My last post attempted to share a brief summary of my recent experience as part of Fuller Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry Cohort on Christian Spirituality taught by Tony Jones. I’ll post some more of my thoughts soon, but in the meantime see if these words and pictures from others in the cohort don’t make you want to go to the Boundary Waters. I bet they will.
In a five-part series he calls “What Seminary Education Ought to Be,” Tony blogged some of his thoughts during and right after our time together. They are definitely worth reading in their entirety. At the very least, click through to see the photos by Courtney Perry that accompany each post.
It seems odd to call these ten “students.” While I am, indeed, the “professor,” and I grudgingly grade their papers and presentations, I struggle with stratification implicit in the professor-student relationship. While I have an expertise forged by Princeton and experience, it is abundantly clear that each of us here is a learner. And each is a teacher.
Teaching a class from a canoe and a campsite instill a dramatically different vibe, as you can imagine. Most days end with Brian and me — the two instructors — sharing a cup of coffee and some fishing. The environment of being in the wild and out of a classroom inculcates a fellowship that I just don’t think could be replicated inside a classroom.
Leading an ecclesial community is not like leading a business or teaching in a public school or being a social worker or marriage therapist. Being a pastor is, I daresay, a unique vocation, and it demands a unique training.
In short, theology shouldn’t be treated like other academic subjects. It’s unique, and should be taught uniquely. Indeed, theology should be taught by methods that are inherently theological, and I think that there’s a strong case to be made that a conversation is more Christlike than a lecture.
Finally, this: where one studies should be consonant with what one studies.
Last week, we were studying the doctrine of creation and its relationship to Christian spirituality. It seemed to me downright silly to study the doctrine of creation where I did, in a classroom.
Finally, my new friend (and cohort roomie), Carl Anderson offered this reflection on Tony’s blog. Here are just two of his insightful thoughts:
We oriented at BWX the next day and it was time for the water; we set off in our canoes. Paddling, portaging, making and breaking camp, these were more than just our activities in the Boundary Waters. They became the means of prayer, the foundation of community, and declaration of solidarity. We connected with each other and creation in ways only made possible through this shared experience.
The fervor of our class time conversations continued during our transition from the Boundary Waters to Tonyʼs family cabin. Since pretense had been removed, we were able to have vulnerable conversations, asking penetrating questions and listening to one another with genuine humility. We argued and agreed and asked more questions. One of the real joys of this cohort has been the beauty of discovery in searching for answers and finding perspective.