January 14, 2022

From ESR

Following in the footsteps of greatness

ESR has graced the corner of Earlham’s campus for nearly 60 years. The founders, who had an imagination for what could be, had challenges stemming from the differences among Quakers and their sense of priority for training pastors and leaders. Fortunately, they persisted.

Among those early instigators were Landrum Bolling, Elton Trueblood, Wil Cooper, Helen Hole, Tom Mullen, Hugh Barbour, Hal Cope, Lorton Heusel, Leonard Hall, Alan Kolp, Keith Esch, Paul Lacey, Jay Marshall … to name a few that I have known in my lifetime. My father, David Castle, as pastor of First Friends, played a small role in teaching in the early days. Today, they would see ESR thriving. We are following in very big footsteps.

Gretchen Castle ’79

As dean of ESR, I continue what they started, working with others to build a strong graduate program, training people to be catalysts for change in the world. God knows we need this. We are working to be the ESR the world needs. ESR prepares leaders—particularly in the Quaker world—for ministry of all kinds. Students are drawn to the Quaker ethos and want to learn from professors who continue in the strong Quaker tradition, as well as professors who offer eclectic and creative approaches from other communions and theological perspectives.

As an embedded seminary, ESR benefits greatly from Earlham’s strong organizational structure and support, and from its outstanding educational reputation. And Earlham benefits from ESR’s ties to Quakerism and its religious heritage, with continuing connections internationally and across theological diversity.

In my first 100 days, my purpose in being here has been affirmed over and over. I am so grateful and proud of the ESR administrative and teaching faculty. It is a great joy to be working with them. It is a great joy to work with students who have altered their life circumstances in order to answer God’s call to ministry, in whatever form it takes. And it is a great honor to serve Friends around the world by offering this learning space to amplify our voice in the world. It gives me hope at a time when we all need it. God is not sleeping. Let us be awake to the possibilities generated by those who have come before us.

As the ESR community gathers for Common Meal each Tuesday, as it has throughout most of its history, we share joys and concerns, and as it says in The ESR Story by Eileen Kinch, we “commend them to God, who is always present and in the heart’s deepest center.”

By Gretchen Castle ’79, Dean of Earlham School of Religion

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