Rethinking Clergy Education, Part N+1

AKMA points to a brief yet very interesting post on the future of Higher Ed given the realities of communication in the Internet Age.

My response is: well…no.

Learning is more than either the note-taking process or the data accumulation process especially when it comes to the formation of informed and effective clergy. I’d suggest that it has more to do with being grounded in foundational habits and absorbing an ethos and the book-learning is only a small part of that process.

I’ve come to identify as the most important parts of my seminary education the people I met, experiences I shared, and on-going connections I’ve maintained. A distance learning program doesn’t do well at facilitating any of these—there’s a fundamental embodied, incarnational component that’s missing…

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5 Responses to Rethinking Clergy Education, Part N+1

  1. AKMA says:

    Derek, my point in commending Seth’s entry wasn’t to endorse “distance learning” or to dismiss the value of the formation that comes with common life; indeed, I think Seth would second my response that by mixing “credit hours” and “grades” with the process of mutual formation, we confuse the curricular message. How many seminarians, for example, blow off chapel services because they regard their classwork as a higher priority?

    The kind of learning Seth advocates complements “incarnational” formation, as I understand him.

  2. Thanks for the clarification, AKMA!

    In that case, we’ll consider this simply as my musing in the inadequacy of distance-learning to fully satisfy the clergy formation process. (A point that it sounds like the three of us would not dispute…)

  3. Jon Tay says:

    I would like to know how does one go about attaining degrees in divinity that are offered free online?

  4. Robb says:

    I tend to agree here, mutual formation is what is important. And yet i will also ‘fess up to AKMA’s question about skipping chapel to study (or to screw around). I find chapel at seminary pretty awful, just one more dry lecture I could get in class, or the alternative self-congratulatory social justice fest.

    I have to wonder if the D.Min. model isn’t a possible model for M.Div. education. Most people who are interested in pursuing online studies cite job and family responsibilities as their primary reason for wanting an alternative format. Why not have an intensive retreat format that puts you face to fact with instructors and other students, allows for formation of common life and religious services, but that only takes two weeks at a time. Data acquisition happens ahead of time; lectures and discussion while you are on campus; papers/practicums take place afterwards. This would also give the chance to tie in clergy training with the local parishes of the students. This route would take considerably longer if you still required 80+ credits, but it may be a good starting point to find some balance.

  5. Jon,

    I’ve never looked into such a thing. Although, it does make me wonder about what kind of religion/theology podcasts are freely available from iTunes U and other such venues…

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