April 4, 2022
Seminary education is sometimes assumed to be a mostly intellectual activity. It is certainly true and necessary that graduate theological education would expand one’s mind and challenge one’s mental capacities. However, seminary education is far more than acquiring theological knowledge. Good education attends to the formation of the whole person, not simply to gathering information.
Our seminary curriculum provides space for grounding in spiritual formation that shapes ministers of the gospel to be people of prayer, wisdom, and discernment. With our decade-long development of first-class digital instruction, some have assumed that seminary education is no longer the embodied experience that many of us received when we loaded our meager belongings into a rental truck and moved to Kansas City to take divinity courses.
With the recent announcement of our revised curriculum and course delivery system, the understandable question is heard, “Has the seminary gone online?” What the question seems to suggest is that curriculum is being delivered now in dis-embodied and impersonal ways in which the student has little meaningful contact with professors and colleagues. The reality is that students enjoy improved access to and engagement with professors and colleagues through our hybrid instructional modality.
Nazarene Theological Seminary is more committed than ever to the essential embodied nature of theological formation. Our professors meet weekly with student cohorts for face-to-face instruction through the digital technologies that are now familiar to all of us. Additionally, we still require residential intensive weeks in our programs which bring students from around the world into concentrated days of learning, prayer, and relationship. We find that student cohorts come to campus with deeper relationships being formed than was often the case when students sat together in physical proximity all semester. The world is discovering that the notion of embodied presence can include the connections made possible by current and developing technologies.
Additionally, we are exploring new expressions of intentional learning community on our campus and in our host City that would enable a portion of our students to develop a learning cohort that would become a rich, gathered community of learners. This expression could provide the formative experiences of living, learning, and serving together in ways that embody the best of our unity in Christ. Our Kansas City campus remains an active asset to our mission, not only for our work but also through partnerships with neighborhood congregations and schools.
The core notion of seminary is that of a seedbed, from which a fruitful life of service to the gospel is formed. The mission, passion, and commitment of NTS is to do the work of preparing the life-giving soil of love for God, love for the world, and a manner of life that announces the Good News of God’s reconciling love in Christ Jesus.
Dr. Jeren Rowell
President and Professor of Pastoral Ministry