Sunday, August 21, 2005

Divinity School Orientation Day 1

I have now finished the first two days of orientation at the Wake Forest Divinity School. There are 36 students in my class, and exactly 100 currently enrolled in the Divinity School. We were given Divinity School bags with a name tag, a t-shirt, and a notebook with our student id's and information we would be using throughout the week.

The first day started with an icebreaker, we were divided into groups of 4, and given a question to answer. After each question we moved to another group of 4.

The icebreaker was followed by the dean's luncheon, which was held in the lower auditorium of the divinity school. During lunch, we all said it felt like we were being recruited, because everything was set up so nicely. We were joined at lunch by members of the faculty and staff. Dr. Diane Lipsett, Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, was the faculty member at our table. As always, Dr. Leonard's address was amazing. He discussed many of the events that have happened in the last year: the death of the pope, the London subway bombings, Joel Osteen's church, and the war in Iraq. He said that one of the things we would be called on to do throughout the rest of our ministries would be to provide explanation, discussion and enlightenment on the events that shape our world. As an example, he said he was recently asked to address a group of Lutheran ministers about the Left Behind series of books and premillenialism. (I don't want to get into a theological debate about this here, we'll save that debate for when I get there in my studies.) Dr. Leonard said he would like to write a sequel to the Left Behind books called Staying Behind. He said the book would be about a group of Christians that "grabbed onto a tree limb" when the rapture came, in order to help the people who are left behind. He used the parable of the lost sheep as support for his position. The shepherd refused to rest until the one sheep who was lost in the wilderness was returned safely home, and that we should use that example throughout our ministries. He concluded by saying that we would develop life long mentors and colleagues during our stay at Wake Forest, and welcomed us "home" to the Divinity School at Wake Forest University. Dr. Leonard has an amazing ability to both affirm and challenge, and I am always energized and excited after I hear him speak. I am also amazed at how active he has been during this whole orientation process. He seems to be genuinely interested in getting to know each and every student, and how we are handling this major transition in our lives.

After lunch, we headed back upstairs for a discussion of the curriculum. The program takes 90 hours to complete, with a typical course being 3 hours, There are some electives that may be taught only for a few weeks that are fewer hours. Here is a summary of the program requirements:

6 hours in either Greek or Hebrew (I will take both)
6 hours in Old Testament Interpretation
6 hours in New Testament Interpretation
3 hours in an additional Old or New Testament elective
6 hours in the History of Christianity
3 hours in a world religions course
6 hours in Christian Theology
3 hours in Christian Ethics
3 hours in either a history or theology elective
13 hours in Art of Ministry (Vocational Development/Internships)
3 hours in Homiletics and Worship
3 hours in Introduction to the Spiritual Life
3 hours in The Ministry of Pastoral Care
3 hours in Multicultural Contexts for Ministry (more on this later)
23 hours of electives

After we discussed the graduation requirements, we started talking about the Multicultural Contexts for Ministry course. These course combine classroom and travel experiences. The classroom portion of the course covers the people, culture, and history of the region we are going to visit. We then visit the area we have been studying and talk to the people who are ministering there. We were told this is not a mission trip, in that we are not going to do missions, we are going to learn and observe how the people there do missions and to observe the culture and challenges of ministry in areas that are different from what we are used to. There are currently 4 options in this course: Appalachia, inner city New York, Cuba and Romania. (The current administration has made travel to Cuba more difficult, so there are currently no Cuba trips planned.) The travel typically occurs for 10 days over spring break, and we are required to raise at least some of our own money for every trip except the Appalachia one.

I think many of you are able to see why I chose Wake Forest. The program is just incredible. They are really trying to balance academics, practical experience, and real-world learning. All of the new students are really excited about the program, and we are looking forward to getting started.

Next we had a discussion on plagiarism with one of the librarians from the Wake Forest library. This was followed by a student panel on what to expect in Divinity School. We were told to expect to be reading between 400 and 600 pages a week. After the panel, we had a break.

Once we came back from the break, we began the discussion of the Art of Ministry courses. These courses are designed to help us figure out where we fit in ministry, and provide us with the real-world experience we need. Each course includes a small group (5) that gives us time to talk about the issues we are dealing with and problems we are having.

This discussion was followed by the community life panels. There was one offered for singles, and another for couples/single parents. Most of the spouses of the students attended this meeting, and it was nice to see that there were other people going through the same kind of things Gay and I are.

The day concluded with the "Dinner on the Dirt," a picnic dinner in front of the divinity school. All of the students' families were invited to this event. Gay and I had dinner with a couple from St. Petersburg that doesn't live far from us here either. Gay and I both hope to get to know this couple more. Dr. Leonard came and sat with us, because he said he hadn't had the chance to talk to me yet, and wanted to know how I was doing.

It was a very long day that started about 10am, and didn't end until after 7. But it was also a very affirming and fulfilling day. I truly feel blessed to be at Wake Forest, and I am looking forward to what God has in store for me.

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