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Designing and Implementing an Apprenticeship-Style (outside the walls) Model and Component in Selected Seminary Courses
Wendy J. Miller
2 scholarship practice hours
Summary of original project proposal and anticipated outcomes
Within the larger context of the Culture of Call, continued focus on the missional church, and in response to the voices of some seminary students who are inviting attention to the post-modern/emerging church ethos, I desired to facilitate the design and implementation of an apprenticed "outside the walls" learning experience which could become a component of learning in selected seminary courses I teach. I also desired to be in conversation with some persons in conference and pastoral leadership.
a Two or three upper level students or recent graduates of the seminary would be trained to mentor seminary students enrolled in the course, Spiritual Formation for Congregational Discernment, especially as these students participate in apprenticed-style learning beyond the seminary in a congregation of their choice. b Students in the above named course would experience learning in a location beyond the traditional classroom. The congregation and its context would become the classroom. c Students would learn how to choose persons to interview within the congregation of their choice, to conduct the interviews, to attend to listening to both the persons being interviewed and to the narrative they present in such a way as to discover the congregation's story, and its corporate spirit/identity. d In response to what they discover through this story-listening students would learn how to discern and how to implement appropriate spiritually formative practices into the life and practice of the congregation which would serve the formation and transformation of persons within the congregation, with the intent of assisting them to live more fully in faithful response to the gospel in all of life.
Status of project with degree of completion
The project as envisioned and was implemented in one seminary course: Spiritual Formation for Congregational Discernment, during the spring semester of 2007. Hence, the first phase of this approach is complete.
Summary of what was accomplished and outcomes achieved.
- I worked intentionally with one student who served as mentor to the class, especially as course participants engaged in work beyond the seminary class room. This mentoring proved to be needful and productive as the mentor companioned the students during the "outside the walls" phase of the work.
- Students felt the challenge of being "out there on their own" doing something they had never done before. This place of "not knowing" created a sense of need, humility, a heightened dependency on God, appreciation for mentoring, and learning how to draw on deeper places of strengths, faith, and discovery within themselves. They grew in their ability to interpret texts (reading materials) in light of the congregational situation and in the context of relationships they developed as they listened. This depth listening, and a willingness to be receptive to the congregation as "classroom" and "teacher" served as a formative matrix for their own spiritual and pastoral growth. The experience served to cultivate student performance in the role and task of congregational discernment, uncovering congregational story and identity, and discerning spiritually formative practices to serve the life and growth of the congregation. (See Educating Clergy, Foster et.al.33).
- Students reports indicated that they had "learned far more in this course than they ever anticipated", including "learning a way to listen within a congregation", "how to discover a congregation's story and identity", "learning to love persons more deeply," "allowing the congregation to be my teacher," "learning to adapt this approach to the local context and season of the individual congregation," and "working in tandem with the pastor and congregational leadership to then implement more fully the ministry of attending to spiritual formation within the congregation."
- All were enthusiastic about their experience, and at the same time had some further questions about their experience of being "out there"-something they said they wanted, but found quite challenging
- I plan to be in further conversation with Owen Burkholder, Conference Pastor for the Virginia Mennonite Conference. We met twice to discuss various ideas about how to be more creative, missional, and how to incorporate practices which would serve both the more traditional and emerging congregation.
I have shared this project informally with seminary faculty. This report is available by request. I will also consult with Laura Amstutz about making it available on my EMU web page.
This SP projects falls into the category of Teaching Practice.