Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

10/16 2019

Inside the PTS Curriculum: Spiritual Formation

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The “Inside the PTS Curriculum” series gives you an inside look at what students are learning in their courses at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Each article focuses on one class, its subject matter, what students can expect to learn, the required texts, and the kinds of assignments students can expect. We’ll let you know whether the course is required or available for the Master of Divinity (MDiv), the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theological Studies (MTS). Each article will include the professors’ bio.

This week’s course is “Spiritual Formation.”

Roger Owens teaching spiritual formationAbout Spiritual Formation

During this term, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students will be learning about spiritual formation with the Rev. Dr. L. Roger Owens in the class “Spiritual Formation.” This two-part course is required for students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree and Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree programs and open to students in the Master of Theology (MTS) degree program.

In this course students will be introduced to and practice a variety of spiritual disciplines, grounded in historic Christian spiritual traditions. Students will reflect on their own life of prayer, practice of vocational discernment, and begin developing the skills to lead communal spiritual practices.

Students who participate interestedly and actively, read all the materials, and complete assignments, by the end of the course will have a basic understanding of key themes in Christian spirituality and be able to relate those themes to their own lives of faith; have a practical familiarity with a number of spiritual disciplines and be able to incorporate some of those disciplines into their lives through the development of a rule of life; have experience with spiritual formation in small groups and be able to practice healthy small group process; and have an introductory knowledge of how to lead and teach spiritual practices.

Assignments include keeping a spiritual formation journal; completing a pastor/spiritual director interview; developing and keeping a rule of life; writing one paper and one book review; leading a spiritual practice; and in-class spiritual practices. Required reading includes Soul Feast, Newly Revised Edition: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life, by Marjorie Thompson; Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church, by Barbara Holmes; We Drink from Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People, by Gustavo Gutierrez; Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, by Parker Palmer; Abba, Give Me a Word: The Path of Spiritual Direction, by L. Roger Owens; and A Praying Congregation: The Art of Teaching Spiritual Practice, by Jane E. Vennard.

About the Instructor

The Rev. Dr. L. Roger Owens received his Ph.D. in theology from Duke University where he was awarded a Lilly Fellowship for the Formation of a Learned Clergy. Before that he completed his M.Div. at Duke Divinity School. As an undergraduate he studied philosophy and Bible/religion at Anderson University in Indiana. Owens is an ordained Elder in the North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. In North Carolina he served both urban and rural churches for eight years as co-pastor with his wife before coming to PTS. His newest book is Threshold of Discovery: A Field Guide to Spirituality in Midlife (Church Publishing, 2019.) Owens serves on the faculty for the Upper Room’s Academy for Spiritual Formation, where he lectures on postmodern spirituality and traditions of Christian spirituality.

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10/8 2019

Inside the PTS Curriculum: Exploring Christian Worship

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The “Inside the PTS Curriculum” series gives you an inside look at what students are learning in their courses at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Each article focuses on one class, its subject matter, what students can expect to learn, the required texts, and the kinds of assignments students can expect. We’ll let you know whether the course is required or available for the Master of Divinity (MDiv), the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theological Studies (MTS). Each article will include the professors’ bio.

This week’s course is “Exploring Christian Worship.”

exploring christian worshipAbout Exploring Christian Worship

During this term, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students will be learning about the study of the practices of Christian worship with the Rev. Dr. Angela Hancock in the class “Exploring Christian Worship.” This course is open to students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree, Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree, or Master of Theology (MTS) degree program.

“Exploring Christian Worship” provides an introduction to the study of the practices of Christian worship with attention to the ways the Bible, theology, tradition, and context shape what Christian communities do when they gather to worship God. Led by faculty representing a variety of theological disciplines and perspectives, each section of WS110 considers particular dimensions of Christian worship, promoting theological reflection, historical and socio-cultural awareness, intellectual curiosity, and participation in the worship life of the seminary community and the wider church. The course is also designed to introduce the resources, tools, and skills that contribute to effective written communication at the master’s level. When Dr. Hancock teaches “Exploring Christian Worship,” she focuses on how Christian communities worship God in relation to the experience of ongoing suffering, evil, and death.

