Donna Schaper

Faculty Associate in Religious Leadership
Associate Faculty - Graduate Programs


  • D.Min. (Hartford Seminary)
  • M.Div. (Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg)
  • M.A. (University of Chicago Divinity School)
  • B.A. (Gettysburg College)
  • Honorary Doctorate (Gettysburg College)

Areas of Study

  • Leadership Development
  • Turn around congregations
  • Start-up Congregations
  • New Church Starts
  • Fund and Energy Raising
  • Pastoral Theology
  • Public Ministry
  • Parish Ministry Administration


My life mission is spiritual nurture for public capacity.  This mission grounds me in my first love, which is parish ministry.  My love of teaching is directly related to this first love: I find it thrilling to be able to reflect on decades of action in the parish with others who are there.  I also love teaching people in leadership situations beyond the parish, like community organizations, chaplaincies and non-profits.  Action- reflection is a method I learned at the University of Chicago divinity school, and I have treasured it ever since.

Preaching, pastoring and building community (or rebuilding community) are my strengths and graces.  I build good teams with deep benches.  I like to share power and to increase power.  I am best in situations that matter enough to have conflict about who they are and where they want to go.  I am glad at the arrival of conflict because it means something new is emerging.  I genuinely believe and almost understand the death/resurrection cycle of clearing the way for what’s next.  I compost food scraps and not just them. I tend what others throw away.

I write books and articles as a way to clear my own mind and to know what I think.  My 38 books are mostly about time, Keeping Sabbath or From time famine to Time feast.   I am intentionally inefficient.  Therefore I get a lot done.

I teach at several seminaries and enjoy preparing people for what they can’t possibly expect, in life, church, politics and culture making.  My most popular course is the Nitty Gritty of Parish Ministry and second most popular is working with congregations and not for profits about their real estate and its problems and opportunities. At Hartford Seminary I shepherd the second year D.Min students towards their projects.

I have a Rachel Maddow haircut and am often introduced as a combination of Henry Ford and Martha Stewart.  I grow a good tomato and write a column that showcases my personal tension: it is titled, “City Mouse, Country Mouse,” and runs in the Poughkeepsie Journal near where I was born in Kingston, New York, where the Ashokan Reservoir sends great water to New York City.  I live both in New York City and Hopewell Junction, New York.

My partner of 35 years is a public intellectual, writer, professor and wild mushroom hunter.

I have three grown children, all in their thirties.  They have health insurance and do not live at home.  I have four grandchildren – a six year old who plays imaginary games without guns against multiple enemies.  We call this game birdy.  My granddaughter wears princess dresses to bed and all day long.  My other two are just born and don’t know who they are yet.

I have two cats one for the city and one for the country, and both live sort of together up and down the Taconic in the car.

Sybil, our border collie, herds people, like I do.

I am Senior Pastor at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, on the south end of Washington Square Park.   I have been with this marvelous congregation for eleven years.  I follow their energy, which is enormous.   When it comes to congregations, I like the self-governing ones the most.  They meet my happiness and goal of spiritually well nurtured people who have great public capacity.

My Doctoral project was about reimagining denominations, as they die the tough death of the 21st century’s allergy to institutions.  Many things remain possible, including a non-parochial localism and a glorious globalism.  We find them one step at a time and one community at a time.  I place myself with people who want to find a – not the – way.   At my age, you have to call this advanced placement.

My most recent book is about Pope Francis.


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