Women In Spirit and Flesh
Seminary Education for People Like Me
What if theological education was designed for people like me?
Woman, African American, active lay person, minister in a denomination that does not require a M.Div., community justice worker, assistant minister.
What if theological education was designed for people like my friends?
Partnered, with children, with full-time jobs already.
What if the main goal of a theological school was not to produce professionals, but to "share the secrets" of theological education?: that Christian history has always been diverse; that orthodoxy was constructed - and can be reconstructed; that there's more than one way to be faithful - and there always has been; that there are ways to craft worship to include as many people as possible; that the Bible is more about art, love and survival than fact.
What if theological schools were to focus on how to share Christianity with as many interested people as possible?
We might go to where people are, rather than expecting them to come to us. Faculty might teach in churches, community centers and online. Faculty might teach at times when people with jobs could learn—after work, on the weekends, early mornings. Faculty would have to be more intentional about showing how our knowledge translates into everyday life—perhaps for people who will never preach a sermon.
Theological education would have to be affordable, available on a payment plan over time—so people could take a class at a time, or earn a certificate; because many people have no need or desire for a professional degree. Let alone the money.
While theological education would strive to create spiritual and intellectual community among our students; we might also help empower them to create and nurture such community where they are.
The hard truth of this is that it could mean that the only building we need is a library (until we figure out how to effectively loan Kierkegaard on a Kindle, Nook or iPad), renting retreat centers and places around the city/country for classes and meetings as necessary.
As a theological educator, my ideal student is anyone who cares about her faith enough to study it, examine it, doubt it, and take time out of her life in hopes of deepening it. It's not only the ideal way to teach; it's the best way to learn.
Monica A. Coleman is Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions and Co-Director for Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Lincoln University. An ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Coleman has earned degrees at Harvard University, Vanderbilt University and Claremont Graduate University. She blogs about faith and depression at Beautiful Mind Blog