By the completion of this course, students will be able to articulate a theology of worship, with attention to its formative power, informed by one’s “home” liturgical tradition while also describing and discussing the liturgical traditions of others with critical generosity. Students will offer evidence of participation in and theological reflection on the practices of Christian worship while using basic participant-observer skills in exploring a local worship practice. They’ll draw on biblical, theological, and historical resources when assessing a liturgical activity, text, or object, with attention to the role of social and cultural context. During the class, students will exhibit intellectual curiosity, as demonstrated through close readings of texts, raising relevant critical questions, and identifying areas for future exploration while also effectively drawing on library resources (catalog, media and print databases, and other online sources) for the completion of writing assignments and presentations, and skillfully communicating findings in both written and oral form. Students will successfully research, develop, and write a short paper on a practice, text, or object related to Christian worship, demonstrating the ability to identify an appropriate thesis statement or research question, offer supporting evidence, make effective use of resources, sustain an argument, and synthesize course materials.

Assignments include writing reflections and visits to the Seminary’s Center for Writing and Learning Support, a paper on a lament psalm and a hymn, plus a worship journal and final paper on an artifact. As to required texts, student will read You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (James K. A. Smith, Raging with Compassion: Pastoral Responses to the Problem of Evil (John Swinton), the Bible, and other handouts.

About the Instructor

The Rev. Dr. Angela Dienhart Hancock serves as associate professor of homiletics and worship. She is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and has served as pastor to churches in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Hancock is the author of Karl Barth’s Emergency Homiletic, 1932-33: A Summons to Prophetic Witness at the Dawn of the Third Reich, a contextual interpretation of Swiss theologian Karl Barth’s lectures on preaching in the early 1930s, based on unpublished archival material. Her current research explores Karl Barth’s contribution to the ethics of deliberation in Christian communities and the relationship between political and theological rhetoric. Hancock continues to preach, teach, and lead worship in a variety of settings.

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10/4 2019

Inside the PTS Curriculum: Introduction to Urban Ministry

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The “Inside the PTS Curriculum” series gives you an inside look at what students are learning in their courses at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Each article focuses on one class, its subject matter, what students can expect to learn, the required texts, and the kinds of assignments students can expect. We’ll let you know whether the course is required or available for the Master of Divinity (MDiv), the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theological Studies (MTS). Each article will include the professors’ bio.

This week’s course is “Introduction to Urban Ministry.”

Drew Smith, Professor Urban Ministry

About Introduction to Urban Ministry

During this term, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students will be learning about urban ministry with the Rev. Dr. R. Drew Smith in the class “Introduction to Urban Ministry.” This is a required course for the Graduate Certificate in Urban Ministry and is also open to students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree, Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree, or Master of Theology (MTS) degree program.

This course . Attention is given to helping students discern their vocational call in the context of city life and Christian witness in this arena. Further, this course explores social factors and theological premises impacting and influencing ministry approaches to urban contexts, circumstances, and populations. Students also learn about analytical tools (both theological and sociological) that are helpful in critiquing ministry approaches to ever-evolving demographic, cultural, psycho-social, and sociostructural complexities of 21st century urban life.

As to required texts, student will read Urban Ministry Reconsidered: Contexts and Approaches, edited by Dr. Smith, Stephanie C. Boddie, and Ronald E. Peters. Students will also complete three two-page discussion papers plus a final paper and presentation.

About the Instructor

Both a political scientist and a clergyman, the Rev. Dr. R. Drew Smith has initiated and directed a number of projects related to religion and public life which have collected research data on political involvements, community development activities, and outreach ministries of churches, especially African-American churches. He has also conducted similar research in South Africa, including while serving in 2005 as a Fulbright professor at the University of Pretoria. His overseas involvements additionally include serving in 2009 as a Fulbright senior specialist at Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Cameroon and lecturing in many international venues including as part of the U.S. State Department’s Speakers Bureau. He has served since 2010 as co-convener of the Transatlantic Roundtable on Religion and Race, an initiative that convenes scholars, religious leaders, and community activists from across the transatlantic region for purposes of advancing progressive approaches to persistent racial problems in various contexts. An ordained a Baptist clergyman, Professor Smith is a graduate of Indiana University and Yale University.

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