Mercy Seminar 2023

A Christian Exploration of Indian Spirituality

With Father David Peck
and Professor Randall Zachman

Entirely on Zoom

The Mercy Seminar explores a theme related to the understanding of mercy in various religious traditions in order to reflect on the relationship of human life to ultimate reality, including the themes of illusion, suffering, compassion and prayer. The focus for 2023 will be on the themes of love, devotion and liberation in the Hindu traditions of India. Each of the 3 terms run for 6 consecutive Thursday nights. New participants join each term and the Seminar does not presume prior experience or knowledge. It is fully online and is recorded for asynchronous viewing.

In a highly accessible study, that includes reading short passages of a primary text along with brief practices of yoga and meditation, participants will explore the central texts informing Hindu spirituality.

Professor Randall Zachman and Father David Peck welcome all those who want to make deeper connections between mind, body and spirit through sustained engagement with Hindu spirituality in ways that help us to deepen our own Christian spirituality through both texts and practices. Now in its fourth year the Mercy Seminar via Zoom builds a rich sense of community as we bring a “beginners mind” to the study of holy texts and the mystical path that deepens Christian understanding and expands our understanding of other faith traditions and cultures that we would otherwise never really appreciate.

Term 3 (September 28 – November 2)

The third term will examine the fruits of contemporary Hindu-Christian dialogue and nonviolence, focusing on Christian interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita, and Hindu interpretations of the Sermon on the Mount. The term will end with a Zoom conversation with Dr. Jeffery Long, who is a Hindu scholar and practitioner, regarding his understanding of Hindu-Christian understanding, given his own experience of converting from Roman Catholicism to Hinduism.

The Sermon on the Mount, combined with the Hindu spirituality expressed in the Upanishads and The Bhagavad Gita, inspired Gandhi’s commitment to non-violent resistance. Gandhi in turn had an impact on Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King, Jr., who brought his vision of non-violence and liberation to the United States. George Harrison of the Beatles was also profoundly influenced by Hindu thought and practice. His song “I, Me, Mine” is based on a quote from The Bhagavad Gita. No prior knowledge is needed to take this course.

Six consecutive Thursday evenings from 7 – 8:30 PM in Zoom format only.

Each session will be recorded in Zoom and available for viewing for those who have completed their registration.

Cost: $75/term; bundling discounts available

scholarships available; please email Nancy LeVasseur for more information.

Click here to register for Term 3.

Term 3 Readings

Course Readings
Session 1: Reading II.1
Session 2: Reading II.2
Session 3: Reading II.3
Session 4: Reading II.4
Session 5: Reading II.5

Father David Peck

The Rev. David W. Peck is the twenty-third rector of Saint James. Prior to his arrival in 2008 from the United Kingdom, he served the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, at Lambeth Palace as his Secretary for International Development. In this role he focused on building partnerships with church leaders, UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations in order to provide food and education in post-conflict zones in sub-Saharan Africa.

Born in Indiana, David was educated in the United States and England, earning his Theology and Ministry degrees from Cambridge University and Westcott House.

David’s prior peace building and reconciliation work led him to study in Jerusalem in 2013. There he began a new focus on how the rich theology of mercy could help Jews, Christians and Muslims explore their own and each other’s texts and traditions more deeply.

His work in Africa and the Middle East and his completion of a 30-day Ignatian silent retreat at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, PA drew him more deeply into the practice of contemplative prayer. Since then he has taught meditation in school, hospital, hospice and prison settings. He lives with his wife Dr. Cordelia Moyse, a church historian, and their daughter.

Prof. Randall Zachman

Randall Zachman is Professor Emeritus of Reformation Studies at the University of Notre Dame, where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in theology for twenty-six years, and is currently an adjunct instructor in theology at Lancaster Theological Seminary. He is a lifelong Episcopalian. Randall received his undergraduate degree in religion at Colgate University, his Master of Divinity at Yale Divinity School, and his PhD at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

He is the author and editor of several books on Martin Luther and John Calvin, and has also published articles and chapters on the theology of Søren Kierkegaard and Karl Barth. He has spent his career teaching the history of Christian theology, including seminars on the Old and New Testaments.

For the past fifteen years, he has been a member of the International Theology Conference at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem in which Jewish, Muslim and Christian scholars study and dialogue together. He lives in Lancaster with his wife, The Rev. Dr. Carrie Call, who is the Transitional Conference Minister of the Penn Central Conference of the United Church of Christ. Their son Johnny lives in Austin, Texas.

The Urban Well is a registered trademark of Saint James Episcopal Church.

Seeing God Everywhere

Saturday, August 26, 10 AM – 3 PM
with Dr. Jeffery D. Long and
Professor Randall Zachman
Click here for more info

Term 1 Readings

Opening Comments
Session 1: Opening Comments II.1
Session 2: Opening Comments II.2 
Session 3: Opening Comments II.3 
Session 4: Opening Comments II.4 
Session 5: Opening Comments II.5
Session 6: Opening Comments II.6

You might also like…

Bus Trip
to the Walters Art Museum

Wednesday, September 28;
9 AM – 5 PM
Click here for more information.

A Retreat with Grace Song: Experience What Buddhism Teaches Christians About Wisdom and Compassion

Saturday, October 1; 10 AM – 3 PM
Click here for more information.

Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem

Pricing available later in 2021
Dates to be determined
The Mercy Seminar concludes with an optional week-long trip to the Tantur Ecumenical Institute. Situated at a beautiful location on a hill in Jerusalem, it serves as a welcoming place in the Holy Land for visitors who come from all over the world to stay at this oasis of learning, community and hospitality.