New M.Div. Courses Expand Students’ Leadership Capacity
Decatur, GA - The 57 new students who began studies this fall in Columbia’s M.Div. program will be the first to experience the seminary’s two new required courses. Titled Intersections and Integrations, the courses have been strategically placed at key points in the first and third years of the three-year program. Bill Harkins, assistant professor of pastoral theology and care and one of the designers of the new courses says, “Taken together, these courses offer a process that intersects with the calling of the student, the academic work of theological education and God’s mission in the world today.” David Forney, associate dean of faculty, says, “The faculty developed these courses based on the results of our two-year review of the M.Div. curriculum. These two courses (in combination with Explorations, the retitled Alternative Contexts) have been designed to help students develop integrative practices that we believe are vital to good ministerial leadership.” Intersections, offered in the spring semester of the first year of study, will provide opportunities for students to reflect on their personal spiritual background, especially their church tradition and experience and their call to ministry. Steve Hayner, who will be part of the team that will teach the inaugural offering of the course says, “As a foundational course, Intersections introduces students to the mission and sacramental life of the church—and to methods of analyzing unfamiliar cultural contexts where ministry takes place.” In their second year of study, during Columbia’s short January term, students will complete Explorations. This course allows students to apply principles and use skills they developed in the introductory course. David Forney explains: “Here the students will witness God’s mission in cultural contexts radically different from their own.” This familiar course includes visits to schools, hospitals, refugee camps, squatter villages and rural churches. Students will conduct worship services with their hosts in these locales to developing new understandings and applications of the ministry and life of the church. During the January term of their third year, students will take Integrations, which will require them to investigate contemporary human situations of conflict, transition, and change (such as geographical moves, stages of life, loss, crisis) in the life of the church and its members. This course works through a collaborative learning style where the students take ownership of the identified problems or difficult circumstances and work toward a satisfactory solution. Columbia’s aim, says Bill Harkins, is to “nurture resilient, imaginative leadership…to expand the student’s leadership capacity so that they can grow as leaders in multiple contexts.” Columbia Theological Seminary, located in Decatur, Georgia, was established in 1828 and is one of 10 theological institutions of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
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