    • “God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Genesis 1:28
    • “Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul.” Psalm 103:22
    • “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” Romans 6:9

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Photos Copyright 2018 by John Plocher

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Technical Women Inspiration Cards

My husband, John Plocher, just created a set of colorful inspirational PC cards for Technical Women, particularly TechWomen mentors and mentees. TechWomen is an Initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, a program which I helped to design in 2010-2011 and for which I have been a proud volunteer mentor since. John designs PC cards as a part of his model train hobby – so he regularly prints new designs for fabrication in Shenzhen, China.  These cards are 4″ x 2″ in size and have two holes in them so they can be hung as decorations. One side says Technical Woman / STEM Science Technology Engineering Math.  The other side says LEADER, with one of six quotes:

  • “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
  • “If it is a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.” – Grace Hopper
  • “I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.” – Marie Curie
  • “Every girl deserves to take part in creating the technology that will change our world and change who runs it.” – Malala Yousafzai
  • “Yes, I’m a feminist, because I see all women as smart, gifted, and tough.” – Zaha Hadid
  • “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” – Oprah Winfrey

John and I are talking about adding more colors and quotes.  Suggestions?

Here is how John made the cards – if you want to make some of your own.

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Finished Shakespeare’s Henry VI

Since the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California) Shakespeare Reading Group started meeting in 2012, we have read almost all of the Bard’s plays at least once.  We meet about every two months for a potluck dinner and to read a play – taking turns hosting.  Since April, we have been reading one of Shakespeare’s early hits, the three play history series on Henry VI and the Wars of the Roses.  Our group of 13 last night ranged in age from 92 to 16 years.  I am the group Mentor – sending out recommended reading and movie links in advance, assigning roles, and giving an overview on each play before we read.  The Rev. Stephenie Cooper prepares a role analysis to keep us from having too many readers being assigned roles who speak with each other. Melita Thorpe is in charge of the theater program for the parish. Some of us read from paper books and others from iPads.

The favored roles in our group are the evil characters.  Our 16-year-old reader of Richard of York (the future Richard III) enthusiastically murdered most of the other characters. John Watson-Williams, our 92-year-old reader, asked to read the role of the classic politician Warwick the Kingmaker.  I read King Edward IV whose unwise marriage to Elizabeth Woodville changes his reign.  My husband John Plocher read all of the messenger roles in his usual energetic and irreverent style.  We had a delightful evening!

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Image Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Starting Book Two

Last month, I finished revising and printing/binding 256 pages (in 17 sessions of Book One – “The Hebrew Bible“) for the pilot version of the new “The Transforming Literature of the Bible” (TLB) course. Today, I finished revising 140 pages in the first 9 sessions (out of 19) of TLB Book Two (“The New Testament“).  Production starts tomorrow.  I am collaborating on the revision of TLB with the Rev. Canon William H. Barnwell who wrote the original course. In addition to revising Canon William’s 2008 course materials, I am running a pilot version of the class itself at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California). I am grateful to my Co-Mentors Diane Lovelace, and my husband, John Plocher (with the Rev. Peggy Bryan as backup). This program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy  (CIC) and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.  Thanks to Collette Lynner of CIC for supporting TLB production.

Six students are finishing the 17 sessions in Book One this Friday.  We start studying Book Two next week.  The inmates are very enthusiastic, doing their extensive homework reading and participating energetically in in-class discussions and reflections.  There is a waiting list of inmates from two dorms to join us.

Literary selections are included in TLB to provide a diverse context in which to understand some of the major themes in the Bible passages under consideration.  In addition to readings in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), the students of Book One have also read:

  1. “The Welcome Table” story by Alice Walker (1973)
  2. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1955)
  3. “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” poem by Mohja Kahf (2003)
  4. “The Son from America” story by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1973)
  5. “The Big Red Apples” story by Zitkála-Šá  aka Red Bird (1900)
  6. “My Last Duchess” poem by Robert Browning (1842)
  7. “I Have a Dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King (1963)
  8. O Pioneers! excerpt by Willa Cather (1913)
  9. “The Family of Little Feet” story by Sandra Cisneros (1984)
  10. The Gangster We Are All Looking For excerpt by Lê Thị Diễm Thúy (2003)

The Book Two (New Testament) students will read these literary selections in Part One “A Journey With Mark“:

  1. “At the Arraignment” poem by Debra Spencer (2004)
  2. “A Private Experience” story excerpt by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009)
  3. “Sonnet XXVII” by William Shakespeare (1609)
  4. “Under the Poplars” poem by César Vallejo (1919)

One of the TLB students wants me to start another Education for Ministry (EfM) seminar in their dorm after I finish Books One and Two of TLB. Joel Martinez and I are Co-Mentors for a weekly EfM seminar which started in 2015 in another dorm where inmates tend to stay inside longer. I designed TLB to be finished in 5 months but EfM takes four 9-month terms to complete. I told him that if he can find ten other students who will be there for long enough, I will start another EfM class.

Other than my ongoing project as the Mentor for the Shakespeare Reading Group, TLB is one of the few times since I was graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in English (with a specialty in Shakespeare) that my knowledge and passion for literature has been of such use.  I am very much enjoying reviewing potential TLB selections.  Thanks to my daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman for her advice on some of the selections, and to John for reviewing my drafts.

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Image Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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