Lee Hinson-Hasty is coordinator for theological education and seminary relations in the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the PC (U.S.A.). Through his work Lee hopes to capture and share a more expansive view of theological education, of church leadership and of vocational discernment as he sees through the eyes of some exciting Presbyterians in and related to seminaries.
I welcome and thank Neal D. Presa, Moderator of the 220th General Assembly (2012-2014) as a guest blogger in an Advent series answering the question, What is coming and becoming in theological education?Read this post for more about this series.
Leonard Sweet in Viral describes two tribes: Gutenbergers and Googlers. Gutenbergers are accustomed to the one-dimensionality of what paper expresses and are more comfortable with paper books and paper essays, not as adept with the Information Age and its multiple platforms as with the Googlers. Googlers were born into the Internet Age. Sweet says that in a so-called TGIF (Twitter, Google, iPad, Facebook) world, two things are needed: an EPIC (experiential, participatory, image-rich, connective) approach to communication that values MRI (missional, relational, incarnational) way of being. Now, it is possible for those who are Gutenberger in their biological age are Googlers in their way of seeing and engaging the world; likewise, it is possible for those who are Googler in age to be Gutenberger in their approach to faith and life. What 21st century contexts continually show is an approach to theological education and vocational formation which Googlers understand quite well.
In a TGIF world where EPIC and MRI are needed, Googlers show us that its not so much about installing PowerPoint projectors, or requiring iPads in the classroom, or going the distance-learning route; although all those are helpful in classroom pedagogy for many reasons. Googlers live with a hermeneutic of the world that is nimble, that is multilingual, that is interdisciplinary, that seeks the flourishing of the entirety of humanity. TGIF --the world in which Googlers were born, reared, studied, and are working in—showed them Instagram images, iReports, Tweets, Facebook statuses and Youtube videos of what Craig Barnes called in his inaugural address as Princeton Theological Seminary’s president, “Beauty and Truth.” Googlers see the truth of suffering on micro- and macro- scales, from the enormous effects of a Philippine typhoon to human trafficking to millions dying of malaria. Googlers also see the beauty when humanity – whether of a Christian faith tradition or not --- runs to the aid of a Boston marathoner, or heroically climbs 80 flights of stairs of a crumbling World Trade tower.
Theological education in the Reformed tradition for a 21st century world requires us to orientate our methods, our approach, and our own theology of theological education in such way where anchoring-tethering occurs: i.e. confidently and passionately anchored to the healing, reconciling Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, while humbly and generously tethered to the Reformed traditions. Anchoring tells us to whom we belong, our core identity, the substance of who we are. We are people of the Gospel, the Good News of God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit who has baptized us, called us, sent us, gathers us.
But we belong to a particular community, a specific neighborhood in the body of Christ called the Reformed tradition. And even then, those of us in the United States are part of the Reformed tradition that has taken an American form of Calvinism, which is somewhat different from the Calvinism in parts of Africa, in parts of Asia, in parts of Latin and South Americas. These multiple contexts require tethering.
Still yet, we are members of the human family, a planet of 7 billion people. The multiplication of contexts require tethering. We belong to a community, where there is identity and belongingness, but we are not locked nor prevented to engage the richness of diversity in the human family.
Faithful and full engagement in multiple contexts requires multilinguality (not literally learning Mandarin, Spanish, Korean, Italian, Swahili – although it could mean that too!), but being able to converse with and be conversant in multiple subjects, perspectives, methodologies, approaches; in other words, being nimble and flexible so as to offer authentic presence and to be authentically present.
I am privileged to be teaching at New Brunswick Theological Seminary (NBTS), the oldest seminary in North America founded in 1784, nestled in the heart of Rutgers University in central New Jersey. It is one of the two seminaries of the Reformed Church in America (RCA). We also have a campus presence at St. John’s University in Queens, New York City. While anchored to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and tethered to the Reformed tradition of the RCA, NBTS’s student body, staff community and faculty are not majority RCA. Our faculty is diverse – half of whom are people of color, more than half are not RCA. Our faculty and students come from Baptist, Pentecostal, AME, and non-denominational churches, as well as RCA and PC(USA). Our academic dean is the first African American and first non-RCA (he comes from the American Baptist tradition) in NBTS’s history.
Many of our own PC(USA) seminaries are in a similar place of serving an increasingly diverse student body. While an anchoring-tethering approach may instill a certain sense of angst for folks who want to insure the endurance and durability of what they have been accustomed to as THE Reformed tradition, a TGIF 21st century world calls us to take risks, knowing who and whose we are as anchored in the Gospel, tethered to the Reformed traditions, and following the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us to be in solidarity with humanity. . .an approach which our Lord Jesus taught his disciples in their own theological education and vocational formation.
