2017-18 RSGA Meetings

Mark your calendars for the 2017-18 RSGA meetings in Early Center 106 (fishbowl) at 4:10pm.

  • September 19
  • October 10
  • November 14
  • December 12
  • January 23
  • February 20
  • March 13
  • April 10

In the meantime, have a wonderful summer and consider yourself or your friends for  nominations this fall!

Diaconate Election Results

A huge THANK YOU to all who participated over the past few weeks for RSGA Elections.
At this time, I’d like to introduce our Diaconate Chairs for the 2017-18 School Year:
Campus Care Committee Chair: Erin Burt
Ecological Awareness Committee Chair: Andrew Bowman
Fellowship Committee Chair: Jayme Babczak
Sports and Recreation: Andy Spaulding 
The Service Committee Chair remains vacant at this time.
Thanks again to everyone who ran! Please let me know if you have any questions!
Thank you!
Russ Kerr
RSGA Clerk

Diaconate Elections 2017-18


RSGA Elections continue this week with Diaconate Committee Chair Elections. Below are the nominations for these positions as well as a short blurb. 

Erin Burt. “Being a part of the Union community has mad a huge impact on my seminary experience thus far. I am thankful for the ways people have taken good care of me in the past few months. I would love to be responsible for carring on some of our current traditions as well as thinking of new ways to nurture and serve our student body in the future. My job prior to starting seminary was focused on community building and I would appreciate the opportunity to continue to practice these skills in a new context.”


Andrew Bowman. “I believe it is a duty and privilege for all Christians to care for the earth. God has given us abeautiful creation that we ought to cherish and protect. I will work to lead, inspire, and facilitate opportunities to do so across campus and beyond.” 

Colleen Earp. “I love the earth, and I love encouraging others to love and care for it too!”

Sam Shields. “My interest in being the ecojustice chair is due to my involvement with eco-justice in undergrad, both within community activities and my major. At Presbyterian College I was the Eco-Justice chair my senior year where we applied our efforts to the 1001 worshiping community on campus. My Capstone for my degree looked at PCUSA confessionals and what they say about justice, in relation to water rights across the globe. I see eco-justice as something that is fiscally responsible, as well as morally responsible in regards to our faith tradition.” 


Jayme Babczak. “Simply stated, I’ve got a passion for people and food. Fellowship works best when both areinvolved, am I right?! My hope would be that the Fellowship Committee plans events and activities that are attractive to and inclusive of everyone in the community! This includes ALL Y’ALL – students on campus and commuters, faculty and staff, spouses and children, and pets! During my first year, fellowship activities have really helped me build relationships and connect with people outside of the classroom in fun and informal ways. I hope to be able to plan events that do the same for you. It will be difficult to fill Melissa’s shoes, but if elected as the Fellowship chair, I commit to trying my best!”


Andy Spaulding. “It’s all about recreation, but it’s also about re-creation. If Jesus sweated, you can too.”

The SERVICE COMMITTEE CHAIR will remain vacant and open for election in the fall along with Representatives. 

As always, you can vote here: https://goo.gl/forms/Fe20wT3S08RrfrwI2  You may send your vote to Mimi Siff (mimi.siff@upsem.edu), Linda Kurtz (linda.kurtz@upsem.edu), or to myself (russell.kerr@upsem.edu). Voting will go until Friday (3/31) at 4pm. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!

Russ Kerr

RSGA Clerk


Student Voices: This Big Tent

What makes a Presbyterian a Presbyterian? Let me name (some of) the ways. One could argue that a love of (or at least an appreciation for) acronyms is a pretty good marker of Presbyterianism. We meet with CPMs, support service trips with the PDA, participate in the OGHS offering, and prepare PIFs – just to name a few.

Presbyterians also love conferences. Several of us students traveled to Denver in January to attend the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators’ Annual Event (otherwise known as APCE – another acronym!). More of us headed to Kansas City just this past week to attend the NEXT Church National Gathering (and no, “NEXT” is amazingly not an acronym). Others of us have attended conferences at Montreat; General Assembly (arguably the biggest “conference” of them all); the Pathways to Chaplaincy conference; Compassion, Peace and Justice training days; and many more. And those were just in the last year or so!

Theologically, Presbyterians speak often of tables. We gather around table – one that’s not our table, but the Lord’s – for communion each Wednesday here at Union, partaking in the joyful feast that is celebration and thanksgiving for God’s amazing gift to us. We have similarly joyful feasts nearly every other day of the week around tables in Richmond Hall, in each other’s apartments or kitchens, and in local restaurants. We break literal bread on Wednesdays and perhaps not-so-literal “bread” on these other days, always giving thanks to God and for one another.

But my favorite analogy often employed by Presbyterians is that of the big tent. (Heck, we even have a conference named after it!) When I interviewed for a CPE program a few weeks ago, I was asked about my own understanding of God’s grace. In my answer, I talked about the “big tent,” and how under it there’s room for a range of perspectives and opinions – and not just Presbyterians. My interviewers looked at each other, looked back at me, and replied, “That’s so Presbyterian of you.”

Just like the communion table, this big tent is not ours, but God’s. And just like at table, there’s room for everyone under the big tent. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently as the RSGA takes steps to advocate for inclusivity of diverse people and perspectives on our campus. Back in December, after two months of discussion, the RSGA decided to send a letter to the dean of students and academic dean about embracing ideological diversity at Union. You can read it here. The letter outlines a few ways in which we believe more room for a wider range of perspectives can be made on this campus, and makes a few suggestions about ways we as an institution might do so. As your moderator, I have met with both deans, President Blount, and the entire faculty to share this letter with them, explain its genesis, and discuss ways we might move forward in conversation and action.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like we are entering a new era in American culture. It feels like discourse of all kinds – even with friends and family – is more difficult, more fraught with accusations and tension, than it used to be. And in such a time, this is what I know to be true, as stated in the letter: “We know that the majority of our calls will be to serve in contexts with a diverse representation of ideological perspectives—we ought to have experience engaging with those perspectives.”

