When I arrived at Yale more than 30 years ago to do graduate work in theology, I soon heard other students urging that I take a course with David Kelsey. Even as an undergraduate I had already learned an important lesson: to get the best education, don’t pay much attention to the topics of the courses; find out who the good teachers are and take whatever they happen to be teaching.
I believe I had a rare experience in my doctoral program in theology. I was given a seminar on the art of teaching. Often the challenge of mastering a discipline is so great that no attention is paid to this main activity of the theological professor’s vocation.
Seminarians preparing to serve as pastors are increasingly taking out low-interest government loans to pay educational costs, but researchers say that trend is dangerously compounding the struggles of fledgling ministers and small churches.
When the longtime professor of preaching at Bethsaida Theological Seminary retired, no one at the school could have predicted the ordeal that lay ahead. A search committee was appointed, and a position description crafted. The candidate needed to have a Ph.D., an appreciation for Bethsaida’s theological tradition and at least some experience as a pastor and as a teacher of preaching.
Several years ago I was part of a discussion of theological education which tackled two sets of questions: First, what skills does one need in order to be an effective clergyperson? What does one need to know? Second, how does one learn the skills and procure the knowledge? Where is it learned and procured? Who teaches?
It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love. And no, it’s not the Marine Corps. Teaching an introductory course in New Testament can be worthy of combat pay. This is especially true when most of the students are Christian.
Christian Tetzlaff, superstar young violinist, charmed our town last month by playing Bach’s six works for solo violin. Critic Ted Shen came up with a stereotype when he described Tetzlaff as looking like “a graduate seminarian in his rapt intensity. . . . With his eyes closed . . . he seemed in the flow, in communion with the music.”
What have I learned that I wish I knew before I came to seminary? I wish I had known that I’d be enriched far beyond the mere acquisition of knowledge by learning in community, particularly in this community.