An Episcopal Center for Learning & Discipleship

An Interview with Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce

We say that Seabury-Western’s Doctor of Ministry program in Congregational Development, offered in partnership with the Church Divinity School of the Pacific assists students in understanding the challenges and opportunities facing today's church, provides tools for analyzing the congregation and its context, offers training in effective organizing and strategizing, and fosters collegial interactions with others asking similar questions."

But what might that mean to you personally? We explored that question in an interview with the Right Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce, suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, who is completing her doctorate at Seabury and has served as rector of St. Clement's by-the-Sea in San Clemente, Calif.

What did you think about the methodology of the program? Did it make sense to you, pedagogically?

I loved the fact that the program focused on "working clergy," and was aimed at teaching us what is necessary and immediately applicable in a parish or ministry setting. The years also built on one another, so that the foundation was firm under our feet as we began writing the thesis proposal and ultimately the thesis itself.

What elements of the program did you find most valuable?

Being able to eat a meal with a faculty member, ask those "outside the box" questions and then have time to explore the answers. That was a highlight of the time together for me. I also appreciated what at first seemed like refresher courses—such as family systems theory. Though they were in a sense “refreshers,” something new emerged. In seminary, these courses were theoretical to us: we weren't all in parish ministry yet. Now, taking them again while fully engaged in parish ministry, new insights and "AHA!" moments emerged.

What were the interactions like among you and your classmates?

God blessed me with the most wonderful of classmates! While some had to drop out due to different compelling reasons, those of us who continued through -- and those who joined us from previous years -- formed a wonderful bond. I am going to miss seeing them every summer!

What was of most immediate value to you in your ministry?

The congregational study -- and the course work leading up to it -- was invaluable. I was able to piece together and more deeply understand the history of my parish, and to better navigate the waters of future change. I also learned that of my predecessors, three died immediately after leaving St. Clement's, and one was removed for misconduct. Clergy wellness became a top priority for me!

What was of most lasting value?

The friendships and contacts I made with classmates and presenters. They are incredible resources for mission and ministry.

What one thing did you learn in the program that you wish everybody knew?

In the community organizing course I learned the importance of staying in touch with people through intentional one-on-one information gathering meetings. In terms of parish ministry, this translates into maintaining contacts and relationships not only within the parish, but in the community and among our fellow clergy. This allows us, when an opportunity or situation arises, to call on those who can lend aid or wisdom to the situation. It is such a simple concept, but so vitally important to our work.