What does it mean to prepare for God’s work in today’s world? As communities expand to include not just next-door neighbors but bordering countries, the traditional seminary preparation, focused primarily on church work, preaching, and teaching, is also expanding.
Southern California, for example, “is an environment that is so in flux that you can’t just do church the way you’ve always done it,” says Helene Slessarev-Jamir, professor of urban ministries at Claremont School of Theology. “You have to be able to connect church to community.” To help students better understand the lives of the immigrant community around them, Helene created an experiential course with the U.S.-Mexico border south of Tucson, Arizona, as its classroom. To stimulate critical thinking on the theological implications of immigration, students witnessed a federal court hearing for 60-some immigrants accused of crossing the border illegally. “Within an hour they had prosecuted them all en masse. All pleaded guilty,” said Slessarev-Jamir. Later that week, the students crossed into Mexico and talked with recently deported migrants, learning about the issue in a way that the traditional classroom might never have been able to teach.
Seminary programs across the United States are rethinking what it means to “do ministry”—embracing an expanding view of the world as community and neighbor—and responding to the real needs of our ever-changing social context with innovative, intentional programs of study. Here are a few that may make you want to head back to school.
Seattle Pacific University
Business and Applied Theology