Technology & Ministry

Technology has a profound impact on our culture. It connects people and communities with shared interests. It amplifies voices, include those of people who have been marginalized or silenced. It disrupts longstanding economic, educational and political models.

Change of this magnitude raises questions about ethics, interpersonal dynamics, the nature of community, privacy, accountability, and equality. And the pace of change leaves our ability to grapple with these issues far behind the work of technologists, engineers and scientists.

In the midst of this change, we see an important role for ESR not only as an enabler of technology as a tool for ministry, but in engaging in prayerful, Spirit-led discernment into how best to integrate technology into individual lives, communities and society so that it advances our relationships with God and one another in positive ways.

ESR has been resourceful in using technology to create new educational opportunities and deliver important resources to Friends. We wish to accelerate this process. The Technology and Ministry endowment will meet these critical needs:

  • Support technology costs associated with the school’s distance education program, ESR Access.
  • Funding to expand the Digital Quaker Collection.
  • Support for ESR Publications.
  • Ongoing support for technological exploration befitting ESR’s leadership role and mission.

Technology, Ministry and ESR

The introduction of ESR Access distinguished the school from its ATS-accredited peers. ESR Access is one of the oldest accredited distance-learning programs offered by seminaries. It is the product of our development of a pedagogically appropriate classes delivered via the Internet. Coursework was originally delivered using Blackboard software; today, we use flexible open source Moodle software, and are expanding our capabilities to deliver audio and video content. Access has allowed us to:

  • Extend our programming and service to students who are unable to relocate to Richmond, IN full time.
  • Become more family-friendly. We are attractive to older graduate students who have to balance family responsibilities with work and school.
  • Support continuing ministry. Some prospective students are already engaged in vital ministries. Requiring their relocation to attend school would disrupt this. By delivering coursework via Access we support students' educational goals and ministries.

ESR Access demonstrates how the intentional, thoughtful use of technology can grow our reach in the United States and abroad, and support education and ministry among a wide range of students.

Digital Quaker Collection

Early Friends were often prolific writers. Their epistles, journals, and tracts contain rich wisdom regarding Friends’ spiritual insights. Unfortunately, most of these 17th- and 18th-century works are now out of print. This carries a regrettable consequence: Friends have lost contact with important witnesses to the way members of our tradition understand the life of faith.

With the support of a grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, ESR created the Digital Quaker Collection, a repository of more than 500 works totaling over 60,000 pages from prominent and less well known Quaker authors. The selected documents detail Quaker theology, spirituality, history, and practice since the inception of the religion in the mid-17th century.

Texts are available in XML and plain text formats. Both simple and powerful search options make this an essential tool for researchers and historians interested in Quaker scholarship. Additional funding will enable us to add new documents and functionality to the Digital Quaker Collection.

ESR Digital Publications

Print-on-demand and electronic publishing have lowered barriers to making texts widely available. We no longer have to tie up capital in an inventory of printed books. Instead, we can make titles available according to demand.

To date, we have released several titles:

Twenty-First Century Penn (2004). ESR alumnus Paul Buckley offers in modern English translation five important texts of William Penn, along with extensive footnotes that help illuminate Penn’s meaning.

Where the Wind Blows (2005). Why do some Quaker groups thrive, while others dwindle? Jay Marshall delivers details and insights from an ESR study of vitality among nine Friends meetings and churches.

The Quaker Bible Reader (2006). In this collection of essays edited by Stephen Angell and Paul Buckley, thirteen Friends describe how they read and use the Bible as a resource for their faith.


These initiatives all focus on the idea that technology is an enabler of ministry, and not an end in itself. Each is the product of much thought, discernment and creativity. These queries are provided to help you prayerfully consider whether this major gift proposal is a priority for you as you steward your resources.

Do you think Friends stand to benefit by using technology in appropriate ways?

Can you envision the value to Friends as ESR expands the boundaries of its classroom and community through distance education, workshops, and printed materials?

Do you have the means to help Earlham School of Religion build an endowment to support the Endowed Technology and Ministry Initiative at ESR?

What level of gift are you able to make to manifest this vision for ESR’s Technology and Ministry Initiative?

We offer multiple options for funding this endowment. A donor who chooses to fully fund the endowment will have the option of naming the program.

For more information or to discuss your interest in supporting Technology and Ministry at ESR contact Tom Decker at 800-432-1377.