I know there is more work to be done to ensure that all students, regardless of ideology, feel welcome on this campus. I look forward to engaging in further conversation around this issue with students, faculty, and staff. Particularly if you are a student who identifies with this letter, I urge you to talk to me, Dean McFayden, or President Blount so we might learn more about your perspective and experience at Union. I’d also like to encourage you to speak up in class or anywhere else on campus, because only when we better represent this big tent can we learn a perspective other than our own. But no matter where you place yourself on the ideological spectrum, I pray we will all take advantage of this unique time in our lives to learn what it might be like to be a pastor to a “purple” church, a chaplain to a diverse mix of people, a leader to those who might not agree on matters of government but do agree on matters of God.

I am grateful for all of you who make up the current population of our seminary. Each of your voices is valued, respected, and needed. No matter what we all do with our degrees once we graduate from this place, here and now let us endeavor to equip one another to be able to see and appreciate and respect convictions we might not share, but convictions that fit under our big tent nonetheless. And you don’t need to be Presbyterian to know that God’s tent is more expansive and more grace-filled than we can ever begin to imagine. This tent we have at Union is big enough for us all. Let’s live in it.

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LINDA KURTZ is a middle level M.Div/M.A.C.E student at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond. She is serving as the 2016-2017 moderator for the RSGA.

2017-18 Moderator Election Results


Thank you for your participation in the 2017-18 RSGA Moderator Elections. At this time I’d like to congratulate Linda Kurtz on being elected Moderator of the RSGA for the 2017-18 school year.
Next week elections continue with the nominees for Vice Moderator, Clerk, and Treasurer. Please be on the lookout for an e-mail from Mimi. Thank you so much to everyone who voted and to everyone who ran. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you!
Russ Kerr
RSGA Clerk

Moderator 2017-18 Elections


Moderator Elections for RSGA go live later today! You can find the Google Form for voting, here: https://goo.gl/forms/SXzZ0Ms1aNhIbF8f1 

You may vote once. Name is required for this reason. You may also send your vote to myself (russell.kerr@upsem.edu) or Mimi Siff. The nominees are:

ALEX ABDALLA. I believe RSGA has a principle role in our seminary and larger community.  I value deeply the function the moderator has to making sure that all voices of our community are heard and the individuals of our student body are appropriately represented.  I would enjoy and take seriously this position if I were given the opportunity.

LINDA KURTZ. Serving as your moderator has been a privilege and a joy. I would like to continue doing so next year because while we have done much, there is still much to do! I hope to continue conversations begun around ideological diversity on campus and refine our new constitution now that we’ve lived into it for one year. 

We are still accepting nominations for other officer positions (Vice Moderator, Treasurer, Clerk) If you think you may know someone, nominate them here:https://goo.gl/forms/2mY9KeKO0Wh8aapA or email your nominations to Mimi, Linda, or myself.

Lots of information. Thanks for hanging in there! Love y’all!!

New Beginnings

At the beginning of August I spent a few weeks hiking solo on the Appalachian Trail. After years of dreaming and months of planning, I felt somewhat prepared to expect the unexpected. My parents drove me to Damascus, Virginia where I would hike southbound through North Carolina and Tennessee. On our car ride they were still questioning if I “was sure I really wanted to do this.” While I put on a brave and seemingly annoyed face to defend against their concern, I was wondering the same thing. I felt drawn to the trail, but the mixture of nerves and excitement about the challenges to come left me asking myself why I was hiking in the first place, especially why I felt so determined to hike alone. These were the questions I would continue to ask myself on a daily basis. Sometimes these thoughts would plague my mind, particularly in the midst of rainy days, continuous uphill climbs, or after going downhill for hours. My parents dropped me off on the trail with a teary goodbye and I just started walking. For a day that required so much preparation, the start certainly felt ordinary and calm. I just put one foot in front of the other until I reached my destination for the night. I found that I was by myself, a feeling I would have to get used to. The farther along I went on the trail, the less clear the end goal became. I wasn’t sure where I was going to stop hiking. Most days I only bumped into other people a few times a day and at some point in the conversation would come the question I began to dread. “Where are you going?” My answer always varied, but consistently lacked certainty. I wasn’t sure where and I wasn’t sure why and I was alone with these thoughts all of the time. You hear people say that the trail is just as hard mentally as it is physically. It is a mental wilderness. My humanity was made obvious to me on a daily basis. Amidst the solitude and within my deep need for guidance, it also became easier to connect to God. I was able to more readily recognize blessings provided through the Earth. The Holy Spirit was easier to sense. Prayer became more regular and more conversational. Ultimately, the answers to my questions became less important and on the day it was time to come off of the trail, I knew that I was finished hiking, for the time.

I have just finished my first week of seminary. During this week, I have found peace in seeing the parallels between my experience on the Appalachian Trail and the path I have just started walking. I am not sure where I am going and I am still figuring out why I am here. I do know that I am in the right place and I know that I am not alone. I trust that God will reveal the answers to my questions along the way.


ERIN BURT is a First Level M.Div Student here at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond. Here Erin is pictured while on the trail!