Tony Jones explores new paradigm for theological education:
The only seminary professor I’ve ever seen in his pajamas is Miroslav Volf, who invited me to stay with him when he taught in Croatia in 1993. (That’s a story for another day.)
In the past week, all ten DMin students in Christian Spirituality cohort have seen me in my pajamas. They’ve thrown sticks for my dog, and they’ve broken bread with my spouse. They’ve gotten to know me, and I them. The professor-student relationship has been recast, and the barriers inherent in those roles have — I hope — been at least partially torn down.
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.
It demands, I think, a shared life between “student” and “teacher.” And, I daresay, that doesn’t usually happen in the forensic environment of the traditional classroom.
I, for one, have always enjoyed the traditional classroom, and do think that it is of immense value for certain subjects and modes of inquiry. But Tony certainly has a point that education for ministry should involve a training not just of intellects but of persons, which can often be left to the side in a traditional seminary classroom environment.
The issue isn't either/or I think. The issue is how we can incorporate more of the intimacy of encounter and formation of persons for a particular way of being in the world through the theological educational experience.
I can remember beginning my seminary education at Andover Newton Theological School with the idea in my head that it would function a lot like a sort of "protestant monastery" or an intentional community. Of course I knew that there would be traditional classes, but I imagined a lot more close net a community than actually existed or could exist at the time. But as a largely commuter school, with mostly an older cohort of students, that was simply not a realistic possibility for the school at the time. Nor is it likely so today. But it was my image of what theological education should include, and I often wonder how things would have been different if it had been more like that.
Of course, neither Tony nor I are the first to think along these lines, and much of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer is up to in Life Together is envisioning Christian community more along these lines. And in his role as the head of Finkenwalde Seminary tried to incorporate some aspects of this common life paradigm into the teaching of pastors for the Confessing Church. It would be interesting to see a seminary somewhere take on the project of trying to reimagine theological education once again along these lines. I don't know if I'm quite ready to get on board with letting my students see me in my pajamas, but I can certainly see the value in allowing us all to engage in theological education in a more intimate and intensive way.