Neal is a Filipino American, serving as pastor of Middlesex Presbyterian Church(NJ), Affiliate Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and Extraordinary Associate Professor of Practical Theology at the North-West University in Potschefsroom, South Africa. Neal studied at Drew University (Ph.D, M.Phil. in liturgical studies/liturgical theology), Princeton Theological Seminary (Th.M. in pastoral theology), San Francisco Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Westminster Theological Seminary California (graduate theology/history courses), and the University of California, Davis (B.A. in political science summa cum laude and history cum laude) Born in Guam, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and now living in New Jersey, Neal and his wife have two sons. Neal enjoys hanging out with his family and friends, traveling, fine wine and great food, working out, reading, and politics. Follow Neal @nealpresa
I welcome and thank Ellie Roscher, editor of Keeping the Faith in Seminary writer at ellieroscher.com as a guest blogger in an Advent series answering the question, What is coming and becoming in theological education?Read this post for more about this series.
A former student of mine works for an e-commerce start up company whose office is in an old church in Minneapolis. He shares the church office space with his co-workers, a priest who got into real estate to make ends meet and a man who started a grain-based veggie burger business. The church started renting its space out during the week to small businesses for the financial benefit of everyone. This worship space/business office collaboration makes sense. Being some of the biggest community spaces in the neighborhood, churches can engage in a ministry of shared space. Sharing becomes not only a creative, mutually symbiotic idea, but in some cases a financial necessity. Boundaries that used to separate church and life are blurring.
Today I welcome and thank Dan Aleshire, Executive Director of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS), as a guest blogger in an Advent series answering the question, What is coming and becoming in theological education?
Theological schools are two-faced, on purpose, as it should be. One face is toward the church with its mission to nurture lives of faith and bring healing to the world’s brokenness. Another face is toward higher education, with its responsibility to teach what is known and discover new knowledge.
Advent is a paradox between what has come before and what, by God, is becoming now. An opening to the Christmas cycle of the Christian Year, Advent calls the Church to look back and look forward; to remember, reflect, and live in expectation and hope. A decade ago an Advent banner of the expecting mothers that hangs at Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky drew me in as soon as I entered the sanctuary. ...
What is being foreshadowed this Advent? What will be born? Specifically, what is coming and becoming, being born and foreshadowed in theological education today?
Thanksgiving Day falls this year on the threshold between the last Sunday in the liturgical year, the Reign of Christ, and the first Sunday in a new church year, the first Sunday of Advent. That works for me, as it is a time to give thanks for the full circle of time and especially the year before, and to take Sabbath time to prepare for ways to show our thanks by living into God’s imagined future. The last month has been a whirlwind for me.
“The pathway to seminary is the long, slow nurture of faith in community.” The soon to be released “Pathways to Seminary” study by Auburn’s Center for the Study of Theological Education in collaboration with the Association of Theological Schools calls this it’s “major finding.” That long slow nurture of the best students happens most often in stable families, intentional religious nurturing, embedded participation in organizations and cultures, particular patterns of education, ministry role models, healthy peer groups, and often some sort of positive or negative dramatic experience along the way.
Last week the Committee on Theological Education (COTE) met at the new Charlotte campus of Union Presbyterian Seminary to exegete, in a way, the current theological education landscape. Two major research projects were presented and the Committee took time to dig in, magnify, and investigate what Barbara Brown Taylor might call the “splinters and the smooth places.”
My teenage son, Garrison, called my attention to it, because I only glanced at the painting. He looked longer and more deeply. “Did you see that, Dad?” “What?” Pointing to one of dozens of paintings in The Civil War and American Art collection on tour from the Smithsonian at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. We’d seen hundreds of paintings already that day and this one did not catch my eye. “Look!” I still didn’t see what he was talking about.
Brian Blount, president and professor of New Testament at Union Presbyterian Seminary, was seven years old when Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered what has come to be known as his “I Have a Dream” speech fifty years ago this week. Blount described it as “almost biblical in its proportions.” I tend to agree. As the parent of a seven year old myself, I continue to meditate on the speech and the dream. When I hear MLK’ Jr.’s speech my mind pictures Earnest Covington.
My daughter learned the words of institution for Communion by heart by the time she was three years old because our congregation sang them. Her tea parties as a preschooler often began with her giving thanks and then offering a cup saying, “Take a drink and remember me.”