Ruth Shaver Receives The Sinai & Synapses Fellowship

The Sinai and Synapses Fellowship

Rev. Dr. Ruth E. Shaver, Lancaster Seminary 

I graduated from Lancaster Theological Seminary with my Doctor of Ministry degree in May 2016 with a project titled, “I Wonder: Scientific Exploration and Experimentation as a Practice of Christian Faith.” My work with my advisor, Dr. Anabel Proffitt; my consultation partner, Dr. Lee Barrett; and my philosophy instructor, Dr. David Mellott,* shaped the work into something that, if the excitement of colleagues when I describe the project is any indication, will be of importance to the wider church in the years to come. I am currently in the process of editing a book manuscript and making layout and editorial changes to the curriculum that serves as the basis for my work in hopes of publishing both soon. Because of research for my D.Min. and my interest in furthering my work, I was accepted as a Sinai and Synapses Fellow for 2017-2019.

Sinai and Synapses is an organization founded by Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman for many of the same reasons I ended up doing my Doctor of Ministry degree in faith and science. As the “Why It’s Needed” page of the Sinai and Synapses website says, current dialogue about science and religion is unproductive because there is no middle ground. Religious literalists and vehement atheists screech at us, “creating a lot of heat, but they are producing very little light.” In my dissertation, I positioned literalism (Creationism and Intelligent Design) as the thesis and scientific materialism (anti-religious scientific fundamentalism, in a sense) as the antithesis. Like Sinai and Synapses, I feel as though there’s a synthesis available that provides gentle heat and bright light to the conversation by raising up what faith systems best offer and what science best offers as ways to build God’s realm on Earth. Jewish theology calls this Tikkun Olam; it is the fulfillment of all that is best for humanity, particularly true justice, equality, and peace built on good stewardship of Earth’s resources for the current generations and generations to come. I also think God’s realm/Tikkun Olam encompasses opportunities for those most basic of ways in which we bear God’s image to thrive: curiosity and creativity, two essential elements of scientific exploration and discovery.

I first heard about Sinai and Synapses and the Fellowship in 2015 thanks to a newsletter feature from the Clergy Letter Project, itself an organization started to change the conversation between faith—at first specifically the Christian faith, now expanded to include Judaism, Unitarian-Universalism, and Buddhism—and scientists from confrontational to collaborative. I applied for the Sinai and Synapses Fellowship that same year, which was the first competitive year of the program, but was not selected. Even so, I was thrilled with the group that was assembled and further astonished at the quality of their work, which continues to be released even after the end of their biennium. What’s even more amazing is that I will get to work with them in 2019 when all three classes of fellows assemble, and then in 2021, I’ll be part of the alumni group that meets with the next class! But I get ahead of myself.

The 2017-2019 Class of Fellows is an assembly of faith leaders, educators, doctoral students, writers, and scientists of a variety of beliefs who are curious about the big questions of life. According to our biographies, two of us represent the United Church of Christ and three of us have connections to Boston University, where I received both my Bachelor of Arts and Master of Divinity degrees. As far as I know now, I’m the only LTS representative, but I may be surprised when we start introducing ourselves online. We have engineers, physicists, chaplains, church pastors, synagogue rabbis, Ph.D. candidates, professors, foundation leaders, and cognitive scientists. I’m excited to be a part of a class of fellows who will work with each other. We'll meet in person in New York City six times from November 2017 to May 2019. I suspect we will meet in many configurations in between via video services like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime. We will learn and grow both in our understanding of what science offers and what faith offers and in our ability to communicate what we know with the wider world. We will be producing videos, blogs, podcasts, seminars, and possibly even curricula (be still my heart!) for use by communities of faith around the country and the world. 

I have no idea what the content of our media will be. We will determine that when we meet and discover where our interests coalesce in small and large groups. I’m personally interested in science communication and education, both by curious lay people for lay people (in this instance, non-scientists being “lay” people) and by professionals for lay people. But among my cohort, there are specialists in several fields of curiosity including genetics and physics as well as broader fields such as climate change and sociological measures of human flourishing. I’m excited by the possibilities for what I might learn and, more important, excited by what we might bring as a group to broaden and deepen the understanding of God’s world through faith and science, two of the best gifts God has given to us to use for good.

I also want to say a tremendous THANK YOU to Dr. Marty Kuchma, my first year seminar leader; Dr. Greg Carey, who opened my eyes to new ways of understanding Luke-Acts; Dr. Valerie Bridgeman, who made me a better preacher; and Dr. Anne Thayer, who prodded me when necessary to get the work done. I still hear the late Dr. Frank Stalfa’s voice questioning every detail of my project proposal. Lancaster Seminary President Dr. Carol Lytch started at LTS the same time I did and champions far and wide the tremendous work of the faculty as well as the talents and possibilities of the student body and alumni/ae, including mine, for which I am grateful beyond words.

Current Opportunities

Job Categories: Seminary Opportunities Outside Opportunities View All
  • Full-Time Permanent Pastor, The Metropolitan Community Church of Our Redeemer, Augusta, GA Other

    Posted: Oct 12, 2017 The Metropolitan Community Church of Our Redeemer (MCCOOR) in Augusta, GA is seeking a full-time permanent pastor. We are a loving and caring church with a 30-year history of serving this community and we have bright opportunities for further growth. MCCOOR has recently paid off our mortgage on our beautiful historic church and we have a vibrant congregation.
  • Worship Ministry Audio-Visual Coordinator, Union Presbyterian Church, Kirkwood, PA Other

    Posted: Oct 12, 2017 Union Presbyterian Church in Kirkwood, PA is seeking a part-time Audio-Visual Coordinator who will be responsible for managing and running the church’s sound and video systems that support the Sunday worship services and special evening events.
  • Program Ministry Coordinator, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Millersville, PA Other

