Welcome to Seminaries (and Divinity Schools) That Change the World, a community of diverse institutions that share a common commitment to be present and engaged in healing, building and leading in our neighborhoods, towns, cities, country, world.
So you want to change the world…
What inspires us?
For many, the commitment to engage in the world comes from a specific religious tradition or identifiable faith community. For others, it’s derived from a strong desire to explore and deepen a spiritual life that may not have any institutional or communal affiliation.
Whether you were born, raised and still identify with a faith tradition, or identify as “spiritual” but not necessarily “religious,” theological education can play an important role in helping connect faith journeys with justice and service.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know what a great platform theological education can provide. That’s probably because there tends to be a lot of misguided stereotypes about theological education. Maybe you’ve heard that seminary is only for people who are “really religious” or who “think they are better than everyone else.” Or maybe you’ve heard that a theological education is for people who have heard a personal “call” to be preachers in a pulpit.
Whatever you’ve heard, we’re here to tell you: it ain’t like that anymore!
Today’s seminaries and divinity schools are students for a diverse array of service and social-justice based jobs. What was once seem by many as an elite operation for training clergy and professors has become a place where people come together to identify and address the most compelling issues in our society, plan strategies to address them, and launch new ideas and programs into action.
The content of this website will introduce you to countless students, faculty, and alum (some of whom are preachers, but most of whom are not) from around the country who are walking the talk.
What sustains us?
Nothing illustrates the new energy and possibilities in theological education better than an experience I had several years ago. I was helping host an event held across the street from Vanderbilt Divinity School for young people who were completing years of voluntary service with year-long service programs. At the beginning of the event, I asked how many of the participants were considered seminary. Out of a group of fifty, not one raised their hand. I then introduced the speaker, Rev. Becca Stevens, who shared her story of fighting sex abuse and rebuilding the lives of sex workers, a project which eventually led to the creation of Magdalene House and the establishment of a micro business called Thistle Farm.
After Becca spoke, I asked the question that I’d started off with. Who would consider going to seminary? Every person raised their hand.
It’s not that everyone had figured out how systematic theology worked or suddenly felt prepared to pass a bible content exam. Rather, these young people had witnessed the courageous and creative actions of one individual who drew on her faith to engage in the world and to tackle one of the most devastating issues of our day. Becca's role as a clergy gave her immediate access to individuals as well as a platform in the public square where she could challenge systems and present new possibilities.
Why Seminaries that Change the World?
The point of our "list-making" is not simply to recruit more people seminary. Instead, it is to present the radically different understanding of hope, advocacy, justice and joy that defines the institutions listed here. These communities of learning and action call us to persevere in our weariness, to be steadfast in the wake of obstruction, and to be joyful in the knowledge that we are called to be faithful regardless of the success rate.
So look at these schools, but look at others as well. Our list has its own integrity, but it is neither infallible nor all-inclusive. There are other great intuitions worth looking at. If this venture has caught your attention, caused you to think, enabled you to imagine, or provided access to educational options, then we have done what we set out to do.
Launch your journey and know that along the way, there are plenty of people here to listen to your questions and provide what answers we can. I believe that you can call any of these schools and the person the phone will not try to sell you a seat for a master’s program, but instead will take immediate interested in your discernment process and (to quote Fredrick Buechner) find where "your deep gladdens and the world's deep hunger meet."
-Rev. Wayne Meisel
Seminaries that Change the World is a program of The Center for Faith and Service, based out of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois.
For more information about the Center for Faith and Service and its programs, including Service Programs that Change the World, and The New Faces of Ministry Project, please visit www.faithandservice.org