Written by Jane Siebert
The Board of Trustees of the Center for Swedenborgian Studies, (CSS) the Corporation of the New Church Theological School, is delighted and honored to announce the selection of our new dean, Dr. Rebecca Esterson, starting July 1, 2022.
Rev. Dr. James Lawrence is retiring after twenty-one years as dean and will become the new President of the Swedenborgian Church of North America at this year’s annual convention in June.
“Dr. Rebecca Esterson is supremely equipped to lead our church’s seminary with her outstanding teaching and scholarship skills combined with her life-long love of the church. Her now-renown abilities in leading journeys of discovery ensure a promising future for our beloved community as we all continue the quest for understanding and contributing Swedenborgian wisdom in the challenges of fulfillment as a culture and as individuals.” —Dean Jim Lawrence
There will be a celebration and reception honoring both Jim and Rebecca at this year’s CSS Corporation meeting during convention.
Rebecca was raised Swedenborgian in the town of Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, and joined the Swedenborgian Church of North America while in graduate school at Harvard Divinity School in Massachusetts. She was an active member of the Cambridge Society of the New Jerusalem for seventeen years. While there, Rebecca held several lay leadership positions, including serving on the worship committee for periods when they were without a minister, and time as both vice president and president. She served on the founding board of the Garden Church in San Pedro, California, and has been a member of the Hillside Community Church in El Cerrito, California, since she arrived in the Bay Area in 2015. Rebecca serves currently on the Hillside church board, the denomination nominating committee, and Swedenborgians in Action Against Racism. She is the Dorothea Harvey Professor of Swedenborgian Studies and Associate Professor of Sacred Texts and Traditions at the Center for Swedenborgian Studies at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, California.
Many of you know Rebecca from a variety of educational programing where Swedenborgians gather, including lecturing at the Fryeburg New Church Assembly, offering mini courses at Convention, and programs of the West Coast Association and the Bay Area’s annual Memorial weekend Swedenborgian retreat.
Dr. Esterson has created a good following at CSS and GTU. Her classes draw Swedenborgian students and a wide variety of graduate students on various theological career paths. Classes like “Death, Grief and Im/mortality,” “Genesis: A Journey Inward,” and “Incarnational Theology” offer an interface with a Swedenborgian theological context and other Christian and non-Christian traditions. Each class has experiential objectives and application to a life of uses.
Acknowledgement of her teaching has resulted in many awards and elite recognitions including the Teaching In Excellence Award from the GTU (2020); Early Career Faculty Workshop Fellow from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion (2019) and Fellowship Grant Recipient (2019–2020); the Helen G. Allen Humanities Award and the Angela J. and James J. Rallis Memorial Award from Center for the Humanities at Boston University (2015); and the Outstanding Teaching Fellow Award from the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston University (2014).
Esterson’s publishing history includes articles through the Swedenborg Foundation, scholarly Journals, and her forthcoming book, published by the Society of Biblical Literature Press, on biblical interpretation in the eighteenth century, titled Imagining Jewish Allegory.
Read the full issue of the March 2022 Messenger
Meet Rev. Jane Siebert
Rev. Jane Siebert is the President of the Swedenborgian Church of North America.