    Posted: Oct 03, 2017 St. Paul Lutheran Church, Millersville, is seeking an energetic, high-visibility candidate to fill a newly created part-time Program Ministry Coordinator position.
  • Transitional Associate Pastor, Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, DE Other

    Posted: Sep 29, 2017 Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware is seeking a Transitional Associate Pastor or a seasoned Christian Educator to focus on leadership development with an emphasis on nurturing leaders and teams for our ministry with children and adults.
  • Youth Director, First Baptist Church, Lancaster, PA Other

    Posted: Sep 26, 2017 First Baptist Church of Lancaster PA is searching for a Part-time Youth Director with a robust knowledge of Scripture and an excellent rapport with young people.
  • UMMBC Senior Pastor - Winston-Salem NC Other

    Posted: Sep 18, 2017 United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church is seeking candidates for Senior Pastor. The 125-year-old church is in an urban setting in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It is predominately African-American with a current membership of approximately 1,000.
  • Full-Time Minister, Kittamaqundi Community Church, Columbia, MD Other

    Posted: Aug 31, 2017 Kittamaqundi Community Church in Columbia, Maryland is seeking a full-time ordained minister.
  • Director of Spiritual Life, Lake Prince Woods, Suffolk, VA Other

    Posted: Aug 28, 2017 Lake Prince Woods, a continuing care retirement community located in Suffolk, VA, is seeking a full time Director of Spiritual Life.
  • Solo Pastor, The Presbyterian Congregation of Middletown, PA Other

    Posted: Jul 26, 2017 We are a congregation of 200 members in a small, university town that is a mix of suburban plenty and neighborhoods of poverty. Our vision is to be increasingly more active in all three of these settings. Music is very important to us and we have an active, quality adult vocal choir and bell choir. Our membership is a balance of professional and blue collar workers, young and elderly. Fellowship, worship, and service help us remain spiritually open to God's work in our lives and the lives of others.
  • Community Ministries Coordinator, First Congregational Church, Burlington, VT Other

    Posted: Jul 24, 2017 First Congregational Church in Burlington, VT is seeking a full-time (salaried with benefits) Community Ministries Coordinator for a position with an anticipated opening in fall of 2017.
  • Youth Director, West Grove United Methodist Church, West Grove, PA Other

    Posted: Jul 20, 2017 West Grove United Methodist Church is a dynamic and growing church where we love God by opening our hearts to Jesus, growing in our faith, and serving God and God’s world. We are looking for an engaging youth director/pastor to join our staff supporting an already active youth program through vision and new opportunities for development and growth.
  • Senior Pastor, Founders Metropolitan Community Church, Los Angeles, CA Other

    Posted: Jun 19, 2017 Founders Metropolitan Community Church Los Angeles is seeking a full time Senior Pastor to lead our diverse congregation of 225 members.
  • Associate Pastor, Wentz’s UCC, Worcester, PA Other

    Posted: Jun 16, 2017 Wentz's UCC is looking forward to welcoming a new full-time Associate Pastor.
  • Associate Pastor, Union UCC, Neffs, PA Other

    Posted: Jun 15, 2017 Union United Church of Christ in Neffs, PA is seeking a settled Full-time Associate Pastor.
  • Senior Pastor, Canvas Church, Houston, TX Other

    Posted: Jun 15, 2017 Canvas Church in Houston, TX is currently accepting applications to fill a Senior Pastor position as early as the end of August. We are searching for a leader to communicate and teach the Word of God, lead in the spiritual development of our congregation through small groups, and engage the Montrose community in a meaningful way through relationship and outreach.
  • Coordinator of Children’s Ministries, Palmyra First United Methodist Church, Palmyra, PA Other

    Posted: Jun 13, 2017 Palmyra First United Methodist Church is seeking a part-time Coordinator of Children's Ministries.
  • Director of Discipleship Ministries, Bethlehem United Methodist Church, Dallastown, PA Other

    Posted: Jun 08, 2017 Bethlehem United Methodist Church is seeking a Director of Discipleship Ministries. The full-time director will have a passion for working with adults and youth in the congregation and in the community to embody the mission of Bethlehem UMC: “To give of ourselves so others may know Jesus Christ.”
  • Minister of Faith Formation and Mission, Emmaus UCC, Vienna, VA Other

    Posted: Jun 07, 2017 Emmaus United Church of Christ, an Open and Affirming Congregation, is seeking an energetic, passionate Christian to help organize, administer and grow our children’s Sunday school, youth program, adult faith formation, and mission ministry.
  • Pastor, Trinity Reformed UCC, Collegeville, PA Other

    Posted: May 25, 2017 Trinity Reformed UCC in Collegeville, PA is searching for a new pastor as our current pastor has announced her retirement after 37 years of service. Trinity is an open and welcoming congregation of young families, empty-nesters and retirees with close ties to our community. Our congregation will look to our new pastor to provide spiritual leadership to all age groups to guide us along Christ’s path.
  • Associate Pastor of Discipleship, Palmyra First United Methodist Church, Palmyra, PA Other

    Posted: May 15, 2017 Palmyra First UMC is seeking an Associate Pastor of Discipleship who loves building up people in intentional and systematic ways, and loves Jesus more than that. Included in the role is encouraging, training, overseeing and guiding discipleship ministries of all ages. The ideal candidate will see shared preaching and pastoral care as windows on discipleship ministry. The successful candidate will be an outgoing, self-starting, team player who is passionate about making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
  • Part-Time Youth Director, Covenant United Methodist Church, Lancaster, PA Other

    Posted: May 11, 2017 Covenant United Methodist Church is looking for an experienced part-time (15-18 hours per week) youth director.