This week I have been at several retreats, one with the staff and another with students.
A good time.
I’ve also been working hard, especially internally, on a strong sense of new directions which has come to me, and which now I am trying to articulate for my team and for the college I lead.
The central component is about the nature of the curriculum. What is it really about?
I think it’s crucially about formation, for ministry, but in the widest sense: the life and ministry of all God’s people, including lots who wouldn’t imagine themselves as ‘ministers’. That’s a key part of the challenge.
Whitley College, in all its operations, works with a wide vision of the ministry of all God’s people, ‘in church and society’.
The theological school is currently expressing this vision through its training offerings for people from a non-English speaking background (TransFormation), the church-based ministry internship program (In-Formation), through the ordination programs, the main degree studies program, specifically identified graduate studies pathways, and at least some of the research degrees.
I envisage significant potential for a much greater focussing of this formation emphasis, in the curriculum offerings.
What I am proposing is a major re-vamping of the undergraduate curriculum offerings, especially.
My proposal is a degree program much more intentionally focussed on integration of study with lived experience, requiring all students to engage in reflective practice, but in so doing actually including whatever else people are doing with their lives (working, parenting, neighbourhood and church involvement) as part of the degree process and not something else, or even something preventing them from study.
I envisage biblical studies and theology taught in ways that directly relate to how we are living, and with assessment tasks that actually take place within whatever it is and wherever it is that people spend their lives: home, church, work, and local community.
The central concepts are formation and integration, as continuous dimensions of all units, all phases of the degree, and not separate units which only some students take.
These ideas are of course not new, as they have strong roots both in the Field Education approaches and in the Liberationist strands of theology, with their emphases on praxis. But the problem with how we have appropriated these ideas is that we see them as one field, ‘practical theology’ alongside the others (Is what I reach impractical theology???). I want to see the divide between praxis and the ‘academic’ studies overcome, not by down-grading the academic, but by bringing it to life—and by bringing life to it, in the way we teach.
I am really excited by how we might do this, and will try to bring you more developments as they happen.